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I've gone on something of a slow-motion IE game binge lately. I really only got on the D&D cRPG train with Neverwinter Nights, and had only played Baldur's Gate 2 and Planescape: Torment. Now I've re-played PS:T and finally gotten around to the original Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale. Only starting with the latter at this point, but still. Impressions. Not including digressions on AD&D and its viability as a game system here; that would be another topic. Baldur's Gate is the biggest disappointment since The Phantom Menace. There's literally nothing I like about it. The combat is a repetitive, slogging chore, the dialog with its godawful pseudo-medievalese feels like it was written by a somewhat dim 14-year-old, the humor would only be funny if you were that 14-year-old's stoner friend, the characters are irritating and dopey, the voice acting is uninspired, the music irritating and forgettable, the scenery is repetitive, generic, and unimaginative, and the quests are generic. The gameplay overall feels like neverending busywork, do-this, do-that, but mostly just trek around and save and load a lot. Yech. Awful. I hope P:E takes nothing at all from that turd. I mean seriously people, this, a classic FFS? And yeah, I do remember Baldur's Gate 2 being much, much better. Perhaps I'll return to it eventually. Planescape: Torment on the other hand is even better than I remembered it. Perhaps because this time I remembered enough to be able to roll up a character set up to make the most of it, and then could just let go and enjoy the ride. It's constantly surprising, delighting, and amazing me. It does the exact opposite of what you'd expect, all the time. Every item, character, and location feels hand-crafted with attention and love. Music that's haunting, atmospheric, And the story! Gods below, the story! Walls of text, yes, and perhaps there are better ways of telling that story in a visual medium than just making you read a lot, but wow. And the combat wasn't nearly as bad as I remembered, either, although definitely not a high point of the game either. (Un)balance issues aside, its greatest failing is the lead-up to the endgame -- Sigil is truly inspired from start to finish, but from Curst onward it starts to fall flat. The final scenes int the game are a wonderful finale, but getting there becomes a slog again. What would I have P:E take home from PS:T? That inspired feel. I don't know if that's even possible, but that. The feeling that the people who made it are constantly bursting with new cool things to do to, and with, the player. Icewind Dale: Now this is a surprise. I had heard it described as one big extended D&D dungeon crawl, which sounded like it didn't really appeal to my tastes, but hey, I'm really liking it. It is one big extended dungeon crawl, so far at least, but it's one hell of a fun one. And it's a really beautiful game. Even at low levels -- where I am now -- the combat has a degree of variety, things have been tweaked so that it is actually possible to play tactically, even if the tactics are fairly rudimentary like setting up a simple ambush and luring the beasties into it, and... yeah, that feeling of inspiration that's so sorely lacking in BG but is present in PS:T is back. I did not really expect to like this much, but it's actually really good. Once I finish this, perhaps I'll try ToEE -- that's another one I haven't played because it's "just a dungeon crawl" but if IWD is this much fun, that ought to be too. What should P:E take from IWD? A great deal. The consistent, hand-made, sufficiently original, and beautiful visuals. The tactically interesting combat that isn't a chore. Basically take a modernized version of IWD, add a plot hook that's a little bit deeper than "you're sitting around in a bar dreaming of the future when the mayor offers you a job," and make it a leetle less of a corridor, with some hub-and-spoke areas rather than a straight sequence (it is a straight sequence, right? or does it open up later?), and we're good. Summary? It's striking how different these games are, even though they're all in the same engine and all use the same basic ruleset and the basic system is so similar between them that you can easily jump from one to another. That, I think, is the real strength of the Infinity Engine -- it's a platform that just takes care of a lot of the boring computer stuff and lets the gamemakers focus on snagging the player's imagination instead, in whatever way you see fit. If the gamemakers have the skills, talent, vision, and passion for that, marvelous things emerge; if not, there will be boredom. The most promising thing about P:E is that Obsidian wants to make it. That bodes well.
DISCLAIMER: THIS IS JUST A DISCUSSION POST, IT'S NOT MEANT TO DICTATE DEVELOPMENT GUIDELINES TO THE GUYS @ OBSIDIAN. This is an article that appeared on Kotaku abouth three months ago (july 25, 2012). I think it gives some insight about the development process behind Project Eternity. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Chris Avellone Teases Planescape: Torment Successor Like its nameless protagonist, Planescape: Torment might come back from the dead. Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz in an interview posted today, Obsidian co-founder and Planescape: Torment creator Chris Avellone said he's "very tempted" to start a Kickstarter to revive his beloved classic role-playing game. Although he'd ditch the D&D—and maybe even the setting, too. "I think the challenges we've spoken about would all have to be considered and to be honest I don't know if I'd want to do it as a Planescape game - I think a better approach would be to ignore the D&D mechanics and respect what Planescape was trying to do and what the game did and see if you can do what Fallout did when it became the spiritual successor to Wasteland," he said. "I think if you made a game using some of the concepts of Planescape, the metaphysical ideas and the plane travel, without using the D&D mechanics, you could actually come up with a much better game. With Torment, I'd argue that the D&D base actually, in places, got in the way of the experience. It was a lot harder to make a game with those ideas in it with D&D mechanics. So much that we had to break a lot of them. We had to ignore certain spells, change up the class mechanic so that you can switch at any time you like by remembering abilities. "That was stuff that D&D didn't allow for, it was [too] restraining in some respects. If we did do a spiritual successor, then I don't know if we'd use the Planescape licence or attach the mechanics, perhaps something that has a different feel to Torment." If we get characters as awesome as Morte the talking skull, I'm cool with whatever. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- What I want to ask you is: would you like to see the main story elements of Planescape Torment inported into Project Eternity? I mean: to me Planescape was one of the best RPG ever because of its features. I'm talking about the user interface, the possibility to "use objects", the factions system, the variable alignment system, the way stats were used (If you were very intelligent or very stupid you had different dialogue options) and so on. What I didn't like was the PT's narrative thematics and setting. It was a really sad story, set in a strange, violent and unforgiving world that I didn't particularly enjoy. It's just a personal opinion of course, but I think that setting up an entire saga upon those themes would end up being pretty harsh. Reading the article I noticed that what Chris Avellone wants to keep of Planescape Torment are some elements of the plot and the main themes of the setting. He talks about ditching the D&D mechanics and the Planescape setting to better deliver on those themes. What are your thoughts about that? Would you enjoy or hate if PE story was a sad and introspective experience and the classical fantasy themes were set to a bare minimum? I mean: I think that everyone here is pretty sick of playing the hero and of slaughtering hordes of monster just because they are bad. I want Project Eternity to be a more complex story with dark and even sad chapters. But do you think that centering the story around the main character's sorrows is the right think to do? (of coure if it's what the developers are planning to do... we don't know much about that).