‘Ave A Long Look At Obsidian’s Planescape Sequel Wishlist

By Alec Meer on August 21st, 2012 at 6:00 pm.

What can change the nature of a denied sequel?

The most fevered highs of Kickstarter mania seem to have died down – unless you’re making an Android phone in a box, anyway – but there’s one game project that I’m quite sure could incite the same mania as Doublefine’s adventure and Wasteland 2 did. Chris Avellone, he of Black Obsidian, Black Isle and, of course, the lead brain behind Planescape: Torment, has been making noises for a little while know about his interest in a crowdsourced spiritual sequel. Proving rather adeptly that he is much smarter than I am, Kotaku’s Jason Schreier got in touch with Avellone to ask just what it is he’d do if given the chance. Avellone replied with a long, careful brain-think, chewing over how similar to PST it could/would be, what he’d change, what kind of setting, and how different the methodology of creating it would need to be from a traditionally-funded game.

Really, you should read the full piece rather than any attempt to summarise I could do here, as Avellone goes pretty deep into his thinking, both about what the game would need to be and the kind of situation he’d need to be in to make it happen.

Comments like this make me want to hug him, and perhaps stroke his hair softly as I did.

“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.”

His determination to steer clear of any D&D mechanics and the Planescape setting does put paid to any hope of a direct sequel to PST, but who in their right minds would want that anyway? I admit I wouldn’t mind playing in the Planescape universe again, but Avellone convincingly argues that, as well as the issues of licensing with a Kickstarted game, using someone else’s world inherently limits what’s possible. My vote would be for unchained creation any day.

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82 Comments »

  1. Bhazor says:

    A Planescape Sequel with no combat engine? Sign me up.

    As someone who only played Planescape when it reached GOG I will happily pay $50 just as a way to pay him back for the original.

    • InternetBatman says:

      From Kotaku (ugh, gross):

      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.

      That seems to indicate a combat engine. Also, he wants to make items with long stories, which also seems to indicate a combat engine.

      • Bhazor says:

        Gah, misread it as them wanting to focus role playing solely on talking/reasoning.

        Having read the full article this stands out

        Utilize similar writing style … and density (the Wasteland 2 backers have repeatedly asked for more text in Wasteland rather than spending resources on something else like [voiceovers], thankfully enough).

        That has given me so much confidence in the backers backing these projects and the leads leading it. It tells me alot about Avellone that he’s glad to get rid of voice acting in return for expanding the content.

        • Faldrath says:

          Yes, please. Knowing that people are asking for more text, not less, makes me all warm and tingly inside.

      • Quatlo says:

        “Items with long stories”
        My god, YES! I miss item stories and long descriptions along with awesome pictures the most. The same goes with books. Yes, I read every item description and every book in cRpg, however I totally ignore that whole “Codex” thing that Bioware seems to love, because I really don’t care about pale descriptions without any impact on game world, also it is immersion breaking for me to open some menus and scroll through dozens of different text just to read about that new character.

        • InternetBatman says:

          I love item stories. It makes picking gear so much more fun.

        • soco says:

          First I just want to go on record as YES, BIG AGREE! More stories, more text, more depth in lore and background…all wonderful things that I will throw money at.

          But I happen to have liked the codex from DA:O (never did get to DA2 and probably won’t). I know it pulls you out of the game world, but I really enjoyed the info.

          This is not to say that I prefer the codex style over having the info presented within the game proper such as on the items…I just didn’t want folks thinking the codex is bad, it is great, just not quite as great as on item backgrounds.

    • Mordsung says:

      He didn’t say no combat engine, he said quite clearly he wants tactical combat, he just wants to avoid the D&D system specifically.

      There are many other systems they could use or invent.

  2. abandonhope says:

    “We wouldn’t do anything approaching traditional fantasy in the look/layout of the world. Why? Because I’m exhausted with that.”

    I want to get in on that hug and stroke.

    • felisc says:

      yes, group hug for avellone on this one.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      The Escher angle seems like a good way to do this too. I hope they take it even further from there.

  3. mouton says:

    +1 for making a new game. PST does not need a sequel – things end, people.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Absolutely. I think the Planescape setting certainly deserves another videogame, but having a new world and a new story are not a bad thing.

    • kalirion says:

      On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind a Darksiders, or maybe even Dark Souls, style game chronicling TNO’s adventures in the Blood War.

