The Return of Baldur’s Gate (Now Postponed)

When Penny Arcade reminisced about Baldur’s Gate, a video game that Bioware came out with in 1998 on five CDs (this was long before a DVD would replace multiple CDs), I had to read the blog post to see what prompted this.

Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple identity crisis) is coming out with Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition for the PC, Mac, iPad and Android. Now updated with new content to run on current platforms, this seminal game is being introduced to a new generation. Alas, it won’t be out today as it has been postponed until November.

I was a video game tester at Accolade 18 months before Infogrames bought it out in 2000, which later bought out Hasbro Interactive for the Atari and Dungeons & Dragon intellectual property rights, moved the company to Sunnyvale and renamed the company toAtari. (The multiple identity crisis came from the managers of each new acquisition being given a shot at running the mishmash company.) I remembered the impact that Baldur’s Gate had on the QA department after the game first came out.

A half-dozen senior testers bought and installed CD drives with a six-disc magazine into their work PCs. Baldur’s Gate was notorious for requiring the player to switch discs every so often and interrupting the game flow for several minutes each time. The workaround was a disc changer that made the disc switching automatic. Those weren’t cheap at $250 USD. They played the entire weekend in multiplayer mode over the network, starting Friday evening at 6PM and stopping Monday morning at 6AM. I don’t recall if they finished the game or not.

Management wasn’t thrilled that a third of the QA department had called in sick that morning and was out for several days to catch up on sleep. Fortunately, this was after the holiday rush of getting new products out the door. The disc changers were removed and Baldur’s Gate was banished from the department.

I never played Baldur’s Gate when it first came out. I’m not sure if I’ll play when it comes out again, either for the PC or the iPad. Role playing games require a considerable amount of time to finish. Prior to Neverwinter Nights being released in 2002, a single programmer spent 500 hours to play every quest in the game. Even then we weren’t sure if that game was thoroughly tested from beginning to end. I tried playing Neverwinter Nights on my own after I left the video game industry in 2004 but lost interest after playing for 20 hours.

Between a full time non-writing job during the day and running an ebook publishing empire at night, my attention span for any video game is pretty limited to 15 minutes. Tiny Tower for the iPad is the current game that I’ve been playing for the last two months (I just added my 50th floor). If there is any game for the PC I really want to play, it’s probably Diablo III that I tested for a weekend earlier this year.