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Baldur's Gate 3 has created "a new audience" for RPGs thanks to how it expresses rules, says Larian CEO

Some devs "worried we were making it too hardcore"

Wyll, a Warlock companion character in Baldur's Gate 3.
Image credit: Larian Studios / Rock Paper Shotgun

Among Larian CEO Sven Vincke's greatest hopes ahead of Baldur's Gate 3's release was that it would get people interested in RPGs who had previously been turned off by them. This strikes me as a pretty tall order, given that Baldur's Gate 3 is also one of the most in-depth RPGs you'll play, but going by post-release responses, Vincke thinks Larian have managed it, thanks in large degree to more readable production values than you find in many RPGs.

That's from an extended interview with D&D advocate 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 so many corpses have no heads. "[I wanted it to be] 'AAA' in the way that it's presented to you," Vincke recalled, about five minutes in. "And my hope was, and that's what's happening now, is that that's going to draw a new audience, people that actually don't know they like this kind of gameplay, that were turned off by all the systems and the screens.

"Because the onboarding of DnD is not an easy thing, but I was fairly convinced that if you do it properly in terms of presentation, and you really go overboard with it, a lot of people will be drawn to it, and so we've got a lot of people now saying 'I didn't know I like this, right' and that's that's probably the most rewarding thing - like, hey, we brought you into a new type of experience that you didn't know, but it's actually a lot of fun."

Vincke attributed the game's expanded following among RPG agnostics to its movie-style cinematics, of which there are dozens of hours' worth. He also pointed out that the notion that turn-based gaming is a nerdy cult pursuit doesn't have much basis in reality. "A lot of people before said 'oh it's very niche', and 'you're crazy, putting that amount of money into cinematics, for something that's so niche'. My standard reply was 'guys, the most popular games in the universe are turn-based', right. Everybody's playing turn-based games on their mobiles, so it can't be that people can't get turn-based games in a video game context. It just doesn't make any sense, and it turns out that at least for the audience we're having with BG3, that's true." Vincke didn't delve into any stats or similar to support his point, which is a shame - I'd welcome some kind of player demographic breakdown.

For Vincke, one of Baldur's Gate 3's key achievements is blending a large number of choices and consequences with more intuitive cinematic presentation. Take the game's representations of rolling D20s when undergoing skill checks in dialogue, which a few Larian developers feared might scare away newcomers to D&D and RPGs.

"There's a lot of rules in the videogame, so we had to try to find a way to hide them, but at the same time make them so that when you start getting interested in them, you can find them," he said. "And so when we initially put the dice inside of the dialogue, and we made it so prominent, we said 'here's advantage and you can have two dice and all that' - there were several people within the team that were worried we were making it too hardcore, but [then] you started saying 'hold on a minute, this has an impact on my cinematic experience instantly, after that dice roll' - you got it, because then you start saying 'oh wait, I can manipulate this'."

There's plenty more in the full interview. I haven't had a chance to chat with other RPG developers about Baldur's Gate 3's possible legacy, and am intrigued to know whether they'd agree that it has attracted hitherto unconvinced players to the genre. I'd also like to know if you can play the whole game as a cheese.

Disclosure: Former RPS deputy editor Adam Smith (RPS in peace) now works at Larian and is the lead writer for Baldur's Gate 3. Former contributor Emily Gera also works on it.

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