Planescape: Torment - All News
Tuesday - December 10, 2013
Planescape: Torment - Interview @ Matt Chat
Mat Barton continues his interview with Guido Henkel talking about Planescape: Torment.
I'm back this week for one last segment with Guido Henkel. After discussing why Guido prefers the second Realms of Arkania, we get into his move to Interplay and his work on Planescape: Torment. We also discuss other projects, including his unreleased superhero MMO
Monday - September 02, 2013
Planescape: Torment - One Of Dragon Age’s Big Influences?
Rock, Paper, Shotgun has a new article about Planescape: Torment, and it's influence on Dragon Age.
If you looked at the two games side-by-side, you wouldn’t necessarily know it. Dragon Age dresses in prim and proper fantasy garb while Planescape Torment slips into gnarled, otherworldly skin and acts like its magnificent eccentricity is as normal as a stroll in the park. And sure, Planescape’s personality is utterly brilliant, but it’s hardly all that defines it.
“I mean, we’re not gonna have a Modron wandering around in Dragon Age,” Laidlaw qualifies. “It won’t fit the world. But we can still look at our characters and say, ‘Are they intriguing enough? Do they offer wildly different perspectives?’”
Perhaps even more exciting, however, is the prospect of choices heavily inspired by Planescape’s exceedingly multifaceted approach. That, claims Laidlaw, is the real meat of this Dragon Age-Planescape sandwich, and he’s quite happy to offer variety and choices with real consequences – even if that means many players won’t see a fourth of the game on their first playthrough. He continues, growing ever more animated:
“The big thing Torment brought to the table was offering a lot of solutions to problems – really cool solutions. Not everything was fighting. Oftentimes being persuasive or having certain stat checks might take care of it. It was like, ‘I have a wisdom stat of 25, so let’s shortcut the entire ending.’ I really like that kind of stuff. It also did a great job of acknowledging the path you chose in the game.”
Sunday - August 11, 2013
Planescape: Torment - The Power of Narrative
Medium.com has an interesting editorial about the narrative of Planescape: Torment.
The thematic symbolism in the original Torment revolves around the question of predestination, consequences and redemption. It communicates its take on the archetype in a variety of different ways: through quests, allegories, myths, legends, truths and lies.
What makes it unique in its presentation, and serves as a good example of juvenile bravado of the designers, is that it cuts to the chase quickly, dialing down the pathos so prevalent in other RPGs. There is no world to save, no princess to rescue. There is only a character, and his introspective quest to answer a specific, explict question. The game reiterates the phrase many times over, nagging you, with an ever increasing frequency. It reaches a fever pitch in the grand finale:
"What can change the nature of man?"
For me it’s an easy one: a game of Torment.
Sunday - January 06, 2013
Planescape: Torment - Interview with Colin McComb @ Polish Fansite Grimuar Sferowca
Colin Mccomb from InXile Entertainment has been interviewed by Polish Fansite Grimuar Sferowca. The original Polish version is here. Colin Mccomb is also the lead for InXile's as-of-yet unannounced sequel to Planescape: Torment and a writer for Wasteland 2.
In the interview Colin talks about what he's been doing in the game industry, what he thinks of Planescape: Torment, he also comments on the end of Planescape: Torment.
Some story spoilers for Planescape: Torment is at the end of this interview, so read
at your own risk.
Here's a quote about which is more challenging - writing for games or writing books:
GS: You've written books, you've written games - which poses the bigger challenge? Do you prefer to create worlds that come to life solely in the reader's imagination or interactive ones offering the support of graphics and sound?
Colin: They're both challenging, but in different ways. Still, I think I'm going to have to give the edge to CRPGs, because in addition to developing compelling characters, an interesting plot, and narrative threads for other supporting actors, you need to develop a game that reacts to the player's choices. Is the protagonist going to make certain choices? You'd better think about those choices, and about how far you're going to allow the player to go down that path. This is one of the questions we had while developing Wasteland 2: how evil do we want to allow the player to be?
Here's a quote about where he finds his inspiration:
GS: It is said that creation comes from inspiration. Could you list some of the things that inspire you and stir your creativity? Have any particular works - literary or otherwise - proved to be a lasting influence on your own style and imagination?
