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On the Black Isle Developer Boards
Throne of Bhaal Reviews
On the Black Isle Developer Boards
Throne of Bhaal Review
Throne of Bhaal Contest

  Wednesday, July 11, 2001

On the Black Isle Developer Boards

From the Black Isle Developer message boards.

Throne of Bhaal
David Gaider (Senior Designer)
End of the Infinity Engine and releasing it to the public: If I've already stated my case, I don't really see the point in responding to further posts just for the sake of argument...and I would hardly call it avoiding.

But you think we're being dumb by putting aside the IE? OK, then...'allow me to clue you in, if I may':

1) It does not make economic sense to go back and rework the IE. At this point it's been tweaked and played with so many times that even small changes that are made cause numerous problems in almost unrelated places. At this point it is far more economical to take what we have learned and start anew.

2) Sure...I guess it goes without saying that we could pump out more IE games. We could put out a BG3, BG4 or even use the IE for brand new series. Heck, with the money we'd make, we could put out five games at once, all with the IE! Let me back-track for a second, though. You said you'd buy good games, regardless of the engine of fancy-schmancy graphics, right? Well, there's a name for the 'sound economic reasoning' that causes successful games to be cloned endlessly. It's called Milking It. And they are not good for a reason.
Even in ToB, when the designers were going through certain areas, we kinda looked at each other and went "Wow...have we done this encounter before?" It was a real struggle to keep things fresh. Every time we thought of something cool or different we wanted to do, we encountered a limitation with the engine that made it impossible. We've milked the series enough, I think...sure, some new stories could be told, but not in as many new ways or varieties as you think. And the frustration involved with trying to continue would only increase. Going to a new engine is a necessary evolution, and can only improve what we're doing.

3)As far as releasing the IE to the public? I didn't say it wouldn't happen. Who knows? It's not my place to decide what happens to it. It's also nobody's right to demand it. I imagine there's a lot of proprietary code in there...who knows how much will get re-used? Maybe lots, maybe none. Regardless, I've worked with the IE from a designer standpoint. And while I haven't worked with it as a programmer, Mark Darrah has always maintained exactly the same point I have (yet more vehemently)...the IE is not in a state to be released. What good would releasing that do? Who would it help besides those people who could pick over its code carefully...and are likely already over at TeamBG or wherever working with it or using some other code that's simpler. Believe me...there's NO way I could ship the IE to your average user and they'd be able to do much with it.

And I DO agree...there's a lot of potential out there for people with creativity. I just don't think releasing the IE (if doing so was even possible) would be much of a boon.

And that's pretty much all I have to say on the subject. It's pretty complimentary that you guys like the games so much that you want the engine to carry on...but I really don't think the ends you want will be served by that. By all means, though...continue to call for it. Ray and Greg are a pair of great guys who have always listened to the community. If they thought there was a demand for it and that releasing the source code was both legally feasible and a good idea, then I can't see why they wouldn't do it.

Yeah, the whole computer market back then was quite a bit different. A game like the Gold Box SSI games could make a living off of the niche D'er market back then...although I imagine it wasn't much of one.

All I'm saying is that it's going to be pretty hard to maintain a good story and some originality when you keep running into road-blocks, engine-wise. I think ToB is about as far as we could take it...and there are lots of things we tried to do that sort of had to be cobbled together (and I think it shows...whereas doing those things with stuff the engine was meant to work with earlier on doesn't). Could ToB have been supported a full-blown sequel? Story-wise, heck yeah. Engine-wise...I honestly don't know. Never mind the high-level stuff vis a vis the D rules...I'm talking keeping the players interest through lots of new & different encounters and not bringing up the 'been there, done that' for all the fans who've been around since BG1. And one has to keep in mind especially that in a CRPG the story is always tied intrinsically to the gameplay...it doesn't stand on its own like in regular narrative.

Recreating BG in Neverwinter Nights: You can have as many areas in a single module as your computer can store...and as many areas at one time (say if the players split up) as your computer can handle in active memory. What that will finally be, numbers-wise, I'm not sure...but yes, you could conceivably have a gigantic campaign so long as it consisted of areas strung together.

