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The Impact of Planescape Torment 94

Posted by Zonk
from the a-talking-skull-as-your-best-friend dept.
The ever interesting Escapist has a piece up examining just why Planescapes\ Torment is such a perennial favorite among gamers and designers alike. From the article: "The strangest, and one of the least successful RPGs from Black Isle (the company that brought you the Icewind Dale series), Planescape: Torment, which was released in 1999, took a risk by using the alternate Dungeons and Dragons campaign of Planescape, a not-really-fantasy, not-really-futuristic world that's mostly defined as unstable and bizarre. Strange and unruly dimensions intersect at the city of Sigil, where most of the game takes place, and your character, portentously called The Nameless One, wakes up in a mortuary with amnesia, a battered shell of a body that cannot die, and just one friend: a flying, talking skull. And the game gets stranger from there."
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The Impact of Planescape Torment

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    If only you could grab that skull & recite shakespear...
  • Story telling (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Thedeviluno (903528) on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @01:03AM (#13386686) Homepage
    The best video games always have the best story telling. The writers make the game. Bloated characters and an exciting journey are remembered longer than omfg best grfx evar.Think about it.
    • Re:Story telling (Score:2, Insightful)

      by interiot (50685)
      Ooooh. So that's why Pacman and Super Mario Bros were such memorable games. (and pong, and commander keen, and chess, and mario kart, and baseball, and poker, ...)
      • And which scene in Pacman is most memorable to you?

        What actions in Super Mario Bros do you think about, every now and then?

        Story isn't the only criteria for a good computer game, but it can make a good game into a truly great game.
        • by Digital Vomit (891734) on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @09:26AM (#13388495) Homepage Journal
          And which scene in Pacman is most memorable to you?

          The one where, like, Pacman was being chased by those ghosts and then they went off the screen and I was, like, "OMG! Will the ghosts get him?" and then he came back on the screen chasing the ghosts and I was like "Awesome!". It was great! My heart was, like, pumping and everything!

        • Story is invaluable for certain kinds of games. But they are a vast range of other kinds of games which don't require story-line at all to be successful. They also don't require fancy graphics. But they still DO require excellent game design to be highly successful (eg. katamari damacy, world of warcraft, minesweeper, sega tennis, NFL football, ...).
    • Bloated characters

      Well, that would explain why Mario has always been a favorite.
    • I think you said "game" when you meant "book". Games do not need good stories. Look at Soccer, Chess, Tetris, Sokoban, etc. They are widely consider to be some of the best games, yet they have little to no story whatsoever. Within the past few years, for some reason, many people have the mistaken assumption that games must be crappy interactive B-movies.

      A game is mearly something that is played, and a storyline is not needed to make a game good. Furthermore, the fact that a game is a sports game, board
  • Nothing beats.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by OmgTEHMATRICKS (836103) on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @01:14AM (#13386718) Journal
    Fallout and Fallout 2 from Black Isle. At least, where Black Isle games are concerned. Those games kick many asses.
    • So true. Everything about those two games fit perfectly: the graphics, the music (wow!), the characters, the story... The turn-based combat engine was great!

      I was devastated to learn Fallout 3 had been cancelled partway through its development.

      • Actually, I heard through the rumor mill that it was picked up by someone, but I can't remember who... For some reason I think Bethesda Softworks, but don't quote me on that.
        • "Bethesda has obtained the rights to develop Fallout, they've licensed the Fallout franchise from Interplay (except the MMO license)" http://www.nma-fallout.com/fallout3/ [nma-fallout.com]
          • There's been no updates on that in more than a year, and last I'd heard it was dead again.

            I kinda wished I'd played the Fallout series, as much as people are talking about it.

            It was the continuation of Wasteland, wasn't it?
            • "I kinda wished I'd played the Fallout series, as much as people are talking about it." Then play it. You can still find it in a lot of discount bins. Just because it isn't the latest thing out is not a reason to pass it by.
            • On the main NMA page, they show part of an interview with Pat Hines of Bethesda:

              TCW: "Any news on Fallout 3?"

              Pete Hines: "As I've said before, we believe in taking the requisite amount of time to do a game right. Oblivion is a good example of that - it's already three years in the making and wasn't even announced until it was more than two years in development.

