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RPGWatch Forums » Comments » News Comments » Planescape: Torment - Retrospective @ Play.tm

Default Planescape: Torment - Retrospective @ Play.tm

January 17th, 2009, 20:26
Play.tm has an article up taking a look back at Black Isle's classic cRPG, Planescape:Torment:
Outstandingly unique, intelligently comedic, and incomparably atmospheric; the masterpiece I'm talking about is Black Isle Studio's Planescape: Torment. Feelings of love, of loss, and of determination and fascination are associated to the mere recollection of the game's name. This is a game which truly influenced my life, the game was released in 1999 and its philosophical themes and thought-provoking dialogue were partially my inspiration, after a life-time of studying pure science, for choosing a typically arts-related subject - Philosophy - as my university degree back in 2001.
The main story-line, the self-discovery of an immortal who only suffers the symptoms of amnesia where a normal man would encounter death, acts as a solid overcoat to the true beauty at the heart of the game - the engrossing artistic tangle of sub-plots, metaphors, expression, and imaginative themes. One such recurring story node is central to this, the brutally profound effect which the protagonist's many lives have had on the individuals who have come and gone in the PS:T universe.
For those who get sucked in PS:T is a game which will cause the thinker to challenge his very perception of the real world, and will shortly after lighten the mood with base-level tongue-in-cheek humour - not dissimilar to the dialogs in Fallout and Fallout 2 with which PS:T shared much of its development team. Much to the credit of lead developer (read: creative coordinator) Chris Avellone, the interweaving of the graphical design, musical score and novel-like finesse of the game produces something that is more emotionally immersive than anything else synthetic I've come across.
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January 17th, 2009, 20:26
I've played several absolutely amazing 'games' in my life, but this one goes much further than that well into the realm of art. It also spoiled me; I've been waiting for years for something to come close this.. How long must we wait?

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January 18th, 2009, 00:01
Originally Posted by Karmakaze View Post
I've played several absolutely amazing 'games' in my life, but this one goes much further than that well into the realm of art. It also spoiled me; I've been waiting for years for something to come close this.. How long must we wait?
I, too have been waiting 10 years or so to play an similar amazing game like PS: Torment. Unfortunately, it seems that we must wait - forever & and a day (to paraphrase nat king cole).

The reason for this is that the game didn't sell well, the game was released during the 1999-2001 turnabout in the PCbusiness/industry that eventually lead to the downfall of Black Isle (and Interplay apparently, too - at least for a short while). Since 2002 or at least 2004-2005, games have more been a business than gamer nerds saying that they are making games 'for gamers by gamers.' (the old interplay motto).

This means that the industry looks at what is the next big thing and cranks out everything that looks, smells and plays the same as the other companies do; if the other companies have an MMMO, so must we. If the other companies have an FPSRPG statbased shooter (SBS), so must we. And somewhere along the line, adventure game got lost in the shuffle. That's why I buy adventure games, btw. To seng a signal and a message to the devs. and publishers out there; adventure games still have a place in the market is the signal, I'm sending.

Adventure games have way too much dialogue, way too much text, you need to read, way to many puzzles you need to solve in order to progress. It requires that you think, often outside the box, to progress in the game. PS: Torment did the same. It did not sell that well, I believe? The total selling seem to have been about 500,000 copies during the last 10 years (the game was released in 1999)

And that alone is the reason we won't se another game like PS: Torment or a game similar to PS: Torment in this day and age; Fallout 3 has sold about 2 million copies during the game's first two months. The new Tomb Raider Underworld sold about 1 million games during its first 6-8 weeks…

I would still like to see a gaming company or a game publisher making a small (independent) studio that will make and fund the development of games for the hardcore fans (like myself). It will probably be a guaranteed 400,000-500,000 sales (at least). The Witcher sold a million in a year, so it can be done.

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January 18th, 2009, 00:34
I think back then, games were still for kids and teens for the most part had something to do with it. Not many gamers back then could appreciate the dialogue and many of the games features.

That said there is still hope for a game like this to be released, Obsidian is slowly getting the best part of black isle into them. So there is still hope.
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January 18th, 2009, 01:50
I think the last years have been under the sign of the rising 3D graphics engines. PsT came out nearly at the peak of 2D gaming. After year 2000, games had to advance primary in a technical way. It was a new technology, a new way of thinking, it needs a completely different game philosophy than in the old days. It always needs some time to recognize the weakness and the strengths of a new technology. E.g the telephone has been seen in the first days as a method to transmit orchestra music over a long distance. They didn't see the real point in that technology. The same for the internet. In the beginning, they thought of it as an exchange for scientific essays. Even the first homepages mainly consisted of business descriptions like a commercial flyer. Compare the old days to Web 2.0 nowadays, it's totally different how we use it.

