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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Planescape: Torment - Interview with Chris Avellone @ BellaOnline

Default Planescape: Torment - Interview with Chris Avellone @ BellaOnline

July 4th, 2008, 22:11
BellaOnline has a two part interview up with Chris Avellone on his groundbreaking work in Planescape:Torment. Here's an excerpt from Part 1:
Lisa: With so many people praising Planescape: Torment as the best game ever, have you considered releasing a fresh version of the game, optimized for modern machines, to introduce a new generation of gamers to this environment?

Chris: No, securing the rights to Planescape is kind of convoluted (if it still exists as a brand at all), and I'd much rather see new stories and adventures in the Planescape universe, like the NWN2 mod community is doing with Purgatorio.

Lisa: If you were making Planescape: Torment right now, are there things you would do differently from the original release?

Chris: Probably start off with more combat - the beginning is very slow and exposition-heavy, and I don't think that helps get the player into the mystery of his character. This is something I tried to correct in the future opening levels of Black Isle games (notably IWD2, where you're in trouble the moment you step off the boat in Targos). Also, I would work more extensively in creating more dungeon and exploration areas, and do another pass on the combat mechanics in the game - the story and quest structure in the game ended up becoming the primary focus of design, and I think the game suffered as a whole when it came to combat.
Part 2 excerpt:
James: What, precisely, was your role with most of the projects that you worked on?

Chris: It usually comes down to character and area design, though it ranges from single areas and characters to groupings of areas and all major characters in a title (Neverwinter Nights 2). Concerning the "role" on projects, I've run the range from technical designer (generating asset lists early on at Interplay), to area designer, to lead creative designer, to lead designer, to Creative Director. No matter what the title, though, the work's always involved characters and area/quest design and various degrees of managing the design.
James: Which game was the most fun or most satisfying to work on? Are there any specific characters or events that you preferred in that game? In terms of the games themselves, which was your favorite?

Chris: Torment and Icewind Dale 2 were the two most satisfying titles I worked on at Black Isle. At Obisdian, I think the first Neverwinter expansion: Mask of the Betrayer, was the most satisfying, mostly because the engine and toolset was relatively complete when we started, which allowed everyone to focus more on the content than actually getting the content to work, for example.

For Torment, the answer's up for Lisa's question, for Icewind Dale 2, I enjoyed doing all the quest and goblin attack structure in Targos, mostly because I'm a huge fan of Glen Cook's Black Company, and dumping the players into a mercenary war band scenario was kind of fun. It also allowed me to poke fun at a lot of fetch quests we've done in previous titles.
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July 4th, 2008, 22:11
this is the game that weened me off my addiction to Everquest way back when it was released. I've not been able to actually play it again, but recently did play through NWN2 w/ expansion and have had an urge to dive back in again.

Lisa: If you were making Planescape: Torment right now, are there things you would do differently from the original release?

Chris: Probably start off with more combat - the beginning is very slow and exposition-heavy, and I don't think that helps get the player into the mystery of his character. This is something I tried to correct in the future opening levels of Black Isle games (notably IWD2, where you're in trouble the moment you step off the boat in Targos). Also, I would work more extensively in creating more dungeon and exploration areas, and do another pass on the combat mechanics in the game - the story and quest structure in the game ended up becoming the primary focus of design, and I think the game suffered as a whole when it came to combat.
Wasn't this the reason this game was so good? The story elements and setting were so unusual and well done.
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July 4th, 2008, 23:01
Originally Posted by Melvil View Post
this is the game that weened me off my addiction to Everquest way back when it was released. I've not been able to actually play it again, but recently did play through NWN2 w/ expansion and have had an urge to dive back in again.

Wasn't this the reason this game was so good? The story elements and setting were so unusual and well done.

What he say is add more combat, he don't say anything about remove story elements.
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July 5th, 2008, 00:59
Lisa: If you were making Planescape: Torment right now, are there things you would do differently from the original release?

Chris: Probably start off with more combat - the beginning is very slow and exposition-heavy, and I don't think that helps get the player into the mystery of his character.
[via magerette's post above from this place http://www.bellaonline.com/articles/art39332.asp]



To me, it is precisely beacuse the start in the Mortuary is very exposition-heavy that you want to find out more about the mystery of (t)his character. I know I wanted to find out why I (as TNO) was placed in a mortuary, why I wasn't dead? And who is that floating skull next to me?

I liked that you could wander around the mortuary and just read, pick up stuff, talk to people (or zombies) rather than just attacking every zombie in sight. This was a nice tupsy-turvey, turninng every clichι in rpgs on its head.