              All we really announced last year was that we had acquired the rights to develop and publish Fallout 3. So, for us, it's still very early in the proc
  • by Asmor (775910) on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @01:24AM (#13386767) Homepage
    Planescape. Singular. If you get confused, look at the huge header on the link you posted, or even in the block of text you copy-pasted.
  • Atmospheric depth (Score:5, Interesting)

    by andphi (899406) <phillipsam@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @01:51AM (#13386853) Journal
    There are a lot of things one could say about Torment - whether the interface worked, how well the rotating class system worked, etc. I'm focusing on the writing. For me, the fun of Planescape is wrapped up in the atmosphere of Sigil and how well written the whole adventure is. Sigil and its denizens are genuinely, entertainingly bizarre without being excessive (unless of course they have to be). The writers dropped Heaven only knows how many tidbits of history, culture, and glimpese of life on other planes, etc. I especially appreciated the way the writers used progressive exposition regarding the major characters, particularly D'akkon. To a certain degree, Torment so successful because Sigil is like a number of other settings, and like none of them at all. The game is one grand riddle. Granted, some of the fetch-and-carry tasks can be tedious, but solving the main puzzle was fun. Heck, even the order and nature of the fetch-and-carry stuff is left up to the player. Help and join the Dustmen. Or don't. Or join the Dusties after you've joined the Sensates. Or the Chaosmen. Or sell your party into slavery and become totally evil. The possibilities are endless. Torment is the only crpg I've actually finished. I gave up on IWD during the final battle. The party combat system was fun, but the story stopped. I gave up on Diablo and Dungeon Siege just before the final battle. With Diablo, the story wasn't hardly there and the combat got repetitive... With Dungeon Siege, the combat system was cool for quit a while, but the story stopped. I lost interest.
    • Re:Atmospheric depth (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bradbeattie (908320)
      Note that Planescape: Torment laughs at the mindless hack 'n' slash genre. There's a Modron gauntlet you can access mid-way through the game; it's something you need to see to appreciate. That only highlighted to me why I loved the game: it had depth. I'm sure it's less dynamic than I give it credit for, but I never felt steamrollered into a choice. Not many games can boast that.
      • Re:Atmospheric depth (Score:2, Interesting)

        by vitamine73 (818599)
        the only computer RPG you can get trough without a fight, seriously!
        yes, fallout (1) was also great, but it stood out not only for its story but also for its analog interface that was out off this world, but PST was just a wicked story in which you could actually roleplay if you had the brains and charisma to do it! just a memorable piece
        • You could get through the original Fallout without a single fight, if youy used your Speech, Science and Sneak skills appropriately. The game eve nrewarded you for taking this approach - for instance, you gain a 6,000 exp bonus if you manage to make it to floor 4 of the Military Base without triggering the alarm.

          Fallout 2 comes close, as the final boss fight is mandatory - although you do not need to participate in the fight at all, since you could convince Sargeant Granite's squad to assist you.
        • I didn't say only, just that there aren't many that put such heavy focus on story and atmosphere. Fallout may well be one of those games, but truthfully I never played it.
    • I gave up on IWD during the final battle. The party combat system was fun, but the story stopped.

      The story stopped at the final battle... Am I the only one who considers that normal?
      • Perhaps I should clarify. It seemed that the story had already ended by the time I reached the final battle. I came to the conclusion (erroneous or otherwise) that there was nothing new to learn by killing Poquelin, so I didn't.
  • Did the submitter even read the article he linked to? It's Planescape: Torment. NOT Planescapes Torment!
  • But I just couldn't get into the game. I loved the similar games around that time, like BG and so on...
    I think it comes down to the sheer amount of text and story that was provided. I just couldn't bring myself to read it all and *care*. Could be me getting old, but normally a game will suck me in enough that I'll spend the time and really get into it all.
    I had the same trouble with morrowind.
    • Try again (Score:4, Insightful)

      by swotl (24969) <swotl@hotslasTOKYOh.com minus city> on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @02:23AM (#13386969)
      I had the same problem the first time I sat down with it, and delayed it for a couple of years. When I found the time to actually play through the thing it was the most intense gaming experience ever. The end will make your back shiver.

      The game is still relevant so load it up on a laptop or something, since it has almost no system requirements, and play through what will probably be the last computer RPG with a real story.
      • Re:Try again (Score:3, Insightful)

        by toddhunter (659837)
        and play through what will probably be the last computer RPG with a real story.
        I really hope this isn't true..but yeah I fear it is the case as well. There are a massive amount of people out there with great rpg stories...but the effort (ie money) to make something like happen just looks more unlikely when the latest EA franchise can just be churned out and make the cash
      • "what will probably be the last computer RPG with a real story."