3D engines had and still have a big influence on PC gaming. But it needed some time to get it under control. For me 3D technology now seems to have evolved long enough to create a similar game experience than PsT. For me the so called NextGen games are an indicator for the next step. It's not all about graphics anymore. It's still important, but they don't rush for it any longer. Creating a believeable world and filling it with a motivating gameplay. Take a look at Bioshock, GTA IV or Assassin's Creed. Even if not perfect, they are way better than many of the games between 2000 and 2005/6.

It's simple a question of time, when we will see another milestone like PsT.

Personally I think Max Payne was such a Milestone in terms of storytelling. And Deus Ex in terms of level design and nonlinearity combined with a motivating story and a simple, but also demanding gameplay

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January 18th, 2009, 10:35
Originally Posted by Avantenor View Post
I think the last years have been under the sign of the rising 3D graphics engines. PsT came out nearly at the peak of 2D gaming. After year 2000, games had to advance primary in a technical way. It was a new technology, a new way of thinking, it needs a completely different game philosophy than in the old days. It always needs some time to recognize the weakness and the strengths of a new technology. E.g the telephone has been seen in the first days as a method to transmit orchestra music over a long distance. They didn't see the real point in that technology. The same for the internet. In the beginning, they thought of it as an exchange for scientific essays. Even the first homepages mainly consisted of business descriptions like a commercial flyer. Compare the old days to Web 2.0 nowadays, it's totally different how we use it.

3D engines had and still have a big influence on PC gaming. But it needed some time to get it under control. For me 3D technology now seems to have evolved long enough to create a similar game experience than PsT. For me the so called NextGen games are an indicator for the next step. It's not all about graphics anymore. It's still important, but they don't rush for it any longer. Creating a believeable world and filling it with a motivating gameplay. Take a look at Bioshock, GTA IV or Assassin's Creed. Even if not perfect, they are way better than many of the games between 2000 and 2005/6.

It's simple a question of time, when we will see another milestone like PsT.

Personally I think Max Payne was such a Milestone in terms of storytelling. And Deus Ex in terms of level design and nonlinearity combined with a motivating story and a simple, but also demanding gameplay
Torment wasn't released at the peak of 2D gaming, it was released near the end. Now, 3D gaming hasn't peaked yet - but after Doom in 1993, it's steadily become the way to go. Think of games like Ultima Underworld and System Shock - both before the middle of the nineties - and you'll realise that technology didn't dictate depth of gameplay, even back then. Note that none of those games were "true 3D" - but that's irrelevant.

I know there's this idea that technology is constantly evolving, and the evolution of gameplay is stagnating - but in my opinion it has very little to do with technology itself. Also, Torment was basically an interactive book with RPG elements, and definitely not the flag-carrier for advanced gameplay. No, the story and presentation would hold it back today, not the simplistic gameplay.

But as I said, technology is not the problem. It's the audience - and before we can see a modern equivalent of PS:T, we need the general audience ready for such an experience. When I say equivalent - I mean in terms of production values. Torment had reasonably good production values, which means the investment was not insignificant. That's really the key to a repeat, that a reasonable investment will yield a reasonable return.

The problem with big developers today, is that they all seek the gold. They all aspire to the big hit, and none of them seem content to invest small and yield small profit. No, they MUST hit it big. It's a mystery to me, really, as a company like Bioware/EA could easily make a few games for smaller markets and ultimately profit by investing less than they're used to.

I guess that's not what you do in America.

Anyway, the only shot we have of another Torment, though I'm not personally a fan, is to have a talented indie developer make a go for it.

I don't see the general audience ever being ready for another Torment, or at least not one that's as demanding in terms of reading superfluous text.
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January 18th, 2009, 10:53
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I guess that's not what you do in America.

Of course, that's what they do everywhere else….
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January 18th, 2009, 13:52
Yes, the problem in making a game like or even similar to Torment is not the gameplay; the depth of the gameplay, the actual presentation, the amount of text you'll need to read, the depth of the choices and the consequences thereof. And the philosophical question about what can change 'the nature of a man'.

I liked the idea behind Torment; you're the nameless one, you wake up, you don't know who you are. During the game you get to remember this, even through dying - either by high intelligence or by varius tatoos on your body. Death actually means something in this game —- it will let you remember more of your past.

As I said, The Witcher seems to be making a game that is an indie game (sort of); it is saluted at both the Codex, among the casual players and the hardcore players.

I also agree that Bioware could be making a game like or similar PS: Torment. I hope DA: Origins will be in the same vein as PS: Torment, Baldur's Gate and Jade Empire. And I urge any of you with just a trifle, tad or smidging interest in the game to actually buy the game - to send a strong signal to the powers that be (EA) that there is a market for these games.

