RPGamer Feature - Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear Interview
Platform: PC, iOS, Mac
Developer: Beamdog
Publisher: Beamdog
Release Date: 03.31.2016

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For the first time in fifteen years RPGamers will get a chance to experience an all-new game set in the Baldur's Gate series, as Beamdog brings us an expansion to Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, titled Siege of Dragonspear. We sit down and discuss the expansion with its lead designer, Phillip Daigle of Beamdog.

Johnathan Stringer (RPGamer): For those in the dark, could you give a brief description of Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition: Siege of Dragonspear?
Phillip Daigle (Beamdog): Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear is an expansion pack for Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition. You need the base game to play the expansion pack. The story in Siege of Dragonspear bridges the gap between Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II, telling what happened to the player character between those two games. You can continue playing your same character from Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition in Siege of Dragonspear, or you can start a new game at the beginning of the expansion. It adds roughly thirty hours of new adventures and, at the end, you can export your character into Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition to keep the story going.

At the end of Baldur's Gate you're in a good place - you've saved the city and are lauded as a hero. At the beginning of Baldur's Gate II you're being tortured in a foreign land by an unknown adversary, and the opening video of the game mentions "dark circumstances" that drove you out of the city of Baldur's Gate. Clearly something happened between those two games, and Siege of Dragonspear explores that idea.

Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear is a new addition to the main story of Baldur's Gate, but it's not Baldur's Gate III. It's sort of an "interquel" rather than a prequel or sequel to the series.

JS: What sorts of hoops did you have to go through to get this game off the ground? Was it as easy as pitching the idea and it was a go, or were there difficulties?
PD: We're lucky to have an excellent working relationship with Wizards of the Coast, and we're also enormous fans of the Baldur's Gate series, so convincing them to let us do another adventure that took place between the two existing games was very straightforward. Initially the idea was a small, 1-2 hour adventure that we could sell as a tiny piece of DLC. Over time, however, we realized that people were hungry for way more than that and so we had to expand the scope of the expansion pack significantly.

JS: How tough was it inserting a new story in between 2 established game plots? This isn't done often, as it acts both as a sequel and a prequel at the same time.
PD: It was very challenging to connect the two games together in a satisfying way. We didn't want Siege of Dragonspear to be a story that was entirely unrelated to the existing games: it had to tie into the first and second games but also strengthen the stories that were already there. At the same time it had to stand by itself as an excellent tale.

As well, Baldur's Gate allowed you to finish the game with whatever party of companions you wanted, but Baldur's Gate II assumed that you had a specific set of companions and ignored your choices in the original game. If we were going to bridge the two games together, we had to find some way to get past this issue without changing either Baldur's Gate or Baldur's Gate II. Further, we needed to have a story where it wouldn't seem strange that it's not referenced very much in Baldur's Gate II, which was written years before Siege of Dragonspear was even an idea.

We had to jump through a lot of hoops and come up with some very creative solutions, but I believe we accomplished what we set out to do, which was to make the Baldur's Gate saga even better.

JS: With the expansion importing into Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition, will the new class also be available in BGII:EE? Will there be a follow up patch for it to integrate these new features?
PD: Yes! The new Shaman class, which allows you to cast Druid spells like a sorcerer and also summon an almost unlimited number of spirit allies, will be introduced for free to both Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition and Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition. The patch will either come at the same time as Siege of Dragonspear or slightly afterwards. The patches for both games are actually in testing right now as public betas.

In addition to the new class being released for free, all of the UI enhancements that we've made to Siege of Dragonspear are being released for free for Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition and Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition. It's our stance that you should have access to all these quality of life improvements and that all Infinity Engine games should offer the same great set of features.

JS: Without getting into spoilers, does Siege of Dragonspear take the player right up to the events starting in BGII:EE, or is there still some story gap?
PD: There's still a slight gap, but you know exactly what was happening to you in that gap. It's sort of like being knocked out and dragged somewhere; you weren't awake for the dragging part, but it's not too hard to figure out what happened.

JS: How is the expansion accessed in-game? Can a player create a character and jump right in, or do they need to go through BG:EE first?
PD: You can access Siege of Dragonspear in a few ways. Once the expansion pack is installed, you can:

A) Start a new game at the start of Siege of Dragonspear. Your character will be at an appropriate level for the adventure when you start, and you'll be given a party of companions from BG:EE based on your character's alignment.
B) Import your saved game from Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition. The party you have in this save will be brought into Siege of Dragonspear with you.
C) Import your exported character from Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition. This is like the first option, but you're bringing in a character that already exists and skipping the character creation part of starting a new game.
D) Play through Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition and automatically transition to Siege of Dragonspear after the final battle. This is similar to B.

We'e also added a feature that will allow you to create an entirely custom party of up to 6 characters at the start of the game. In the past this was only possible by juggling save files around to create an entirely custom party. Now it's built into the game.

