Larian Studios has created a massive masterpiece in Baldur’s Gate 3, but as you can probably imagine for a project of this size, not everything during development was plain sailing. With a surprising anecdote about an iconic Disneyland ride, a top Larian dev explains how the studio made player engagement “skyrocket” by simply sprinkling some humor throughout BG3’s dialog and storylines.
It’s no doubt that PS5 and Xbox players are enamored with Baldur’s Gate 3, making it one of the best-selling and received games of 2023 – and that still stands going into 2024. While its intricate immersive sim-like combat and exploration and intense narrative moments stand out, it’s the understated humor that truly makes it one of the best RPG games. When playing through it ourselves, we were surprised by just how amusing BG3 can be despite the player-character and their crew having a wriggling, ticking time bomb lodged in their noggins.
Michael Douse, director of publishing at Larian Studios, has taken to Twitter to explain where that humorous tone stemmed from, and how it actually reversed slumping engagement. “While the quality of information was good, engagement was dropping” during the early access period of BG3. Douse places the reason behind this largely on general audience fatigue and the slow pace of updates, especially with the long road until full release.
However, taking inspiration from the tale of Walt Disney’s revamping of the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland to include more humor, Douse explains that Larian “realized that even without changing the quality or type of information, engagement was far higher when [it] thought less about engagement and more about how much it made [the team] laugh”.
“We started to focus on how funny the delivery of information was,” Douse goes on to note, revealing that player engagement “began to skyrocket and people started to enjoy the ‘ride’ that was the campaign”. With the Baldur’s Gate 3 length clocking in at around 75-100 hours for an average playthrough, keeping players excited to continue through its campaign is crucial.
Douse finishes by expressing that “If there’s one thing [he] learned during Baldur’s Gate 3’s campaign it’s that to achieve a true sense of resonance, you need to make people smile.” From waking up a mysterious skeleton that respecs your character, to interrupting an ogre and a bugbear getting it on, or even the hilarious (and horrible) way in which Volo attempts to remove your parasite, the subdued yet frequent humor gives BG3 a great deal of levity, despite the high stakes of its narrative.
Douse’s comments speak volumes to Larian’s approach to early access with BG3, showing a clear willingness to rewrite and completely revamp sections before full release to make sure moments hit the mark. With players having hands-on long before launch and data coming in, Larian was able to pick up on details that shifted its approach, and that clearly includes injecting more humor into the adventure. However, you might be surprised to learn just how much changed from early access to the full-release version of BG3 – it didn’t simply bolt on the remaining parts of the story. After player’s comments on the early hours of the game, the introduction onboard the Nautiloid was significantly overhauled and slimmed down. Likewise, character introductions were heavily modified, as were the personalities of companions, with Wyll and Gale feeling like completely different characters.
The dedication to continuously work on aspects of the experience, including infusing the narrative and world with more humor, has played a large part in BG3’s success and its place among the best games on console. With that said, we’re hoping Larian’s next epic adventure is an original one for us to get lost in.