Just wanted to start a general discussion about BG3, or whatever the next game could be, because I am looking forward to whatever Beamdog does in the future.
The following are suggestions directed to the development team, but are obviously open for discussion and criticism from anyone here.
Present another, different, separate Charname driven by story and immersion over graphics (in the land of Faerun, obviously). BG was very successful for what it was much to the surprise, I believe, of small Bioware at the time. I believe that a small part of that success was in the ability to personalize
a hero who affects Faerun in massive ways. He doesn't have to do godhood, or stop wars, or anything that is cookie cutter of the Baldur's Gate plot. But when playing BG1 & 2, it feels like I am Charname
, whatever I decide for him to be. BG was produced before flashy 3D graphics, so the developers invested in writing
and making Charname feel like a believably real person that you could immerse yourself into over graphics and heavy-handed flashy and expensive processing power. It was about playing a role that you chose to play
, whether it be evil, good, or neutral, lawful, or choatic. The plot is good, but now generic because it's been repeated so often, and that plot is secondary to BG's greatest strength (imo): immersion
For example, NWN1&2 two were fun games...but I never felt the immersion that I feel in Baldur's Gate. The plots were involved, the writing was good, even the NPCs were interesting, and combat was fun, but I felt that I was just walking a generic character around who didn't really have any choice as to what happened to him, like he was being led around by the nose. It is impossible to immerse yourself into that role because real life isn't like that. Sure, I could more easily changed what he looked like, his class, his general alignment. But he never felt like I was him...just like I was controlling his movements.
Make a relatively
simple-to-use interface engine for people to customize/mod their games (even the interface engine should be modifiable, even if doing so is not simple). I just critiqued both NWNs, but their biggest strength, imo, is the ability for people to make their own games as DM, which is what D&D is all about after all. That community is still very active as a result, and young/new people who didn't hear about those games when they came out still buy them frequently.
This should be more than just the ability to make a separate, custom campaign. There should be the ability to introduce NPCs and even quests into the original campaign, and package them as zip files to share with others. Baldur's Gate is what it is now because of WeiDu (thanks Wesley!!!!!) and similar programs. WeiDu is a utility that makes it possible, although difficult for the uninitiated, to interface with the archaic code of BG. There would be no BGEE, BG2EE, or even IWDEE without the modders who kept these games alive by their own choice. Rather than taking the risk and relying on the initiative of the modding community to breathe undying popularity into these games, introduce and plan an efficient way to do that for all players, whether or not they are apart of the community.
This would be a much better long-term investment than flashy graphics. It would take some serious thinking outside the box, but it would play to the existing strengths of this wonderful series.
Suggestion for how this could be implemented
I have often thought how nice it would be to have a game that allowed you to easily write your own NPCs and stories into the game as a side option. For example, I could write out my NPCs greeting and dialogue and even have an in-game recorder option (that could be replaced by those who don't like it) to record sound effects and music and voiced dialogue to play automatically when that dialogue is triggered. There could be a list of suggested triggers for that dialogue to play, such as in response to insert NPC dialogue action here, or after this much in-game or real time has past, or at the start and/or completion of insert quest here. Additional existing triggers could be found online (shown also as a suggestion of "see more triggers"). Each dialogue could automatically have its own customizable trigger in a heading above the written conversation for later reference and use for other NPCs. For programmers or advanced players, additional triggers could even be created. These written personalities could be saved as some sort of out-of-game accessible file for ease of uploading to the community and for easy out-of-game writing.
There are already games like this out there, although not necessarily with NPCs. Startcraft comes to mind.
How cool would it be to have the ability to create a second, third, or even fourth NPC who could communicate with your PC, who has his own personality and
dialogue that fits his background? I used to spend hours writing background for each of my npcs when I played IWD1&2. Then it was a little anti-climactic for me (although I still love those games) when I realized that they weren't actually alive during the quests. So I would start a new party and write new characters, only to have the same thing happen.