Colin: Roger Zelazny has been a favorite of mine throughout my life as a fantasy reader. I started reading his "Chronicles of Amber" when I was in 7th grade, and have been reading or re-reading his works ever since - that's about 30 years of Zelazny reading, if you're keeping track. His work covers fantasy, science fiction, and all the places in between - as a speculative fiction writer, he was daring, imaginative, and deeply thoughtful, not to mention possessed of an incredible style and verve. But I do like to take inspiration from everything that I come across, whether it be painting, photography, music, sculpture, or simply living.
Here's a quote about Planescape: Torment:
GS: According to many, Planescape: Torment is a game not to be played but to be read. It wouldn't be an overstatement to claim that some of the game's individual storylines offered more "story" than many of today's cRPG productions in their entirety. What has happened to the narrative aspects of games in the recent years? In an era of fully animated dialogue sequences, can the narrative still prove a vital element of gameplay?
Colin: Part of the problem, I think, is that players have come to expect voice acting and animated cut-scenes and a host of other expensive goodies that must be planned, developed, and implemented well in advance of the game's completion. While planning is an important element of any development process, the incredible lead time and cost of modern dialogue takes a real toll on improvisation and inspiration during the development process. That said, I also believe that narrative does continue to play a vital role in gameplay, and developers like Obsidian and InXile prove that people are hungry to see narrative in gameplay.
Source: RPG Codex
Friday - December 07, 2012
Planescape: Torment - Brian Fargo to Secure Rights to Torment
RPGCodex brings news that Brian Fargo has secured the rights to Torment, but not Planescape, which remains to be owned by Wizards of the Coast. They have investigated that Torment is now owned by a company named 'Roxy Friday', whose active officers include Brian Fargo himself.
Colin McComb has already hinted at a potential follow up of Planescape:Torment, so maybe there is more information in his next blog.
Thanks Brother None.
Friday - August 24, 2012
Planescape: Torment - Podcast Post-Mortem
Podcast at Eurogamer with Chris Avellone, Colin McComb, Adam Heine and Scott Warner it's an hour long so apologies for not including too much detail. Host Robert Purchese.
Why only post-mortem new games? Why not, say, reach back in time for one of the best-loved role-playing games, try and track down the key people involved, and gather them for an hour-long chat and post-mortem?
Maybe they haven't spoken in a long time. Maybe they've got a new perspective on what they once created because of the path their life took since then. And maybe it's just nice to reminisce.
Why not, indeed. And so I present to you an hour-long Planescape: Torment post-mortem.
- Chris Avellone, the lead designer of Planescape: Torment, and currently chief creative officer at Obsidian Entertainment
- Colin McComb, Avellone's second, if you like - the second designer on Torment after McComb's own PlayStation Planescape game "got rolled up into it". Now commands an iPhone App company called Three Pound Games, and also writes the Oathbreaker series of fiction
- Adam Heine, scripter on Planescape: Torment, now living in Thailand "fostering 10 billion kids" and writing science fiction and fantasy for young adults (the final post on the official Planescape: Torment website concerns Heine's departure, and it's written by...)
- Scott Warner, then a junior designer on Planescape: Torment. Now, lead designer of Halo 4
Tuesday - August 21, 2012
Planescape: Torment - MCA on what a spiritual successor would look like
Kotaku decide to follow up Chris Avellone to ask exactly what a "spiritual successor" to Planescape: Torment would actually look like if they ever got that Kickstarter rolling:
At first glance, the painterly world and the HUD would be as distinctive as something you'd see in Planescape: Torment. We'd need to nail down a new art style, but there's elements related to Planescape that transcend that universe (dimension-bending landscapes, Escher-layouts, etc.). We wouldn't do anything approaching traditional fantasy in the look/layout of the world. Why? Because I'm exhausted with that. And if that's not compelling for people, then they won't back it on Kickstarter, my question of how appealing that is would be laid to rest, and I'll never have to wonder about it again. A camera and click-movement presentation similar to the Infinity engine isometric games. Even if the mechanics are different, at first glance, the game should share the view that Planescape did. Having a character basis and an advancement scheme with spells, traits, and abilities that are suited to the campaign setting and the system and narrative mechanics. As an example, Dak'kon's Unbroken Circle of Zerthimon and the spells he gained from that had a strong narrative bent, and I enjoy balancing out skill and spell trees that reinforce the philosophy of the world.
Wednesday - October 26, 2011
Planescape: Torment - What's in a Face?
