Friday, February 26, 2016

Fantasy Grounds

doug.jpg A few months ago, Beamdog partnered with Fantasy Grounds , a company that provides virtual gaming tables to gamers wishing to play traditional pen-and-paper games online. As someone who’s played tabletop games in AOL chat rooms (they had a built-in die roller, the height of innovation in 2002!), I find Fantasy Grounds’ invention highly appealing.

Players using Fantasy Grounds can purchase add-ons to customize characters, including portraits and items from our enhanced edition games. It's great knowing players who love Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale can create their ideal character using a Viconia portrait or Koveras's Ring of Protection (that Koveras sure is a nice guy).

We're kicking this partnership off by interviewing Fantasy Grounds’ owner, Doug Davidson, and making a special offer for our fans. Read on!

Doug Davidson chilling with Zuggtmoy.

In 2004, three business partners in Finland created the app that would become Fantasy Grounds. “They were looking for a way to play tabletop RPG games remotely when they were no longer able to gather in person,” says Davidson. “I have always been a gamer and a computer science guy. I desperately wanted to go off and build video games for a living.”

Fantasy Grounds, then, offered the former software developer and consultant a perfect opportunity to blend his computer skills with his enthusiasm for gaming. He purchased the company in 2009, which “allowed me to engage some of the various RPG publishers in the gaming industry and work with some excellent properties. John Gregory was one of those developers.” Given that Gregory helped build the 3.5 and 4th-edition Dungeons & Dragons rulesets Fantasy Grounds uses, it was a smart hire. It seems fitting that a system designed for uniting remote gamers led Davidson to hire Gregory without ever meeting him face-to-face.

Davidson says Fantasy Grounds’ largest audience is “people who want to play remotely across the world, different states, or just across town without worrying about weather or traffic.” GMs using Fantasy Grounds as a campaign tracker and information management tool in offline mode make up a smaller audience. Some GMs run two copies of the app, one on laptop for secret calculations and adventure notes, the other sending a player-only version to a connected display. This setup “helps eliminate the time of having to draw out maps or the costs of using flip-mats and miniatures,” Davidson says.

Lack of physical miniatures isn't a problem for players, as Fantasy Grounds offers many options to customize characters. “Playing an RPG is very much about what you expect your character to look like.” The portraits Beamdog offers “lets people roleplay their favorite Baldur's Gate character in a new tabletop RPG experience. The adventures that they took those characters on within the Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale games can be extended further with a good DM and a group of friends.”

It's no surprise Davidson has ideas for expanding the app. “Building your own content directly within Fantasy Grounds and sharing these modules for others to enjoy is something that I'd like to see take off.” Unfortunately, his work leaves him little time to game, though he remains passionate about the hobby. “My favorite games so far have been D&D, Pathfinder, Savage World, Deadlands, Star Wars Saga, and Pendragon,” he says. “To be honest, I have a hard time not liking a game.”

If you'd like to check out Fantasy Grounds, watch a demo on Steam or the Fantasy Grounds website, or visit their YouTube channel. The company also offers a free 30-day trial for GMs.

But wait, there's more!

In the deep, dusty archives of Baldur's Gate (or, rather, the well-maintained archives of Mike Sass's hard drive), we found the original Edwin Odesseiron portrait by Baldur’s Gate artist Mike Sass. The piece was never made available… until now. Fantasy Grounds has the portrait available as a free download, and so do we!

Behold, the inimitable Red Wizard of Thay in all his original glory! Our friends over at Gamerati have an interview with Sass up right now discussing his artistic process and influences. Read the history, meet the artist, play the character, and enjoy the portrait!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Announcing The Familiar!

[Imagine a drumroll here.]

Today we’re pleased to present Beamdog's first digital publication, The Familiar! We partnered with Dialect (creators of Dragon+) to develop this quarterly (or approximately quarterly) app with industry interviews, fiction, contests, Beamdog exclusives, and everything else you didn't know you needed to know about the CRPG industry.

How much does all this incredible content cost, you ask? The answer is nothing! You can download The Familiar for FREE as an app from the iTunes App Store or GooglePlay

Our inaugural issue is available right now and takes a look at the state of the CRPG industry, from our own Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition to n-Space’s Sword Coast Legends. We also have a step-by-step guide for adding custom portraits to the Enhanced Edition games plus two beautiful free portraits. (The installation process is different for every platform, so if you’ve been wondering how to bring over your Drizzt portrait to your Galaxy S5, you’ll definitely want to take a look.)

Most excitingly (to me, at least, cause I wrote it) there’s a piece of original short fiction about Schael Corwin, one of the new NPCs in the upcoming Siege of Dragonspear. Oh, and check out the amazing cover art by Heather Hudson!
Seriously, how great is this dragon?

There’s a lot to love in this issue, too much really to talk about here. So I'll stop trying. The app is free! Check it out and see for yourself!

The next issue of the Familiar is scheduled to release in late March with cover-to-cover Siege of Dragonspear info. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Beamdog Welcomes David Gaider

We're very pleased to welcome David Gaider to the company as our new creative director. Originally we advertised for the position of senior writer, but when David contacted Trent about the position, we upgraded the role.

David is well known for his design and writing work on Baldur’s Gate 2, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Dragon Age: Origins. He brings 17 years of experience to our little team and we couldn't be happier to work with him. David will lead the writing team and direct new creative endeavors for the company.

Welcome, David!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Beamdog Achievements

Greetings! Today's post is all about achievements. First, in the literal sense, we're in the process of testing our Steam achievement system. You might see achievements for our games on Steam but be unable to access them. That's because we're still internally testing the achievements to make sure they're fully functional when they go live in the next update. We'll post again here when that happens. 
Second, in the metaphorical sense, we'd like to celebrate our achievements in some recent hiring and promotions. I say “recent” but in truth some of the employees mentioned here were hired over a year ago. We've been so focused on our work that we've neglected to celebrate them properly (and there's a lot to celebrate, as there's triple-A talent here). The time to rectify that oversight is NOW.

In September 2015 we added Brent Knowles to the Beamdog team as a designer. Brent has worked for many years on titles familiar to us, including Baldur's Gate 2 and Neverwinter Nights. (His first project was BG2, so in a way coming to Beamdog is like coming full circle). We're happy to have him on the team.

Shawn Potter has also joined us temporarily as a contract programmer. Shawn previously worked as lead gameplay programmer for Mass Effect 3 and senior programmer for Mass Effect 1 and 2. We're excited to make use of his l33t programming skills (or should that be skillz? I'm never sure what the kids are saying these days. They're still saying l33t, though, right?)

Beambard Amber Scott received a promotion to Publishing and Marketing Coordinator. That's right, she successfully finagled a raise out of goofing off on social media. Amber will be responsible for coordinating convention appearances, managing press releases and blog updates, and running events like the fun live stream we did last week.

Thea Kent joined us several months ago as an illustrator and immediately made herself invaluable. You might have seen her work in Dragon+ magazine recently—she did the character art for Glint Gardnersonson.

In November, um, 2014, Jason Knipe came on board (sorry for the late accolades, Jason). He was the lead graphics programmer on Knights of the Old Republic and Neverwinter Nights, and now works for us as a graphics programmer and a fighter-tank in our D&D games.

Finally, Tom Rhodes has taken the reins as art director as of this month. Tom worked on all three Dragon Age games as concept artist, and he quickly made his mark here drawing an awesome picture of a high-speed unicorn chase. Note: do not attempt high-speed unicorn chases at home.

We also hired a writer named Dave. He seems pretty cool so far.