Baldur's Gate 3 once featured an even deeper co-op conversation system, but Swen Vincke said their 'dialogue trees blew up so hard, we just couldn't manage it'

In a recent RPG roundtable I hosted for the PC Gamer Chat Log podcast, something Larian founder Swen Vincke said caused my ears to perk up: the already impressive multiplayer roleplaying in Baldur's Gate 3 was once even more involved than what made it into the final game.

During the roundtable, Ted Peterson, writer and designer of the original Elder Scrolls, pointed out that multiplayer games and MMOs have difficulty keeping their tone consistent—it's easy to tell the difference between the way a player behaves and the way a character would. That was something Vincke had in mind during the development of BG3.

"We've been trying to experiment with that—the problem is that it's so intensive to get it to work," he said. "In Original Sin 1 you could actually roleplay dialogue with your partner, in co-operative play. We actually had that deeply in Baldur's Gate 3 at some point also. But the problem was our dialogue trees blew up so hard, we just couldn't manage it anymore. So we had to cut it all."

I don't know much about Baldur's Gate 3's companions, because for me they're not much more than a bunch of weirdos who hang out at my camp. That's because I played Baldur's Gate 3 in four-player co-op, with no space in the party for NPCs to tag along and invite me into their own stories. I'd like to know what Astarion's whole deal is and why Karlach's so beloved, but I had too much fun with the chaos of playing BG3 with friends—just like I did with Divinity: Original Sin 2 before it, and the first Original Sin before that. 

I love playing these games with friends, because there are long stretches of exploration during which we can chat, and enough emergent, sandboxy solutions to problems that I know we'll end up coming up with weird or creative ideas as a group that I wouldn't see solo. We definitely miss out on some of the overall story, but my character's personal journey has still been satisfying. No other developer is making RPGs this ambitious with multiplayer, and I think on the whole Larian's been getting better at it with each passing game. But in terms of pure roleplaying, it would be exciting to see a system like the one Vincke was referencing from 2014's Original Sin make a comeback: 

Will we see something like that return for whatever Larian's doing next? I think chances are good. "It's still an ambition," Vincke said during the roundtable. If Larian's next RPG is a bit smaller than Baldur's Gate 3, perhaps those dialogue trees will be a bit more manageable with intra-party roleplaying added in.

You can check out the rest of the 80 minute RPG roundtable in the YouTube and Spotify embeds here, or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).