Planescape Landscapes

By Alec Meer on May 29th, 2008 at 3:42 pm.


Click the pics to embiggen

“What can change the nature of a classic RPG?” Answer – a resolution-tweaking mod.

A couple of you have previously pointed out The Gibberlings Three‘s marvellous Infinity Engine res hack in our comments, but though I cooed with interest and immediately saved it to my bookmarks (three times, it appears), I’ve not had a chance to take a look until now. Yesterday, though, was Finally Replaying Planescape Torment day for me, and word of a resolution-raising tool that saved this incomparable tale of destiny, identity and tragedy from pixels-the-size-of-fists graphic-o-horror excited me enormously.

Turns out it’s a thing of beauty.

It’s a mod that’s superficially a wholly aesthetic tweak, but in fact it changes the entire game to a fairly profound degree. The standard compliment and criticism for Planescape is that it’s essentially a novel hiding in games’ clothing. Mostly that’s because of its wonderfully ridiculous slew of text, but partly it’s because, on a technological level, it’s an ugly game. Bear with me before you get angry about that. The blurry pixelisation is one thing, but the greater problem is how little of the world you see – just narrow, blocky slices of screen, each offering only the vaguest sense of where you were. That ever-overflowing text box thus became the player’s focus, and the lavish artwork underneath it so often overlooked.

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 like the vast painting it was created as. 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.

The Widescreen Mod (something of a misnomer, as it can do full-frame tweakery too) also works with both Baldur’s Gates and Icewind Dales. Changing the resolution seems like such a minor thing, but the degree to which it transforms these graphically-hamstrung games into sharp, presentable modernity is genuinely astonishing. Find it here.

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78 Comments »

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  1. Grill says:

    New desktop!!! Do Pharod’s Vault and that big underground maze in Curst! Please Alec… (flutters eyelashes).

  2. Lake says:

    Useful files for Planescape Torment. Had this bookmarked for a long time.

  3. Sideath says:

    That looks awesome – this may cause me to revisit Avernus…

  4. Hieremias says:

    I bought Planescape a few years ago for under $5. And I’ve never played it.

    I installed it and explored around the opening area with the floating skull, but then got distracted and never returned.

    I’m so going back to it now that you brought this to my attention.

  5. Butler` says:

    Here’s a question, and one I’m not sure you’ll be able to answer easily: is this game playable now to a complete new comer – all these years on?

  6. brog says:

    Butler`: I first played it just a couple of years ago and loved it, so yes. May depend on the newcomer though.

  7. Phil says:

    Much as l love Planescape above pretty much anything else made of bytes, surely this is becoming slightly indulgent?

    What with this, speed runs, producers notes, retrospectives, replays and constant, yawning desire to play something this good again pervading pretty much every comment thread relating to story telling, shouldn’t we now be searching for the ‘next planescape’ rather than dwelling on this one?

    The fact there doesn’t appear to be a ‘next planescape’ is the small flaw in my plan.

  8. Paul Moloney says:

    I feel shallow for admitting it, but yes, that slightly jerky, spidery pixellated look kept me from getting immersed in these old isometric RPGs. I have that mega Baldur’s Gate Compilation which I picked up from play.com but barely played – maybe I’ll get into it now.

    P.

  9. Cunningbeef says:

    Would LOVE to see this for Fallout…

  10. Jim Rossignol says:

    Indulgent, Phil? Being a site purely about how we spend our leisure time (done for free because we can) means we get to about as indulgent as we like? Indulging seems to be pretty much the point of the site…

  11. Ryan says:

    I love going back to games like Myst, BG, Diablo. Maybe I’ll pick this up again.

    Ryan
    lessons in brevity: http://www.mofata.com

  12. Michael says:

    I just may replay it now.

  13. Lukasz says:

    “would LOVE to see this for Fallout”

    …me too but ‘F’ is an ugly game so it won’t benefit from it much. PST does (especially since original version was suffered from weird close-up)

    Since I cannot find the game anywhere here, in country of jumping Kangaroos…
    TO THE TORRENTS! or 4chan.

