Douglas Avery on Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn
Interview By: dapsycho | Posted: 07/02/2000
The Interview was Conducted by e-mail and the Questions were answered by Douglas Avery, Assistant Producer of Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn at Black Isle Studios.
Hello & Thank you for taking the time from Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn to answer these questions.
GX: Baldurs Gate 1 (BG1) was a great game in both single and multiplayer versions while the storyline was excellent, are you hoping to make Baldurs Gate 2 (BG2) as an extension to the BG1 storyline or will it focus on a different part altogether?
DA: BioWare has given this a lot of thought. You will continue your adventure and visit new areas of the Sword Coast. The title Shadows of Amn should give our audience a little hint as to where they will be adventuring but believe me, that is only the tip of the iceberg. There are all new areas to explore. You will get to travel to the city of Athkatla, to an Elven forest and even the to the depths of the Underdark.
What can you tell us about the storyline of BG2?
DA: In BG2:SoA, you face an uncertain future, with a lineage that tempts the unscrupulous to use you and the ignorant to fear you. You will face a foe that views you as no more than chattel, that toys with you at every turn; a villain whose goals go beyond a quest for power, and who threatens to use a lost companion as a tool for destruction unparalleled. The choices to be made will not be easy, and you may have to align with the lesser of evils, when all evils cannot help but seem equal. In the end you will have mourned lost loves, celebrated new ones, and had adventures that profoundly shaped the Realms.
GX: will it be possible to transfer your characters from BG1 to BG2?
DA: Yes. As a matter of fact this was one of BioWare's primary focuses for BG2. We wanted to truly continue the adventure. Not force our players to create new characters and have to run them up from level one again. Of course you can create a character in BG2 and you'll be spotted enough Experience Points to keep you in the running with people that have completed BG.
GX: BG1 took up a load of CD's, 5 to be precise. how many are you expecting BG2 to come on?
DA: At this point we are trying to keep it on 4 CDs but you know how these things go. When the game is final and Audio has been finished, we'll have to see where we stand.
GX: Roughly how many locations are going to be in the game?
DA: The game will be slightly smaller than BG in terms of area numbers but this is because we have cut out the areas where not much was happening. We have tried to make certain that the areas that are created are interactive for the player and advance the story along smoothly. This should also cut down on travel times for the end users.
GX: How many characters can you control at once in the game?
DA: The same number as in Baldur's Gate. One main player character and up to five NPCs. If you are playing the game multiplayer then you or your friends can create up to six characters for your adventure.
GX: Are you going to keep boo (the hamster) in the game and what about any of the other characters, Player Controlled and NPC's from the first?
DA: We are definitely bringing Minsc back and we couldn't leave Boo out in the cold now could we? Minsc and Boo were definite crowd favorites. We polled our audience and asked them what their favorite NPCs were from Baldur's Gate and who they finished the game with. The characters that most people had at the end were Minsc, Imoen and a few others. You will be seeing them in BG2 as well.
GX: The graphics in BG1 were outstanding. Both the effects and the overall look. Are you going to make them look more spectacular with large explosions and greater effects for the spells (aka FF8)?
DA: We won't be using cinematics for our spell effects. We want the player to remain in the game so the spells will be done like they were in Baldur's Gate. We implemented 3D card support so the spell effects look even better than they did in the original. We also have redone the spell animations so that the spells come off better.
GX: Staying with the graphics, what have you updated on the game engine in terms of graphical effects?
DA: BioWare has upped the resolution so that players can play the game in 800x600 or 640x480. We have also implemented a GUI (Graphic User Interface) that can be customized to your preference. The three GUI panels are now completely removable so that you can have more visible game area on the screen at one time.
GX: Will you be keeping the spells from BG1 and adding new ones in BG2 or are the spells going to be completely different?
DA: We are using the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition rules set so we have to stay within their framework. They have provided a HUGE number of spells in the pen and paper game so we have a lot of options. At this time we are including spells up to level 9. This gives the players about 130 new spells as well as the old ones from BG. I don't think the players are going to be upset with the number of spells available ;>
GX: The multiplayer part of BG1 was a good extension to the main single player game allowing a group of people to control individual characters in the group, will BG2 employ the same multiplayer ethics or are you working on something better?
DA: We are actually using the same multi-player system we did in BG. We are implementing some changes though. The most important of which is that players will no longer have to wait for each other when they hold a conversation with an NPC. During some conversations the players will all have to listen, but this only holds true for game critical dialogues.
GX: Have you had any major problems in creating this sequel, and how have you over-come them?
DA: Actually we are having almost no problems with the sequel. We are using a beefed up version of BioWare's Infinity Engine (the engine used for Baldur's Gate) so we are already familiar with its quirks. This is allowing us to make rapid progress as BioWare knows what to anticipate.
GX: Lots of companies are making games for DVD now, since BG2 is expected to be a very large game, are you going to release a DVD version?
DA: We made a DVD version of Baldur's Gate so it would make sense if we continued on with it for the sequel. It will depend a lot on interest in the product but should be relatively painless to do.
GX: When is the expected UK release?
DA: It should be right around the same time as the North American release which is set for Fall of this year.
GX: How far are you from finishing BG2?
DA: We are about halfway done with everything right now. We still have to get sound effects and Audio and finish up the final areas. The game is being tested by our Q.A. department right now and they are having fun with what has been completed.
GX: After BG2 is finished where to then?
We'll just have to wait and see ;>
Well thats your lot, some very interesting information there and I for one am not going to miss this!