    • Deano2099 says:

      People get quite narrow-minded about the sequel idea. You can’t do a direct one, that’s silly. So people instantly jump from Planescape: Torment to Planescape: Anguish or whatever. Which is problematic as it needs the Planescape license.

      But why not the other way?

      Fallout: Torment
      Wasteland: Torment
      Entirely new setting: Torment

      Hell, I’d even play Dragon Age: Torment…

      Licensing issues mean that it’ll probably have a totally different name anyway, but I like the idea of a series of games where the common factor is the themes, while the settings change.

      • royale says:

        Well when you think about how many games do the whole, “you died but now you’re alive” trope, we kinda have that already.

      • Stick says:

        “I like the idea of a series of games where the common factor is the themes, while the settings change.”

        Indeed!

        … of course, you could argue Obsidian has already done this. A couple of times. NWN2 has quite a few familiar archetypes and then there’s that Star Wars game I still think should’ve been named “Farscape: Torment”…

        (And I’m not saying this is bad, not at all. Just rather amusing.)

  4. InternetBatman says:

    If he teamed up with JE Sawyer to do the mechanics I would really, really enjoy this game. I would probably really enjoy it without that.

  5. Bluerps says:

    What could a sequel even be about?
    Planescape 2: The Adventures of Morte

    • ninjapirate says:

      The Planescape multiverse is huge, and Torment only touched a fragment of what it has to offer. A Planescape sequel wouldn’t need the characters from the first game to tell a compelling new story.

      • Quatlo says:

        I hope they will not continue the story from Torment, maybe some recurring characters standing there and there, but story of The Nameless One is complete.

      • Bluerps says:

        Sure, but that would not be a sequel to Planescape: Torment. I don’t doubt that it is possible to tell another good story in the Planescape setting.

    • DemonicFerret says:

      That might be a joke, but I would ABSOLUTELY play a game exclusively about Morte.

      • NathanH says:

        I think I would have enjoyed Planescape much more if it had been the Adventures of Morte and Annah.

        • Ironclad says:

          Aye, now what yeh be wantin’ to know about me for? Are yeh jest bored? It’s not some grand tale, it isn’t, so if yeh’re expecting some epic yeh’d best go rattle yer bone-box at someone else, jig?

      • Bluerps says:

        Heh. Yeah, it was a joke, but I think I would like to play that game, too. :D

    • kalirion says:

      Too much to wish for a miracle licensing deal allowing Morte to team up with Murray (Monkey Island) and Bonehead (Quest for Glory)?

  6. CobraLad says:

    Arent Planescape was supposed to be a trilogy, with next game being adventure named “Last Rites”?

    • arisian says:

      I’m fairly certain that “Last Rites” was actually an early name given to the Planescape: Torment project. There’s a “vision statement” or something like that; it was a developer pitch to publishers. I think the name “Last Rites” came from that. Either that, or you’re thinking of the Terry Pratchet book :)

  7. Allafif says:

    Interesting article. Can anyone clarify this, though?

    “The best moment I had for Icewind Dale 2 was creating an inventory item name that used the token in the title and having a developer come into the room and accuse me of ripping off his character for the sake of a magic item. When he was done ranting, I explained to him that it was actually a scripted reference that was personal to each character playing the game. At least that’s the story I stuck to.”

    • Unaco says:

      There was an item, I can’t remember what exactly… a sword perhaps. In the description, it had a story about the item which made reference to an individual by the name of X. X was replaced with the name of a character from your party, so the story seemed to be about one of your characters, or someone with the same name as them.

      That’s what I remember anyway.

      Edit: Or, the character name wasn’t just used in the description, it was used in the name of the item… so it was “the Sword of X” with X being your character’s name.

    • TheWhippetLord says:

      It was a sword called The Heart Of *name* I think. The description had your lead character’s name mysteriously written on the blade or something. It did feel pretty cool.

    • Unaco says:

      It was, as Whippet says, the “Heart of X” sword, which could be bought from the Tagos shop, I believe, and had the following description…

      “You have no idea where this dwarven-forged blade came from, but clearly etched
      on its blade is “CHARNAME”. You’re sure you’ve never seen it before, yet it
      feels strangely familiar when you hold it in your hand. The blade looks
      several generations old and bears numerous nicks and scratches, and radiates a
      faint chill. You have no idea how it came to bear your name.”

