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Baldur's Gate III - Anna Guxens BIG Conference Interview

Larian Studios neared the end of 2023 having won or been nominated for many GOTY awards, and in Bilbao we caught up with their obviously happy and proud senior RPG designer. In the video we learn more about what an RPG designer does and how Larian made many characters so interesting. Besides, we discuss how the third act turned out, how how to make the game even better or how should newcomers approach it, and the controversial TGA speech being cut short.

Audio transcription

"We're at the BIG Conference in Bilbao and now we're going to talk about one of the best games of the year and we're talking about Baldur's Gate and we're going to talk with Anna from Larian, thank you so much for joining us Thank you First of all, you know, The Game Awards is one thing, then of course there's a lot of awards around the world, our own we were part of The Game Awards as well as official jury, how did you feel about the award and about the little time your colleagues had to celebrate it and to share it with your co-developers?
I remember when we were making the game we were sometimes saying like there's no way this is going to win any awards we need to make things better so we actually worked harder to improve what things that we felt weren't as good, right?
and it's one of the things that also motivated us, also seeing players enjoy everything and just seeing it actually win Game of the Year for example, it's just like mind-blowing, it was huge for all the studios, all the offices were just celebrating at once we all stayed up at 5am, yeah, it's worth it, it's such a huge moment and of course it was a shame that there's little time to tell our thanks because there's so many people who have made this possible and that we want to make sure that they are acknowledged and thanked for but yeah, we have found other ways of reaching out and saying these messages I think Sven also posted very recently a huge heartfelt message of what he wanted to say but yeah, thank you everyone who has played and supported us and the full team who are so good and you guys are good on many things but also engaging with the community so I'm pretty sure that message has been finally delivered and we are glad about that what can you tell us about your own role in the studio and on this game precisely?
we know you're into narrative design but what else can you tell us about that?
so RPG designers, we take care of full regions of the game so we are there from the very beginning designing the narrative of it, what's going on there what people do we meet, what can I do there as a player, right?
so we start designing all these moments that you can play with overall in the region and then we follow it through to the very end we work with the teams to implement them, to bring them to life and to make sure that they are good and they are fun when they are actually played in the very end and a friend of ours said that Baldur's Gate 3, the story itself it looked like the big XL sort of approach to the story but then he was shocked at how well designed characters and their storylines are so that when you keep playing you keep engaging with them and being still interested about their several different storylines so how do you guys approach that to make it work?
because sometimes when I play a big RPG normally what happens is that you focus on your two favorite characters and that's all so a huge shout out to the writing team at Larian because they are the ones who are bringing all these characters to life make them feel believable and grounded and interesting and silly and fun so at Larian we worked with..."

