Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Baldur's Gate Version, Release and Demo History

Baldur's Gate is one of my most favorite games and has a surprisingly complex patching, release  and demo history.  I have written this blog article to help enlighten people on the version and patches available for the original game, significant physical releases and localization changes and finally the three demos of the game which were sold at some point.  I will not discuss any unofficial patches (such as the Baldurdash and Dudleyville fixpacks), engine conversions (such as BG1Tutu or Baldur's Gate Trilogy) or Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition.  

Version Number History

1.0.4309 - December 14, 1998: This is the original retail release of Baldur's Gate, which came on five CD-ROMs.  If you want to obtain a physical copy of the original unpatched release, US Disc 1 must have the text "CD-C95-625-0" on its label.  This version would only be released as 5 CDs.

1.1.4312, January 16, 1999 : Beta patch, presumably this was released to the public but due to a crash bug with save games it was problematic and quickly replaced.  This patch has probably been lost to time.

1.1.4315, February 1, 1999 : Finalized version of the previous patch.  The 5 CD release was updated with this patch, and all DVD releases will have this patch applied.  Generally only disc 1 will differ between 1.0.4309 and 1.1.4315 with US releases of Baldur's Gate.  The patch is available in an "English Version" and  an "International Version".  This version is notable for allowing the player to adjust the pathfinding nodes from a fixed 4000 to anything between 2000 and 32000.

1.3.5508, April 28, 1999 : The original release of the Tales of the Sword Coast Expansion on one CD-ROM. May be installed over an unpatched install of Baldur's Gate.  If you want to obtain a physical copy of the original unpatched release, the US disc must have the text "CD-C95-898-0" on its label.  The Expansion brings several improvements to the base game when it is installed.  

1.3.5512, June 22, 1999 : The patch for Baldur's Gate with the Tales of the Sword Coast Expansion.  The Expansion Pack's retail CD release was updated with this patch.  The patch is available in a "North American English Version", an "International English Version" and an "International Non-English Version"

1.3.5521, August 8, 2001 : This patch came separately for Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate with with the Tales of the Sword Coast Expansions.  The Baldur's Gate only patch came in  an "English Version" and  an "International Version", the Tales of the Sword Coast patch came in an "North American English Version", an "International English Version" and an "International Non-English Version". The patch is an executable replacement (BGMain.exe or BGMain2.exe) for fixing an issue with DirectX 7 or 8 and not being able to join a multiplayer game.  Baldur's Gate was designed for DirectX 6, and this patch is not necessary or helpful if you are not using multiplayer. 

1.3.5521, August 16, 2001 : The version was released as "Baldur's Gate: The Original Saga" and includes the Tales of the Sword Coast Expansion on three CD-ROMs.  The version renumbering was due to changes in the engine to allow the game to decompress the resource files stored as compressed .BIFs on the CDs.  Compressing the .BIF files was necessary to fit six discs worth of content onto three.  As a result, The Original Saga will not be found on any US retail DVD, a single-layer DVD has more than enough space to fit the whole game plus the expansion without the need to resort to compression.  The game can still be played partially from CDs, but loading times could be longer due to the need to decompress the .BIF files compared to the prior 6 CDs or the 1 DVD + 1 CD methods of playing Baldur's Gate with the Tales of the Sword Coast Expansion.  A full hard drive installation will result in decompressed .BIF files being made available to the game.  I understand this was the version was offering before the Enhanced Edition was released in 2012. I used to think this version was more prone to crashing than the versions with non-compressed .BIF files, but if anything crashes are only more likely to occur when decompressing .BIF files off the CDs.

1.0.430X - This mysterious version number has been encountered only twice to my knowledge.  It can be found in the readme of the Japanese-translated release of the game and in the readme of an obscure DX7 multiplayer beta patch.   The 1.0.430X readme has less text in it than the 1.0.4309 readme, suggesting it was a leftover of a near-final pre-release version whose readme somehow got included with much later files.  

Releases and Localizations

No Blood for Germany (Opening Cinematic - German Release)

Baldur's Gate and Tales of the Sword Coast were originally released in large boxes and sold separately.  The original release is a little notorious for enclosing the discs in a tall cardboard sleeve with six cutouts.  Cardboard sleeves scratch discs, so put the CDs in jewel cases.  Baldur's Gate: Tales of the Sword Coast originally came in a jewel case.  Baldur's Gate The Original Saga uses paper sleeves.  

Baldur's Gate comes with a 159 numbered page bound manual, a double-sided color map, a Quick Reference Card and an Interplay Productions Reference and Troubleshooting Guide. Tales of the Sword Coast comes with a 40 numbered page manual and its own Quick Reference Card.  Baldur's Gate: The Original Saga came with the map and the Tales of the Sword Coast Quick Reference Card and an additional Soundtrack CD. The manuals were put on pdf on disc 1.  The Original Saga can come in a large or a small box.

