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Planescape: Torment Enhanced Edition Interview

by RPGWatch, 2017-04-10

RPGWatch: Before we start with the questions about Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition, I would like to ask you to introduce yourselves/yourself.

I'm Alex Tomovic, the Project Lead on Planescape Torment: Enhanced Edition.

I'm Scott Brooks, the Lead Programmer on Planescape Torment: Enhanced Edition

I'm Phillip Daigle, Producer on Planescape Torment: Enhanced Edition

JDR13: I read that the EE version will include some content that was dropped/cut from the original release of PS:T. How much did you guys have to improvise to finish the restored content? Was there significant debate over the things you chose to restore?

Alex: Chris Avellone requested to personally proofread all of the text from the original game in order to make some grammar and style corrections. Other than the adjustments that Chris made, there are no other content changes or additions in PST:EE. Instead, we focused on making the game run properly on modern devices, recreating the user interface in native 4K, adding Steam Achievements and introducing a number of quality of life improvements such as zooming, object highlighting, journal searching, quickloot, combat log etc.

Maylander: Were you nervous about changing anything in Planescape: Torment? I know you already worked on Baldur's Gate, which has a bigger audience, but Planescape: Torment leans more heavily on its writing and overall tone. It carries the game to a much greater extent.

Alex: As the Project Lead, I defined the vision of PST:EE long before production and development started. The goal of the Enhanced Edition was to deliver the canon Planescape Torment experience to modern devices, without altering any narrative or gameplay aspects of the original. Therefore, you won't see any new companions, quests, areas, races, classes, kits, items or spells in PST:EE.

Maylander: Will the high end spell animations finally get fixed?

Alex: The cinematic spells from the original Planescape Torment were designed to run at the 640x480 resolution. To make them display properly at higher resolutions, PST:EE automatically zooms in to the original viewport when the cinematic spells start and returns the zoom level to what it previously was after they finish. This way, no visual effects are lost.

Maylander: From what I recall, Planescape: Torment uses a heavily modified version of the Infinity Engine, so your previous EE fixes probably can't be applied. How did you get around this limitation? Start from scratch?

Alex: PST:EE was initially based on the engine that we used for Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear. Over the course of development, any code aspects that were unique to Planescape Torment have been ported over to that version of the engine. This means that PST:EE received all code enhancements that are inherent to our new engine (such as improved pathfinding) while also benefiting from the code which allows features that are unique to Planescape Torment (such as cinematic spells) to work properly.

Scott: Our approach (as much as possible) is to keep improving the engine and bring the existing games back into the fold.  PST:EE was a unique challenge because of how different it was, and most of the changes for PST:EE will not make it back to the other Infinity Engine games. We started with the code used for Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear and then using the original Planescape Torment source code added and expanded the engine. Planescape Torment did not have multiplayer, so the code that we brought over also does not support multiplayer.      

RPGWatch: Do you have plans to also bring the new engine features to existing EE versions?

Alex: The existing Enhanced Edition games already allow players to turn off most of the new features such as the black outlines around character sprites and the grayscale tint which appears while the game is paused. Selected PST:EE features and settings may eventually make their way to the other EE games, but the codebase is simply too different for them to be merged in en masse.

Pessimeister: Were there any particular aspects to the original game which were discussed as possibly subject to change in staff meetings yet were ultimately deemed "too sacred" and were thus kept in its original state? If so, what were they?

Alex: Not really. We had a clear vision about what the Enhanced Edition should represent, right from the start. Our goal was to act as curators, which meant keeping the content as close as possible to the original game. Adding new content would have changed the unique atmosphere and tone of Planescape Torment, and that is something that we simply didn't want to do.

Pessimeister: If there was any single niggling detail on something you personally would change or modernise in the original code (something not achievable in this release) what would it be?

Alex: Unfortunately, we didn't have access to the source art for the original animated portraits and movies. Had that been the case, I would have wanted to include higher resolution versions of both in PST:EE. For reference, redoing the movies and portraits from scratch (i.e. changing their look and style) was never considered as a viable alternative.

HellRazor: What were the main challenges the team faced with updating Planescape: Torment?

Scott: One of the biggest challenges was that Planescape Torment was the first time another team tried to build a game in the Infinity Engine other then Bioware. When going through the source code you could see how two similar features were added in entirely different ways. This can happen when you are attempting to learn a new engine, and develop a game at the same time. Planescape also solved some of the same problems BioWare went on to solve in later versions of the engine in different ways. Sorting out these differences and reconciling them was a big challenge.  Another big challenge was implementing the cinematic spells. These are all hardcoded to act a certain way, with certain timings. Some of the spells, like Celestial Host, take 90 seconds to cast, so when you're trying to debug they can be quite a pain.

Acleacius: Will Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition be compatible with previous mods? If not, will it be possible to make new mods and be edit friendly, to support your fan community?

Alex: Mods created for the original Planescape Torment will require updates to work with the Enhanced Edition. However, PST:EE should be easier to mod than the original game was.

RPGWatch: Did you use any player made mods for this EE release?

Alex: We obtained permission to use Qwinn's PST Fixpack before any work on PST:EE had begun. During development, the content of the fixpack underwent a thorough review by the Beamdog team, and Chris Avellone was consulted whenever there was uncertainty. As a result, all objective bugfixes from that mod have been integrated into the Enhanced Edition. No other mods, aside from the fixpack, were used for PST:EE.

HellRazor: Do you think there is still a viable market for a text heavy, philosophic RPG like Planescape: Torment, particularly when comparing the cost of development to "do it right" versus the return on investment?

Phil: Yes, absolutely. The audience for this kind of game has only grown since 1999, and a quick glance at the visual novel section on Steam clearly indicates that there are people hungry for these narrative-heavy experiences.

Planescape: Torment is unique in that people have been talking it up online for the past 18 years, so we knew that if we released an Enhanced Edition there would be a massive audience eager to see what they had missed.

Pessimeister: Has Mark Morgan given any feedback on the remastering of his classic soundtrack for PST:EE?

Alex: Mark Morgan wasn't directly involved in the remastering process, though we are very happy to have his music in our game, at the best possible quality.

RPGWatch: What did you learn from previous EE releases that you used in this release?

Phil: We've mastered the art of walking that fine line between curation and improvement. Classic games are near and dear to the hearts of many gamers, and so when you adjust or change something about that game you need to present an extremely clear and compelling case as to why you're doing it. I think we've accomplished that goal with all of our improvements and enhancements in PSTEE.

RPGWatch: When do you plan to release the tablet and Mac versions?

Alex: Planescape Torment: Enhanced Edition will be released on April 11, 2017 on all supported devices and platforms. This includes Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS and Android.

Box Art

Information about

Planescape: Torment Enhanced Edition

Developer: Beamdog

SP/MP: Single-player
Setting: Fantasy
Genre: RPG
Combat: Pausable Real-time
Play-time: 40-60 hours
Voice-acting: None

Regions & platforms
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2017-04-11
· Publisher: Beamdog

More information