      In addition, in the Heart of Fury mode, it also makes an appearance as the Golden Heart of X, which drops the "You have no idea how it came to bear your name" part from the description (as I assume it uses the name it got from your previous playthrough) and adds this to it…

      “This sword was left behind by a previous party when they retook the Severed
      Hand from the forces of the Chimera, and it has been empowered with all of
      their wealth and experiences. It was intended for you to aid you in
      slaughtering your way through the legions.”

  8. HothMonster says:

    Why did he have to make me want to play Van Buren even more than I already did, knowing I will never see the fruit of those 3 years of writing.

    • kyynis says:

      Well, lot of it was adapted to New Vegas and DLCs. Legion, Zion, battle of Hoover Dam, Arcade Gannon et al.

    • Revisor says:

      Exactly as kyynis says: Play Fallout New Vegas. Or how do you think they could create such a huge and detailed world in so little time?

      • HothMonster says:

        Aspects are the same and I know the Dam was to be in Van Buren. But Van Buren was also suppose to center around Colorado and Utah, not Nevada. While I am sure plenty of elements carried over, the plot I have seen for Van Buren seemed much larger and more ambitious then what we got in New Vegas, and with the voice acting and development time frame I can understand why.

        “The game’s ultimate plot line was planned so that the events in the beginning of the game would have been part of a scheme by a rogue New California Republic scientist, Dr. Victor Presper, to seize control of a U.S. orbital nuclear weapons platform dubbed B.O.M.B.-001 and use it to initiate a second nuclear holocaust, cleansing the world of all but his chosen few. In the end, the player would not be able to stop all of the missiles from launching, and his or her decisions on where the missiles would strike would ultimately have decided the future of the world.” -wiki

        Plus the legion was a side antagonist, with the brotherhood vs ncr at the frontline.

        tl;dr Sure New Vegas incorporated some of those ideas but it’s not the 3 years or plot and story he mentions.

  9. lowprices says:

    “Comments like this make me want to hug him, and perhaps stroke his hair softly as I did.”

    If nothing else comes of this, somebody needs to write fanfiction inspired by this sentence.

  10. Alphabet says:

    Just my subjective opinion of course, but Torment is by far the best game I’ve ever played, and one of the very few experiences I’ve had with gaming that is as indelibly etched on me as those I’ve had with great novels, great music, great films. I would support a Kickstarter for a sequel with all the financial resources I could, and I always have and always will bought/buy anything this chap works on. It’s not even that I am hoping for a repeat of the same level of performance – for one thing, even a fraction of it would be great; for another, he doesn’t owe me anything after Torment – but I owe him plenty.

    • Revisor says:

      Thank you, sir, for saying this.

    • Vander says:

      Planescape torment was indeed a great game, but his combats were shit. The rest (story, charachter world etc.) made me sontinue, but damn the fighting part was annoying.

  11. Enkinan says:

    I’m all for this, but isn’t he supposed to be working on Wasteland 2 right now? :)

    • Ghoulie says:

      As far as I’m aware, no one from Obsidian is going to be doing any actual writing for Wasteland 2.

  12. ffordesoon says:

    Chris Avellone is a magnificent human being, and also one of my heroes.

    This… this made me very happy.

  13. aliksy says:

    Yay big story games that aren’t shackled to D&D!

  14. gritz says:

    The glaring omission, to me, is that Avellone doesn’t talk about the profound questions and philosophical issues that Planescape (both the D&D setting and the video game) raises.

    You can have great writing and cool lore and fun characters, but it’s going to come up short if it doesn’t make me step back and think about big questions.

    • Ironclad says:

      Most of the projects Avellone worked on have had this element, including New Vegas (even if it was somewhat indirect): what society is best equipped to rise from the ashes of a Wasteland? The technocratic dictatorship of House? Or the bureaucratic corrupted democracy of the NCR? Or is it the ruthless tyranny (but very safe for those priviliged enough) of Caesar’s Legion?

      KOTOR 2 was basically a deconstruction of Star Wars’ black and white view of the Force, as well as bioware’s somewhat simple good/jerk dichotomy.

      Alpha Protocol dealt with loyalty, for instance what do you do with the assassin that killed/tried to kill the president? Also Mina Tang’s history. That said, I’ll admit that AP’s strength is not in its grand themes and any great existential questions it poses, but with the large freedom the player has in interacting with other characters (even if the dialogue was flawed). Also: Stephen Heck, Conrad Marburg and Brayko.