As an example...let's say I have a pretty big area that's one area in Baldur's Gate (the city). You have area transitions leading into buildings and to other areas of the city the exact same as in the BG series...you go through the transition, it loads the new map and you appear on the other side of the transition in the new map. For each map, you can put down as many characters, items, etc. that you want. Want intricate dialogue? Well, the conversation editor allows you to build it extremely easily. Linking is visual drag-and-drop (so it is MUCH easier than the BG editors we used to use) and scripting should be of medium complexity (although, as I understand it, there's going to be a big menu of 'stock' scripts and lots of examples). And since you as the creator won't have to worry about translation costs, you can make the dialogue as intricate and long as you feel like. (Seriously, the conversation editor takes 5 minutes to master).

So YES...you could do Baldur's Gate all over again with enough areas (although that would be a heckuva lot) strung together.
Heart of Winter
Tom French (Programmer)
Balancing for Heart of Fury mode: Hahaha. Balancing for HOF mode is like. "Hey, is this level really really hard on HOF mode?" "Yeah" "OK, it's balanced for that."

Throne of Bhaal Reviews

GamesFirst has posted a review of Baldur’s Gate II: Throne of Bhaal, giving it 4 of 5 stars.
The final judgment of TOB does not lie in sound, animation, and new skills. For the past several years, hundreds of thousands have shelled out their allowances, their milk money, and their McDonald’s wages in order to track this story, and ultimately, unlike first person shooters or strategy games, that’s the core the Baldur’s Gate series: a very long interactive story mixing traditions of animation, cinema, and the rhetoric of computer games. And that story has been satisfying. But with TOB, the rapidity with which characters gain levels and the game itself wraps up that story leaves me a little cold. I understand that Black Isle wanted to retire the Infinity engine that powers these titles and move onto new territory. TOB will be what Baldur’s Gate fans will remember, though, and this ending is too perfunctory, too quick, and too simple compared to either BG I, BG II or Planescape: Torment, to really please. Where the Tales of the Sword Coast (the BG I expansion) added to the existing world, TOB adds and ends. For that to be effective, I think the last chapter needed to be more complex and detailed. The new weapons, enemies, battles, and abilities are cool but hollow as they finish out this epic. Few have claimed that, as of yet, commercial computer games have achieved levels of artistic excellence comparable with film, music, or literature, but that doesn’t mean that they wont. With TOB, good as it is, I think an opportunity for that degree of excellence has been missed.
TFHGaming has also posted a review of Throne of Bhaal, giving it an overall score of 4.75 of 5.
ToB's minor shortcoming, if only for serious CRPGers, stems partially from the high expectations for a true role playing experience (e.g. choosing a good, evil, or neutral path of behavior and seeing the story change by them) successfully created in Black Isle's earlier D&D; classic, Planescape: Torment. Like BG II, ToB makes a valiant effort to include options for players who wish to be good, evil, or in between. Still, there are a couple instances where the game feels a little linear, and others where whatever dialogue option a player chooses, the response will be the same. With the precedent for serious single player role playing set by Planescape, and the great strides BioWare made to include these in BG II and ToB, there are high hopes that this CRPGer dream can be further included in games. For ToB, it falls just inches below the mark of perfection in this regard (and the devs deserve to be knighted for continually broadening the role playing opportunities in the BG series). With Neverwinter Nights soon coming, that dream may be realized soon enough ("anything is possible with that many monkeys").

Any BG/D&D; fan, CRPGer, fantasy fan, or even those who enjoy a good story should definitely pick up ToB, and experience the journey through the epic vision BioWare/Black Isle created for the Forgotten Realms. ToB triumphantly and memorably ends the saga to a story that will stand with the Ultimas, Wizardry's, Bard's Tales, Gold Box D&D; games etc. as one of the great CRPG experiences of all time.

  Tuesday, July 10, 2001

On the Black Isle Developer Boards

From the Black Isle Developer message boards.

