Everyone who knows me a little bit probably knows that I've played Baldur's Gate an unreasonable amount of times. So with the drama swirling around the new Baldur's Gate game by Beamdog and their changes to the EE I've been asked by a few friends what I think about the whole thing.
First, I'll say that I haven't played the EE and I might never do so, because if (well... "when" would probably be more realistic) I do play it again, I will want to include a whole bunch of mods that probably won't be adjusted to work with EE. That being said, the wonderful BG-modding community is still at work and a bunch of mods is already playable with EE. The Big World Project also has the EE option already, so who knows, maybe in a few years they will have found a way to make everything compatible.
Anything I have to say then is based on what I've read from articles/forums linked to me, and it obviously is not a review of the Enhanced Edition.
I will sum it up like this:
- There are people who get annoyed at those, who are brash and don't think about the feelings of others in whatever they do
- There are people who get annoyed at those, who try to stuff political correctness everywhere
- Then there's me, a person who gets annoyed at both of the above.
And it sucks to be me, because that means that I'm annoyed twice as often at twice as many people.
I won't post a huge-ass rant here dissecting the entire drama, because there's already a fair amount of that available elsewhere. But a short stance from a person 'in the middle':
Adjusting BioWare NPCs by adding 'depth' and the personalities of original BG NPCs:
I've read that several characters are getting new dialogue in expansion that doesn't quite go with how they were initially to expand their roles and make them... cooler? I suppose?
The case of Jaheira
It seems that people had a beef with how she was shown as a shrew and that her relationship with Khalid was presented as one lacking respect from her side and near resentment. And that it has to be fixed.
I mean, so a woman cannot be a shrew anymore? So what if she is? So what if their relationship isn't perfect in someone's eyes or doesn't follow some 'healthy marriage' rules? Newsflash - people are different. Marriages are different. Some people tease one another. Some women are shrews. Sometimes couples will act in ways that to others seem disrespectful, but still love one another deeply. Sometimes they will stick together for other reasons.
I absolutely hate the idea of making every character comply to some arbitrary standards. I never had a single issue with Jaheira, and the BG1 NPC project (wonderful mod) managed to expand all of the characters without screwing up their original personalities and fit seamlessly into the game. That's how expansions should work. Not by changing the original characters. That's not adding depth. That's adding agenda. Create new characters to push your agenda if you must.
The case of Skie
Now in this case it seems that women also cannot be weak and vain anymore.
You know, so what if we have a shrew Jaheira with ties to occassionally ruthless organizations, so what if we have Imoen, who's a sweet thief with a sense of humor aspiring to be a mage, so what if we have Viconia, who's a drow and still on the evil side, so what if we have Flaming Fist officers, female assassins, wicked vampire Bodhi (granted, in BG2), so what if there is a strong and brash barbarian Shar-teel, or a stuck-up priestess Branwen, and a dignified sorceress Dynaheir, and a bajillion other, varied female characters all over the game?
Gods forbid one of them is a weak, vain girl who's dependent on a man and generally hopeless. What a disgrace! Hurry, fix! Add substance! Make her a real woman!
I now this might be an upopular opinion, but women like that exist. And it's not just one or two somewhere out there either.
Is diversity only good when it's showing the 'underpriviledged' in a shining light? I thought the word meant something else. Silly me.
Real-world references to GamerGate/other social battles:
I mean, no, just no. I heard they added some line to Minsc in the new expansion/game that mocks the affair. That's not what the game should be about. If you want to push for diversity in games, add plots/characters that introduce it into the game (point below). But don't put your agenda into the words of actual established characters. It's not funny, it's not cute, and frankly, it's damn arrogant.
I'm generally pro-diversity, BUT ONLY WHEN IT MAKES SENSE!! Don't confuse that with demands for diversity in games about medieval countries where there just historically wasn't any. Or with making those demands towards creators who have something else in mind for whatever reason. That's their right. Not every game/movie/book has to be diverse. Not every country is concerned with racial issues either, some societies are pretty homogenous and people there don't even think about those issues going about their lives, because they're just absent from their lives. If they want to create stories from their perspective it's not fair to tell them they're wrong, because in America things are different. Sorry.
But yes, generally, I'm pro diversity in games, I like that culture is being more and more open and accepting of different types of characters or views, and I think that's a good thing, and that it's vital in changing the general opinion by making the 'scary strange' familiar and normal.
And even I would be annoyed greatly if I heard Minsc give commentaries about a real-world affair by echoing the new creators' opinions. Just no.
Adding more diversity to the world:
I'm fine with this. The world is changing, the games are changing, Baldur's Gate is an old title where diversity wasn't even something very much considered in the development process. I like that nowadays in many RPGs there will be a romance options for homosexual characters, that's great. I don't mind raising new questions or dealing with issues that are related to what's current in our world either.
The thing is - it has to be done right, as does everything else.
There's a difference between a complex quest that deals with an issue of race, where player can choose either side and get into discussions/opt out of them, and a character who spews their agenda to tell the >player< what's right.
There's a difference between an interesting NPC, who, when asked (that's an important part - let the player decide whether they give a fuck or not) tells them about their gender identity issues and, say, I don't know, ASKS the player to find them a girdle of sex change? Because, you know, it's a thing in the BG world? There are also spells that do it. If you want to tackle issues like that in a game, great, go for it, but think it through first. Would it even be an issue in this world? Are there easy solutions? Can it be done in a non-preachy way?
And let the player take their stance. ROLEPLAY their stance. Don't force them to agree/listen to the characters, who give the one-truth.
Frankly, as far as sharing your views and 'pushing' an agenda goes, a dialogue and smart way of presenting your stance will go a long way. Shoving it down anyone's throat by changing their favorite things (game/characters) will only antagonize people.
And from what I've seen in the quoted posts/screenshots/audio files, in the case of the BG expansion this was not done well. It reads like a fanfiction, not a professional continuation. I like good fanfiction, but only when it knows what it is.
When it pretends to be canon, well, that's when the problems start.