Don't tell me I'm the only one with restartitis for a reason similar in spirit to this. I still spend hours planning out my Charnames, and it seems that a lot of people in this community do the same thing. There is even a separate section on these forums for role-playing. People are always posting their ideas for their Charnames which are more than just stats, class, race and party composition: "My current Charname is an evil *&^%*#* who won't take no for an answer and lives on the edge." "My current Charname is a quiet withdrawn wizard sucked into this whole saving the world thing against his own better judgement." "My Charname is blah blah blah, shut up, I don't care about your
Charname, I only care about mine!"
Add the ability to create potential NPCs with backgrounds and dialogues. Baldur's Gate has that ability, but not by original design. It is a great asset, but not by original design. Take that original design and make it your own. This is a way to improve the game without necessarily changing any of your existing writing plans.
Gamers are always looking for the next new thing, right? This could provide a way for there to always be the next new thing, AND for them to make their own next new thing.
(Referencing the originals)
Even though I don't think BG2 Charname should be the central focus of the game, I think it would be an awesome selling point if BG2 Charname was some sort of NPC in the game, or even referenced by another NPC in the game by the name/sex that the player gave him/her and by the race and class that the player gave him/her. Do NOT use Abdel Adrian, unless it is by default, although that is still questionable (yuck).
How this is implemented would obviously depend on the time that the game takes place in. If it took place during a time when BG2 Charname is old but alive, he could be an NPC (not ascended, obviously, because that is a mod).
This could be accomplished by having some sort of interface that could translate BG2 Charname's .cre file or even the entire save file into usable referenced data. This would be similar in concept to the way that you upload a saved game from BG1 to BG2. Charname was a Paladin? Create generic Paladin dialogue response here. Charname was a evil? Create generic evil retired villain response here. Charname romanced Aerie? Create generic Aerie placeholder NPC here with mundane Aerie dialogue. Charname romanced Viconia? Create generic reference to her here that is in keeping with however her history ended. Charname had Minsc in his/her party? Create generic placeholder NPC Minsc screaming about bootkicking for goodness to cure his aching back in his old age, with Boo squeaking somewhere nearby.
He could send the new Charname on a quest to fetch his boots because he's too old to go gallivanting across the realms (kitchen) now. He could be silly, old, and senile, and living with servants in his massive retirement home with tons of money just sitting in random barrels and chests scattered around his home.
His responses could even be customizable using that nifty interface engine that I referenced in the 3rd suggestion. (This should be the most easy thing to use about the engine.) How freaking awesome would that be?
Don't use 3D!
Seriously, it's expensive and a huge time and resource consumer. There are plenty of 3D games (and even movies) out there that totally suck, suck, suck, suck, SUCK because the developers spent their time and money on graphics over making a good and well-written product. Spend those resources on writing and creating immersion for your players. Keep the top-down 2D perspective because it allows for resources to be spent elsewhere. Your players here are not looking for flashy graphics. You are not making money and producing sales here because the EE games are pleasing on the eye (although I think that they are). That is happening because these games are well-written and immersive. I may be wrong, but I am under the impression that Team Beamdog is a fairly small (but awesome) team. In order to compete with the big name companies that produce huge flashy graphics (star-wars EA), you need a lot of people and money. Don't waste time trying to compete with those jerks. Play to your strengths.
6th and finale suggestion
(Just shut up already! What does a bowl of mashedtaters know anyway?)
Don't be afraid! Just be careful and smart, which you already are.
You guys will always have critics. This is a beloved franchise, and there are purists who will hate you for "messing up" a good game no matter what you do. Although that is definitely possible (no pressure), don't let fear pressure you into keeping with the mainstream. A lot of mainstream games suck lately, especially all those crappy apps. Those people who are buying and selling that stuff will criticize you simply for the fact that you produce quality competition.
You guys are awesome. You seem to be able to take criticism and turn it into profit and money. Keep up the great work!
Thanks for reading!
Any thoughts on my ideas, negative or positive, are perfectly welcome. Take them or leave them, it's cool.