“To us, having a transgender character wasn’t that big a deal,” says Baldur's Gate developer | PCGamesN

“To us, having a transgender character wasn’t that big a deal,” says Baldur's Gate developer

Baldur's Gate

Remember the other week when certain people went absolutely mental because Baldur's Gate, a game with dragons, magic and other fantasy guff, dared to include a transgender character? Well developers Beamdog have responded, explaining why they think the character was badly received and what they intend to change in response. Basically, you're getting more of that character now, which is about the best news ever. 

If you'd rather run around blasting things, have a look at our list of the best FPS games on PC.

“To us, having a transgender character wasn’t that big a deal,” Beamdog studio boss Trent Oster told Develop. “In a world where there’s half-orcs - so a human and an orc had an offspring together - and dragons can transform into humans and gods can walk the earth as male or female, whatever choice they make - it just didn’t seem like a big detail to us.

“Personally, I think it shows a progressive world view that we didn’t think a transgender character was a big deal. It was just a character to us, part of the world, helping to drive the story along.”

Subscribe to PCGamesN on YouTube

Oster did elaborate, however, how the restrictions put on the writers are perhaps what made people feel the character's dialogue felt rushed.

“[The revelation that she is transgender] is what we consider three dialogue nodes deep,” Oster explained. “We put an arbitrary limit on our writers for our support characters of just three nodes deep, just to control word count. Siege of Dragonspear is over 500,000 words of dialogue, so we had to put limits on writers so they didn’t create more.

“The character goes from ‘Hi, how are you doing?’ to ‘I’m transgender’ in three conversation lines. That’s a really shallow way of telling me a life-shattering event. The transgender people I know are not going to blurt that out as quickly as that - it’s going to take a while, you’re going to have to get to know them." 

Because the character has captured so much attention, Beamdog are planning to expand her role, which is what everyone wanted anyway, right? 

Read the full interview over at Develop.

Sign in to Commentlogin to comment
*sigh* avatarrockman0z avatarGwathdring avatarAnakhoresis avatarAnAuldWolf avatar
Anakhoresis Avatar
2 Years ago

Haven't played the game, don't really care about the transgender issue... But I don't buy their story of "wasn't that big a deal." They specifically say in the interview "we have a series of reasons why she is the way she is" but then say that they couldn't show this because of their 3 line limit. If they can't explain why, then the detail doesn't serve a purpose, and a rule of writing (and really game development and media in general) is that if it doesn't have a purpose, it shouldn't be there. They're now going back and expanding on it, but seems like something that should have been caught in editing, which they even specifically mention editors making things fit into the game. The article then says the purported writer has "said she will continue to explore unusual characters in her work." That in itself makes it sound like literally, the character was put there to be controversial.

I don't get why they didn't just say something like "We put them there to make people think about it" or something.

AnAuldWolf Avatar
2 Years ago

I don't know if this is entirely fair.

There's 'being a writer' and then there's 'being a writer in a corporate environment where profit margins are the biggest concern.' In the article above, this is actually brought up and how the dissonance between the two leads to this sort of thing happening. It's an unfortunate state of affairs, but not what I'd call 'unheard of in the industry.' Quite the opposite, in fact.

How often will a writer have a view for a character that never makes it into the game because they simply aren't allowed to devote the time to properly write them? And how often is a character not fully realised because the deadlines of a project don't allow the writing of the character to see completion?

If you're familiar with the history of video games (and I'm a bit of a buff on that topic), then you'd know that it happens all the time. The most notable examples being Obsidian, who never seem to be permitted the time they want to write and design.

So, what you have here is a writer or designer that had a soft spot for a character and their own view of that character which then becomes official, versus the reality where due to time and resource constraints that view never actually made it into the game.

Molyneux does this all the time. I never understood the hate for the man because of this, as I understand the realities of game development. You'll always have those who're dreamers and want to do things, but then you'll have the realities of money, greed, and corporate interests which always provide profound obstacles to overcome.

This is the world we live in. Things aren't made to be enjoyed on a creative level in the mind of the business man. They're made to sell. They creative person may not agree, but they're not the one calling the shots. A writer may want to write a complex storyline about a trans character, but their boss may not allow it.

