Astarion the tiefling: Swen Vincke on iteration in Baldur’s Gate 3 | GDC 2024

Baldur’s Gate 3 was the figurative belle of the ball at this year’s Game Developers Conference — in the sense that it drew the admiration and approbation of most of the attendees, and in the literal sense that it won Game of the Year at the GDC Awards. Several of the game’s developers from Larian Studios spoke at GDC panels about the process of making and marketing the game, but one of the most extensive was director Swen Vincke’s talk about the process of iteration in the game’s creation.

Vincke spoke openly about several of the challenges that Larian faced while working on the title, including extracting its Russian team when the war in Ukraine began, and how it was forced to move around its launch date in response to Starfield. Vincke maintained that the game’s robust size, however, was not the major stumbling block in the game’s development. “Size doesn’t matter if you don’t let it compromise your vision.”

Instead, Vincke gave examples of how the game’s development had to iterate on its development pipeline to smooth the process and gave advice to developers to organize for iteration and flexibility. He put up several charts detailing the process and how it changed over time, including how the writing team worked on the story before it got as far as the dialogue.

Vincke noted that the earliest builds of the game are almost unrecognizable compared with what was eventually launched, even in the earliest access phase. As an example of how the game changed over time, Vincke showed early footage in which Astarion, the handsome high elf vampire and poster child for the release version of the game, is a chalky-skinned tiefling trickster. Needless to say, Vincke noted, “Things have changed since then.”