Baldur's Gate 3 is still a month and a half away, but at least we have a new early access release date. The dice have rolled in our favor, and Larian Studios is promising a September 31 release date now. That could change, but having a date to anticipate is better than a blank future.
In an interview with Fextralife, Larian Studios creative director Swen Vincke talked about the process of working on a licensed Dungeons & Dragon game following the success of the studio-owned Divinity Original Sin and Divinity Original Sin 2. Vincke said that D&D owner Wizards of the Coast didn't put too many restrictions on the studio.
"They've been super supportive. They gave us a lot of freedom. Obviously, we had to adhere to the lore, but we quickly figured out what the guidelines were," Vincke explained.
He pointed towards the freedom inherent in the new Dungeons & Dragons mechanics, and the new improvements to verticality and stealth. Jumping to platforms and across chasms adds new choices of approach, and players can create shadows to hide within. It's not about having a few dialog choices and two or three outcomes for a quest; Larian wants players to puzzle out their own solutions, and D&D mechanics have only improved on that process.
Larian Studios put a great amount of effort into making sure that players choices actually result in satisfying outcomes. "We do make some compromises, but it's true that if you run into a situation that's the logical consequence of a whole bunch of choices that you've made and then the game doesn't react well to it, that's dissatisfying and frustrating," said Vincke. "And so we add content to make that work. We give you lots of choices and the game should reward you making those choices and fulfill your agency."
Larian is always looking for "situation boosters" for quests and regions, Vincke said. The team will begin with the main quest, and then iterate on alternate interactions and choices. Vincke said the unique intellect devourer companion shown in today's Panel From Hell—essentially a talking brain with legs and tentacles—came from one of these iterations.
"One of our scripters had made a room full of weird, illithid stuff, and one of those things was the chair with the body on it that had its brain empty. So there was an interaction and that led to the dialog," said Vincke. "The writer was writing it and the scripter came up with the idea, 'Well, what if you can get a follower out of it?' That's a very typical way of how Larian puts stuff into a game. What comes out is never what went in in the first place. That's why the games work out so well. I ask for A, I get A, plus B, C, D, and E. That's much cooler in general. In general, we obey the rule of cool; if it's cool, you should put development effort into it, because the player will always enjoy it."
Baldur's Gate also allows for more evil actions. During the Panel From Hell, Baldur's Gate 3 senior writer Adam Smith acknowledged that most players pick the good options in CRPGs. Despite that, Larian decided to expand upon the consequences and paths that result from patently evil actions.
"Evil choices should have their own storyline," said Vincke. "We didn't do this in [Divinity Original Sin 2]. Now we have many evil storylines, all based on choices that you could make. Few people will see it, but when you hit it, you'll say, 'Damn it. I'm glad that they hid that. Because it's normal that this happens in the story after all the stuff that I've done.'"
From the panel, it seemed like Baldur's Gate 3 early access build was going to be much larger than Divinity Original Sin 2's original early access build. Vincke himself touted more combat encounters, more dialog, more characters, and more actions available to players. In the interview though, Vincke tempered expectations, pointing to more depth in available paths.
"In length, not necessarily, in depth, for sure," said Vincke when asked if Baldur's Gate 3 Early Access would be bigger than Divinity Original Sin 2 Early Access. "That's the strange thing about those numbers. I had to explain to our publishing team, twenty times: it's not because the numbers are that larger that you can say it's larger, because it isn't. It's just you have so much more permutations. In that sense, it is larger, but not in duration."
Larian is looking towards early access to improve what it already has and create the ultimate Dungeons & Dragons game. Vincke acknowledges that the team doesn't "have answers for everything," and early access helps them determine the final direction for every game. That's all on top of Larian Studios expanding to provide the presentation that a D&D game deserves.
"I gotta say right now, it's challenging. You can jump in and die," he admitted.