[Sorry for how the quote looks but I couldn't get it to work properly]

Please support http://www.maternityworldwide.org/ - and save a mother giving birth to a child.
Last edited by aries100; July 5th, 2008 at 01:16. Reason: fixed quote - sort of -
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July 5th, 2008, 04:38
Originally Posted by Turok View Post
What he say is add more combat, he don't say anything about remove story elements.
These guys don't have infinite time, if they move resources from one project goal to another you are going to get a cut somewhere. I didn't play that game for the combat even if I bought it hoping for good Infinity action. This designer just speaking to the reality of most gamers though, no attention span
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July 5th, 2008, 10:01
Suits me - even back then I thought the start of Torment was too slow. Still loved it as a game.
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July 7th, 2008, 23:46
Would anybody tell me if I was gettin stupider?

Lately when I play games with a lot of exposition, I find myself hitting Next, Next, Next. This holds true of BGII, Divine Divinity, and Hearts of Iron 2. I don't care what kind of gameplay it is, I want to get at it.

I'd rather play a game than read it. I wonder if RPG makers are going to get more adept at interjecting the story into the gameplay, rather than through spoken or written dialogue. I've got books fer readin'. I use the computer to game.
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July 8th, 2008, 00:29
How should this be accomplished, "putting" a story into the gameplay - or executing it from the gameplay ?

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July 8th, 2008, 11:35
Originally Posted by Yeesh View Post
Lately when I play games with a lot of exposition, I find myself hitting Next, Next, Next. This holds true of BGII, Divine Divinity, and Hearts of Iron 2. I don't care what kind of gameplay it is, I want to get at it.
HoI has exposition? Are we playing the same game?
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July 8th, 2008, 17:45
Originally Posted by VPeric View Post
HoI has exposition? Are we playing the same game?
Just those little yellow historical snippets that pop up, where you have to make a choice. I just skip down to see what the consequences are insted of reading the text. Less talk, more gaming. This is MY history now, punks; I'll rewrite it when I'm done.

How should this be accomplished, "putting" a story into the gameplay - or executing it from the gameplay ?
It's an interesting challenge. I'm happy to credit any approach that doesn't involve me reading pages of text, or worse, listening to voice actors. (At some point, somebody fooled game designers into thinking that sitting in your chair listening to a speech is a different sort of gameplay than sitting in your chair reading a speech. I want to catch that person on fire.) Consider: we now have graphics that are better than the cut scenes of old. Whatever you used to be able to express with a cinematic, you should be able to express while I'm playing.

Gosh, I guess what I'm saying is: Show, don't tell. I must be the first person in the universe to have thought up that piece of advice. How'd I get so smart?
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July 8th, 2008, 20:09
Originally Posted by Yeesh View Post
Gosh, I guess what I'm saying is: Show, don't tell. ?
Maybe that's an European thing ?

In another discussion I cannot find right now someone here pointed out that there might be a cultural difference of some sorts in that - and I'd agree.

I often have the feeling as if games must be - in order to be successfull in the U.S. - consist of great graphics and few text.

Here in Europe it might be different, especially here in Germany, perhaps.

This is a guess based on what I experience. I'm not sure, but I think I do see a tendency towards that.

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July 9th, 2008, 09:36
I personally believe it has to do with scale - in the US, the games developed are huge projects, and need to reach the masses. Europe generally has smaller productions aimed at smaller, more specific markets.
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July 9th, 2008, 18:46
Originally Posted by Maylander View Post
I personally believe it has to do with scale - in the US, the games developed are huge projects, and need to reach the masses. Europe generally has smaller productions aimed at smaller, more specific markets.
The European market is about the same size overall as the US market. Slightly smaller for consoles, larger for PC.
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July 9th, 2008, 19:06
Yes, but Europe consists of several countries with several laws and several languages.

It's *far easier* to develop for the U.S. market, in terms of revenue, especially.

One country One law One language.

One world.

“ Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction.“ (E.F.Schumacher, Economist, Source)
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Default Still available ?

August 14th, 2008, 14:56
Hello,

Reading this, I was tempted to give it a try. However, This game seems totally unavailable.
Anyone could give me a hint ?

Thanks
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August 14th, 2008, 16:18
Originally Posted by Philippe View Post
Hello,

Reading this, I was tempted to give it a try. However, This game seems totally unavailable.
Anyone could give me a hint ?

Thanks
Philippe
Think Ebay would be your best bet. Thats how I ended up getting it a few years after it came out, since I had the same problem.
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