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January 18th, 2009, 14:05
Originally Posted by aries100 View Post
I hope DA: Origins will be in the same vein as PS: Torment, Baldur's Gate and Jade Empire.

I find that to be an odd comment, as those 3 games are all quite different from one another. Unless you're simply refering to the overall production quality. In that case all 3 were very good, although I think Jade Empire was a notch below PST and BG.
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January 18th, 2009, 15:49
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
I know there's this idea that technology is constantly evolving, and the evolution of gameplay is stagnating - but in my opinion it has very little to do with technology itself. Also, Torment was basically an interactive book with RPG elements, and definitely not the flag-carrier for advanced gameplay. No, the story and presentation would hold it back today, not the simplistic gameplay.

But as I said, technology is not the problem. It's the audience - and before we can see a modern equivalent of PS:T, we need the general audience ready for such an experience. When I say equivalent - I mean in terms of production values. Torment had reasonably good production values, which means the investment was not insignificant. That's really the key to a repeat, that a reasonable investment will yield a reasonable return.
Mmh, interesting points, I have to admit. But I think the audience also has shifted in their expectations. There are not more or less people that demand for sophisticated games in terms of story. There are only different expectations towards it's presentation.

People today also like artificial literature, but they wouldn't buy a blank copy Shakespeare or Goethe anymore. The use of a language and orchestration changes over the time. Also does the presentation of a game story. 3D isn't only a technical innovation, it's a dramaturgical element. Using cinematics in ingame engine, or - another example - transfering the whole print text into full voice overs wouldn't make PsT more or less intellectual, but could add a whole bunch of new, younger fans to that kind of gaming.
I think most of us grew up with 2D gaming. We all decided what kind of games we want to play, when 3D was right at the beginning. But meanwhile there is a new generation of gamers, that don't have that experience and surely don't want to go back to "the old days" they don't really know and they wouldn't feel comfortable with. PsT today couldn't be done in the way it has been done anno 1999. But there are new ways of game design, that could produce another game in that spirit. And that people would be willing to pay for. Making the product comfortable for the new kind of audience, without removing it's core strenghts.

Anyway, the only shot we have of another Torment, though I'm not personally a fan, is to have a talented indie developer make a go for it.
Many indie developers tend to stick to "the good old times". That's not the way it works, imho. I don't see any impulses coming from that corner of game development.

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January 18th, 2009, 15:50
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
The problem with big developers today, is that they all seek the gold.
I don't see the general audience ever being ready for another Torment, or at least not one that's as demanding in terms of reading superfluous text.
I agree, PS:T is in a way like David Lynch's work: it's so clearly not for mass consumption that noone major wants to finance it these days. Oh the eternal issue of art vs. art as business.
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January 18th, 2009, 15:52
Originally Posted by Nikus View Post
I agree, PS:T is in a way like David Lynch's work: it's so clearly not for mass consumption that noone major wants to finance it these days.
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January 18th, 2009, 16:03
It really is. In some way. It's not satiesfying at all. But it's the nearest approach in the last years.

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January 18th, 2009, 16:05
Originally Posted by Avantenor View Post
People today also like artificial literature, but they wouldn't buy a blank copy Shakespeare or Goethe anymore. The use of a language and orchestration changes over the time. Also does the presentation of a game story. 3D isn't only a technical innovation, it's a dramaturgical element. Using cinematics in ingame engine, or - another example - transfering the whole print text into full voice overs wouldn't make PsT more or less intellectual, but could add a whole bunch of new, younger fans to that kind of gaming.
I think most of us grew up with 2D gaming. We all decided what kind of games we want to play, when 3D was right at the beginning. But meanwhile there is a new generation of gamers, that don't have that experience and surely don't want to go back to "the old days" they don't really know and they wouldn't feel comfortable with. PsT today couldn't be done in the way it has been done anno 1999. But there are new ways of game design, that could produce another game in that spirit. And that people would be willing to pay for. Making the product comfortable for the new kind of audience, without removing it's core strenghts.
Yes, I agree. Torment is actually suitable for a modern presentation, because its strengths lie in the story and plot - not the gameplay. Had the gameplay been more sophisticated, it would have had less of a chance of being remade in true spirit. That's why Bioshock was a simplified System Shock with a story that was easier to digest (and unfortunately very easy to pick apart) - but it suited the modern audience much better than a game with equally sophisticated gameplay, or heaven forbid: an evolution of that gameplay.

However, it would require something very different than the interactive book format that Torment was - and as such, I'm sceptical what company would be qualified to make a modern but faithful game.

People are no different today than they always were, as in the majority want easy-to-digest entertainment, because the majority is casual. We should be pleased with the few decades we had when gaming was in its infancy, and the playerbase was mostly enthusiastic fans - also known as hardcore gamers. Those days are long gone, and today it's an industry much like the music or movie business.

