Baldur’s Gate III Interview - Early Access and RNG

With Baldur’s Gate III now live in early access, Gamasutra sat down with Larian Studios’ lead systems designer Nick Pechenin to chat about the game’s highly successful EA launch, Larian’s early access strategy, and Baldur’s Gate III's approach to randomness. Here’s an excerpt to get you started:

There's this occasional dishonesty to randomness in games where, behind the scenes, some games will lightly lie about percentages and treat numbers over 90 percent as a guaranteed hit, or below 20 percent as a guaranteed miss. But for your team, are your dice rolls actually just a random one-to-twenty number generation or is it weighted to give more balance and fairness?

So what you're seeing right now is as random as computers can possibly output. It's just true randomness, and we're seeing that it works for some players and some players would like more options and more control over what's happening.

What we're seeing also is that this pure randomness works for some types of rolls: if it's a smaller situation, or it's a very long shot for you to do this, it's okay for you that it's a really random roll. But then if it's a huge choice, or a huge chance for you to change what's happening with your party or with the characters you're trying to help, you really want to have like a little bit more control than just, "here's the dice, that's how it's gonna go."

From our own experience at the tabletop, we know that even though dice are supposed to be pure randomness and very honest, the DM has has the screen for a reason where they're rolling their dice in secret. That is already in D&D this built-in mechanism for stabilizing randomness and an understanding that creating a compelling narrative takes a bit more than just completely [rolling] in a random motion.

It has to be handled very carefully, because players are very good at spotting the game putting its thumb on the scale and the cheating the randomness. So right now we're discussing where exactly we're gonna start stabilizing RNG, most likely in combat scenarios. This is something that people have very specific set of expectations for. It's where they want a lot of control, have a lot of plans, and come up with very interesting tactics and strategies. If you have too much RNG it just messes it up. It devolves tactics to something less interesting. But when it's about narrative, we're going to be looking at what types of rolls are okay to keep random and what types would need a bit more control.