Gameplay Options - US Release

Baldur's Gate was localized in several languages.  Known official locations include German, Italian, Spanish, French, Japanese, Polish and Chinese.  The game was released in The Netherlands, Belgium and Sweden, but I have no information that the games themselves were translated into those countries native languages.  Curiously I do not know of any release or translation for South Korea even though the sequel was translated and released in that country.  

Gameplay Options - German Release

The German versions are known to be censored to remove blood during the opening movie and the limb splatter animations.  There are claims that blood animations during combat are not present, but I can see them when I run the original German version of the game.  If you cause enough damage for a limb explosion effect, the normal death animation will be used and there is no Gore option in the menu to turn the explosions back on. The opening movie loses the Nietzsche quote, which is ironic given that Nietzsche was German.  It does not show the blood but it still has the blood dripping sound effects.  All spoken language, including the main character voice options, are in German.  My Baldur's Gate DVD has localization options for Italian, French and Spanish in addition to English, but not German.  There is a DVD release with a German language option included but it is significantly larger.  The French, Italian, Spanish and Polish versions also have full speech in those languages.  If you want to add Tales of the Sword Coast to the DVD, you will need to track down an International Version of Tales of the Sword Coast with the language you want to use if you do not wish to use English.  

Gameplay Options - Japanese Translated Release

The Japanese-translated version (the English version was also released in Japan) only has a unique disc 1, discs 2-5 are identical to the US version.  The date on my disc is September 20, 1999, which corresponds to the official release date reported by Sega, its distributor, of October 20, 1999.  This version, despite the version number reported in the readme file, is reported as 1.1.4315.  In order to get this version of the game running properly in modern Windows, go to the Language option in Settings and add the Japanese language.  Then go to Control Panel - Region, click on the Administrative tab and change Language for non-Unicode programs to Japan and restart your computer.  Once restarted Baldur's Gate will be properly displayed in Japanese throughout, from Installation to Readme to in-game text and prompts.  For whatever reason this version of the game seems more crash-prone in Windows 10, so it is best to try it in a window rather than full-screen.  The Japanese-translated version may not run properly, or at all, on Windows 95 or 98 unless using the specific Japanese Editions of those Operating Systems.  Windows XP and later OSes should have sufficient language support to run this game regardless of where the OS was intended to be sold.  The opening movie has subtitles, but all spoken language in the movies and the game use the normal English speech.  While the opening movie is not censored, there is no "Gore" option and no exploding limbs animations just like the German version.  

On modern Windows you will almost certainly see "spiky" and "squarish" fog of war in the game.  There are several third-party approaches to fix the fog of war, but the easiest fix I found was to download this, unzip it and put the file in the Baldur's Gate directory.  I had no issues with running any Baldur's Gate installer, but some releases of Windows 10 and modern Windows may refuse to run the installer unless the installer is run in Safe Mode.


Non-Interactive Demo

There were no less than three demos of Baldur's Gate, all of which originally came on CD.  The first is a non-interactive demo, which shows a unique opening movie followed by a demonstration of the gameplay using what appears to be an beta version of the game.  The demo does use the Infinity Engine and scripts to show off various features of the game.  The demo appears to date from July 9, 1998.  As this demo weighs in at around 40MiB, it would originally have been released on a CD-ROM as part of another game or on a Magazine's demo disk.  I doubt Interplay, Bioware or Black Isle would have made it available online at the time, 40MiB was a hefty download during the age of dialup internet.  

Interactive Demo

Title Screen - Interactive Demo

The second demo is an interactive demo.  It appears to date from February 19, 1999 and was included on one CD of the 3 CDs included Forgotten Realms Archives - Silver Edition.  There is more than one release of the Forgotten Realms Archive, so be on the look out for the "Silver Edition" if you want an original copy of this demo.  The paper manual included only reprints the readme file on the CD.  This interactive demo uses an extremely stripped down version of v1.1.4315.  It includes the Prologue, Lion's Way and Coast Way.  No other maps are included, the stated intent was to provide a flavor of the game's engine and mechanics.  

The Prologue proceeds normally and goes into Chapter One where Imoen meets up with the main character.  Thereafter things become...interesting.  All three maps have their regular Chapter 1 encounters, but there are some new encounters as well.  On the Lion's Way map, you will meet Perdue looking for his short swords and the gnolls which took it nearby on that map.  Normally Perdue is in Beregost and the gnolls which took his short sword are at High Hedge.  Similarly, on the Coast Way map, Unshey is present on the map wanting the party to recover his Girdle of Piercing from the ogre.  As the ogre is also on this map, that makes this quest convenient.  Tarnesh will be waiting to attack you by the attacked caravans on the Coast Way map instead of at the Friendly Arm Inn.  Nearby is Meilum, whom you can provoke into attacking you.  Be warned, that at level 1-2 this guy is almost as difficult to kill as Drizzt and is normally encountered at the Firewine Bridge map.  Bows, crossbows and missile weapons are your best weapons here, let Melium chase your characters around.

