Matt Chat 23 on Planescape:Torment

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Hi, folks, it's time for another Matt Chat!

This week, I look at one of the lesser known but still excellent CRPGs of the "Platinum Age," the term I used in my book for the late 90s era of CRPGs. Planescape: Torment is one of Black Isle's best, based on the Infinity Engine. Black Isle had achieved fame before for their fabulous Fallout series, and their roots go back even deeper (as Interplay, which created Bard's Tale among others). Of course, they'd go on to create the party-based Icewind Dale series.

Enjoy the video! This one went smoothly. The only challenging part was getting the Fallout footage. For some reason, that program really hates FRAPS, and I'm not sure how else to record it. I had to run it in Dosbox, and that obviously led to its own set of problems. I guess that will preclude me from covering Fallout anytime soon.

Comments

Alexander M (not verified)
Good review of a great game.

Good review of a great game. :)

Mark Vergeer
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Great Work! Good Video Matt!

Haven't played this game before but I think I will enjoy it. It's on my wish list now.

Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator | www.markvergeer.nl

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Hammer
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Joined: 03/23/2008
Another good video

I've never played this one (I'm much more into adventures than CRPGs) but have of course heard a lot about it. I liked the way you jumped right into the opening cinematic.

And I learned something today - I always thought this game was called PlaneTscape Torment! :)

Chadwick (not verified)
Ah, Torment

Definitely one of the finest CRPGs of all time. You can analyze this game for a long time since it turns many long-standing gaming ideologies on their head. The most obvious is that you are not really punished for dying. You don't have to hope you have a recent saved game, and you don't have to backtrack a ton. In fact, there are a couple situations where you're *required* to die in order to advance the story line.

As for as games go, the story is amazing as well. It starts out with the clichéd amnesia (which I have a soft spot for anyway) but moves to some very interesting arcs from there. In fact, did you know that there was a book created from the dialog in the game? An actual printable, bindable book.

And Mark, shame on you for spending time with new GP2x Wiz handhelds instead of playing this game first. ;-)

Matt Barton
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Thanks for the comments,

Thanks for the comments, guys. As much as I love this game, I definitely don't think it's for everyone. Lots of folks would be turned away by all the reading you need to do. Others might be put off by the dark overtones or graveyard humor. I heard some pretty scathing criticism (that I don't agree with, obviously) that there's not nearly enough focus on combat or action.

I've been slogging through FF IV on my DS and, man, it is the opposite. Every few seconds you're in another random encounter. It takes hours to get from plot point to plot point. Grind, grind, grind. Boooo-ring. With PS, on the other hand, you can advance several levels just by going around doing quests that involve literally nothing but reading and making some intelligent dialog decisions.

That said, I still prefer Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn. It's one of only 2 or 3 CRPGs that I've actually beaten twice. In fact, I think I may have beaten it three times. It's really that good. :)

Anyway, I'm sure glad you guys liked the video!

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Alexander M (not verified)
Yes, I completed FFIV as

Yes, I completed FFIV as well. Its incredibly boring, with almost no plot to speak of.
Baldur's Gate II is a better game definitely, and it has a finer balance between talk and action than Torment. However Torment doesn't really compare to anything, its too bizarre and unique but in a good way.

Take a look at the unofficial novelization featured here http://www.wischik.com/lu/senses/pst-book.html made by a dedicated guy who pulled all the dialogue trees from the game and made them into a pretty coherent novel. The quality of writing in the game is astounding.

Rowdy Rob
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Video comments

Late to the party as usual, and completely missed commenting on last weeks episode. Of course, the usual kudos for both recent episodes. Last week's Deja Vu episode actually inspired me to spend my Sunday playing three different graphic adventures, and they were fun! It's been a long time since I've played an "adventure" game, and I think my view of them has changed quite a bit over the years. I used to resist playing adventure games, considering them an exercise in ego-deflating frustration, but I've mellowed out on them a bit. I used to be too proud to resort to "hints," but now it doesn't bother me as much.

