Larian Studios announced on Monday that Jim Southworth, who led the Baldur's Gate 3 cinematic animation team, has died. He was 56 years old, and had been diagnosed with cancer at the end of 2022.
"Jim was always ready to join in the fun," said Larian UK studio head James Austin in a statement sent to PC Gamer. "Friends with everyone in the team. Eager to be with his animators yet old enough to be their father. He loved making games, and we loved making them with him. We will miss him greatly."
Among Southworth's other credits in his multi-decade career are sandbox MMO Boundless, multiple PlayStation EyeToy games and the early PSVR development, and '90s animated series The Animals of Farthing Wood. He worked on Baldur's Gate 3 for five years, starting in 2019.
Earlier this year, we awarded Baldur's Gate 3 one of the highest review scores in PC Gamer's history, a decision that had a great deal to do with the RPG's now-beloved companion and supporting characters, who are summoned into being by a combination of great scriptwriting, acting, and animation. Essential to that effort were Southworth and the cinematic animation team he established, led, and grew to encompass a worldwide staff "from Quebec to Kuala Lumpur, with Dublin and Guildford in between," says Larian. The studio credits Southworth with "creating the foundations" on which Baldur's Gate 3's cinematic animation was built.
To know Jim was to know a friend, a mentor, a father figure, a leader, a comedian and an all-round monumental human.
PC Gamer received recollections about Southworth from a number of his colleagues at Larian, and his coworkers emphasized not just his professional virtues—Southworth's "depth of knowledge and willingness to help were second to none," said technical director Blake Maltby—but also his talent as a teller of amusing anecdotes, and the tremendous and positive personal impact he made on those who knew him.
For senior animator Dan Armstrong, Southworth was a "father figure," and Armstrong wasn't the only one who experienced such a significant connection with the animator. "At the same time open and stoic, he was a fire of life that we will all miss dearly," Armstrong said.
"To know Jim was to know a friend, a mentor, a father figure, a leader, a comedian and an all-round monumental human," wrote Baldur's Gate 3 producer Leah Caldwell, who worked closely with Southworth. "He cared greatly for his team, and being a part of his team meant being a part of his extended family. He taught me a lot, professionally and as an adult trying to find their way through this messy thing called life, and I'm forever grateful we got to spend the time together that we did, although I wish we got longer. For now, I have the memories of us all as a team laughing together so hard our stomachs hurt, celebrating the release of BG3, and many others to think upon fondly, but we will all forever have a Jim-shaped hole in our lives."
"His work standards were high, and he led his teams with such positivity and encouragement that they also came to share his commitment to quality," said producer Steph Fawcet. "But, he was always more than that, to so many of us. Friend, surrogate family, comforter, expert storyteller, mentor, joker. It feels like I’ve known him forever, and yet for far too short a time. Never forgotten, always in our hearts."
"Jim was an absolute rock and a wonderful man whom I will always love and appreciate from the bottom of my heart," senior animator Gerry Jacobs said.
Southworth is survived by his wife Lindsey and three sons Alex, Archie, and Sid.
Due in part to Southworth's contributions, Baldur's Gate 3 recently won a record seven Golden Joystick awards, including the awards for Best Storytelling and Best Visual Design, and is nominated for eight Game Awards.