RPGWatch Feature: Tales of Toment, Part 1

Dhruin

SasqWatch
Joined
August 30, 2006
Messages
11,842
Location
Sydney, Australia
Our latest feature should be a treat for Planescape: Toment fans. An undeniable classic, guest interviewer Brother None talk to designers Chris Avellone and Colin McComb about the inspiration and development of Planescape: Torment in a detailed two-part conversation, replete with some original design documents. Here is a snip from Part 1:

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

Chris Avellone: As far as being a huge hit, I think everyone wanted Torment to sell very well (it made a profit, but not a huge one, and certainly not anywhere near Baldur's Gate numbers).
Still, there were a number of elements that I think hurt it in the long run:
- Not an accessible setting. It's not a fantasy world that is comfortable for players to settle into, and we did not take pains to make it comfortable (no dwarves, elves, or halflings, as one minor example).
- Story-heavy in the wrong ways. It has a slow start, and while the momentum does pick up in the Hive, there's a lot of reading, and people don't buy games to read, they buy games to play them.
- Marketing. The box of the product reinforces #1 above - it says, "hey, we're strange," rather than promoting it as a role-playing game using the Baldur's Gate engine, which probably would have made it a more interesting target to the game community.
As far as interference-from-above goes, we probably could have used more than we had - like Fallout, Torment was sort of under the radar for a while, and the producer role changed several times over the course of the project. Brian Fargo was mostly hands off, except to complement us on the writing, and give me a pretty stern lecture (deservedly) about the localization costs for the game. Feargus was also concerned about how much it slipped over the course of the development cycle, and those weren't fun discussions.
For this part, Chris gave us the original dialogue draft he wrote for Ravel and the final design documentation, showing the huge extent of the work involved.
Head here to read it all and watch for Part Two in a day or two.
More information.
 
Joined
Aug 30, 2006
Messages
11,842
Location
Sydney, Australia
I haven't had a chance to try out Planescape: Toment yet. Does it build up on the strengths of Planescape: Torment or is it just a cash-in of a sequel?

Uh, is Kharn/Brother None/That freaky arabian nick he had for a while working at the Watch, or was it a joint venture?
 
Joined
Nov 28, 2006
Messages
234
Location
Lisbon
Bah, picky bastard. One little typo...

Just a collaboration. We were talking about some stuff and the idea came up to do something non-Fallout just for fun/a change of pace.
 
Joined
Aug 30, 2006
Messages
11,842
Location
Sydney, Australia
Bah, picky bastard. One little typo...

NWN2: Mast of the Betrayer
Arrrrrrrrr :)

Great interview, thanks BN. Avellone is pretty critical of this brainchild of his, isn't he? As good as it was, he apparently thinks the market demands different games. A pity.
 
Joined
Oct 18, 2006
Messages
3,508
Great interview, good job! I didn't know Chris Avellone was responsible for so much in PS:T, he must be even better than I thought. Reading about PS:T made me want to pick it up again, it really is an amazing game.
 
Joined
Oct 18, 2006
Messages
7,596
Location
Bergen
Kudos to RPGWWatch for this excellent interview. Since reading about then playing Torment, I have wanted more insight regarding the creation process for Torment. The design docs are especially worthwhile.

Good stuff! Thanks, Dhruin and Brother None.
 
Joined
Oct 23, 2006
Messages
6
Fascinating article and inside look at an unsurpassed classic.

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

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

Thanks for the look inside the box,guys.
 
Joined
Oct 18, 2006
Messages
7,834
Actually, you can get PS:T for 10 bucks various places. A bit cheaper than the BG bundles that are usually around 12-15 bucks, but that's natural since it's two games + addons.

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

If you want an original Baldur's Gate it will cost you about the same as PS:T, since neither are being produced in their original form anymore.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Oct 18, 2006
Messages
7,596
Location
Bergen
Wow. Loved to take a peek at those design docs.

I'm humbled by the amount of work displayed there!
 
Joined
Jul 30, 2007
Messages
327
Amazing! The ravel draft is pure gold for a fanboy like me.
Oh, and PS:T is still the best game ever made (story-wise).
 
Definitely a wonderful read - I've been looking forward to this since I heard about the possibility, worth the wait :)
 
Joined
Oct 18, 2006
Messages
14,976
Great article ! Cheers to everyone involved...

Now if only you guys were able to flush dear old Tim out of whatever hole he
is hiding in and do something similar for Arcanum :) ...
 
Joined
Oct 18, 2006
Messages
1,734
Now if only you guys were able to flush dear old Tim out of whatever hole he
is hiding in and do something similar for Arcanum :) ...

Hmmm...

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

The difference, obviously, is that MCA and McComb were very happy to talk about PS:T again, it's nothing but happy memories to share and a lot of fun to talk about. Anything related to Troika, for Tim, is more "digging up painful memories" than happy fun good time. They did that piece with Escapist Mag a while ago, I think that's about the limits of what they'd be willing to do.
 
Joined
Oct 19, 2006
Messages
1,558
Ravel is one of the best characters I've come across in all my gaming. I love how what you say to her at the very beginning of the game(in her second form) can affect what she says and what bonuses you get when you meet her in the maze.
 
Joined
Oct 18, 2006
Messages
3,169
Location
Sigil
What was the exact role of Guido Henkel in the development of PS:T ?
 
Joined
Oct 18, 2006
Messages
20,600
Location
Germany
Back
Top Bottom