Heart of Winter
Steve Bokkes (Designer)
Dealing with Harald: I just got back from vacation this morning. To answer your question, the encounter was designed not as a traditional quest, but rather as a simple moral dilemma. After talking to Harald, it should've been apparent that his experiences inside the lure had driven him quite insane. He holds himself responsible for the deaths of his comrades and sees his own death as the only way to redeem himself in the eyes of Tyr. However, despite his madness, he still clings to the basic tenets of his faith--a fact that has prevented him from taking his own life long ago.

So you see, there is no "right" or "wrong" way of dealing with the situation. You can do as he asks and give him the warrior's death he craves, or you can simply leave him to his own personal torment. Either way, there is no happy ending. I realized when I was designing this NPC that the absence of a neat and tidy solution might provoke some frustration among certain players. However, every once in a while I like to "muddy the waters" a bit by injecting a bit of cold, hard reality into an otherwise pristine fantasy setting.

Throne of Bhaal Review

Games Xtreme has posted a review of Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal, giving it a score of 90% and an Editor’s Choice award.
These features and additions are what makes TOB a great expansion pack and a fitting end to the whole Baldur’s Gate series. If you’re a Baldur’s gate fan then you need this expansion pack, its good, its hard but ultimately it finishes the whole saga off in good style.

  Monday, July 9, 2001

Throne of Bhaal Contest

PC Zone is holding a Throne of Bhaal contest this week. Open to UK residents only.
Each day this week we shall be giving away two copies of BioWare's Baldur's Gate 2 expansion pack, Throne Of Bhaal, and ten Throne Of Bhaal T-shirts, which tots up to an awesome 12 freebie giveaways per day! How do we do it?

  Sunday, July 8, 2001

New Poll Posted

We asked in BG2: Shadows of Amn, which Stronghold quest was the hardest to complete, and the wizard Stronghold won with 2230 votes. Here are the full results:

Total votes: 6196
AnswerVotesPercentage
Paladin
1637
 26.4%
Ranger
325
 5.2%
Druid
256
 4.1%
Cleric
335
 5.4%
Wizard
2230
 36%
Thief
350
 5.6%
Bard
627
 10.1%
Fighter
436
 7%


To see the results of previous polls, visit our poll archives.

The new poll asks what game would you like to see most, if they made another.

Let the voting begin!


Picture of the Day Screenshots

If you have interesting screenshots for the picture of the day, please send them to pics@planetbaldursgate.com.

We will gladly post anything from BG1, Tales, Planescape:Torment, Icewind Dale, IWD: Heart of Winter, Trials of the Luremaster, BG2 or Throne of Bhaal. The following is a list of what we do not need screenshots of as we've already received multiple instances:

Alive or Dead Dragons – regardless of color
Alive or Dead Beholders – regardless of size
Sunray shots with over 1000 hp’s of damage
Dead Boss (main bad guy) shots from any of the games
Alive or Dead lich or Demi-lichs
Item histories or cost bugs

Other than that, send away. Please review the archived screenshots to see if your idea has already been used.

To our Planescape: Torment readers: We need more PS:T screenshots, load up the game and send in some good shots.

Baldur's Gate II: Throne of Bhaal and Heart of Winter: Trials of the Luremaster screenshots will now be posted.

Thanks to everyone that has submitted in the past.


On the Black Isle Developer Boards

From the Black Isle Developer message boards.

Throne of Bhaal
David Gaider (Senior Designer)
Not using the Infinity Engine for more games: Well, it's a decision made largely by our CEO's, Ray and Greg, but to a degree by everyone who makes the games here.

I don't disagree that more games could be made with the Infinity Engine, but let's put it this way: the engine was made to accommodate Baldur's Gate, the first game, and really wasn't made to be expandable. By the time BG1 was finished, there were quite a few things noticed that we didn't do right...a lot of areas where it would have been better had we known it would be a problem right from the get go and a lot of other things we wished we had implemented differently. At the point when an engine is done it's simply impossible to go back and make fundamental changes.

