While the golden era of fantasy role-playing computer games might be long gone, for Trent Oster and his team at Overhaul Games, it’s certainly not forgotten.
Working undercover in a small studio tucked behind a tattoo parlour on Whyte Avenue, the ex-BioWare game director and his talented team of game designers are resurrecting a notable classic: Baldur’s Gate.
The 1998 Dungeons & Dragon’s-based PC game was one of the last bastions of true strategy role playing games, says Oster, and it’s Overhaul’s pleasure to be able to give the undeniably dated game a modern makeover.
“If there is a game from that era that still resonates with people, it’s Baldur’s Gate,” said Oster, his eyes combing a postcard from a Baldur’s Gate fan from the U.K. he received Friday morning.
“So many old games either don’t run on current hardware anymore or run so poorly they make your eyes bleed,” laughed Oster, “So we thought, what if we built our business around taking old, beloved games and overhauling them?”
Oster was the lead 3D art director at BioWare during the game’s original development and worked on several of the games that launched the Edmonton development giant to international acclaim.
When Oster left BioWare in 2009 to start his own company Beamdog, revisiting Baldur’s Gate was always on his mind. Following 14 months of warring to strike a deal with Atari and Hasbro -who jointly own the rights to Baldur’s Gate- his dream came true.
The Overhaul team entered a two-year period of “euphoric highs and soul-crushing lows” to re-build the game for today’s generation of mobile gamers.
Polishing the game for release on September 18, Oster hopes the game will set a precedent for what’s possible on a tablet or smartphone.
“When you think of smartphone games, you think of a couple of minutes of jump-in and jump-out gameplay,” said Oster, “This is a 100-hour ass-kicking role-laying game on a tablet. It’s all there. It’s all on the iPad and it looks awesome.”
The team “twiddled” with the game’s look to make it more accessible, said Oster, while maintaining every last one of the game’s difficult quests and thousands of lines of narrative and dialogue.
Keeping all the “nasty statistics and calculated damage” Dungeons & Dragons is famous for, the team added three new characters and a new quest that brings 20 hours of new content to Baldur’s Gate.
At one point, half the team was ex-BioWare developers who helped create Baldur’s Gate, said Oster. The team also received help fixing over 400 of the Baldur’s Gate’s original bugs from the game’s still thriving online fan-base.
Banking on the game’s nostalgia factor and beloved reputation, Oster knows Beamdog’s fledging presence in Edmonton rests entirely on the game’s nearly-completed shoulders.
“We hope the fan base appreciates what we’ve done,” said Oster, “We’ve bet the farm on the success of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition. Everything is riding on this. The plan is we succeed or die.”
In 1998, Baldur’s Gate sold over two million copies and received multiple Game of the Year awards. Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition is available for pre-order online and will be released September 18 on PC, Mac, and the iOS app store.