Trent Oster and Cameron Tofer founded the Beamdog studio eleven years ago. Both have made the jump from BioWare to their own business. Oster was once a co-founder of the legendary RPG studio, Tofer worked there as a lead programmer. They haven’t left their past with Beamdog, as they’ve released a number of enhanced re-releases of classic D&D titles such as Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights.

“We started out as a small studio with a vision and it’s amazing how the team has grown over the years,” Oster tells me. “One of the highlights for me was the release of all of our enhanced editions last fall with our partner Skybound Games on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. This was a big step forward for our studio and the team and we have extended our skills to several platforms have developed. I am really proud of our work over the past eleven years and just as excited about our future endeavors. “

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Independent from publishers

Trent Oster

Originally, Oster and Tofer founded the studio with the goal of developing their own games without the interference of big companies. “We wanted to be able to make the right decisions for these games and our fans,” he says. “We took a detour through the improved editions of these popular role-playing games and are now in a position to create some new, interesting games.”

“On the other hand, we wanted to have a direct line with our customers. We first extended the Beamdog platform and over the years it has served us well, it has helped us stay in touch with the fans. We love the idea of ​​fans buying direct from us and knowing this is the best way for us as developers to get their hard earned money, today we have a thriving studio, multi-platform experience and nearly 70 employees. “

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Not without risks

Not all years have passed without challenges, of course, but according to Oster, the studio has coped well with the risks and pitfalls that small game companies face. “Even with a project like the Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition, we underestimated the number of lines of code to completely rewrite and the extent of some bugs,” he reveals. “We were lucky and hired skilled developers as well as talented modders from the community to help us with their early feedback. In the end, we didn’t get to the point where we were developing new projects as quickly as I would have liked.At the same time, we felt this obligation to Enhanced Editions and our partners in bring the games to all the platforms originally planned and provide them with the best gaming experience possible. “

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Beamdog_Interview_1
The Beamdog team (2019).

The studio is currently working on a new project, which Oster loosely calls “The Awesome,” and the team is expanding Axis and Allies 1942 Online. The focus is on expanding the studio “to do bigger and better things” as existing games continue to find support.

Favorite projects and challenges

He describes Baldur’s Gate as his favorite project over the past eleven years. “It was the first game that was covered, and it was great to see how it performed on my old iPhone 3G,” Oster says. “When it was first playable on it, I knew it would be a great experience on all platforms planned. I also had fun wearing the first Baldur’s Gate in the Baldur’s Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal engine. By doing everything Combining them into a single engine version allowed us to fix bugs on multiple games and platforms. “

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Even so, it was not easy to prepare the classics for modern systems and new platforms: “Baldur’s Gate was a Windows 95 game, and back then there were PC restrictions that required a lot of decisions. from the original development team, ”he says. “Twenty years later, each platform has its own challenges. We took a step back, reinvented systems and technology, while still keeping the gameplay that people remembered. We’ve always seen ourselves as the curators of some kind of restoration and we’re happy with the bottom line. “

Beamdog_Interview_2
Program first, then test.

“We were also fortunate enough to partner with Skybound Games to release physical copies of Baldur’s Gate for consoles. We know that a physical version is the icing on the cake for many nostalgic gamers. And the limited collector’s editions are just beautiful and that makes us proud to have been able to work on them. “

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The studio’s biggest issue was the improved edition of Planescape: Torment, especially the spells. “It turns out that Planescape spells are based on a mixture of custom code and script,” Oster explains. “We didn’t have the full source code. The solution was to reverse-engineer about half of all spells. We wrote new code that behaved the way people expected the game to. This made spells one of the more complex features in the Game and required us to branch off individually for Planescape so that it runs on a different codebase than the rest of the games. “

What is the future?

Oster doesn’t rule out that Beamdog will be dealing with other classics in the future. “There are some really good games that deserve a little bit of attention,” he says. For now, however, the studio is focused on developing new projects and brands. “We develop new skills and learn as a studio. This allows us to search more and implement more interesting concepts than what we have been able to do before. The future will be a lot of fun. ”

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Beamdog_Interview_3
So far, the studio has mainly dealt with re-releases of classics.

Oster doesn’t see Beamdog as the trigger or pioneer of a remastering trend. At the same time, he is convinced that this trend will not go away any time soon. “Nostalgia is a strong feeling, and with a remaster, people can experience the games they love in a whole new way. They also address compatibility or performance issues, so you can play them over and over again. This means that newer games take a bit more effort to stand out and make meaningful connections with players. “

Read here why adapting the Axis and Allies 1942 board game is a challenge and why it didn’t work with Beamdog and Baldur’s Gate 3.

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Source : Eurogamer.de