But OK, it's good enough at that point...lesson learned. But THEN we go and make a sequel...we stretch the engine in ways it was never meant to be stretched. Stuff that would have been pretty simple to do if it was included from the get-go becomes difficult simply because we have to do it the hard way, now.

By the time Throne of Bhaal comes around, we've stretched it even more. And it shows.

The technology is advancing and it's available...and we as developers would like just as anyone else would to move on, to start a new project that not only takes advantage of our experience but also updates in technology.

And, to a lesser degree, there's also a pressure to change because the majority of the customer base wants us to take advantage of their rapidly-upgrading systems. Or maybe it's just the media...hard to say. Regardless, it's a bit self-defeating to publish a game when every reviewer will automatically deduct points simply because the engine is a few years old regardless of whether it works or not.

As for whether or not the Infinity Engine would ever be made public, it's hard to say. BioWare built it and it's BioWare’s choice...but I will say that I think the engine's in no condition to be publicly released. Sure, we could say "here it is but take it as it is, we don't want to deal with it if you have any problems"...but that's just unlikely to happen. I won't say that it won't happen...it's up to Ray and Greg, I guess...but it's just unlikely. If there's a demand for it, I guess it's the responsibility of those people who want it to make themselves heard.
Heart of Winter
JE Sawyer (Designer)
Working on ToTL : I deserve almost no credit for Trials of the Luremaster. The only things I helped out with were a few dialogues (The Luremaster, Hobart, Crieck of Bane, Harald), some story ideas, and two items (Wind of Heaven and Dead God's Dreaming). Steve Bokkes and John Deiley did the vast majority of the design work for the expansion.
Kevin Osburn (Line Producer)
International versions of ToTL: We anticipate on having the rest of the languages done within the next week or two. As soon as I have anymore information regarding this I will let you know right away.

Reported bugs in ToTL: Trials of the Luremaster was in QA for about four weeks. When we decided the game was finished, almost all of the bugs that were found by Harold (Lead QA Tester) and the guys were fixed. The bugs that you mention none of us have ever seen. I am not saying that they aren't happening, but we have been unsuccessful at reproducing them. The difficult thing about making a PC game is the fact that there are so many configurations for PC's out there it is impossible for any game to be perfect. Our goal is to get it as clean as possible before we release it to the public. This is why there is a QA, and we work very closely with them so we can get the game running great. I am sorry you seem to be having so many problems. If you would like you can send a save game to icewind@blackisle.com, include a description of the bug that is in the save game and I will try it with your save game so I can see what exactly is going on.
Tom French (Programmer)
Reported bugs in ToTL: Huh. We in fact ran it through QA for a couple of weeks to work out bugs. I don't in fact think I had a single bug on my list when we shipped it (this is just my bug list I’m talking about) and i don't remember any "glitch full" pages of bugs being on the master bug list. If your sounds are acting screwy I'd recommend updating your drivers and/or re-installing the game clean. It seems to have fixed tons of peoples problems so far.

Do you have your AI updates turned up? I've seen this make the trolls go down without fire weapons. Just a suggestion.

ToTL on CD: Eventually we hope to release an IWD pack with all the games in it, but that's just our teams hopes. Maybe someday.

It will probably happen sooner or later. Hopefully not too long. I'd also like to see it all released on one DVD too. Darren and I joked about putting all the resources together before we move onto other projects so that we can clean off our hard drives and not have to set everything back up someday and try to remember how it all worked.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Heart of Winter Walkthrough

GameFAQs has updated the walkthrough section for Icewind Dale: Heart of Winter.



Resources

Discuss the games and strategies with other fans.

Build and store characters using all the rules in the game.

Extensive database of all the items in BG, Tales, BG2, Icewind Dale and Torment.

Annotated dungeon survival guide for Icewind Dale and Heart of Winter.

Annotated guide to Sigil and the Planes.

Poll

What game would you like to see most, if they made another?
Baldur's Gate 3
Icewind Dale 2
Planescape: Torment 2



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