After the debut Shattered Steel, Bioware embarked on a path with Baldur’s Gate at the end of the 90s that would noticeably shape the role-playing genre for over two decades. But it almost never happened. Instead of Baldur’s Gate, Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk actually wanted to develop an MMORPG.
When it comes to Bioware and the MMORPG genre, many of you probably immediately think of Star Wars: The Old Republic from 2011. But did you know that the team around Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk developed an online role-playing game much earlier wanted to? In fact, almost no Baldur’s Gate would have existed because of this. But first things first…
Back to the past
Going back to 1996 (via Massivelyop). The developers at Bioware had just released the first game in the studio’s history, Shattered Steel (a mech simulator), and now they finally wanted to delve into the fantasy genre – after all, everyone on the team was Pen&Paper and PC RPG enthusiasts. They had received money from Interplay to develop a new engine and prepare a demo for the new project.
The result was Battleground Infinity (hence the name of the Infinity engine), a PC RPG about a war of the gods. However, the story itself wasn’t very well developed, since the development of the technology prototype was in the foreground. In addition, Bioware had meanwhile noticed that a game called Ultima Online from September 1997 caused astonishment.
You can find out more about the beginnings of the MMO genre in our three-part special MMORPG genre to the test!
When the demo was passed on to Interplay, Muzyka and Zeschuk hoped to be able to build an online role-playing game from it as well. The idea was that thousands of players could choose their pantheon of gods and at the same time embark on quests to fight for their pantheon’s supremacy.
Interplay persuades Bioware to the milestone
When those responsible at Interplay heard about the plans, they were unsure whether this newly founded studio could implement such a massive project. Nobody had experience with MMOs. In addition, in a persistent world you would have to do without one of the great features of the Infinity engine: the real-time battles that can be paused at any time.
Interplay therefore made a counter-proposal: You could just secure the rights to Dungeons & Dragons. Wouldn’t that be an exciting license for a PC role-playing game? Bioware’s D&D fans were instantly hooked. A good decision! Baldur’s Gate hit like a bomb. Various other single-player role-playing games with a strong story focus and milestone quality followed over the next few years, such as Baldur’s Gate 2, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Mass Effect and Dragon Age: Origins.