  14. Colthor says:

    Cunningbeef: There’s one for Fallout 2 which somebody posted recently:
    http://www.nma-fallout.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=42386

    Funnily enough I started replaying Planescape: Torment (I haven’t finished it before, got stuck at the Fortress of Regrets) with this mod yesterday too, and it does indeed make a massive difference. It’s a very good-looking game now.

  15. Butler` says:

    I’ve been meaning to get back into one of these old skool RPGs for a while now, and this mod gives me the ideal excuse.

    The only question that remains is “Baldur’s Gate or Planescape?” I suppose

  16. Pidesco says:

    Awesome, but I’ve replayed Torment too many times as it is. I don’t want my number of Torment playthroughs to reach double digits.

  17. James G says:

    Wow, pretty.

    When I first played Baldur’s Gate just over a year ago now (I’ve only recently been introduced the the joys of RPGs. Am playing Fallout at the moment) I used the TuTu mod to increase the resolution, and was disapointed when I found that Torment didn’t (then) have a similar mod.

    However, unlike Torment, BGI still ended up looking fairly bland, and especially in contrast to BGII. Its a shame that the infinity engine wasn’t updated to the BGII level when Torment was first released.

  18. Pod says:

    Works with BG and Icewind? Hmm….

  19. Meat Circus says:

    Tried the mod. Won’t install.

    CURSE YOU, WINDOWS SO-CALLED VISTA.

    That said, I’m now in full-scale Planescape replayage mode in old school Big-o-Vision, so I hardly mind.

  20. Jonas says:

    Christ on a bike, first Deus Ex for free and now this.

    I’m going to faint.

  21. Alec Meer says:

    Meat: I’m playing in Vista 64, and it’s fine. There’s a whole buncha crap you have to do in terms of manually copying all four CDs over first, though. First install the official patch, then follow the steps here.

  22. Meat Circus says:

    I have the two-CD version. Maybe that’s what’s causing the problems.

    I shall have a more sustained fiddle with it this weekend, because I only just left the Mortuary for the first time, and would dearly love to see this game in the glory of 1900×1200.

  23. NegativeZero says:

    The areas look like vast paintings because they essentially *are* vast paintings. That was always the beauty of the Infinity Engine – beautiful 2D in two layers with a collision map. Simple, elegant, and when you get it in high resolutions like this it is beautiful.

    Sometimes I wonder whether we might have thrown the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to 2D graphics.

  24. Hieremias says:

    Fallout may be ugly but it ages better than the original Baldur’s Gate. A lot better.

    Though with these new patches that Lake posted, which apparently work with all Infinity engine games, I’m so going back and re-playing BG.

  25. Kast says:

    Was so excited about this. I whipped out my old copy of BGII… only to find it won’t install, likely because of a minute scratch in disc one. I cry :(

  26. eyemessiah says:

    Anyone got some kind of clever way to resize the text for those of us with less than perfect vision?

  27. Janto says:

    ye know, I played Planescape before I touched Baldur’s Gate, and I far preferred the scale of characters in Planescape.

    Baldur’s Gate’s characters were just too damn small to emphasis with on any level, there was no sense of real identity to them beyond their portrait and text, nothing special about how they moved or fought. (Admittedly, this could just be hindsight being less than perfect, been a while since I touched them)

    Obviously, given the option, in games such as Spellforce and Dungeon Seige, you zoom out as far as you can to have a tactical vantage point, but I prefer getting up close and invading my little pixel minion’s personal space, it feels more involving, less like a RTS with five units that want to talk to you about their relationships and more like an emotional experience.

    Of course, the mod may not throw your point of view up into orbit, but that’s what I’m assuming it does, and I ain’t convinced, no siree.

  28. Zuffox says:

    Great link. A thing that’s somewhat deterred me from Planescape was the graphics – that and my library loan nearing expiration.

    There’s also the “BG2 graphics for BG1″ mod, also – sans high resolution of course.

