Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition – A Trent Oster Interview

In 1998, a little company by the name of Bioware released a game called Baldur’s Gate. Based in the world of Forgotten Realms, a Dungeons and Dragon’s campaign, the game was met with both critical and financial success, and is often credited for reviving the RPG genre on the PC.

Now, the game is set for a re-release on November 28th, 2012. Developed by Overhaul Games, the enhanced edition brings the original Baldur’s Gate, and it’s expansions, to PC, OS X, iPad, and Android. To give you more information on this release, I managed to catch up with creative director Trent Oster. Read on to see the interview below!

Jason: With the impending release of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition, what challenges did you face updating the game for modern systems? Specifically, was it difficult to port the game for Android and iOS?

Trent: It was very hard to remove all the windows specific coding in the engine. The code was started back when Windows 95 was just coming to market and it had a lot of assumptions on how windows works which are no longer true. We found the game was in some cases spending 70% of the time doing null operations as it was waiting for a thread (bits of code) to complete so other code could run.  We tore down the whole threading model and started over.  Once we had completed the core refactoring away from Windows, which took about six months, we moved on to a core re-write of most of the rendering systems, audio and input.  After all that effort, we moved on to data wrangling.  All told, we spent over a year getting BG:EE to run.

Jason: One of the additions you’ve made to the game is cross platform play. There are very few games out there that allow a PC player to play with someone on their tablet. Is this due to interface demands, or other technical issues? Do you think we’ll see this feature included in more games in the future?

Trent: Cross platform play should be a more common feature.  In most cases, when you target multiple platforms it is in your best interest as a developer to have much common code as possible.  With most devices offering good networking support in the operating system, the work to make a game multiplayer across platforms is currently much less than even a few years ago.  I think the current barrier is simply one of development focus.  Most tablet games are built only for tablet and do not move over to other operating systems.  I think Baldur’s Gate:Enhanced Edition is really the first massive title to bring the depth of PC gaming to the talbet. Playing the same game on your iPad that you buddy is playing on his PC is a pretty awesome experience.  I was loving the Nexus 7, but I think the iPad mini just took over as my current favorite device for BG:EE multiplayer.

Jason: In addition to the enhanced multiplayer, what other added features can you tell our readers about?

Trent: We’ve added a ton of new content to make this game amazing!  Rasaad is a sun soul monk who can join your party, The Black Pits is an amazing arena style adventure.  Dorn and Neera are available for purchase on the
tablets, but are included with the PC and Mac versions.  Each new character adds a new quest with around four hours of content and the Black pits is good for 6-8 hours of extra enjoyment.  We’ve also fixed about 400 bugs in the original BG, re-written the rendering engine to look awesome at higher resolutions and added a ton of new visual effects.  This isn’t the Baldur’s Gate you played 12 years ago, this is a radical upgrade.

Jason: Are there any developers from the original Baldur’s Gate working on this remake?

Trent: At one point, counting contractors, half our team had previously worked at Bioware and over a third were former Baldur’s Gate or Baldur’s Gate 2 team members.  Some of the original team members were: John Gallagher – concept artist, Russ Rice – Visual effects and area art, Marcia Tofer – Level art and Art Director on BG2.  Dave Chan – Sound Design, Trent Oster – 3D Art Department Head, Keith Soleski – QA, Cam Tofer – Additional Programming.  We’ve added a lot of new talent to the team as well, including famed fantasy writer, Dave Gross, our Art Director, Nat Jones, and the always amazing Sam Hulick for music (he did the awesome that is music in Mass Effect)

Jason: Since the announcement of this release, there has been a lot of talk about a Baldur’s Gate 3. Is this in the works? Would you go the traditional publishing route, or use Kickstarter like so many other projects are now?

Trent: We want to do something, we’ve been calling it BG:Next internally.  While we’d love to go the kickstarter route, our partners would have to support the choice.  If we are unable to work out a deal to do a licensed BG:Next, we’ll definitely have a look at the kickstarter route.

Jason: Any chance we’ll see this on Steam of GoG down the road? If not, is this due to licensing restrictions?

Trent: Beamdog is the exclusive distribution portal for the game at launch.  Our licensing agreement is limited to a few specific channels and on PC, Beamdog is the only channel we are allowed to sell the game through.

Jason: And last but not least, what is your favourite game of all time?

Trent: My favorite game of all time is probably X-Wing.  It hit just at the right time and I played it non-stop for hours on end. It was around 5 am, during the week at university, and I had played all night to get to the Death Star mission.  I had pretty much decided not to get out of my chair until the Death Star was destroyed.  I missed the entire day of University and at around 6 pm at night I beat the Death Star mission.  I jumped out of my chair and yelled, freaking out my roommate.  It was awesome.

There we are! If you want to learn more about the game, head on over to the game’s website. Remember, the game goes on sale November 28th, so you still have time to pre-order it now. Feel free to also follow Trent Oster or Beamdog on Twitter. See you in the world of Baldur’s Gate!