Long time readers of this blog may suppose – given my interest in medieval history – that I’m about to write about the Knights Templars or some DaVinci Code crap, but that isn’t the case. Rather, I’m talking about the Holy Grail of CRPGs...
First a bit of history. Back in the 80s, I became enthralled in D&D P&P sessions, and I had a small group that would occasionally play games when we could. By about 1990 or so, that phase had ended for me. My college days focused more on games that could be easily played over the dorm LAN such as Warcraft II, Starcraft, or Fortress Quake, but after I graduated in 1999, I started looking at CRPGs. By 2000 my eye fell on Baldur’s Gate II, and I was instantly captivated by how amazing RPGs had become.
Over the next couple years, I bought BG1, the Icewind Dale series, Planescape: Torment, the NWN series, and even Temple of Elemental Evil, all of which I loved to one extent or another, but Baldur’s Gate has always been the gold standard to me.
I also have always been a D&D homer. This probably stems from my childhood memories, but I can honestly say that my interest in playing Mass Effect, Knights of the Old Republic, and World of Warcraft is zero, and my interest in Dragon Age is just barely north of zero. On the other hand, if a D&D-themed game came out tomorrow, I’d be there to buy it unless the reviews were terrible. And I mean REALLY terrible. I bought ToEE after all.
Needless to say, this makes the current situation between WotC and Atari quite annoying.
So a couple weeks ago, I reloaded BG1 onto my computer, and I must say that while some of it still holds up, it is certainly showing its age. I don’t necessarily think the graphics are all that horrible, although the Infinity Engine is certainly archaic. Rather, the simplicity of the dialogs and quests along with the horrible pathing and blatantly bad AI all make the game frustrating to those accustomed to more recent improvements.
That got me thinking about BG III. I remember a couple years ago – give or take several months – that I was talking to an Ossian-mate about potential new projects when I called BG III the "Holy Grail." For the record, he disagreed and thought something else was... but that’s a story for another time.
But my point was that the BG series is unique in the history of CRPGs, and not just for me. I would imagine that the great majority of CRPG fans / modders would have BG III very high on the list if they were told to make a wish about any project they would want to be green-lighted for. However, with the pending litigation over D&D rights, not only is BG III not a realistic idea for the near future, I don’t even think any serious D&D-themed RPG is. And, no, I don’t count Cryptic’s MMORPG as a serious RPG. Actually, by the time the dust is settled, I doubt a BG III ever comes out. It’s already 11 years since BG II, and I can’t think of many games that had 15 or more years between sequels... although Starcraft comes close.
So then that got me thinking. What if a group of modders just decided to make BG III in, say, the NWN2 toolset? I’m thinking about a major effort along the lines of Misery Stone or Purgatorio. It would certainly be possible, although it would take a lot of dedication from many people with little or no recognition for years. That's tough. After all, Misery Stone, though a great game as is, was admittedly hurried out the door towards the end. I assume the group realized continued interest by the development team was flagging and needed to just get it out. And Purgatorio is, well, in purgatory.
But if it could be done - so long as the game was offered for free - it would be perfectly legal. And if enough word of mouth could be generated, might it even become a somewhat "official" version in the absence of anything else?
But what would BG III look like? What would be the "must haves" without which one couldn’t lay claim to the title? My (probably incomplete) list would look something like:
* Single player campaign
* 80 – 100 hours of gameplay
* A minimum of 10 – 12 NPCs that can be substituted in and out from a party of 6.
* NPC-based quests
* A story-line somehow tied in to the Bhaal-spawn legend
* Most of the game taking place in a city environment, although large portions can be outside the city
My gut is that, as the Bhaal-spawn is now either a god or has turned down the Throne of Bhaal and is merely an incredibly powerful mortal, I would think the third chapter would start over with a new protagonist starting at level 1 and perhaps going up to level 10 or so. However, I wouldn’t put this as a "must have" to be a legitimate successor.
I think all of this is more than possible with a two-year development time, so long as the team didn’t have to develop an engine (which it wouldn’t in this scenario). MoW took roughly six months to build once all the design documents were done and another couple months of testing. MoW clocked in at around 20-25 hours and had 3 NPCs. Expanding the six months to two years would lead to 80-100 hours and 12 NPCs. As each of those companions already had an associated quest, this work is already included in the 3 NPCs in 6 months metric. The only additional effort would be to include romances... a topic for a different post. Anyway, yes, the analysis is simple, but it gives a rough order of magnitude. I do think it could be done...
But it won't. All of this is obviously just a bit of day-dreaming on my part. Truthfully, I’ve finally accepted that the BG series is dead and now relegated to the warm, fuzzy, halcyon days of yesteryear... right alongside my memories of the red box set.
But what a pleasant dream it is.