Available World Map Locations - Interactive Demo

As there are random encounters on both the Lion's Way and the Coast Way maps, you can fight for as long as you want.  Unfortunately there are no inns for sleeping after the prologue available and only two characters, at best (Quayle and your character if a Cleric/Druid), can cast healing spells, so you will find healing rather limited.  Arrows are difficult to replace, only chance encounters with bandits permits replenishment after you exhaust your supply from Candlekeep.  Ambushes between the three maps can occur.  You can revisit the Candlekeep map but cannot get back inside.  

So Many Accolades, but it wasn't Scorpia's 1998 Roleplaying Game of the Year

There are more characters you can recruit on these maps than normal.  Kivan and Quayle are recruitable on the Lion's Way map, as are Adjantis and Shar-Teel on the Coast Way map.  Zxar and Montaron are also waiting in their usual spot by the Lion's Way.  The Elminster encounter occurs in a different location on the Coast Way map.  Multiplayer and Importing/Exporting characters is not supported in this version.  When the demo exits you will see a series of four splash screens touting the critical praise the game has received and the availability of the full version and Tales of the Sword Coast.

Chapters I & II Abridged Version

Title Screen - Chapters I & II Abridged Version

The third demo is also interactive and was released as a separate retail product called Baldur's Gate Chapters I & II.  It is dated June 18, 1999.  This is an abridged version of Baldur's Gate that came on one CD and was packaged in a large box and sold for $10.00, which could be recouped as it included an offer for a rebate of $10.00 on the purchase of the full game.  It offered a stripped down preview of the game by including the Prologue and several areas encountered in Chapters 1 & 2 of Baldur's Gate. I do not believe it included a printed manual or other game-specific documentation, although the jewel case slipcover may have some basic getting started information.  

The only areas accessible on the World Map once you begin Chapter 1 in this demo are Candlekeep, Lion's Way, Friendly Arm Inn, Beregost, Nashkel, Carnival and Nashkel Mines.  All subsidiary areas of each map, such as the floors of the Friendly Arm Inn, houses of Beregost and Nashkel and the mine levels of the Nashkel Mines are included.  Ambushes that can occur when walking from one area on the world map to another do not appear to be implemented.  The Prologue is intact in its entirety except as noted below.  

Importing and Exporting characters can be done in this demo, but there are no scripts, no sample characters and only the default male and female voices.  There is no multiplayer in this version and the movie introductions to the Friendly Arm Inn, Beregost and Nashkel are not included.  There is also no music that plays outside the movies, although ambient sound will play a faint rendition of certain tavern themes when near an inn.  There are three screens singing the critical praises of Baldur's Gate followed by the ad for Tales of the Sword Coast when you quit this version.  

Available World Map Locations 1 - Chapters I & II Abridged Version

The recruitable characters in this demo are Imoen, Montaron, Xzar, Khalid, Jaheira, Kagain, Garrick, Minsc, Edwin, Branwen and Xan.  All characters and quests normally encountered on these maps can be encountered.  Some quests, such as Unshey's Girdle of Piercing, the Bounty on Bassilus, Bjornin's Half-Ogres, Gurke's Cloak of Non-Detection, Mirianne's Letter, Perdue's Short Sword, Zhurlong's Boots of Stealth and Captain Brage's Curse cannot be completed because the areas required to complete these quests are not present in this version of the game.  Also, while Kagain, Edwin and Minsc are recruitable, they have timed quests whose requirements cannot be met because the areas which would fulfill their requirements are not present.  The readme file warns you of these limitations.  

Available World Map Locations 2 - Chapters I & II Abridged Version

The demo reports itself as v1.3.0002 but it has Tales of the Sword Coast improvements like shading unidentified magic items in blue and showing scroll tip travel times when traveling on the world map.  All gory deaths have been removed from this version, if the criteria for a gory, limbs-splattering death animation is met, then the dead individual will simply disappear.  The option for Gore in the Gameplay Options is also gone like in the German and Japanese releases.  When you defeat Mulahey at the end of Chapter 2, the game will include a short congratulatory unspoken message in the Chapter Three text and will let you continue to play the game.  You will be able to have encounters that only take place in Chapter Three on the Nashkel and Beregost maps and collect rewards for clearing the Nashkel Mines.  You can continue to fight respawning enemies on the Lion's Way, Carnival and Nashkel Mines maps.  I am not sure if you can transfer your save game to a full release version of Baldur's Gate, but for a maximum likelihood of compatibility, transfer it to Baldur's Gate with Tales of the Sword Coast installed.  You should be able to export your character from the demo and import him or her into a full version of Baldur's Gate but you'll have to complete the Prologue, Chapter One and Chapter Two again.  

1 comment:

  1. There was a Korean version of Baldur’s Gate and it was localized by Samsung. Yes, the Samsung. They used to develop and distribute PC and video games in 90’s. They released “Samsung Saturn” and many of Sega Saturn games and Final Fantasy 7 and 8 for PC. For Baldur’s Gate, the quality of translation was very poor, I had a really hard time playing it as a kid. If I remember correctly, they released English version first and then released a Korean patch. So if you want to enjoy the crappy translation job from Samsung, you can simply install the patch on your existing English copy.