  29. trioptimum says:

    Looks great, but I wonder how it copes with those stunning full screen spells toward the end of the game… their impact might be diminished if they did anything but take over your entire screen.

  30. Benjamin Barker says:

    I haven’t tried this one yet; thanks for the reminder. Since I’m more often than not stuck in the gaming past I live by these sprucings-up of older games. I’m playing Jagged Alliance 2 v1.13 right now and among many, many enhancements you can run it 1076×768 (not the loveliest game, but seeing that much more of the map is very nice; in vanilla I think you can only get 640×480!). Vampire: Bloodlines can be run now in widescreen and looks great. And I unexpectedly had a similar experience with X-COM by setting the renderer in DOSBOX to “mame3x” and running it fullscreen. It smoothes out the pixels in a basic way that looks great– and also seems to fit 16:9 perfectly, which was a shock; if it is stretching somehow it looks in proportion to me.

    And for the record, to complete a fully up-to-date Planescape experience I think one would also want the unofficial fix pack: http://www.sorcerers.net/Games/Torment/Platter/index.php

    & @ Janto: You remind me that I totally had the same disappointment in looking at those tiny, bland BG characters after playing Planescape. I never got off the ground with BG and that was a major reason why.

  31. James says:

    Grabbed this the other day, but I have to say that the way it stuck the inventory and menus into the top quarter of my screen really bugged the hell out of me. I might give it another shot, but to be honest I was never all that worried about the way the thing was in the first place. It might not have helped that I installed it mid-playthrough and the effect was therefore quite jarring, though.

  32. eyemessiah says:

    Can someone answer a torment question for me?

    Is it feasible to play through just the main questline without doing all the side-quests? I ask because I am unrepentantly not a side-quest man but I fear that I might end up so XP starved that I will be unable to get very far. I don’t normally play this sort of RPG, but I was impressed by the quality of the storytelling.

    On my second attempt at this game I got as far as heading down into a tomb to retrieve some stuff for Pharod but unfortunately started getting 2-shotted by pretty much everything bigger than a rat. Is this likely due to XP deficiency from skipping all the side quests?

    I was enjoying the writing & the characterization but in truth I have no real appetite for D&D style housekeeping, and don’t fancy having to go back and completing quests that didn’t pique my interest the first time around.

    Is there any hope for me?

  33. Nick says:

    I always found the infinity engine beautiful and funcional too (although PS:T’s radial menues were not my favourite incarnation). Give me the hand painted vistas of Infinity games over the ugly 3D of NWN2 any day.

    That and comparing the ease and functionality of full party control to the fiddly crap of NWN2 with less party members.. meh. RTS style controls worked a treat and not having to fiddle with a stupid camera (which added nothing but highlighted the ugliness of it all) just feels right to me.

  34. wcaypahwat says:

    All Torment needs now is a mod that makes Annah sing Morning Train :]

  35. dhex says:

    Is it feasible to play through just the main questline without doing all the side-quests?

    you can, but it’s a huge part of the good stuff (presuming you play as a high int/charisma character i.e. how you should play the first time through) in terms of the story. there’s a larger point to a lot of what you do…eventually. not all of it, but a lot.

  36. eyemessiah says:

    Is it feasible to play through just the main questline without doing all the side-quests?

    you can, but it’s a huge part of the good stuff (presuming you play as a high int/charisma character i.e. how you should play the first time through) in terms of the story. there’s a larger point to a lot of what you do…eventually. not all of it, but a lot.

    So I keep getting murdered by zombies because I suck then? I knew it! ;)

  37. Noc says:

    Eyemessiah: if I remember correctly, the Torment (and BGII, as well) side-questery is actually interesting. Exploring around and poking your nose into things earns you XP, but it also exposes you to all the interesting little scenarios that make the game. I’d say that most of them are worth doing for their own sake, experience concerns aside.

    On a different note, I think I developed more of a connection to the Baldur’s Gate NPCs, despite their relative lack of depth. I’ve been thinking about this, and I suspect that this is because I had to actually rely on them throughout most of the game. Combat’s not a huge part of Torment, and it’s honestly sort of a chore when it comes up. Not so in Baldur’s Gate, and I think the constant character management helped the NPCs grow beyond the sum of their dialog trees.