      Other than that, I haven’t played his other games so I can’t comment on that (excluding Planescape, obv).

      • gritz says:

        No, you’re right, the other Obsidian/Avellone games have had some profundity to them, I’ll admit. But none of them, except for PS:T, has gone full-on existential.

        “What can change the nature of man?” is a question that will always stick with me after playing it, wheras the questions of KOTOR2, FONV and AP were forgotten a few weeks after playing them. A true PS:T successor needs to be a philosophical heavy-hitter.

        • Sparkasaurusmex says:

          “What can change the nature of man?” is a question that will always stick with me after playing it”

          Same here, but I often think it’s because of how often the question is asked in PST

  15. Ghoulie says:

    I want this very badly. The lack of a DnD ruleset can only be considered a good thing.

    • NathanH says:

      It really can’t. If they try to make a ruleset themselves it’ll almost certainly be inferior.

      • Werthead says:

        It’s the policy of Wizards of the Coast not to let games be made that do not use the current edition of the D&D ruleset. Re-releases of older games using old rules is fine (hence BALDUR’S GATE: ENHANCED EDITION), but for a new PLANESCAPE game they would insist on it using the current rules.

        So, if it came out right now, a new game would have to use 4E rules, which are the very definition of ‘inferior’. In a few months, it’ll be 5E, which is still very much an unknown quantity.

      • aliksy says:

        D&D is kind of a tremendously shitty system, ESPECIALLY if you’re trying to do a talky game. Double especially if it’s translated to a video game. Most of the rules are focused on fighting stuff. Your character is pretty much defined based on how you kill stuff!

        Compare to, say, nWoD. Nice 3×3 stats. 3 for physical, 3 for mental, 3 for social. Power, Finesse, Resist. So much cleaner, and allows for so many interesting stat distributions.

        There’re a lot of other interesting systems out there, too. Big ones like GURPS, middle ones like Unknown Armies, little ones like “Don’t Rest Your Head”. There are worlds of possibilities out there that aren’t fucking D&D.

      • Yglorba says:

        Why? How?

        D&D’s system has always been terrible, across all editions. There are a few cool ideas in there, granted — I honestly liked Vanician casting (though, note, as the name implies — they didn’t invent that.) But mostly all editions have been just awful, either importing really ancient bad ideas from earlier versions or using dull mechanics cribbed from over-balanced MMoRPGs.

        Playing a fighter in any edition prior to 4e was, for the most part, mechanically boring — I’m sure lots of people had fun doing it, but you’re not going to tell me that the dull-as-dishwater combat mechanics helped with that.

        And worse, D&D is designed to be a tabletop system, easy for players to do all the math and random calculations for. There’s absolutely no reason to tie a computer game to that sort of mechanic. At the same time, it’s actually more confusing, in many ways, than a computer-game-centric system (since a computer game centric system can be designed to just expose a few key meaningful numbers to the player, while D&D — designed for players to have to run all the mechanics — assumes that players will know all the mechanics.)

        • NathanH says:

          I agree entirely that if you had a high-quality RPG design team with plenty of time to create and test a new system for a cRPG that you’d want to make something rather more suitable than D&D. In practice, though, you don’t have such a team in place and you don’t have such time and anything you come up with will be bad in comparison. Licensing a pen and paper RPG system is going to be a better option. D&D is a pretty solid system that a lot of people are familiar with and it’s proved itself by making some good cRPGs.

          Of course, you can still be useless at actually using the system, as in the original Planescape, but then the system you use is more or less irrelevant.

          Further, how interesting playing a fighter is is irrelevant, because in any good party-based cRPG you are not playing as a fighter, you are playing as two fighters, a mage, a rogue, a priest, and someone else. To be honest you don’t even want all of your characters to require a lot of management in such a game!

          Actually though I don’t think a Planescape sequel should use an RPG system at all, since the original didn’t employ one well. It’d be better served with a more basic choose-your-own-adventure approach.

          • aliksy says:

            I could write a better RPG rules system (for a talky game) than D&D in five minutes. Ok, porting it to the PC might take an hour to come up with a list of skills, since PCs aren’t so good at interpreting natural language). Pretty much ANYTHING would be better than D&D’s rules system. It’s that bad.

            Also,

            Further, how interesting playing a fighter is is irrelevant, because in any good party-based cRPG you are not playing as a fighter, you are playing as two fighters, a mage, a rogue, a priest, and someone else. To be honest you don’t even want all of your characters to require a lot of management in such a game!

