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IceWind Dale Enhanced Edition Interview

2014-10-27

A while ago we had the opportunity to interview the folks at Beamdog and talk about Icewind Dale Enhanced Edition. Being lazy, I asked our visitors to think of some questions I could ask them and take credit for, so here they are.

RPGWatch: Before we start with the questions about Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition, I would like to ask you to introduce yourselves.

Alex: I am Alex Tomovic, Project Manager at Beamdog. I've been active in the Infinity Engine modding community since 2002 and joined Beamdog in 2013. I led the development team behind Neera and Rasaad for BGII:EE and was in charge of gameplay and battle design for Black Pits II. People probably know me better by my forum name, "aVENGER", and from mods such as Rogue Rebalancing and aTweaks.

Liam: I'm Liam Esler, Associate Producer at Beamdog and Assistant Producer on Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition. The majority of the team on IWD:EE are modders, and I'm no exception, as the administrator of IE modding community Spellhold Studios. I joined Beamdog in early 2013 to work on Baldur's Gate II: Enhanced Edition as lead of the development team on Dorn, Hexxat and the content implementation of The Black Pits II. Earlier this year I worked with Obsidian Entertainment on Pillars of Eternity, and am now back at Beamdog working on IWD:EE and an unannounced project!

Pete: I'm Pete Camagna, Technical Designer with Beamdog and founder of the Gibberlings 3 modding community. I've been with Beamdog since 2013 and have been modding the Infinity Engine for well over a decade under the name CamDawg. My best known projects would be the BG2 Fixpack and BG2 Tweaks, where I am project lead and co-author respectively. Most relevant to IWD:EE would be my IWD mods--IWD Fixpack, Unfinished Business (UB), and Item Upgrade (IU).

RPGWatch: Being able to play Icewind Dale on my tablet without going through a lot of hassle is cool, but what do you think is the real added value that the game brings that I can't achieve with a modded version of the original on a PC?

Alex: IWD:EE works on modern operating systems (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux) and mobile platforms (iOS and Android) right out of the box. Beamdog is fully dedicated to providing continual support for it in the future. Of course, all of the engine improvements from the previous Enhanced Edition games (zooming capability, quick loot bar, cross-platform multiplayer...) are also available in IWD:EE. There's also a slew of small UI tweaks (such as seeing more spells on each page of the spellbook and having a visual indicator that tells you which spell scrolls you haven't memorized yet) that make your experience a bit more enjoyable. Lastly, while updating the engine, we did our best to make the game more accessible to the modding community. A lot of features that were hardcoded and beyond the reach of modders in the original Icewind Dale can be adjusted with ease in IWD:EE.


RPGWatch:
Do you make use of already existing mods and integrate them in the Enhanced Edition?

Pete: Yes! One of the keys to the rapid development schedule was that the backbone of IWD:EE was provided by the IWD-in-BG2 project, a joint mod between myself and David Wallace, who actually did most of the work. Fixes from my IWD Fixpack are also included, and we've also incorporated parts of IU and UB. UB is a mod to restore original cut content, and with the original design docs, we were able to make further restorations beyond what the mod does, and to make them closer to the original intent. IU is a small content mod that allows us to tell a little more of the story behind some of IWD's great items.


RPGWatch:
We have played through the game before and some have played it more than once. There are also several walkthroughs out there that inform you of how to solve the more difficult parts of the game. Did you make changes and/or add surprises to the game that would require making new walkthroughs?

Pete: Definitely. UB provides a completely new quest in Lower Dorn's Deep, the Voice of Durdel Anatha. It also allows for different resolutions or twists to existing quests. For example, you can challenge Presio to a one-on-one duel, or find a way to turn Malavon's golems against him.


RPGWatch:
How are the BG2 spells going to be integrated? Will all mages in the game have access to these additional spells?

Alex: All BG2 spell scrolls were meticulously hand-placed after careful balance considerations. Some are available in stores, others were added to certain areas, and yet others were given to specific opponents. We wanted to ensure that players get the spells that are appropriate for their level, but at the same time, we didn't want to shift the game balance too drastically in the party's favor. In addition, a few powerful enemy spellcasters have been given access to certain BG2 spells, mostly of the anti-magic kind.


RPGWatch:
Will there be any new spells, items, or monsters never seen before in any EE game?

Pete: We discovered a couple of spell ideas in the original design docs that we've implemented, both arcane and divine. Icewind Dale also featured a lot of reversible divine magic (e.g. Heal/Harm) and we've given the same treatment to some of the imported BG2 spells. In addition to some item restorations, we've also added some new items throughout the game to help accommodate the new classes and the BGIIEE weapon proficiency system.

RPGWatch: Will you add some fleshed out companions? (With banter, background story, personality etc.)

Liam: Icewind Dale has never really been about the companions, it's more about the strategic combat and epic locales. Companions aren't something we're currently considering, but that said, if IWD:EE does well it's definitely something we could consider if people were interested!


RPGWatch:
Will there be other changes to the characters, like High Level Abilities, new character art, voice sets, etc.?

Alex: In the early design stages, we decided that the High Level Abilities that were introduced in Throne of Bhaal would not fit well into IWD:EE. The game balance implications would have been too severe. Concerning the artwork, I think everyone will be pleased to hear that all character portraits have been remastered in high resolution using the original source art. They look very crisp on hi-res displays. This is also true for the world map art. In addition, we have restored five music tracks that never made it into the original game.