JS: How much of a concern is it of being able to live up to the Baldur's Gate legacy? You added smaller bits of content in the previous Enhanced Editions, but this is taking adding content to the IP to a new level.
PD: Baldur's Gate is a sort of holy grail for a lot of PC gamers, and so we knew that we had to be extremely careful in our treatment of the characters, story, and gameplay. With every step we took we would be asking ourselves "Is this Baldur's Gate? Does this FEEL like Baldur's Gate? Does it have the right flavor?"

We frequently revised the story in the early stages of development and even brought in some RPG legends like Chris Avellone to help us hone the adventure and really give it that classic Baldur's Gate feel. When we made the decision to bring back the original voice actors, that's when we really knew we were making a Baldur's Gate game. They brought their characters back to life instantly and it added a whole new level of authenticity to the game.

JS: Which voice actors will we see return, and for what characters? How much more dialogue have they recorded?
PD: While some of the cast are being held back as a surprise for fans on release day, I can confirm some of the names that we've brought back:

Jim Cummings (Minsc)
Jim Meskimen (Khalid, Edwin)
Kevin Michael Richardson (Sarevok, Narrator)
David Warner (A role related to his role as Jon Irenicus in BGII)
Jennifer Hale (Dynaheir)
Grey Griffin (Skie Silvershield, Viconia)
Melissa Disney (Imoen)

And many others. The voice cast for this game is enormous, I believe we're at over thirty different performers for the expansion. We've recorded over seven thousand lines of VO. The characters have far, far more lines than they ever did in Baldur's Gate.

JS: It was interesting to see the inclusion of a story mode in Siege of Dragonspear. How much easier is this mode and was there a big demand for this feature?
PD: Story Mode is just that - you're here for the story. You still need to speak to the right people, say the right things, figure out puzzles, and make important choices, but combat becomes a non-issue. Your characters will not die and you can focus on just enjoying the plot.

We had a surprising number of requests for this from people who had told us that they loved the idea of Baldur's Gate and were interested in the many hooks it presented, but that they couldn't wrap their heads around 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons combat. There were also gamers with disabilities that approached us on this topic, and they've given us some very positive feedback now that they can actually experience the Baldur's Gate story.

Keep in mind that we've also added a new difficulty option called Legacy of Bhaal. This is an option for fans of the series that think they've mastered combat in Baldur's Gate. It provides an all-new level of challenge that will frighten even our most veteran players.

JS: Can you explain the Legacy of Bhaal difficulty a bit more? What all is done in this mode that makes combat more difficult, higher enemy health and damage?
PD: It goes beyond higher enemy health and damage; the tactics that they'll use will change dramatically, and once Legacy of Bhaal is enabled, it cannot be disabled. With every other difficulty option you can scale it up or down as you play through the game, but Legacy can't be scaled down. You really need to rethink all of your traditional approaches to Baldur's Gate combat when Legacy of Bhaal is enabled.

JS: Is this expected to be the last bit of expansion content added to Baldur's Gate, or do you have more ideas in mind? It would seem most of the angles of this plot have now been explored.
PD: We've got lots of ideas for spots in the Baldur's Gate series that could be filled in, but we're waiting to see what the reception to Siege of Dragonspear is like before we commit to anything major. First we need to see what the fans want, then we'll look at what we can deliver. We've also got an eye towards the future. The Infinity Engine was built almost 20 years ago and limits us in a lot of ways. We're actively exploring next-gen technology for some potential future games.

JS: It was recently announced that David Gaider, formerly of Bioware, was hired on as a new creative director. This is a title you also had. Are you both now creative directors, or has your position or responsibilities shifted a bit?
PD: I was the director on Siege of Dragonspear, and David won't have any involvement on that project. Going forward he's the Creative Director for the company, and I'm going to focus more on gameplay design and project-specific direction. I'm actually quite pleased by this because this plays more into my strengths and at the same time massively upgrades our story and writing direction.

David and I are working together right now to lay the groundwork for our next major game, but of course I can't reveal anything about that quite yet.

JS: Are you planning to create any new IPs, or are you more focused on building off of and enhancing existing IPs? And when should we expect to hear about the next Beamdog project?
PD: We'd like to continue working with Wizards of the Coast on Dungeons & Dragons titles. We love D&D and we love making D&D games. At the same time, however, we're also going to be developing our own projects and brands. For now I can't reveal anything, but going forward you'll see both great licensed and original IP projects from Beamdog.

JS: Anything else you would like to add about Siege of Dragonspear that we didn't cover?
PD: Beamdog is made up of people who worked on the original Baldur's Gate games and also a lot of very passionate fans, including myself. For us to be able to work on the next generation of Baldur's Gate games, and to build upon this incredible legacy, has been a dream come true. We're all extremely proud of the work we've done and absolutely cannot wait for people to experience it on March 31st.

We want to offer a big thanks to Phillip Daigle for taking time right before the launch of Siege of Dragonspear to answer our questions concerning the game. We look forward to playing this newest bit of content in the Baldur's Gate series, and anticipate future Beamdog releases.

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