If you've been around for a while you may know the face on the cover of the Planescape: Torment box was the producer, Guido Henkel (also well known for his work with the Realms of Arkania series and then with Sir-tech). The Rampant Coyote noticed a new entry at Guido's blog that tells how that came about, and offers a couple of photos:
Well, who am I to say no? So, the next day I went to the photo shoot. The really cool part about it is that we needed a monster-like look on the cover, as the character to be portrayed was undead. The agency had hired Hollywood special effects guru Tom Burman for the job, so I went to his workshop in Burbank. It was bit surreal, to walk into his studio and seeing all the work he had done on all sorts of movies, going way back to the original “Planet of the Apes” movies.
Source: Rampant Games
Sunday - August 21, 2011
Planescape: Torment - D&D Hall of Fame Nominee @ Diehard GameFAN
…and here it is. The one Dungeons & Dragons video game that is spoken of with such reverence amongst video game fans that it is hard to believe it is a licensed title. In fact, this game dominated the 1999/2000 awards scene across the globe, is considered to be Interplay and Black Isle’s greatest creation ever (although Fallout is far more famous since it is still around) and shows up on nearly every “Top XXX Games of All Time” lists regardless of what site or magazine puts it out. When someone boldly proclaims this game to be the greatest RPG of all time or the greatest PC game of all time, those statements are generally met with acceptance or mild debate with titles like X-Com thrown out as possible contenders as well. By now everyone knows I’m talking about Planescape: Torment. Of you know…they could have just looked at the title of this piece.
Planescape: Torment is the very epitome of a cult classic in our industry. It is a game whose fame and sales came about because of word of mouth and the sheer quality of the game instead of name brand awareness. Hell, the D&D logo didn’t even appear on the cover – only a small TSR logo was there. Unless you were familiar with the tabletop campaign setting by the same name, you’d have no idea what Planescape originally started as. Otherwise, it was just a box with a weird dude’s face on it.
Monday - May 16, 2011
Planescape: Torment - Torment Need Not Be Eternal
GameBanshee has a Planescape: Torment restrospective of sorts that discusses "the context it finds itself in ten years after its release, where I could see the property moving in the future, and which direction I'd like it to go in". It also addresses comments made recently by Feargus Urqhart on the possibility of a sequel:
As I mentioned above, Obsidian's Feargus Urquhart had some candid words to share regarding his thoughts on a potential sequel to Planescape: Torment. I share them below for the benefit of readers:
"I remember right after finishing Planescape: Torment I spoke to Chris Avellone [Obsidian creative director] and asked what he wanted to do, and he was like, ‘I don't wanna do a sequel!' We haven't talked about it in ten years, but it might be different now. But a lot of revisiting old games is about saying, ‘okay, that worked in 1999, what would work now?' And how would you do it again?"
"We'd have to think a lot about it, because it would have to be done right, otherwise the fans of the original would be pissed off and new people wouldn't get it. That would be terrible."
To begin, in all fairness, I'd like to reiterate that Obsidian have not confirmed they are working on a Planescape: Torment sequel, nor have they confirmed they have any plans to do so. This comment by Feargus comes during an interview in Play magazine, when asked about games he would potentially want to revisit. Rumours have abounded recently about whether Obsidian would be revisiting some of their most celebrated games of the past, so it's worth pointing out that this represents the opinion of one person, and is not indicative of the direction of the company as a whole.
It's worth noting RPGWatch discussed a sequel with Chris Avellone years ago in an excellent interview by Brother None. Here's part of what he said in 2007:
RPGWatch: Do you feel it would be a good idea to make a sequel to PS:T? If so, how do you envision it? If not, how about another game in the Planescape setting?
Chris Avellone: A long time ago, I did kick around the idea of two sequels. One was "Lost Souls," an adventure that allowed the player to experience the events surrounding Torment (both past and future) but the Nameless One wouldn't be in it - it would, however, feature Deionarra, some of the members of the player's first party (Xachariah), Fall-From-Grace, Ravel, Trias, and other major characters and see the Planescape universe from a different perspective. This didn't go much beyond a one-page vision statement, though, and I never submitted it for serious consideration.
One I felt less strongly about (but still liked) was "Planescape: Pariah", which allowed the player to take on the role of Dak'kon and try to unify the githzerai and githyanki, but again, that never went past the vision doc stage.
The reason I never submitted either one was because a direct sequel somehow feels wrong (I feel the game stands on its own, and I don't want to drag a rake through the first game).
