Anyone who grew up playing PC games knows that role-playing titles such as Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment were some of the most enthralling and beautiful games of their time, in part because they ran on BioWare’s iconic Infinity Engine. Yet those games were designed to run on Windows 98, and these days the same code that rendered such gorgeous hand-painted backgrounds and 2D sprites brings many modern operating systems to their knees.
Don’t fret! Getting Baldur's Gate or any other Infinity Engine game up and running on your current machine is a simple and straightforward process once you know where to look. We'd be remiss not to point out that Good Old Games sells DRM-free downloadable versions of every Infinity Engine game that run in an emulation package guaranteed to be compatible with most modern operating systems. If you don't have a physical copy of your favorite classic game, Good Old Games is a great alternative.
If you still own a physical copy of Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, or the like, but you're having trouble running it on your Windows 7 PC, you need to download an emulator. Your best bet is GemRB, an excellent open-source Infinity Engine emulator that receives constant updates and runs well on a wide variety of platforms. You can download the latest version from the GemRB wiki--just be sure to grab the right one for your PC, since working GemRB builds are available for Windows, Linux, Android, and even iOS.
We’ll be focusing on Windows for this how-to, but if you want to play on Linux or Android, you can find detailed instructions on how to do so at the GemRB Wiki. Setting up GemRB on your machine of choice is always a little tricky, so make sure to use the latest version and check the forum if you need solutions to specific problems that we don’t address here.
Once you have the latest version of GemRB installed, you'll need to find your games. To play a game like Baldur's Gate, you’ll need to install the entire thing to your hard drive so that GemRB can load data when necessary. Either way, once you have a copy of the game on your hard drive, it’s time to point GemRB in the right direction and start playing.
Open the GemRB.cfg file in WordPad and change the 'GamePath= ' value to point to the directory where you’ve installed the game. For example, if you’ve installed Baldur's Gate 2 to your C:\ directory, you would update your GemRB.cfg file so that the line reads GamePath= C:\Baldur’s Gate 2\, doing the same for the 'CD' lines beneath it if you copied the contents of your game CDs to the hard drive (CD1=c:\Baldur's Gate 2\CD1\ and so forth). Don't install games to the Program Files folder, because Windows NT-based operating systems (XP, Vista, 7) protect that folder by default and allow only programs with administrator privileges to modify it.
Save your GemRB.cfg file and run the GemRB.exe launcher. If you’ve done everything correctly, it should emulate BioWare's Infinity Engine and permit you to play games such as Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment. If the classic graphics look a little squished on your HD monitor, consider downloading the Widescreen Mod from intrepid Infinity Engine modding community The Gibberlings Three.