Larian CEO Swen Vincke extols the 'incredible achievement' of Baldur's Gate 3 influence Ultima 7, but confesses he hasn't played since the '90s 'because I don't want to spoil the memory'

 Swen Vincke.
Swen Vincke.

Larian CEO Swen Vincke is obsessed with Ultima 7. You can find its DNA—the many weird systems, the possibilities for emergent gameplay, and the beautifully stackable crates—across Larian's entire catalogue, and especially in Baldur's Gate 3. Vincke says he's "been chasing [it] ever since" it came out back in the '90s, and yet he hasn't been back and played the game in just as long.

In a chat with PC Gamer at this year's GDC, Vincke said he's loath to return to classics like Ultima 7 "because I've played old games before that I thought I was still going to love… I don't want to do it again, because I'm pretty sure it will have not aged very well.

"I don't want to destroy that feeling, my memory of it is very fond," added Vincke, before dispensing with the nostalgia and confessing "It had a shit combat system. It was really bad".

Which isn't an unfair criticism. Like many RPGs of yore, Ultima 7's combat was a dense and awkward thing that's only got harder to handle as game design has progressed. As an incorrigible lover of the Planescapes, Alpha Protocols, and Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines(es) of the world, I can empathise with Vincke's affection for a classic game that can feel like a chore to play in the year of our Lord 2024.

Besides, Vincke tries to preserve all the best parts of Ultima 7 in Larian's own games. "It had such a good sense of exploration, and a sense of wealth and freedom, and that's the bit I've been chasing ever since.

"It was so great, in that sense. You could fly, you could make your own air balloon. You could make a raft. There's a whole bunch of things that for a long time you couldn't see in other games all put together in there… To my mind it's still an incredible achievement from a development point of view."

But achievement or not, it's a tough one to play these days. Not just in terms of its design, either: Vincke mentioned to PCG that "your best bet" of running the game these days is to "actually buy an old computer". So as golden as Vincke's memories are, "I don't play it again, because I don't want to spoil the memory."