I'd be up for another game in the Planescape setting, though. Some of the Planescape mods I've seen for Neverwinter Nights 2 would probably put any ideas I had to shame, though - they're pretty amazing. I know there’s a few guys at work who would also like to do a Planescape game.
Tuesday - April 12, 2011
Planescape: Torment - Retrospective @ Thunderbolt
Thunderbold looks back at Planescape:Torment and brings back memories of it flaws and greatness.
Somehow, despite its flaws, Planescape feels more endearing than most every big budget title made today. While almost every modern game feels so focus-tested they never leave players any doubt as to how to progress, and feature perfectly crafted difficulty curves to climb, they are also so slick, shallow, and risk-free as to risk losing all sense of emotional connection. By not challenging us to do anything other than sit and follow a straight line of breadcrumbs from opening tutorial to three-stage last boss, so many games have lost their sense of adventure, of risk, of discovery and accomplishment. And while Planescape is not, by any means, perfect, it is something more interesting than almost every game found today. In not doing all of our thinking for us, by not rushing ahead, by not laying its entire story out in front of us from the opening scenes, Planescape feels less like an interactive movie, as most games of today are trying to be, and instead creates the feeling of wading through a dense, dusty, 1,000 page fantasy novel. It meanders and sprawls and hints at two dozen paths before finally working its way back, brilliantly, to an answer that’s been staring us in the face the entire time.
Monday - April 04, 2011
Planescape: Torment - The Unbroken Circle of Zerthimon
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.
Tuesday - September 28, 2010
Planescape: Torment - Now Available on GOG!
Santa has come early this year. First there was Baldur's Gate and now with a move that took me completely by surprise GoG has released Planescape: Torment. It comes with the manual, 2 wallpapers, soundtrack, 16 avatars, 104 artworks and a Chris Avellone and Colin McComb book. It's 9.99 USD and you can get it here.
Tuesday - June 29, 2010
Planescape: Torment - Retrospective @ RPGFan
The author of this Planescape: Torment retrospective at RPGFan makes his feelings known right from the beginning, and it will strike a chord with a few readers:
They don't make games like this anymore. Bringing video games to a wider audience has its merits, namely making video games a more acceptable form of entertainment, but increased accessibility and multiplayer support has wreaked significantly more havoc than good in recent years. And it only looks to be getting worse. In an effort to make games that every Joe Simpleton can play and enjoy, developers have streamlined gameplay, simplified story, axed challenge, and watered down the single-player experience. Developers have thus spawned a landfill of shovelware and dreck so large it could contain every one of Peter Molyneux's unfulfilled promises and save room for those from his next game. Everyone from Nintendo to Bioware has gone to the dark side, giving us pitifully easy Zeldas and overly streamlined Mass Effects.
There will never be another Planescape: Torment. Released in 1999, it is better than almost every other game in the last decade, better than perhaps all but one game released in the last five years, and certainly better than any RPG released during that time. Torment is as complex in story and characters as it is in gameplay, and we'll never see anything like this again if the world continues to worship multiplayer experiences and developers continue to target an audience that includes everyone and their unborn children.
Tuesday - March 30, 2010
Planescape: Torment - The Gift of Torment
Remember Greg Kasavin? Former EiC of GameSpot? GameBanshee has noticed his blog and an article called The Gift of Torment, on one of the pioneering aspects of Torment's dialogue. He makes some curious assertions about Mass Effect 2 but it's otherwise a nice piece:
In other words, Torment is the first RPG to introduce player intent into dialogue, which may be contradictory to the substance of the dialogue -- it's a game in which you can say one thing and mean another, and use this to deliberately lie at times, by means of the authored choices presented to you.
In a typical RPG, you might be asked by a character to retrieve an item, and tell that person "Yes, I'll do it" even if you as a player don't really know if you're going to do it or not -- probably you just want the quest logged in case you stumble upon it. You don't think about these types of interactions, and, as evidenced by the completely disposable text content for quests in games like World of Warcraft, they do little to build a meaningful connection between you, your character, or the gameworld. But in this same type of situation, Torment typically would give you at least two options: "Yes, I'll do it" (Truth) and "Yes, I'll do it" (Lie). And it would fully support these choices -- lying would affect your character's moral alignment, leading to other changes in gameplay. But even when it didn't really matter whether you told the truth or not, the game made you stop and think about what you were saying.