Just the reality of it.

Anakhoresis Avatar
2 Years ago

But it's specifically not time that's referenced. The constraint was the rules of their system that were already in place.

The CEO states "We put an arbitrary limit on our writers for our support characters of just three nodes deep, just to control wordcount. Siege of Dragonspear is over 500,000 words of dialogue, so we had to put limits on writers so they didn’t create more."

While yes, maybe an editor missed it, there still doesn't seem to be getting around that the writer knew what the constraints were, and created the character knowing that the constraints would not be able to justify it.

I can absolutely understand, like you said, "A writer may want to write a complex storyline about a trans character" and as you guessed, their boss didn't allow it. From the beginning. But they did it anyway.

To me that just seems like either bad writing, or intentionally being controversial.

rockman0z Avatar
2 Years ago


amazing, such a brave character

Gwathdring Avatar
2 Years ago

Changing one's appearance does not magically switch one's feeling of self. I can turn you into a Newt, but that doesn't make you feel more comfortable as a Newt than as a person.

All that spell means is that there are magical alternatives to surgery for anyone who feels they should change their physical appearance, but we didn't need you linking us to a wiki page to know that. It's DnD. There's magic. I think everyone vaguely familiar with the setting had that one figured out already.

I'm also not sure why you're implying that anyone was ascribing bravery to the character in question. If anything, the creators are going on about how in the Fogotten Realms, it isn't as big a deal as it is here.

The conclusion I'm left with is that you're looking for a reason to attack the character, so you invented a between-the-lines narrative about supporting the character's bravery in the face of hardship and then decided that just because magic *exists*, it would be impossible for such a character to make sense the narrative you made up. Therefore, you finish, the world must be made aware that the idea of this character being brave is daft!

AnAuldWolf Avatar
2 Years ago

Sounds about right.

The illogical leaps, stretches, and bizarre internal narratives and external monologues I've seen people go through to justify prejudice never ceases to amaze me.

I mean, my current status of 'almost entirely disenfranchised with my own species, so I know how Freud must have felt' is almost exclusively down to this sort of thing.

The average person will do almost anything, within their power, to ensure the status quo of the world they know and that their position and status within it isn't ever somehow lowered. This is the driving motivation behind what seems to be the majority of human thinking. If things stay the same, the perks and benefits of things staying the same will, thus, also stay the same. As an example: If taxes are raised due to ethical concerns about the living conditions of disabled people, the average person on the street will go to lengths worthy of an epic bard to conjure up some sort of new reality where disabled people don't really, actually exist.

I know, I've been there. I'm disabled. It sucks.

And that's the average person for you. One of the FEW perks of being who I am is that I'm neurodiverse, and thus I don't fall into the sort of pit traps where I believe that robbing another person of something will actually benefit me in any reasonable way. I've demonstrated this thinking in the past, that I think that everyone is entitled to happiness and the basics of living, and I'll continue to do so.

Every person is, in my opinion, entitled to food, shelter, happiness, freedom from prejudice, and intellectual stimulation of the form they desire. We don't live in that world, of course, but I really, really want to.

But I'm about as rare as a unicorn. Your self awareness seems to put you in that camp, too. For which I am both proud of you and sorry for what you've probably endured to earn it.

AnAuldWolf Avatar
2 Years ago

Glad about this.

Though I can't help but wonder what Gaider thinks of it. He's their 'Chief Creative Officer' now and he's been... How can I put this politely? Notably transphobic. To the point where he had a laugh at their expense with his Dragon Age writings.

As a disabled person who can no more figure out gender and orientation than a mouse can understand the workings of a ZX Spectrum, I'm tired of all forms of prejudice.

So any awareness and presence in a positive, affirming, and empowering way is a step forward. Even if, for now, they are but tiny steps. I think the industry can do better. I'm still wondering when we'll see our first properly disabled party character (let alone hero). I'm thinking... somewhere around 2037?

We really can always do better. Most just don't want to.

*sigh* Avatar
2 Years ago

Any port in a storm