History of the engines and games
Infinity engine games
They came out at the start of the millennium and from different authors only partly sharing code, resulting in quite a mess: several different systems for the same things and many many avoidable hacks.
If you want to learn more about their development and times when these games were made, David Craddock wrote a nice interview series (book) with the authors from the various studios.
In 2012 and onward, all but IWD2 received Enhanced Edition versions, by being ported to an upgraded BG2 version of the engine or getting high resolution and input upgrades.
What made the games last so long is their extensibility, as several things are easily edited with a text editor and at the same time, the publishers and developers didn’t discourage serious modding. Some even joined the efforts as was the case with the Ascension mod for Throne of Bhaal.
Besides wider RPG communities like Sorcerer’s Place and RPG Codex, several dedicated ones sprang up and eventually wound down. One notable example is TeamBG, which harbored many seasoned programmers and reverse engineers, demonstrating a lot more can be done than previously thought. At some point IESDP was started to host technical documentation from the reverse engineering of the original engines.
In the long term, as even the official forums closed as they are always bound to, we are left with several active modding sites, all part of the same wider community. Pocket Plane Group, Spellhold Studios and Gibberlings3 are among the most prolific (if not sturdy) of the English ones and the latter is also where GemRB found its true home.
GemRB is born
The exact origins of GemRB are lost to time, but on the 21st of August 2000 the project registered on the SourceForge hosting platform, which is our main file host to this day. So GemRB development started even before all games were released!
But it’s clear the talks started sooner, since the first message to a mailing list created the following day mentions older pine mailing lists. Daniele Collantoni was the initial driving force and after some rough beginnings, serious and full blown development was again underway by late 2003, as evidenced by the CVS logs and news items.
That was the start of version tracking for the project, which later transitioned to SVN and finally GIT. Code hosting was moved to GitHub in 2013, which made flyby contributions much easier. Eventually in 2019, the bug tracker was moved there as well and now in 2020, it hosts the project home page.
Forums were initially hosted on SourceForge, but by early 2005, we opened a subforum on the Gibberlings3 community forums, which is still used today. Another change through the years was in instant messaging. Some of the first talks happened over ICQ, since 2003 on IRC, but most recently users have been migrating to Discord.
For the 20 year anniversary in 2020, retrospective interviews with several prominent contributors to the project were made (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
With 0.9.0 a major internal project dubbed subviews was completed after over five years of effort, modernizing the GUI, drawing and input handling among other things. A technical overview is available.
Major game milestones, GemRB releases when a certain game became completable:
- 0.5.1, 2009: BG2:SoA
- 0.6.0, 2009: BG1, IWD
- 0.6.3, 2010: IWD:HoW
- 0.7.0, 2011: full BG saga (BG2:ToB support)
- 0.8.0, 2013: IWD:TotLM, BG1:TotSC
- 0.8.4, 2016: PS:T
- 0.9.0, 2021: GemRB Demo
- TODO: IWD2