        I very much doubt that.

        I know FPS and MMORPG are becoeming very popular, but there are a lot of people out there who play games BECAUSE of the story line.
        As more modable games come out, the players will write their own stories, and release them on servers for others to play.
        This is where games like The Sims come out on top- creative people can build worlds, tell stories via computer games without having to be coders.
        So long as some geeks are wr
      • I actually installed the game last night on my notebook, so seeing your suggestion here today is very ironic. It was given to me by a friend wh oheard that I had never played it.

        So far, the only problem that I can see is that there is this update I can find talked about, but I can't actually *find*.

        Also, for those who say you never have to have any combat, I believe you do have to at least start off by fighting a zombie to get the first key.
  • by Parham (892904)
    With the game story being so bizarre, it only means that the writers can get away with almost anything, and that just means the story can be interesting, as well as weird.
  • Needs a remake ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dougmc (70836) <dougmc+slashdot@frenzied.us> on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @02:34AM (#13387007) Homepage
    Planescape is exactly the sort of game I ought to love -- for example, I thought Baldur's Gate II [bioware.com] was one of the greatest games ever. (BG1 was good too, but BG2 was a good deal better.)

    Unfortunately, I went to play Planescape after playing BG2, and BG2 ruined it for me. Yes, I could tell that Planescape looked like fun from the beginning, but BG2's graphics were much better (1024x768 is much better than 640x480, even if BG2 didn't make proper use of it) and the interface was considerably better. I know it shouldn't really matter, but it did.

    (Note that BG2 and Planescape had the same general interface -- an isometric view, 2D sprites, etc. BG2 just had it polished a good deal more, as it came out later.)

    Neverwinter Nights was sort of fun too, but it never really did it for me like BG2 did. Sure, the graphics were better, but I really missed having a full party, and the story wasn't nearly as good. (Story is very important for games like this.) And the interface never seemed right, though I couldn't really put my finger on it, beyond never really liking those `radial selection things'.

    It would be very neat if Planescape came out with either the BG2 or NWN engine (or something newer.) The BG2 engine could probably be done relatively simply, though the artwork might need to be redrawn (or we could just have a larger screen, which would be nice too) and the NWN engine would probably require a complete rewrite. And considering how poorly Planescape sold, I don't see this happening. A pity.

    • I suppose I'm going to sound like an snob for saying so, but I really don't think you were part of Planescape Torment's target audience. The draw of the game was the characters and the development of the story, along with having the ability to have your actions actually have an impact.

      The technological aspects of the game were very well suited to that task, and did not hinder either major facet much at all (the running back and forth between room-screens became annoying once or twice, IIRC, and/or there was
      • I suppose I'm going to sound like an snob for saying so, but I really don't think you were part of Planescape Torment's target audience. The draw of the game was the characters and the development of the story, along with having the ability to have your actions actually have an impact.

        I didn't think that Planescape sucked. It's graphics were as expected at the time it was released, on par with BG1 or so. It's just that it's hard to go back sometimes. (But only sometimes. Some things age better than

    • Thanks for posting that. You sound like your gaming interests are close to my own: I loved BG2 for the storyline, variations and party dynamics, and I missed the same things in Neverwinter Nights (which I played for several hours, but still never really got into).

      I always wondered about Planescape: Torment, but I'd probably be disappointed in the same things you were. Despite the comments of another poster who replied in this subthread, I'm pretty sure we would be in the target market for a game like that

      • nothing kills an RPG like a limiting interface. :-(
        To be fair, I don't recall what I didn't like about the interface -- it's been a few years.

        I suspect that Planescape has roughly the same interface as BG1, but that BG2 improved it greatly (and again, I forget what the improvements were) and that I got to like them and it grated on my nerves when I went back ...

    • I did it in that order too. At first, I couldn't stop looking at the blockiness of the display. After a short time, I completely forgot the graphics, I was too into the game.

      You might have to force yourself to play the first few hours of Torment, but I'd bet that after that you'll be too hooked to care about the age.