Many indie developers tend to stick to "the good old times". That's not the way it works, imho. I don't see any impulses coming from that corner of game development.
Give it time.

Indie gaming is just beginning, and it's only recently the market as a whole started to realise the shift towards mainstream big business. People need to catch up and appreciate that there's still a sizable "hardcore" audience that is willing to invest in a deep and complex title. As long as the indies understand that profit will be modest. I think that's the key to successful indie development that will yield titles resembling the golden stuff from the 90s.
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January 18th, 2009, 16:06
Originally Posted by Nikus View Post
I agree, PS:T is in a way like David Lynch's work: it's so clearly not for mass consumption that noone major wants to finance it these days. Oh the eternal issue of art vs. art as business.
I will spare you my opinion of Lynch's work

But your point is solid, all the same.
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January 18th, 2009, 16:43
Originally Posted by aries100 View Post
And that alone is the reason we won't se another game like PS: Torment or a game similar to PS: Torment in this day and age; Fallout 3 has sold about 2 million copies during the game's first two months. The new Tomb Raider Underworld sold about 1 million games during its first 6-8 weeks…
Even with 1,5 mil sales the new tomb raider sold 500,000 less than expected and Eidos scored 22 million euro loss for it.

Originally Posted by aries100 View Post
I would still like to see a gaming company or a game publisher making a small (independent) studio that will make and fund the development of games for the hardcore fans (like myself). It will probably be a guaranteed 400,000-500,000 sales (at least). The Witcher sold a million in a year, so it can be done.
Anyone thats willing to do games with small development costs. The bigger developers are not interested though because their limited resources are better spent on mainstream projects that turn out bigger profit margins. Witcher is a nice exception but I hope they dont plan to go "big" too.

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January 18th, 2009, 17:18
King's Bounty's success gives me hope that there's a developer out there that can do something approaching PS:T's quality and depth while meeting or exceeding their goals for sales. I don't know the sales numbers, but I'd assume they were pleased with the relative popularity and sales of that game. That would be my off-the-cuff argument that "it can be done".

On the other hand, a game like FO3 worries me because some would say its massive sales validate the argument that it was done properly; "it was evidently what the market desired". I was hoping for a game that was much more like the first two.
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January 18th, 2009, 18:33
Originally Posted by Avantenor View Post
They didn't see the real point in that technology. The same for the internet. In the beginning, they thought of it as an exchange for scientific essays. Even the first homepages mainly consisted of business descriptions like a commercial flyer. Compare the old days to Web 2.0 nowadays, it's totally different how we use it.
Actually, we were ignoring the Internet, not because we didn't understand it, because we didn't see any business applications for it.

Everyone saw two groups of customers in the beginning. The first was governments and businesses the size of governments. The second was telephone companies, because they were the obvious ones in the best position to eventually provide data services to that first group of customers.

No one — absolutely no one — envisioned the amount of interest individuals would have in getting Internet access. Once that became clear, the numbers suddenly changed. We had been thinking in terms of targeting hundreds of whales, but hundreds of thousand of smaller fish came out of nowhere, waiting to be caught, and everyone suddenly realized the enormous potential.

Internet 2.0 (whatever that means at the moment) might happen someday. Until then there's still some uncertainty. This stuff is technically challenging, covers a lot of ground where monkey wrenches can pop out of nowhere, and involves customers who are often adept while remaining somewhat befuddled.

Having said all that, I think it is analogous to computer gaming. The real market for these games is everyone who owns a PC. That's what we didn't consider back then and is what publishers aren't considering now.

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January 18th, 2009, 18:46
do not forget the outstanding pieces of music by Marc Morgan. His work added so much to the overall feeling…
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January 18th, 2009, 19:07
Originally Posted by DArtagnan View Post
The problem with big developers today, is that they all seek the gold. They all aspire to the big hit, and none of them seem content to invest small and yield small profit. No, they MUST hit it big. It's a mystery to me, really, as a company like Bioware/EA could easily make a few games for smaller markets and ultimately profit by investing less than they're used to.
Same as in the music industry. Exactly the same.

How many major labels have had bands let go because they had no big commercial success ?

Now, the industry depends - must depend on a few "big hits" bands, because otherwise they (in the industry) wouldn't get enough money to maintain the whole companies themselves … They have made themselves dependent from a few "big hits" bands, in a way.

Now, other labels like Eagle Records have them, and they have enough niche profits to maintain whole lines - and even bring out great remasters !

Eagle Records has brought out the last Yes DVDs, Remasters, even albums.
Plus, they expand on bringing out different - yet niche-oriented - material: My favourite example is the "Mike Oldfield at Montreaux" DVD which shows absolutely unique live material from the mid-80s ! And that although there's [b]hardly[7b] ever live material out from him !

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