The Baldur’s Gate Journey – Part 1 Starting The Game

Baldur’s Gate is a game that has tortured me since it came in 1998.   It’s the game I have always wanted to beat, but never have.    Part of that is my fault, part of it I can pass the blame around.  I haven’t beaten any of Bioware’s epic classic PC RPG’s.  I purchased and played Baldur’s Gate, Baldur’s Gate 2, Icewind Dale, Icewind Dale 2, Planescape Torment, and all the expansions that were created for these games.   Yet, I’ve never beaten any of them. The only ones that kind of count is Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 1 & 2 for the PS2 which Xie and I played through together and beat. This whole path started 13 years ago in the ancient times of 1998.   One of my friends at the small PC shop I worked out had purchased the game.  Since I was into Dungeons and Dragons, he thought I would like the game and made copies of the CDs.   He was right.   Since then I have purchased this exact game 3 times (who says piracy doesn’t lead to purchase).   Xie and I were playing seperately and I was in the in the final city on the final disc of the game (I still don’t know how close I was to the end I was) then we decided to play through the game cooperatively.   This started my downfall of never beating these games.   We started and we both have different play styles.  When Xie plays a game she is a completest.  She likes to hit every side quest and makes sure she gets every item for a game.   As far as we know the only thing she didn’t do in Final Fantasy 7 was get the gold chocobo. To her the game is about the journey.  I am completely different.  To me the game is about the destination.   I will do side quests as they come to me and do my best to complete most the things I find. We have played through parts of the game with different friends on co-op mode.   Still only getting so far into the game.  I can think of at least 4-5 major play attempts through the game.  All of them start well and sort of fizzle out.   We have used Gatekeeper to edit stats, levels, and items to try to make the game easier – this still has never helped our determination to get through the game.   All of that is going to change now. Anyone into retro games knows that getting older games to play on modern systems can be a pain in the ass.   When I saw that Baldur’s Gate was available from Good Old Games I was immediately taken back to the regret of never beating it (they also have the other Bioware Games I listed).   Part of me just wanted to do Icewind Dale so I wouldn’t have to deal with Imoen, but I needed to do this.  I needed to beat Baldur’s Gate. Xie and I discussed it and decided we would play through together – just power through and get the game off the regret list.   We have been looking for something to play together until Star Wars: The Old Republic came out.   Good Old Games certified that the games would work on your system.  This is a half truth.  The single player game (I’m guessing) works fine.  The multiplayer game however was a completely different issue.   Either way Good Old Games received my 9.99. I downloaded the game and installed it on my desktop (Windows 7 64-Bit (Xie has the same)).   I spent about an hour rerolling stats in the character creation to get attributes I would not regret.  Xie did the same thing.  We had our characters it was now time to connect to a multiplayer game.   Whenever I clicked to start a new multiplayer game, it crashed.  I attempted to run it as admin and in different compatibility modes.  Nothing was working.   It turns out the DirectX drivers changed in Vista and the multiplayer would not work properly.   To start a multiplayer game you had to launch it in windowed mode (alt+enter).   Having gotten past this hurdle we then tried to connect the games together.  No luck.   We then went back to researching.  It turns out this is a common problem (again in the post-Vista age).   We verified all firewalls and security software was disabled.   We edited the Baldur’s Gate ini files as a few posts described.  I discovered the IPX/SPX is no longer included in Windows 7.  In the end I spent around 4 hours (5 if you count character creation) trying to get a game started.   It just couldn’t be done in any easy way that I could find. There was a total conversion created for Baldur’s Gate 2 that allowed you play through Baldur’s Gate original with the Baldur’s Gate 2 engine (Baldur’s Gate Tutu).   Some people said they had better luck at creating a multiplayer with this method.   So I purchased BG2 (another 9.99) and started the download.   It was going to take a few hours so I was done for the night.   Dreams of sugar plums and magic missiles danced in my head.   Getting up the next morning I made Lex breakfast and installed BG2 and both the desktops.  I then attempted to create a multiplayer game.  