Friday - January 01, 2010
Planescape: Torment - Ghostdog's UI Mod
If you've tried bigg's widescreen mod on Planescape: Torment, you'll appreciate the interface elements are less than ideal. Step in Ghostdog, who has finished version 2.0 of his UI mod, which centres all the UI elements in different resolutions and offers three different font sizes to cope with the smaller text. There's a full description and video here or download from this page.
Time for another play through!
Monday - December 14, 2009
Planescape: Torment - Feature Article @ Diehard GameFan
On the 12th of December 2009 Planescape: Torment had its 10th birthday. Since the game has been re-released to work on modern day systems, questions naturally arise whether Planescape: Torment should be revived in some way - or not.
In a feature article, Planescape: Torment - Sequel, Spin Off, Start Over or Stay Dead? Editors at the site Diehard GameFan are discussing just this. They decided to let the sleeping dogs lie - and let The Nameless One rest in peace:
As happy as I am that the game was re-released to run on modern systems, there's no way in hell I want to see this game being remade as Black Isle Studios is sadly long dead. I also don't want to see a sequel, simply because without Black Isle, there is no way it could measure up. Now, a sequel is possible as The Nameless One would now be fighting in the Blood War, but again, without the original team, a sequel would only sully the good name of the original. A spin-off also isn't that possible because Planescape itself is a spin-off of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, which no longer exists.
Do you agree with the statements made by the editors?
Friday - November 20, 2009
Planescape: Torment - Re-released
Planescape: Torment - along with other Infinity Engine series Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale - are shipping from Amazon.co.uk. There are seperate releases also but I've linked to the total collections and the others aren't difficult to find for the completists.
Monday - November 16, 2009
Planescape: Torment - Retrospective @ Resolution Magazine
Resolution Magazine's Lewis Denby has written a 2-page retrospective on Planescape Torment.
Published to critical acclaim a decade ago, this game never sold well. Yet, it still managed to find itself into the hearts and minds of fans, which, even today, are very passionate about this game.
And you avatar, The Nameless One, will have a talking skull at his side - and can never die.
He’s bound to live for all eternity, across multiple lives, resurrected after each death and returned to Sigil once more. This isn’t a measly plot device, either, for Planescape is a game in which you can never die. You are only ever snapped back to life in an arbitrary location of the world, your memories of lives gone by becoming ever more hazy.
The writing in the game is superb and continues to be so - even a decade later:
Decoded, it was some of the finest of any videogame in the world, and remains such a decade on. Its brand of corrupted Victorian cockney slang, merged with the elegance of the best high-fantasy literature, makes it an outlandishly unique thing to read through. And although it asks a lot of the reader, the reward it pays is remarkable: it tells a story unlike no other game, in a way that no other game has dared to even try mimicking.
Interplay is re-releasing Planescape: Torment on November 20th 2009
Wednesday - September 30, 2009
Planescape: Torment - Retro Road Test
Surely one of the most re-reviewed games of all time, Aussie ISP Internode takes a look at PS:T in what they call a Retro Road Test:
Taking on the role of the Nameless One, a man who does not know who he is, or why he is alive, your job in Planescape: Torment is to find out why out why you cannot die. The game is unique in many ways – death is not the end, and in some cases, it is used as a way of advancing the story forward.
Unlike RPGs released around the same time, Planescape: Torment does not have a primary focus on combat. While there is probably enough fighting to satisfy die-hard AD&D fans, there is a whole lot of roleplaying to do in the game. This is backed up by excellent writing, with vivid descriptions of the NPC's actions, and appearances, all of which could not have been achieved by the graphics of the day.
Monday - September 28, 2009
Planescape: Torment - Who owns the rights?
Blue's has picked up on a tweet from Direct2Drive, saying they'd love to re-release Planescape: Torment if they could only figure out who controls the rights:
@Daggity hah, would love to re-release Plancescape...if we could find someone who actually owns the rights! Sad.
Presumably they would have already started with Interplay and WotC?
Source: Blues News
Monday - August 24, 2009
Planescape: Torment - Retrospective @ Eurogamer
Eurogamer has a nice retrospective on Planescape: Torment. Here's a sample:
Planescape is the game most likely to be name-dropped by PC journalists, after Deus Ex. Planescape is the game that took the cigarette-end of the superb Baldur's Gate engine-based games and immolated their legacy in a ball of conspicuous failure, followed shortly by the apparent collapse of its publisher, Interplay. Planescape is a game that, shamefacedly, one of our writers gave 7/10 to, though his reasons were just. Planescape is the only game I've ever borrowed and not given back (I do hope they're not reading...)
