'NEVERWINTER NIGHTS' RECEPTION: In an exclusive interview, The Fly spoke with Trent Oster, co-founder and chief executive officer of Beamdog, a video game developer that has specialized over the past few years in remaking and remastering classic PC role-playing games from the 1990s that were based on "Dungeons & Dragons," including "Baldur's Gate" and "Planescape: Torment." When asked about how such remasters have been received, Oster said that they've "done really well," though he noted that 2018's release of "Neverwinter Nights: Enhanced Edition" didn't fare "quite as well." "Ultimately, it was just a different kind of game," the Beamdog CEO said, noting that there were certain issues with the graphic engine that his team is "taking steps to address."
CONSOLE PORTS: Kotaku reported recently that Beamdog plans to port many of these enhanced editions to consoles for the first time later this year. When asked about what inspired the company to make such a move, considering these games haven't had a console port before, Trent Oster said that it was about "gaining enough confidence" to take the user interface it and rework it to consoles. "We really had to sit down and kind of rethink the control schemes and how things worked," Oster told The Fly. "And I think just getting a prototype up and running and actually being able to drive one of the characters and have the party follow them really helped us commit to the concept and say ‘yeah, this is worth doing.’ Not only will it be a game that people know and love but it will be a great way to play that game for the first time again on a new platform.” He noted, however, that there's "a fair bit of work left to do" on these ports.
DEMAND FOR CRPGS: The Fly asked Oster why Beamdog is so invested in these particular computer role-playing games, or CRPGs, and why he believes there remains such a high demand for these titles. “I think we’re committed to these games because these games resonate very strongly with the customer base," he answered. "This is not only games that people enjoy but these are a part of Dungeons & Dragons history on video game platforms. So these games have a huge legacy and a huge following and a huge, loyal base of users that love what they are." Oster added that isometric computer games "have a different way of allowing you to interact with them." "It’s a little more relaxed, a little more tactical, a little less action," he said. "It’s less panic-driven and panic-inducing. It’s more of a mental exercise. I think that appeals to some players.”
WHY THE WAIT?: In response to a question about why it has taken so long for games as old as "Baldur's Gate" to end up on consoles, the Beamdog CEO said that such games were too complicated to run on hardware that was present in the 1990s, and that only in the last couple of console generations have gaming systems been comparable to what PCs could offer technologically. “'Baldur’s Gate' especially, it’s superpower in 1995 was that when other video games were throwing around about 1,000 in-game assets, Baldur’s Gate had hundreds of thousands of in-game assets,” Oster said, noting the wealth of text, voiceovers, items, locations, and character scripts found in these games. “I think for a long time, it was just a hard thing to do to bring [these games] over to other platforms," he added. "I think in the last couple of generations you’ve really seen consoles become closer to a general computing platform standard. And at the same time, it’s us really gaining confidence in our ability to know the game, understand the game, and preserve the sacred cows, but at the same time understand what parts of it are sacrificial goats.”
ANY OTHERS?: When asked whether there are any other classic RPGs the company is looking at for enhancements, the Beamdog head said that he believes they've "done what we set out to do" and "reached the end of the line on the titles we wanted to do personally." He noted that for certain games they originally were interested in but didn't end up enhancing, the legal scenarios around them are "too onerous."
ORIGINAL GAMES: Trent Oster told The Fly that Beamdog does currently have plans to create original games after years of remastering older titles. "Yes, we have a number of separate plans to create unique and new properties," he said. "It’s one of the things that’s exciting about games: you have at least a half of dozen ideas in your head [at any time].”
END OF REMASTERS?: In response to a question about whether the market for remasters and enhanced editions of older games will eventually end, Oster said that the trend would come to a head when all the best games are finally remastered. “It would come to a head once all the great games have been remastered, and there’s only so many great games," he told The Fly. "There’s only two, maybe three great games that ship in a year, and once we run out of that backlog of titles to remake, there’s simply just not going to be the same appetite for the next tier of titles that came out in those periods. So at that point, I think all the best games will have been redone, there won’t be enough interest to justify renewing other games.”
"Game On" is The Fly's weekly recap of the stories powering up or beating down video game stocks.