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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Planescape: Torment - The Unbroken Circle of Zerthimon

Default Planescape: Torment - The Unbroken Circle of Zerthimon

April 5th, 2011, 10:59
Over at Gamasutra there's a blog entry from Radel Koncewicz, CEO of Incubator Games, on the dialogue in Planescape: Torment. He uses some of the conversations with Dak'kon as examples - here's the intro:
Videogames are filled with conversations. These range from simple barks to deep and varied dialogue trees, but they're fairly prevalent regardless of implementation.
And it makes sense, too. People like stories, and stories are built on characters.
Despite this fairly natural desire for dialogue, games used to be pretty devoid of conversations. This struck me as particularly odd in RPG's where groups of people set out on a quest to save the world. After all, one would assume the journey would foster some banter and comradery.
Cutscenes eventually filled the void, but it took a while for another mechanism to catch on: letting the player manually choose to speak to his followers.
Planescape: Torment was one of the first titles to do this, and its discussions on the Circle of Zerthimon remain one of my favourite examples of player-initiated dialogue.
More information.
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April 5th, 2011, 10:59
Well, back in the day, we were working with 700kb floppy disks and ~1MB ram. You really wanted to get the most out of that space too cos a box of disks used to cost far more than a 100 DVDR spindle does today.

So, what we found back then was a little text in game, then a more full description in the adventurers journal.

eg. "Tavern Tale1: Far to the northeast, in the midst of the vast swamp, lie the uninhabited ruins of a powerful wizards castle." (bonus points if you guess the game)

As for picking your dialogue there was a simple system where you'd pick how you wanted your attitude to be. parlay, coy, friendly, etc. Maybe there wouldn't be a lengthly exchange of words, but we're adventurerers, not gossiping wenches! Real warriors talk with a steely glare and one hand on a sword hilt

Now if you fast forward to present day and take Mass Effect, or a number of modern/consolized RPGs, as an example thats exactly what we've returned to. The difference to me is I seem to spend more time running from A to B in glorious 3D than I do playing out sweet RPG battles.
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April 5th, 2011, 13:12
A few days ago I wrote the following in our Planescape: Torment thread:

Originally Posted by Maylander View Post
My favourite NPC from PS:T did not make a return in MotB though: Dak'kon. Fully exploring his dialogue options as a mage with high int/wis is quite interesting.
This article is perfectly illustrates my point of view. It really is quite fascinating, as are the various discussions about the circle and Dak'kon.

Edit: Here is the PS:T thread:
http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=11364
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April 5th, 2011, 16:02
What Sir James said. +1

I also don't particularly like the generalisation that games used to be pretty devoid of conversations. Because…well…I can think of many exceptions that muddy that claim from truly being the case. The Ultima Underworlds had fantastic branching dialogue (I don't need no stinkin' password!) and even from Ultima IV onwards, social interaction was integral to playing the games adequately. The key word conversations may have been short and to the point, but at least they were interesting; often a damn site more interesting than the padded out dialogue that appears in modern BioWare games for instance. Richard Garriot saw role-playing games as fundamentally social experiences and so conversation was a central part of gameplay.

Perhaps if you track it back to the very primordial ooze of cRPG creation, then maybe the point is more valid, but e'en so with added qualifications. The early cRPGs were mostly number crunching games and based on pen and paper or war game simulations where combat was central.

Cutscenes became more prevalent generally as a result of the desire for a more cinematic appproach to game and narrative construction. I don't think they filled a void either really. For me, they became an often over-used staple that would take tactical potential and overall interaction away from the player.

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Diddledy low,
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You've a goodly way to go.
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April 5th, 2011, 18:24
name
job
health
join
bribe
bye
PS - What are you waiting for (to the lady in waiting)?

Developer of The Wizard's Grave Android game. Discussion Thread:
http://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22520
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April 5th, 2011, 19:48
"It is a constant quest to live honourably. Honour is like finely polished armour, without constant care, it will soon tarnish! It gives life meaning!"

Who said it and from which Ultima? Codex credits for getting them right. (Of the Brittannian kind, naturally)

Often it wasn't just the basic list of key words which had responses (As Mr Day began) - npcs would also react to words they've used in sentences, making conversation flow from topic to topic, giving the player a reason to continue searching for information.

For example:

Sven, the burly axe-man: Wit’ my axe, I can chop ‘m down quick, ya
Player: Axe
Sven: It's a big axe, ya!

Guards: Ug, me tough!
Player: Tough
Guards: Ug, you tough?

Lady Donna: (A five foot pregnant woman)
"It's no fun to be pregnant."
Player: Pregnant
“Why, art thou the father?”
Player: No
Lady Donna: Thank god!”
If the player says yes:
"Wait until I tell my husband!"

And so it goes. (*Hopes he hasn't drawn too much of a longbow in light of the thread topic*)

Diddledy high,
Diddledy low,
Come brave blood sheep,
You've a goodly way to go.
- Brilhasti Ap Tarj
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April 5th, 2011, 23:33
PoR, and Dupre. I guessed that, but google is your friend

Gold Box (and BT before that) brought flavour from adventurer's Journal entries, Ultima brought conversation trees to RPGs, and I was thrilled at that, but P:T still stands apart by making them the focus of the game and taking it beyond all else. All of it because an extraordinary group of devs found themselves at an extraordinary position. Likelyhood of that happening again anytime soon: small, but not non-existent. I will keep playing.
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