I had the same issue with having to enter windowed mode otherwise starting the multiplayer would crash the game.   Working around this I managed to get it started on my computer.  I then went to Xie’s computer to connect…..Nothing.   I was having the same issue that I had with BG1. The normal person would have given up at this point.   Unfortunately I am an alpha geek that will get obsessed with a task like this until I get it going.   If I was going to chase this down and get this going and go through any more pain I was going to play on my laptop (Mac Book Pro).   Now it might seem insane if I wasn’t getting it working on the Windows desktop that I would attempt to getting it working on OSX.  The solution I was going to have to deal with was going to be the same – so I may as well-doing gaming on the machine that is not designed for gaming.  Geek logic at it’s finest.  I downloaded Oracle’s free Virtualbox frontend, dug out an Old XP CD and went to town.   In less than an hour I had XP installed on my Mac Book with Baldur’s Gate installed and running.   Then I discovered the next hurdle. When you made the game full screen in virtual box it took up a little 320×240 window with a black border larger than the screen around it.   I could play it in a window and then scale the window – but at this point the mouse went all weird and stuttering.   I knew we couldn’t play like this.  The original Baldur’s Gate doesn’t allow you to change screen resolutions so again I was SOL.   At this point I loaded up BG2 and installed the Baldur’s Gate Tutu conversion.   Now I could switch to 1024×768 and switch to full screen mode.  For all intents and purposes it covered the complete height and I just had black bars on the left and right side.   Baldur’s Gate was not written to take advantage of wide-screen monitors, so this was going to be what it was.   I started Baldur’s Gate 2 and made sure it was running at a playable speed and it ran as fast as I remembered.    I spent another hour or so getting it up and running on Xie’s laptop.   We are something like 10 hours into this adventure and we hadn’t even started playing yet. Since the BG1 Tutu version used the BG2 engine, it had additional character creation options.   We opted to spend another hour rerolling characters to get the perfect stats that we wanted to play with, launched the multiplayer game and it connected flawlessly.  To sum up – we are playing a 13-year-old game, using an 11-year-old game engine, in a ten-year old operating system in an emulator, on a laptop with 7 month old technology, running an operating system that is a little over a month old.   Geek kludge working at it’s finest.   Where there is a will there is a way. I was playing a thief and Xie was playing a cleric.  We were soon in Candlekeep running around killing rats, getting antidotes for cows, and playing go get before watching our adopter father being killed on the way to the next town.   We managed to clear off two and half screens that night.  When we managed to make it to the Friendly Arm Inn we killed the assassin that was gunning for us and locked Xzar and Montaran in a house (removing them from our party with the option of finding them again).   We called it a night. Last night added Khalid and Jaheira to the party and headed south to Beregost.  Beregost is a huge map and is known to be buggy with the Tutu conversion.  I did get a patch for teh city and so far it seems to be working fine.  I haven’t had any issues.   We have cleared off most of that map examining most of the houses.   We are trying to keep our reputation up so I’m not lockpicking any chests around NPC’s (seems to fail and call the guards 85% of the time).  We added Garrick to our party and marched him back to the Friendly Arm to lock him away.   At this point Xie wanted to play a mage, and we had room in the party and would only be a single level ahead of her.  So Xie dropped out and created a new high stat mage to add to the party, replacing the spot that we just cleared for Garrick.   I’m not sure we will ever be bringing Garrick back into the group since he doesn’t have any open side quests to complete. We then went back to work in Beregost clearing the map.  We found Kagain (whom I’m not sure I’ve found in previous run throughs) and dropped off Imoen in his house.  We have to go back and show him the broken caravan.  At this point it was 1 AM last night and we didn’t feel like continuing.   We called it a night, we will see what tonight holds. This time I am going to beat this game.  If a hurricane blows away my house (highly unlikely since i live in Ohio) I will still put the pieces back together enough to beat this game.   Right now I’m even considering emailing save games to myself just to ensure against any hard drive crashes.   I want to get through this game once and for all.  I’ll keep the blog updated on this for those that care (all 1.5 of you).