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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » RPGWatch Feature: Tales of Toment, Part 1

Default RPGWatch Feature: Tales of Toment, Part 1

July 30th, 2007, 13:37
Our latest feature should be a treat for Planescape: Toment fans. An undeniable classic, guest interviewer Brother None talk to designers Chris Avellone and Colin McComb about the inspiration and development of Planescape: Torment in a detailed two-part conversation, replete with some original design documents. Here is a snip from Part 1:

RPGWatch: Planescape: Torment was never developed to be a huge hit. How much involvement or interference was there from the suits of the company?

Chris Avellone: As far as being a huge hit, I think everyone wanted Torment to sell very well (it made a profit, but not a huge one, and certainly not anywhere near Baldur's Gate numbers).
Still, there were a number of elements that I think hurt it in the long run:
- Not an accessible setting. It's not a fantasy world that is comfortable for players to settle into, and we did not take pains to make it comfortable (no dwarves, elves, or halflings, as one minor example).
- Story-heavy in the wrong ways. It has a slow start, and while the momentum does pick up in the Hive, there's a lot of reading, and people don't buy games to read, they buy games to play them.
- Marketing. The box of the product reinforces #1 above - it says, "hey, we're strange," rather than promoting it as a role-playing game using the Baldur's Gate engine, which probably would have made it a more interesting target to the game community.
As far as interference-from-above goes, we probably could have used more than we had - like Fallout, Torment was sort of under the radar for a while, and the producer role changed several times over the course of the project. Brian Fargo was mostly hands off, except to complement us on the writing, and give me a pretty stern lecture (deservedly) about the localization costs for the game. Feargus was also concerned about how much it slipped over the course of the development cycle, and those weren't fun discussions.
For this part, Chris gave us the original dialogue draft he wrote for Ravel and the final design documentation, showing the huge extent of the work involved.
Head here to read it all and watch for Part Two in a day or two.
More information.

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July 30th, 2007, 13:37
Just a quick thanks to Brother None for organising this feature and I hope everyone enjoys it.

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July 30th, 2007, 13:40
I haven't had a chance to try out Planescape: Toment yet. Does it build up on the strengths of Planescape: Torment or is it just a cash-in of a sequel?

Uh, is Kharn/Brother None/That freaky arabian nick he had for a while working at the Watch, or was it a joint venture?
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July 30th, 2007, 13:46
Bah, picky bastard. One little typo…

Just a collaboration. We were talking about some stuff and the idea came up to do something non-Fallout just for fun/a change of pace.

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July 30th, 2007, 14:20
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
Bah, picky bastard. One little typo…
NWN2: Mast of the Betrayer
Arrrrrrrrr

Great interview, thanks BN. Avellone is pretty critical of this brainchild of his, isn't he? As good as it was, he apparently thinks the market demands different games. A pity.
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July 30th, 2007, 14:22
Originally Posted by Dhruin View Post
Bah, picky bastard. One little typo…


Just a collaboration. We were talking about some stuff and the idea came up to do something non-Fallout just for fun/a change of pace.
Cool.

Is that kind of collaboration open to all?
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July 30th, 2007, 14:26
Originally Posted by GhanBuriGhan View Post
NWN2: Mast of the Betrayer
Arrrrrrrrr
Bladder's Gate.

Ho!
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July 30th, 2007, 14:36
Great interview, good job! I didn't know Chris Avellone was responsible for so much in PS:T, he must be even better than I thought. Reading about PS:T made me want to pick it up again, it really is an amazing game.
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July 30th, 2007, 14:48
Kudos to RPGWWatch for this excellent interview. Since reading about then playing Torment, I have wanted more insight regarding the creation process for Torment. The design docs are especially worthwhile.

Good stuff! Thanks, Dhruin and Brother None.

Sometimes I think we're alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we're not. In either case the idea is quite staggering.
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July 30th, 2007, 14:53
Fascinating article and inside look at an unsurpassed classic.

I agree that Avellone is hard on the title regarding it's initial release sales figures. The sales "flaws" he lists are also some of the deep virtues from my perspective. I never even thought about missing elves or halflings,—in fact I found their absence refreshing—and my taste is definitely heavily skewed in the fantasy direction.

I hate to see this game evaluated in terms of sales at the time(when it was in competition with so many high profile, legendary crpgs and big games) If you're going to use money as a criterion, I think it says more that if you want to purchase this game now almost ten years after release, it costs as much or more than a new game, besides standing head and shoulders above most of them in terms of vision and gameplay. In contrast, you can get every BG title ever made bundled in a compilation for almost chump change.

Thanks for the look inside the box,guys.

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July 30th, 2007, 14:58
Actually, you can get PS:T for 10 bucks various places. A bit cheaper than the BG bundles that are usually around 12-15 bucks, but that's natural since it's two games + addons.

Edit: I should add that these prices are used, of course. You can't get PS:T new anymore unless you pay full price for it, since it's not actually getting produced as far as I know, but BG etc are all being sold in those "big hit bundles" where various companies buy the rights to sell the big hits relatively cheap.

If you want an original Baldur's Gate it will cost you about the same as PS:T, since neither are being produced in their original form anymore.
Last edited by Maylander; July 30th, 2007 at 15:05.
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July 30th, 2007, 15:12
Wow. Loved to take a peek at those design docs.

I'm humbled by the amount of work displayed there!
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July 30th, 2007, 15:32
Originally Posted by Role-Player View Post
Cool.

Is that kind of collaboration open to all?
Most definitely.

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July 30th, 2007, 17:19
Amazing! The ravel draft is pure gold for a fanboy like me.
Oh, and PS:T is still the best game ever made (story-wise).

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July 30th, 2007, 18:12
Definitely a wonderful read - I've been looking forward to this since I heard about the possibility, worth the wait

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July 30th, 2007, 18:35
Great article ! Cheers to everyone involved…

Now if only you guys were able to flush dear old Tim out of whatever hole he
is hiding in and do something similar for Arcanum
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July 30th, 2007, 19:13
Originally Posted by JonNik View Post
Now if only you guys were able to flush dear old Tim out of whatever hole he
is hiding in and do something similar for Arcanum
Hmmm…

Actually, I'm still in contact with Tim Cain too.

The difference, obviously, is that MCA and McComb were very happy to talk about PS:T again, it's nothing but happy memories to share and a lot of fun to talk about. Anything related to Troika, for Tim, is more "digging up painful memories" than happy fun good time. They did that piece with Escapist Mag a while ago, I think that's about the limits of what they'd be willing to do.
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July 30th, 2007, 19:24
Ravel is one of the best characters I've come across in all my gaming. I love how what you say to her at the very beginning of the game(in her second form) can affect what she says and what bonuses you get when you meet her in the maze.

Favourite RPGs of all time: Wizardry 6, Ultima 7/7.2, Fallout2, Planescape Torment, Baldurs Gate 2+TOB, Jagged Alliance 2, Ravenloft: The stone prophet, Gothic 2, Realms of Arkania:Blade of destiny (not the HD version!!) and Secret of the Silver Blades.
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July 30th, 2007, 19:24
What was the exact role of Guido Henkel in the development of PS:T ?

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong. - HL Mencken
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July 30th, 2007, 19:30
Originally Posted by BillSeurer View Post
This obsession with being able to kill children is disturbing.
Is it any more so than the obsession with killing aliens, orcs, criminals, civilians, soldiers or cops?
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