Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Baldur's Gate (your correction of my mistake)

Embarrassingly, I'm apparently forgetting early gaming history.

Garth Pricer sent in this tremendously well-written correction of yesterday's post:
Obsidian did not make Baldur’s Gate. Obsidian did not exist at that time. Baldur’s Gate was the sophomore effort of a fledgling medical software company named Bioware, who had experienced modest success with their first gaming foray in the form of Shattered Steel. Bioware’s three doctor founders were RPG fans and planned to make an RPG named Infinity, but when offered the D&D license, they leapt at the chance. Baldur’s Gate was the result, and Infinity became the name of the engine instead. 

Both games were published by Interplay, the latter game under a newly formed division called Black Isle Studios, named after the Scottish island.  Feargus Urquhart, the director of Black Isle Studios (and the source of the name, because if it’s not Scottish it’s cr…), later went on to direct Black isle to make several more games using Bioware’s Infinity Engine, among them the Icewind Dale trilogy. An assistant designer on the 1st Icewind Dale game, then lead designer on the second, JE Sawyer made his name in the industry on those games. 

Drawing from elements of FFVII, Black Isle also released yet another Infinity Engine game with the D&D license, this time leveraging the rather unique Planescape setting. This game, Planescape Torment, remains a cult classic for its memorable writing and its vivid world-building. Chris Avellone was the lead designer.

Black Isle Studios is also known for another isometric RPG. While originally created with the GURPS license, this project had to shed the system when Steve Jackson objected to the violent content. Somehow it survived, and GURPS was replaced with a homebrew system called SPECIAL. Released as Fallout, this game was produced by Tim Cain and Brian Fargo (Interplay’s founder and the director of Wasteland). Tim Cain was also the lead programmer and one of the key designers. 

The Black Isle eventually sank, but Obsidian rose in its stead. The Pillars of Eternity team is assembled from many of the past Black Isle luminaries above, but aside from publisher Feargus, none of the Bioware crew are among them.

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