RPGWatch:
Are there any changes to the way loot can be found, compared to how it was in Heart of Winter?

Pete: The same random drop system in the original is in place in IWD:EE. We also identified and restored a number of unused items and unused random drops, so players will see some new loot throughout the game.


RPGWatch:
Will you be adding any new missions and/or areas?

Liam: As with new companions it isn't currently on the agenda, but if there's significant demand for it and IWD:EE sells well, it's definitely something we would look into.


RPGWatch:
IWD2 featured improved items in Heart of Fury mode. Will IWD:EE have something similar?

Alex: Heart of Fury mode in IWD:EE works exactly the same as it did in the original game. We haven't added any extra functionality at this time.


RPGWatch:
Are you also planning on creating completely new kits that did not exist in BGII:EE?

Pete: I put together a Priest of Tyr kit for the Dorn storyline in BGII:EE that was originally going to be available to players, but ended up getting shelved as the BGII:EE schedule tightened. I'm pleased to say that we've made this kit available in IWD:EE.

The other kit is one players have wanted for IWD since its inception: the Priest of Tempus. Given the importance of the Lord of Battles to the storyline and setting it's a natural fit, and we've also made some subtle but important content changes for players who wish to play Battleguards.


RPGWatch:
Are there any changes to the game that will make things easier in order to cater to a larger group of players?

Alex: IWD:EE has a "How to Play" section featuring a number of tutorial movies that explain basic gameplay aspects. We have also added a new difficulty setting, called Story Mode, that makes it easier for new players to progress without getting overwhelmed by challenging combat encounters. This mode is completely optional and can be turned on or off at any time.

RPGWatch: Is your IE Plus engine so reusable you can retroactively apply changes to all the games you've developed with it? Can you fix or add something (a new class kit for example) to IWD:EE and then just plop it into BG:EE with a patch?

Liam: That's one of the major benefits to working with our updated engine, definitely. For example, one of the major improvements we've made to IWD:EE is improved pathfinding, which will be back-ported to BG:EE and BGII:EE in their next patches. This system means that any engine fix made to one game will - within a patch or two - also be applied to our other games. Pretty rad.


RPGWatch:
Would you consider making the IE Plus engine publicly available so that modders could use it?

Alex: This is not up to us. You would need to talk to Wizards of the Coast about that!


RPGWatch:
Do you have an estimate for the release on tablets?

Liam: The iOS and Android versions should be coming out very quickly after the Windows, Mac and Linux releases. Now that we've done this a couple of times, we have sorted the vast majority of issues with the engine on iOS and Android, but we would much rather take a little bit of extra time for each title to make absolutely sure things run smoothly.


RPGWatch:
Are there any tablet specific changes that will be available?

Alex: We have added a number of UI improvements that will make playing the game a bit easier on small-screen devices (7" and below). We also introduced a font slider that allows you to customize the size of the on-screen text to your liking.


RPGWatch:
Do you plan to release on other devices, such as the ones supporting Intel GPU/MS Surface Pro?

Liam: We don't currently have plans for it, but that's not to say it isn't something we'll look at in future.


RPGWatch:
You have told before that it is not that easy to create EE versions of IWD2 and PST. So, it's hard. When will you start on them?

Alex: From a purely technical standpoint, it is true that it would be a bit harder to create Enhanced Editions of Planescape Torment and Icewind Dale II, but it's certainly not impossible.


Liam: It's definitely something we want to do!


RPGWatch:
Creating enhanced editions of existing games is somewhat of a niche market, which brings you success. Once you are done with the Infinity Engine games, what will be your next game? Are you going for an Enhanced Edition of a non IE game, or are you thinking/planning on doing a completely new game?

Liam: We're not sure yet! Right now we're just focusing on getting IWD:EE out the door and polishing all three EE releases to be the best they can be. We've just released an enormous patch for BG:EE which fixes the vast majority of issues people have faced since release, and another team at Beamdog is hard at work on another huge all-encompassing patch for BGII:EE. Before looking forward we want to make sure everything that we've done until this point is absolutely at the stage we're happy with!


RPGWatch:
Is there anything else you would like to add?

Liam: We are incredibly proud of what we've done with IWD:EE. Our amazing core dev team - Alex Tomovic, Lorne Ledger, Pete Camagna, László Tóth, Trevor Borg, Jeff Smyth, Scott Brooks, Dee Pennyway and Emily Segura - have done a stellar job and we can't wait for everyone to see the game. We hope you'll be as happy with it as we are!

Alex: Everyone on the IWD:EE team was a huge fan of the original Icewind Dale back in the day, and I think that it shows. We have the utmost respect for the original developers from Black Isle, and we did our best to stay true to their vision while updating the game for these modern times.

Pete: IWD:EE is, in many respects, the culmination of a lot of goals I've had for IWD for many years. To be a part of the team making it happen is something I'm immensely proud of, and I hope the players will enjoy the game as much as we've enjoyed making it.


RPGWatch:
Thanks for the interview.

Thanks for having us!

Box Art

Information about

Icewind Dale: Enhanced Edition

Developer: Beamdog

SP/MP: Single + MP
Setting: Fantasy
Genre: RPG
Combat: Pausable Real-time
Play-time: 40-60 hours
Voice-acting: Partially voiced

Regions & platforms
Internet
· Homepage
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2014-10-30
· Publisher: Atari

More information