"every writer has an ownership over the characters they are writing so they are the ones who know them the best and can deliver them through to the very end so it's usually the same person writing the same characters throughout so that they keep the same voice, they keep being true to themselves in this matter and they have all these ideas to what makes sense that they would do they pitch in all these new cool ideas as to OK, this would be much more fun, right? Can we do that?
Well yeah, we go for it! So yeah, this is how we make it And something very humble you said before is that you guys really didn't expect to win this award or other awards and why so?
Was it because it's sort of a hardcore RPG coming from Larian sort of trademark or sort of design we can expect?
Did you feel it was too hardcore for the wider audience?
That Turnbase could turn off some people like we've seen this meme around?
Or what was the reason, which at the same time is humble for you guys to improve What was the reason?
Yeah, it's a very hard topic, right?
Because you never know how things will turn out Anyway, you can have a very good game but if it doesn't reach people they will just not find it, right?
So this was a big fear, I guess I only speak for myself, I guess, rather than Larian But just knowing that we had something good and that it would not reach the people and they would not try it and see that it's actually a lot of fun I think that was the biggest challenge to overcome, right?
I'm so glad that we managed to reach these people and they are finding out that it's actually a lot of fun How much of Baldur's Gate, the previous games and how much of Larian, mostly Divinity do you think there is in this formula?
I mean, Larian is all about player agency, right?
and delivering engaging emotional stories that are always with the player at the core of it, right?
So either with Divinity or also with Baldur's Gate we create very strong systems in gameplay that support the narrative as well, right?
So we create this sandbox where you can have fun but it's also delivered through a very heavy storyline and a very interesting, very gripping, emotionally engaging story and I think that's the strength, right?
Have very strong story and characters and also very strong systems in gameplay and have them work together And all we've been saying about reaching a quality and a result where you got this award and where people are absolutely excited about the game but perhaps we can say it's not perfect, right?
So some fans are telling me that the third third of the game is not as, you know, the pace or as good packed as the previous thirds How do you feel about that?
Or about the things that perhaps could be improved I don't know, in the current game or in future games?
I think that's a very tricky question, right?
Because when you've been playing the whole game each act has its own flavor, especially and Act 2 specifically has a very strong closing moment a closing off moment that just shuts down a whole era of it and then starting off in Act 3 especially if you have so many hours running in the rest of the game can feel like a much different tone and very drastically changing, right?
I think it's valid because some people enjoy the tone of Act 3 the most some people enjoy the tone of Act 2 the most I understand how this shift is something that's challenging to overcome especially, but give it a chance and it's something that we'd be mindful of moving forward as well of just seeing how we handle this tone shift so that things are less drastic And we've touched upon the hardcore-ness of the game but now of course it's going to be uber popular if it wasn't already, not only by your own community but also more people that perhaps play more casual games are now interested in playing Baldur's Gate 3 so what would you say would be the best approach for a newcomer to hardcore RPGs or traditional RPGs so to speak to face a game as deep and as complex as Baldur's Gate 3 from the get-go?
I think you don't need to be intimidated by the systems and the depth of it because it's designed in a way that you can just have fun you don't need to understand and get the full experience like, I will know everything you don't need that, you just need to roll with it, have fun you fail, that's okay, that's also part of the story, right?
and yeah, there's also different challenge modes that put more emphasis on the story for example rather than the challenge itself so it's also something that you can use to just get started and the community has also been huge in supporting and adding, filling in information that they feel the players might need to know, get engaged so get engaged in the community is also good but again, don't feel intimidated just go for it, have fun I'm sure you will be alright And finally, how do you feel yourself personally?
I guess it's been a journey the game is out, the award is there now I guess there are things to fix but what else?
How do you feel? Are you exhausted?
Are you excited for what's coming next?
Do you really want to focus on things to improve in the game?
Yeah, I'm just feeling very proud and very excited for things coming as well I'm just ready to get back into the same kind of environment that we have developing games, right?
because this is the most exciting part of all just seeing things come from people to reality so it's something that I'm always having fun for for more of that I remember you had a panel here at the big conference tomorrow, right?
What can you tell us before we attend it tomorrow?
Yeah, so it's just a bit of a high-level overview of how we handle these narrative moments in Baldur's Gate 3 to make these gameplay moments interesting and fun like, what sort of gameplay moments make it in our game and what sort of gameplay moments we would not add into our game just a bit of understanding the core of what we build so that we can, from this core, start creating all these massive networks of stories, right?
And for young developers gathered here what can you tell them about your background?
How did you become an RPG designer?
I think every developer's story, if you ask they will tell you a vastly different story, right?
So mine is a bit weird as well, I would say so I came more from audiovisual communication so I worked a bit more on screenwriting side of things and also interactive media like player-computer interaction and data analysis so my background was a bit more on that side and then I started working on indie games and programming, doing art like, wearing many hats and everything and then after this, that's when I started to join Larian so this RPG designer role was, I guess it was a stroke of luck that they were looking for someone with my sort of background at the right time and I was also looking at the right time but yeah, they were looking for someone with this many hats skills, I would say so that's when I joined and I'm very happy to continue there Alright, so that's it thank you so much for your time and enjoy your panel tomorrow Thank you very much and congratulations again Thank you"

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