            That is wrong and stupid.
            a. Having a big chunk of your gameplay boring is not irrelevant.
            b. If I want to play a big awesome fighter, I want to pay attention to that. I don’t want to have my hero being boring while driving some other wizard or thief jerks.
            b. interesting =/= require a lot of management

  16. Lambchops says:

    Oh Avellone, you tease, you.

  17. BatmanBaggins says:

    The way he talks about it, it sounds like it’s a question of “when”, not “if”. That “when” is probably whenever his (and Obsidian’s) busy schedule actually allows for a project like this.

    • Megasheep says:

      Yes, it certainly sounds like there has been a considerable amount of thought that has gone into this idea. He didn’t come up with all of those bullet points in an hour…

  18. Zwebbie says:

    I didn’t really like Planescape Torment all that much.

    Am I the only person ever to think it wasn’t the greatest?

    • NathanH says:

      I don’t really like it much either.

    • dethtoll says:

      I have a reputation for my hatred of PST.

    • Lambchops says:

      There are definitely those who don’t.

      Plus there are plenty (like me) who like it in spite of the rather tedious combat. Personally I’m really glad I played it when I was younger and was time rich and money poor. The first 3-4 hours are rather slow in getting going and if this is the case with a game now I tend to see it as a waste of precious time and don’t feel the need to persevere as I can always buy something else.

      But, my oh my, once it gets going it is one of the best adventure games ever, which just happens to be lumbered with some iffy fighting (though Mechanus’ Cannon still remains one of the most gloriously ludicrous attacks in gaming – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKZZEPoVb4c).

    • Flint says:

      I enjoyed the story and WALLS OF TEXT but the gameplay was pretty pants (in particular the horrid, horrid, horrid, horrid combat).

    • Josh W says:

      The combat is what is keeping me away, I’ve been playing a load of baldurs gate, and I feel like, after finishing the second one, I will be utterly full as far as that combat system is concerned. I like turn based pause combat in principle, but I don’t really want to play more of that particular D&D.

      I’d like it if someone could mod in some “skip combat” button or something, which doesn’t work if they are too far ahead of you in level, that you can just use to get to the adventure game bits.

  19. dethtoll says:

    Avellone’s strength is not in fantasy settings. I would have hoped he learned that lesson from last time, but for you blighters encouraging this sort of nonsense!

  20. MasterBoo says:

    He forgot an important thing – Mark Morgan for the soundtrack!

  21. TheWhippetLord says:

    TBH if Mr. Avellone wants to revisit the success of PS:T he needs to invent a way to turn me back to an impressionable and slightly gothy teenager like I was in 1999. :P
    I love that game, but I’m not sure anything that could be produced now in the same vein would be seen as worthy, no matter how fine a game. I can only speak for myself of course, but I wonder if even calling a new game a ‘spiritual sequel’ to PS:T is going to set impossible expectations amongst an ageing and damanding fanbase. Certainly Bioware were setting some people up for disappointment by using the “spiritual successor to BG” thing for Dragon Age, for example. Maybe other folk are better than I at pushing nostalgia to one side? Dunno.

    • royale says:

      I think that no matter how well or beautifully anyone could recreate some of these worlds and stories, nothing could compare to the sense of bewilderment new players experienced the first time they played something that was so revolutionary at the time.

  22. Goodtwist says:

    Can you guys help me to HAVE FUN with PST? I’ve only lately jumped on the old-school-legendary-games, bought the complete pack (incl Bard’s Tale, Neverwinter…).

    I’ve installed every helping fan made patch possible as recommded on GOG. There shouldn’t be any bugs left. However, I just don’t grasp the fighting mechanism. Sadly, it’s not really fun.

  23. Qwallath says:

    “‘Ave a long look”

    ^_^

  24. pilouuuu says:

    There’s no need for a sequel to Planescape Torment, but a game that follows the same ambitious goals in a fantastic and original setting would be amazing.

    If anything he could set the goal of surpassing Planescape. Maybe it can’t be reached, but he can make some changes like:

    - Mostly optional combat, but whatever there is could be much more enjoyable

    - Make PC gaming equivalent to War and Peace. Set the bar really high with an amazing literature story that could show once and for all that games can be art and that games can be more than violence, explosions and shooting.

    - Simple make it epic! Whatever you do, even if it’s not a Planescape follow-up, I’m pretty sure will be amazing.

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