Baldur's Gate

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Name: Baldur's Gate series
Abbreviation(s): BG, BG II, BG:TotSC, BG:ToB
Creator: BioWare, Black Isle Studios
Date(s): 1998-2001
Medium: computer role playing game (cRPG): PC, Mac
Country of Origin: Canada
External Links: BioWare BG homepage
Planet Baldur's Gate
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Contents

General

Baldur's Gate box art displaying the iconic Bhaal emblem

The Baldur's Gate series of high fantasy (sword and sorcery) computer role playing games is based on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rule set. It was developed by BioWare and published by Black Isle/Interplay. It consists of

  • Baldur's Gate (1998)
  • Baldur's Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast (expansion, 1999)
  • Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn (2000)
  • Baldur's Gate II: Thron of Bhaal (expansion, 2001)
  • Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition (2012)
  • Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition (2013)

This hugely influential series has been credited with single-handedly reviving the then-ailing computer role-playing genre [1]. This may be an exaggeration, since several other RPGs in the late 90s and early 2000s helped the cRPG renaissance along [2]. However, it certainly did establish Canadian developer BioWare's reputation as a preeminent western RPG creator.

Overhaul Games, a division of Beamdog (founded by Trent Oster and Cameron Tofer, both from BioWare), remade Baldur's Gate I and II for modern platforms in 2012 and 2013, respectively. These updates included bug fixes, new characters and areas, a new user interface, and increased modding capabilities.

Mods

To this day, the series remains a fan favourite with an active modding community, BG II in particular. This is in part due to its moddable (i.e., lending itself easily to modding) engine, the Infinity Engine, which is also used in the Icewind Dale series and the cult classic Planescape:Torment (both developed by Black Isle). This allows for cross-over mods like the (now defunct) Icewind Gate II [3].

Mods come in any shape and size, from bug fix patches or adding new items [4] to romance options for NPCs (Non-Player Characters) like the Drow Solaufein [5] or insertions of new characters. As in fan fiction, the character creation and dialogue writing can lead to criticism ("angsty bisexual drows"[6] ) or accusations of Mary Sue [7]. Departing completely from both the main storyline and the D&D setting is also possible, as this WIP Silmarillion[1] conversion mod shows. [8] It is set in J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth.
On a much lower level of customization, the Baldur's Gate games allow players to use their own avatar images and sound files for the PC (Player Character) as well as naming the main character. File collections of ready-made portraits and sounds [9] are widely available.

The series also familiarized many younger gamers who had never played pen and paper RPGs with the world of Dungeons & Dragons and the Faerûn setting.

Unofficial Almost-Sequel

Although the main story arc of the so-called "Bhaalspawn saga" had been concluded with the add-on Throne of Bhaal, a 'sequel'[10] was planned by Black Isle Studios, this time without BioWare's input, i.e, without the Infinity engine. Codenamed "Jefferson", it was to become Baldur's Gate III: The Black Hound, but in 2003 Interplay, Black Isle's mother company, ran into financial troubles, lost the Dungeons & Dragons license, and shortly after laid off all Black Isle Studios staff. The commercial project "The Black Hound" was dead.[11]

However, many former Black Isle employees went on to form Obsidian Entertainment[2]. Game designer Josh Sawyer, who had previously worked as lead designer on The Black Hound, now working at Obsidian, had retained access to the design documents. He decided to continue the project unofficially and on his own time, as a campaign module built with Obsidian's Neverwinter Night II tool set, that is, as a Neverwinter Nights II mod.[12] Although progress is slow, work has not been abandoned as of September 2008 [13].

It is important to note that J.E. Sawyer himself states clearly that The Black Hound is not a sequel to the Baldur's Gate series[14], but Baldur's Gate fans are likely to make a connection between the series and the mod due to the history of the WIP mod and the company involved in the commercial Black Hound project.

Fandom

As of December 2011, Baldur's Gate is currently eligible for Yuletide, a rare fandom fic exchange.

Resources

References

  1. An example: Date unknown. Review site IGN UK. " [...]Baldur's Gate managed to revive a dying breed of game genre and breathe a deep breath of fresh air into its lungs. [...] " Accessed August 26th 2008.
  2. Date unknown. Lara Crigger, Chasing D&D: A History of RPGs. 1up feature. Accessed August 26th 2008.
  3. By Westley Weimer. Accessed August 26th, 2008
  4. A listing of Infinity Engine mods is available from the Pocket Plane group. Accessed August 26th 2008.
  5. Date unknown. Westley Weimer, Readme to Solaufein Romance Mod Release 103. Accessed August 26th 2008.
  6. February 18th 2008. Gamespot Baldur's Gate forum. Post by Lunaticccc. Accessed August 26th 2008.
  7. February 24th 2008. Gamespot Baldur's Gate forum. Post by Lunaticccc. Accessed August 26th 2008. [...] "Although I imagine that like the rest of the mod, they'd be written horribly in a way to further 'prove' how amazingly wonderfully spectacular the custom NPC is." [...]
  8. February 15th 2008. Post by Zyraen. Accessed August 26th 2008. Game mechanics: " [...]the Silmarillion will be accessible through the TUTORIAL section of BG2 so as not to prevent players from playing standard BG2[...]'
  9. An example: Pocket Plane Group archive listing, accessed August 26th.
  10. A sequel only in the very loose sense that it used the same D&D setting, Faerûn, and retained the Baldur's Gate trademark, much like the equally unrelated Baldur's Gate:Dark Alliance console hack'n'slay series. February 13th 2007. Gamebanshee.com Interview with J.E. Sawyer. Accessed September 17th 2008.
  11. December 3rd 2003. Tor Thorsen. Interplay shuts down Black Isle Studios. Accessed September 17th 2008.
  12. January 2007. 'Sammael', The Black Hound FAQ (fan-maintained FAQ page, not the project page itself). Accessed September 17th 2008./
  13. September 17th 2008. Obsidian Forum Thread 'The Black Hound'. Post by J.E. Sawyer. Accessed September 17th 2008.
  14. January 17th 2007. 'Sammael', The Black Hound FAQ, question "Is The Black Hound a sequel to Baldur's Gate?" Accessed September 17th 2008.
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