  • The game probably would have sold a little better if at wasn't for the god-awful box art. I had zero interest in the game from looking at the box and didn't actually play it until several years after it had been released.
    • Re:Box Art (Score:3, Interesting)

      by screwballicus (313964)
      Indeed, this is a point which Chris Avellone made fairly recently in an interview with gamegirl.org [gamer-girl.org]

      Specifically,

      MCA: Well, it sold all right, although it didn't do Baldur's Gate numbers, but rarely did a PC RPG do that well anyway. I guess some obstacles to its sales were the nature of the game itself (very text heavy, non-traditional gameworld), a shitty box cover (all that had to be done was make a box cover that looked similar to the Baldur's Gate one, and be done with it), and those are the only factors
    • agreed, the box art was awwful, but you know the old adage "don't judge a videogame by it's box art"
    • I never thought there was anything wrong with the art, but Wikipedia has a picture of the cover [wikipedia.org] for you to judge for yourself.
  • by Vo0k (760020) on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @03:43AM (#13387230) Journal
    Sounds cool. I'm in. .torm...err, .torrent please.
  • Overrated? Feh. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SageOfShadowdale (909817) on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @05:55AM (#13387616)
    I loved Torment. That game is definately up there in the best of all-time. Not only did it have the most interesting and complex storyline I've ever seen in a game, a cast of interesting characters that you can actually talk to, (not just this banter and occasional stuff like BG2 had), and excellent graphics and music, beyond all that, it made you think and it made you believe. And that is what Planescape was all about. Torment was a game that gave you choices. Lots of choices. Sure, the over-all storyline was rather linear, but there were many different ways to get there, and no two peoples' paths would be the same. You had to create your character from nothing more than a beat-up undying amnesiac, and by the end, that character was you. Your character reflected the choices you made, and those choices were created from your thoughts and beliefs about the scenarios presented in the game. Well, if you cared while you played it, of course. Torment asks one fundamental question: What can change the nature of a man? What did you tell Ravel Puzzlewell? What did you tell the Transcendent One? What was your answer? Or were you too concerned with flashy lights and box art know or care? The game has a lot of dialog, narration, and description in it. Thousands and thousands of lines of it. So what? Take a look at the work of Josh Mandel, quite possibly one of the best writers adventure gaming ever had. He wrote thousands of lines of narration for Space Quest VI, so that you could click on everything and get something funny back. He wrote Callahan's Crosstime Saloon, another game with thousands of lines of narration, and no narrator for it. Mandel made you laugh, and Torment's writers made you think and believe. There's so much there that you're going to miss some of it, so you'll play again and again. Unless of course, you're too concerned with the box art to play in the first place. Torment is a game that you have to spend some time with to understand. You have to read and you have to think. What's wrong with that? Besides, it's been years since I've read one of those Star Trek novels.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Seriously, now. EVERY FREAKING WEEK they get a plug here. WE GET IT! YOU LOVE THE ESCAPIST! Go get a room so you two can do goatse style shit to each other.

    Seriously, just add a slashbox and be done with this. I like reading the Escapist as much as the next guy, but come on now. They can't be paying you that much, can they?
  • If any game ever deserved a remake, it's this one. I really think it's one of the best stories of any game I've ever played.. It had me glued the entire time. It just needs a graphics update for the Ritalin generation.
  • by dtolman (688781) <dtolman@yahoo.com> on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @11:54AM (#13389762) Homepage
    One of the amazing things about this game is that it is so deep and complex, that you can play it again, make similiar choices, and because of that complexity uncover things you never did the first time.

    I played through it twice (a few years apart), and encountered characters, plots, and levels I never even saw in the first play through. My wife then played it, and uncovered yet again characters, plots and levels I had never encountered in both play throughs.

    Truely amazing game - memorable not just because of the depth, the supporting characters you could care (at least a little) about...but for being one of the few CRPG's where you can actually ROLE play, instead of hack/slash. Only games that I've played that have come close in the past few years are KOTOR I/II.

  • This game is truly one of the best I've ever played. It sat unplayed on my shelf since 1999. Maybe I had some growing up to do, but playing it now has been a sublime experience. The Baldur's Gate series was one of my favorite of all time, so I guess Planescape's adventure-game puzzles and heavy dialogue with the Infinity Engine caught me off guard.

    There's also still a fairly responsive community for the game on Planetbaldursgate.com

    Check out Platter's Planescape-torment.org for good stuff like fan patche
  • Nice introduction, but where's the article? Is that it?

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