Video game production has become such an involved process that studios often hire consultants and other third-party professionals most people wouldn’t traditionally associate with game development. But when you’re making a video game that even other major companies would consider overkill, you really need even more help than that. That’s one of the reasons why the Baldur’s Gate 3 team utilized the services of a position not typically seen outside of film and television.
Recently, BBC published an article about the trials, tribulations, and experiences of Jennifer English and Devora Wilde (the voice actresses portraying the half-elf cleric Shadowheart and the githyanki warrior Lae’zel in Baldur’s Gate 3, respectively). Arguably the most fascinating factoid revealed in the article was that Baldur’s Gate 3 developer Larian Studios actually hired someone to ensure the game’s many actors felt at ease during some of the more potentially awkward recording sessions.
For those who need a refresher, Baldur’s Gate 3 is the latest entry in the legendary Baldur’s Gate franchise. Set in the Forgotten Realms of Dungeons and Dragons, Baldur’s Gate 3 is reviving the classic franchise in unique ways. While the first two Baldur’s Gate games were developed by BioWare, Baldur’s Gate 3 is under the control of the current king of open-ended RPGs, Larian Studios. By all accounts, it’s not just the studio’s most ambitious title yet; it could be one of the most ambitious games ever made. To help develop Baldur’s Gate 3, the company leveraged nearly all the talent it used to create its previous masterpiece, Divinity: Original Sin 2, as well as new talents designed to help make the studio’s wildest new dreams a reality. Said talent even includes the expertise and input of intimacy coordinators.
According to Wilde, she had to act out quite a few love scenes while filming Baldur’s Gate 3, many of which were “potentially awkward.” To make all the actors feel comfortable during these segments, Larian employed an intimacy coordinator: a consultant who not only helps coordinate sexual sequences but often helps ensure the actors involved with such sequences remain comfortable. While intimacy coordinators have become a staple of many film and television production sets in recent years, they’ve never really been associated with video games. Not only do video games rarely feature sex scenes between real-life actors, but video games rarely feature any notable sex scenes whatsoever. Even some of the most intimate RPGs ever typically keep things pretty modest in the grand scheme of such sequences.
However, this is one of the many ways that Baldur’s Gate 3 is different (or more ambitious) from so many RPGs that have come before. For instance, if you tuned in for Larian Studios’ “Panel from Hell” showcase, you probably saw one of the game’s characters, Astarion, make out with a druid who then shapeshifted into a bear. The two then performed an act that was apparently intense enough to make a nearby squirrel drop an acorn in surprise.
Now far be it from us to prevent you from pursuing your elf-on-bear fantasies, but the filming and recording of such sequences were no doubt one of the potentially “awkward” segments that BBC’s article mentioned. On the one hand, that truly unique romance option highlights why Baldur’s Gate 3‘s approach to play-driven choices is so incredibly ambitious. On the other hand, that kind of sequence can potentially make things awkward for both players and those involved in the creation of such sequences. Actually, Larian Studios was temporarily banned from TikTok because of this cutscene, though Wilde thinks that’s a badge of honor for the game studio.
While the help of an intimacy coordinator, though, English claimed that recording sessions only got weird, but nothing ever approached “yuck” levels that went too far. Interestingly, Larian Studios seemingly views its use of intimacy coordinators as a potential first for the game industry. Mind you, that’s not to say that other games that featured more extensive romance options wouldn’t have benefited from an intimacy coordinator’s services. Even some of Mass Effect 2’s romances were hilariously awkward.
While some studios and developers claimed that Baldur’s Gate 3’s ambition is an “anomaly” and could likely crush lesser companies, here’s hoping the use of intimacy coordinators is actually one of the game’s ideas that catch on. More RPGs with numerous romance options need all the help they can get when it comes to making such sequences feel natural and less awkward for everyone involved. So while we inevitably see many memes involving Bards romancing dragons (or whatever else future Baldur’s Gate 3 updates may offer), a properly utilized intimacy coordinator can at least help ensure those involved with crafting such sequences are doing so in a professional environment.