The success of Baldur’s Gate represents for many the triumph of things done right. It’s always nice to see that creations made with a love for art can go far.
As a game designer, I also want to join the discussion by contributing my grain of sand. Baldur’s Gate 3 has the advantage of a system of rules that is well-known in a niche of players. When we say “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” we refer to the license and intellectual property. But from a game design standpoint, it’s much more. Holding a license is not simply holding the right to use characters. It means having a significant part of the design work already done.
When you create any game, you create a magic circle that players voluntarily choose to enter. In the magic circle, they will find rules and a world that they can like or dislike. Creating rules and the world is a very important part of a game.
- Dungeons & Dragons rules are based on the roll of the dice.
- There are numerical factors to add and subtract from each roll. Those factors depend on the characters and the context. There is an interesting connection with the narrative.
- The system also allows for surprises. In jargon, critical failure and critical success. In practice, things can get surprisingly good or bad. And that is how unexpected moments can twist your story completely.
Baldur’s Gate 3 also uses the Forgotten Realms setting. Imagine 2 decades ago. Some Dungeons & Dragons players create a campaign. They draw maps and create legendary characters. They decide to publish this setting so that other groups can create stories and enrich them. That is how Forgotten Realms and many other settings are born.
In game design, we call this worldbuilding. Another expensive part of our trade. Do you think it’s easy to create a world with dragons and magic that is consistent and players accept as decent? Well, it’s not. It’s very easy to get it wrong. Players of tabletop RPGs are extremely knowledgeable in fantasy fiction. They read a lot, they study a lot and it’s not easy to please them. If you meet that niche, chances are that you can also reach a massive audience.
Someone says that if 10 people are true fans of your product, your product has a chance to become a massive hit. Having a system of rules and worldbuilding already available is a tremendous advantage.