Wednesday, August 02, 2023
My personal hype level for the release of Baldur's Gate 3 is low. I have played through Act I several times, and even if it will be updated, I am not exactly looking forward to playing through it again. But it appears that I am alone in that feeling. From what I can make out through the gaming media I consume, the global hype level for Baldur's Gate 3 is enormous.
I am following a bunch of different Twitch streamers. I all found them because at some point in time they were streaming a game I was interested in. And those were mostly tactical and strategy games, like Jagged Alliance 3, Age of Wonders 4, Wartales or Against the Storm. And it seems as if all of them are going to be streaming Baldur's Gate 3 from Friday on. This is especially weird in the Jagged Alliance 3 streaming community, where Friday is treated like the end of the world: "We haven't finished JA3 yet, but let's see how far we get before Friday". I see a lot of streamers on different games putting a countdown to Friday in the description of their current stream. YouTube is also recommending me lots of BG3 videos already.
Note that many streamers are making BG3 plans for Friday, while the release date is Thursday for most of the world. What we don't know is how early we will actually be able to play the game. There is no pre-load, and having the early access version installed isn't going to reduce the amount of data to download. Which means that a very large number of people are going to try to download a very large game from Steam at the same time. It is completely possible that Steam will have problems delivering all that data as fast as we might wish. Steam doesn't crash that often, but I consider it possible that it will show serious performance problems on Thursday. It will be an interesting test for my new 1 Gbit/s internet access, because for once it certainly won't be my internet speed that determines how fast I can download something. BG3 has a download size of "approximately 122 GB", so theoretically I could download it in 20 minutes. I wouldn't be surprised if it takes several hours instead. Only a select group of content creators, who got a special pre-release version of the game this week, will be able to stream that on Thursday. Regular European streamers would be foolish to schedule a BG3 stream for Thursday evening, with the release only being at 5 pm for them. US streamers might try, as the release is in the morning for them, but there is still a risk. Who wants to watch a stream about a guy downloading a game?
The good news is that once you managed to download the game, there is some hope that it will play smoothly from then on. BG3 isn't a live service game, so at least the single-player version should not suffer from so many people all trying to play at once, being stuck on some login screen. Maybe I'm wrong here and there is some hidden connection to Larian servers that will crash, but I haven't seen any sign of that in the early access. The long early access period also means that there is very little risk of a Cyberpunk 2077 -like launch disaster of the "game is very buggy or unplayable" kind.
Where I am unsure about is how good BG3 actually is for streaming content. My experience from the early access is that while BG3 does have some replay value, on the second run one sees a lot of scenes that one has seen before. I don't know if I want to watch somebody playing through Act I. Also the D&D combat system is complex, which is good for me to play, but maybe not ideal for watching. YouTube is better suited for this than Twitch, because Twitch essentially only offers playthroughs, while YouTube can concentrate on "how to" videos for such complex games.