Monday - March 16, 2009
Planescape: Torment - Site Update @ The Locus Inn
Our hosted site The Locus Inn has moved the contents from the old site to this location. You can find it right here and it includes info on all characters and all items in the game, several hints and tips, interactive maps and a walkthrough.
Planescape: Torment - Moved information
I finally got around to make another update to the site. I moved all the info about Planescape:Torment from the old site. You can find it right here and it includes info on all characters and all items in the game, several hints and tips, interactive maps and a walkthrough.
Wednesday - February 25, 2009
Planescape: Torment - New Walkthrough @ Sorcerer's Place
Sorcerer's Place adds to the online resources for Black Isle's classic tale of the Nameless One, Planescape:Torment, with a recently completed in-depth walkthrough covering all major quests and sidequests in the game, character creation, NPCs and more.
Here's the full description:
After a couple weeks' availability to SPS account holders and fixing up some last minute quirks, we are now ready to open up our brand new Planescape: Torment Online Walkthrough to the (un)washed masses!
Montresor has done a great job writing it, covering just about everything in the game, from the quests to NPCs, items, character creation and more. The walkthrough comes with handy online maps and screenshots for easy visualization, so using it should be a snap.
We believe that the walkthrough is complete and free of errors, but as with any major new feature, something may have slipped our attention. If you spot any such problems, please report them.
You can check it out here.
Saturday - January 17, 2009
Planescape: Torment - Retrospective @ Play.tm
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.
Thursday - August 21, 2008
Planescape: Torment - Updates to Qwinn's Fixpack, Tweak, Unfinished Business
Thanks to the folks at Spellhold Studios for letting us know Qwinn's suite of Planescape: Torment mods has been updated. The Fixpack (incorporating Platter's and Skardavnelnate's fixes) and Unfinished Business have hit v3.0 and the Tweakpack is at v2.0. Hit up this page at Spellhold for the details.
Friday - July 04, 2008
Planescape: Torment - Interview with Chris Avellone @ BellaOnline
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.
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.
Friday - June 06, 2008
Planescape: Torment - Mods @ Spellhold Studios
Spellhold Studios is hosting three new Planescape: Torment mods, as explained in this post from their front page:
The Planescape: Torment Fixpack is a comprehensive WeiDU Fixpack for Black Isle’s classic Planescape: Torment CRPG. Fixing literally hundreds of bugs and thousands of typos, thereby restoring a lot of lost and inactive content, the PS:T Fixpack (along with PS:T Unfinished Business and Qwinn’s PS:T Tweak Pack) provides a completely new Planescape: Torment experience! Click here for a list of the most important fixes, as well as further information on the mod itself.
Planescape: Torment Unfinished Business takes the almost-but-not-quite-finished content that shipped with Black Isle’s classic Planescape: Torment CRPG and polishes, bugfixes and finishes it so you can see and enjoy the new content in your game! With 14 components in the first release, this mod is a must-have for anyone interested in seeing what the developers didn’t get time to do--or even if you’re just looking for some new content! Click here for information on each of the compenents and further information on the mod itself.
Qwinn’s Planescape: Torment Tweaks adds a few ease-of-use tweaks to your Planescape: Torment install, as well as one or two must-have components! Including a banter accelerator, ease-of-use tweaks and several content changes, this is an extremely useful mod for any player. Click here for information on each of the compenents and further information on the mod itself.
Thursday - May 29, 2008
Planescape: Torment - Planescape Landscapes @ RPS
The resolution mod for Planescape: Torment shouldn't be news to our readers (and if it is - it isn't now) but I thought this piece at Rock, Paper, Shotgun was worth a look. Alec Meer has been replaying the masterpiece in 1600x1050 res and took some screens, showing off the gorgeous artwork that this resolution unlocks:
Playing PST at 1680×1050 thanks to this mod - the pixels not stretched, but rather the game world expanded, a vast amount more of it now visible at any one time - I’m constantly struck by how beautiful it is. It seems less a thing of pixels now, and more a vast painting. Particularly, the cursed, sinister city of Sigil is no longer a collection of short, dingy alleyways and squat, disconnected buildings, but this grand expanse of gothic metropolis - bustling with NPC life, sprawling and darkly gorgeous. I get the sense this is Planescape as it was intended to look. It’s a different game for it, and now I stop to stare at the world as much as I do the elegiac prose. Unfortunately, the increased resolution does make said prose (and much of the UI) squinty-small, but I’m more than happy to make do. Oblivion, NWN2, The Witcher - losers in the 2D vs 3D RPG war. Give me this any day.
