Baldur's Gate 3 could have been a completely different game from a completely different studio, if not for a review bomb that shattered the team which would've made it.
The two original Baldur's Gate games were developed by the legendary RPG studio BioWare. Many years later, BioWare co-founder Trent Oster would head up an indie studio called Beamdog as it created the Enhanced Edition remasters for both games. In 2016, Beamdog tried its hand at creating some new content for Baldur's Gate with Siege of Dragonspear, an expansion pack that bridges the gap between the first two games.
Siege of Dragonspear received mixed reviews from players, but the negative responses grew in volume and vitriol for two reasons: the expansion included an off-handed joke referencing the Gamergate harassment campaign, and a minor character named Mizhena who revealed in dialog that she's transgender. Angry gamers threw threats and harassment at Beamdog, prompting a condemnatory response from Oster at the time. The studio cut the Gamergate line and expanded Mizhena's dialog, but the damage to the team had been done.
"We were sailing down the river and then all the cannons opened up so we just shut all the hatches," Oster said in a recent interview for Epic. "And you could hear cannonballs bang the hull, and everybody was just huddled down inside. It basically fractured that team. At Beamdog today we have one person remaining from that team. Everyone else is gone. It drove some of them out of the industry. It drove others to seek completely different kinds of games to work on. It was a shattering experience."
Oster said, "With another game under their belt, that team could have done something amazing. But that team doesn’t exist anymore. And that’s one of the reasons that we weren’t able to do a Baldur’s Gate 3. Literally, that team was in the process of slowly collapsing."
Of course, the Baldur's Gate 3 we did get is absolutely incredible, and in a delightfully ironic twist the new RPG turned out to be very sexually inclusive as well. But it's still heartbreaking that this team never got the chance to to build another original take on classic RPGs - especially since, as Oster has noted, there were pitches for a sequel to Planescape: Torment, which remains arguably the best RPG ever made.
Unfortunately, there's been another sad note in the Beamdog story since Oster's interview. Beamdog is now owned by Aspyr Media, a subsidiary of the beleaguered Embracer Group, and last week, 26 developers were laid off from the small studio according to a report from Game Developer. The layoffs follow the 1.0 launch of the studio's most recent game, MythForce, a co-op roguelike inspired by Saturday morning cartoons like the '80s Dungeons & Dragons series.
Check out the story of the making of Baldur's Gate.