Larian CEO says Baldur’s Gate 3 created a “new audience” for RPGs thanks to how it articulates the rules
One of Larian CEO Sven Vincke’s greatest hopes ahead of the release of Baldur’s Gate 3 is that it will spark people’s interest in RPGs that have been discontinued by them. This seems pretty daunting to me, since Baldur’s Gate 3 is also one of the more in-depth RPGs you’ll play, but judging by the post-release feedback, Venky thinks Larian managed it, thanks in large part to more production values. Readable than you find in many RPGs.
This is from an extended interview with D&D proponent and YouTuber Todd Kenreck, which is worth listening to in full – BG3’s reception aside, it covers intricacies like why the game doesn’t have Dispel Magic, and why many corpses don’t have heads. “(I wanted it to be) ‘AAA’ the way it’s served to you,” Venky recalled, after about five minutes. “And my hope, and it’s happening now, is that this will attract a new audience, people who don’t actually know they like this kind of gameplay, which has been turned off by all systems and screens.
‘Cause qualifying a DnD isn’t easy, but I was fairly convinced that if you did it right in terms of presentation, and really went over it, a lot of people would gravitate to it, and so we’ve got a lot of people saying now ‘I didn’t know I’d love That, isn’t it” And that’s probably the most rewarding thing – like, Hey, we’ve brought you to a new kind of experience that you didn’t know about, but it’s actually a lot of fun.
Venky attributed the game’s expanding following among RPG atheists to the cinematic style of the movie, which is dozens of hours long. He also noted that the idea that RPGs are an obsessive pursuit has little basis in reality. “A lot of people have said before, ‘Oh, it’s a very niche game’, and ‘You’re crazy, investing this amount of money in cinema, for something very niche.’ My usual answer was, ‘Guys, the most popular games in the world. “Depends on roles,” right. Everyone plays RPGs on their mobile phones, so it is not possible for people not to be able to get RPGs in the context of video games. It doesn’t make any sense, and it turns out to be true for the crowd we’re facing with BG3 at least.” Venky didn’t dig into any stats or the like to back up his point, which is unfortunate – I welcome a kind of demographic collapse of gamers.
For Venky, one of Baldur’s Gate 3’s biggest accomplishments is blending a large number of choices and consequences with a more intuitive cinematic presentation. Take, for example, the game’s representations of D20s rolling as they undergo skill checks in dialogue, which a few Larian developers fear might scare away newcomers to D&D and RPGs.
“There are a lot of rules in a video game, so we had to try to find a way to hide them, but at the same time make them so that you can find them when you start to care about them,” he said. And so when we initially put the dice inside the dialogue, and made it very prominent, we said ‘that’s the advantage and you can have two dice and all that’ – there were a lot of people within the team who were concerned that we were making it too extreme, but (then ) She starts saying “Wait a minute, this has an effect on my cinematic experience right away, after I roll the dice” – I get it, because then you start saying “Oh wait, I can manipulate this.”
There is a lot more in the full interview. I haven’t had a chance to chat with other RPG developers about the potential legacy of Baldur’s Gate 3, and I’m interested to see if they agree that it has attracted players who aren’t yet convinced of the genre. I’d also like to know if you could play the whole game as cheese.
Disclosure: Former RPS Deputy Editor Adam Smith (RPS At Peace) is now at Larian and is the lead writer on Baldur’s Gate 3. Former contributor Emily Gerra is also working on it.