    Interestingly, the same thing happened with Final Fantasy Tactics. I developed a tremendous attachment to most of my squad, despite none of them actually having speaking parts. It’s another interesting variation on Storytelling through Game Mechanics, I suppose.

  38. Alex says:

    (presuming you play as a high int/charisma character i.e. how you should play the first time through)

    I’ve always read that a high WIS is most important, it opens up the most quests (including one for the addition of a party member).

    That said, I’ve played PS:T twice and just made a character I’d like to play, which played fine.

  39. JackFlash says:

    Ah, Planescape. Still tied with Deus Ex, X-Wing and X-Com as my favorite PC game of all time. Haven’t played it in years, but would love to check it out again in this full-res glory. Thanks for the article.

  40. dishwasherlove says:

    Posts like this are why I love RPS.

  41. Chris A says:

    Another one of those I really should get around to playing this games.

    Anyone recommend a place to pick up Planescape: Torment, or a digital download version? Looks like it’s on Gametap, so that’s an option, but I’d rather just buy it straight out if possible.

  42. ScubaV says:

    I wish I could like this game. I tried it out a few months ago, got maybe 10 hours in, was distracted by something else and have never felt the urge to go back. Partly I think this was due to all the graphical spell glitches caused by my hardware being too new. And partly because nothing felt new or exciting. I’d explored Sigil before in a real DnD game, and the underlying quests and such were rather standard RPG fare. Plus, the interface was terrible and the old school lack of tooltips explaining things was frustrating.

    Oh, and I did use like 3-4 mods/fix packs recommended by various sites. I shudder to contemplate the vanilla game.

  43. sluzzuls says:

    whoa! most interesting to me is if it gets rid of all the weird sprite problems of bg2. and at 1920 im all for it. i never had the chance to play that game. its.. its like a wonderful wonderful christmas! sniff* thanks for the headsup alec.

  44. Rustkill says:

    I knew this would catch on. ;P

  45. Thrasher says:

    Hah. I’m curious to know if anyone actually plays through the whole game with this hack.

    The user interface and text isn’t scaled up, and if you hated pixel hunting in infinity engine games before, you’ll throw your computer out the window with this.

    Unplayable.

    But sure looks purty though. That’s all that seems to matter nowadays….

  46. Jahkaivah says:

    Yeah as much as it would be nice to enjoy the benefits Alec pointed out… it just isn’t worth the awkward interface, the puny menu screens, and the fact that the characters move to the top left corner (meaning if they happen to be talking about soemthing north west of themselves, you cannot see it)

  47. papergoose says:

    I feel stronger.
    I HAVE BECOME STRONGER.

  48. Lukasz says:

    hey guys.

    I’ve never finished BG1. Simply because the game aged terribly (‘F’ did not. maybe cause it was ugly from the very beginning?) I am not big fan of awesome graphics (i still play transport tycoon) but the pixelization is just too annoying.

    any idea how to make game prettier?

    • tomz says:

      The degree of transformation when you try to change the resolution, seems like such a minor thing, but it transforms these graphically-hamstrung games into sharp, presentable modernity is genuinely astonishing.

      – – santa clarita auto glass

      .

  49. Sucram says:

    A few years ago I wanted to replay Torment and spent about 20minutes typing ‘high res torment’, ‘higher resolution hack planescape’ etc. in Google.

    When I failed I decided I didn’t want to replay Torment THAT much. I like the character design but I don’t to see their pixels for 8cm away. The original res gives the Nameless One worse eyesight than I have in real life.

  50. Noc says:

    I dunno. I played through both BGs pretty recently, and the graphics didn’t bother me. Maybe it’s because I played it on a laptop, and not one of your newfangled fancy-shmancy Widescreen Water Crystals with High Definitions.

    Maybe run it at a lower resolution, in a window? That should shrink it down enough that you won’t get so much pixel-stretching.