Tuesday - January 01, 2008
Planescape: Torment - Retrospective @ The Brainy Gamer
A piece called Don't Trust the Skull at The Brainy Gamer sees the titular player (a college professor, apparently) replaying Planescape: Torment (and another even older called A Mind Forever Voyaging) with an eye on narrative and the aim of comparing the quality of the narrative, characters and emotion with modern samples - namely Mass Effect and Bioshock. Interesting idea, although the result isn't as deep as I'd like. The link above is the conclusion with the idea starting here and then two PS:T game diaries as he moves along (Day 1, Day 5). Spoiler alert, obviously; here's a sample:
The genius of Avellone's narrative construction is the way he ensures an advancing plot while offering complexity and resonance to the player who is willing to explore beyond the main quest and ruminate on how all this fits together. Other games have done this--subplots and side-quests are nothing new--but these rarely matter very much. Such activities often extend the game, giving the player more to do, but adding little real thematic substance. PST unfailingly utilizes such optional activities to add color, nuance, and complexity to the story and characters. Ultimately, the Nameless One will come to know himself--the central quest of the narrative--only by coming to know others. Getting acquainted with sharp-tongued Annah, for example, isn't necessary at all. But oh what you will miss if you don't!
Wednesday - September 26, 2007
Planescape: Torment - Retrospective @ Rock, Paper, Shotgun
Kieron Gillen has a posted a retrospective piece on PS:T at Rock, Paper, Shotgun, originally written for PC Gamer. The intro warns of spoilers but none of them are very revealing. I love this bit:
Don’t underestimate text as a tool for creating emotion. It’s brutally efficient. The effort to create a cutscene which shows a Demon destroying all reality is months of work. The effort to write it? Hey – I’ve just done it. And while it doesn’t have the immediate impact, the fact that Text allows you to throw dozens of these sensations at the player all adds up: every few minutes a line of text or a concept hits you like a nail gun through the heart. With 800,000 words of script, Planescape often feels like the world’s biggest choose-your-own-adventure book.
Friday - September 21, 2007
Planescape: Torment - Writing Ravel @ Obsidian Blog
Chris Avellone has answered a group of fan questions about creating Ravel from Planescape: Torment:
What was the origin of Ravel?
We had a number of physically powerful enemies in Torment, and I thought a night hag would be a good adversary, especially if she was a cryptic, deadly puzzle maker. As the game went on, the idea that Ravel was a branching creature whose life resembled a great tree (or bramble) stretching across the planes, was in love with the player and she genuinely tried to help people at times (only to have it turn against her and the recipient) seemed to be some good hooks to make an adversary.
Writing Ravel was perhaps one of the experiences I’m most proud of in my career. I felt like she came together nicely, and she had a really distinctive tone.
Wednesday - August 01, 2007
RPGWatch Feature: Tales of Torment, Part 2
The second and concluding part of Brother None's excellent interview with Chris Avellone and Colin McComb is now online, offering an insight into the creative process, story and more. This part contains spoilers, so be warned:
RPGWatch: Factions featured strongly in the background of PS:T. Any factions you would have wanted to expand or add?
Chris Avellone: We actually wanted to add all of them, but there just wasn't the resources to do it - the Chaosmen was something I realized could be thrown in quickly, so I went ahead and did it. Also, we did want a Doomguard faction just because of Vhailor's presence, but again, we ran out of resources there as well.
Colin McComb: I would have liked to expand the Godsmen. I don’t think I gave them nearly enough credit, nor do I feel I made them interesting enough or involving enough. I think the Harmonium were well represented by Ebb Creakknees. I would have loved to get the Doomguard involved, and the Athar, but the whole no-powers-rule in the game kind of obviated their involvement.
Also included is a short voice sample and the original Vision statement used to pitch the game (conceived as "Last Rites") to management in 1997 (language warning).
Monday - July 30, 2007
RPGWatch Feature: Tales of Torment, Part 1
Our latest feature should be a treat for Planescape: Torment 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.