Anyway, about this episode.... this "Planescape" game seems completely up my alley, setting-wise. The graphics look very appealing, and the strong points you described in the game sound very intriguing. I don't mind heavy dialog if the dialog keeps the story moving and keeps me interested in the outcome. Bland, pointless dialog and side-plots seems to have killed my interest in many a game, particularly RPG's.

For example, in NeverWinter Nights, some bland-looking little girl comes up and expects me to find her dog. My thinking is "hey, I'm trying to save the world, I don't have time to find your dog. I'm a warrior, not a dog-catcher!" But apparently somehow finding the dog had something to do with moving the story forward. Needless to say, finding a dog didn't strike me as "thrilling magical adventure," and I lost interest shortly thereafter. It might have been different if the game successfully pulled at my heartstrings and compelled me to want to help the girl, but to me, the "girl" was just a character-less icon that I had no emotional investment in.

Another "selling point" of many games, particularly RPG's, is the "100+ hours of gameplay" feature. This actually tends to scare me away from a game, because it's very rare that I can stay invested in a game for that long, especially since it will probably take me double the amount of time to complete the game compared to the experienced CRPG'er. CRPG's are a genre that MUST have a great story for me to maintain intest to the conclusion.

I blogged not to long ago here about my first MMORPG, "Perfect World." My initial reaction was quite favorable, as evidenced by my blog about it. However, after performing a neverending series of "fetch it" quests, I became bored and gave up after achieving a level 11 character. "Go kill five giant beetles," "go collect 10 plants," "go kill 20 walking venus fly traps," and etc. etc. No story to keep my interest.

qoj hpmoj o+ 6uo73q 3Jv 3svq jnoh 77V

Matt Barton
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Worth Waiting For
Rowdy Rob wrote:

Late to the party as usual, and completely missed commenting on last weeks episode. Of course, the usual kudos for both recent episodes. Last week's Deja Vu episode actually inspired me to spend my Sunday playing three different graphic adventures, and they were fun! It's been a long time since I've played an "adventure" game, and I think my view of them has changed quite a bit over the years. I used to resist playing adventure games, considering them an exercise in ego-deflating frustration, but I've mellowed out on them a bit. I used to be too proud to resort to "hints," but now it doesn't bother me as much.

Yeah, in my opinion the best adventure games don't make you resort to hints. Most seasoned adventure gamers don't need hints to solve puzzles. They need hints to find the bloody puzzles, or at least to figure out what to do next to make the game advance to the next plot point. That is just piss poor design, I'm sorry. I don't expect a game to hold my hand, but I should at least have a pretty clear idea of what I'm supposed to be doing and whether I am ready to solve puzzle X or whether there's an exit or object I need that I just can't see because it's tiny and I have no idea I should be scouring the area.

There's absolutely no excuse for it because the way has been shown (by Ron Gilbert and Her Interactive among many others). It's easy enough to include a task list or journal of some sort, working it into the storyline. It's also nice if the characters' heads move towards objects or exits, or if you can hold down a key to get a highlight around the objects or exits. I also appreciate it if the character will say something like, "I don't have what I need yet" or some such to let me know -- okay, Matt, forget about that puzzle for now, you'll come back to it later. I can't tell you how many hours I've wasted trying to solve some puzzle, only to find out after consulting hints that I didn't have a necessary piece of information or that something else had to be done first. The "casual adventure game" has nailed this problem six ways to one--and I love it. No more frustration or drudgery; just going from puzzle to puzzle and having a blast, with the added bonus of a good story and fun characters. Needless to say, I'm a big fan of this genre and have collected bunches of games.

It's also necessary to have some reminder system or at least a "nudge" system in place; some way you can figure out what to do next if you're stuck. In some of the Nancy Drew games, you can call your friends, who will often give you hints in a wonderfully indirect way. Then you're like, "Oh!!" and can rush off to do the next thing. That's a lot more fun in my opinion than having to go online for hints. Once I have to do that, my interest in the game drops by 50% and if it happens again, I typically forget about playing the game seriously and just walkthrough it whenever I get stumped, because it's obviously just poor design. No point in getting more frustrated.

I would never resort to hints just to solve a clearly defined puzzle, though. That's just lame.

Quote:

Anyway, about this episode.... this "Planescape" game seems completely up my alley, setting-wise. The graphics look very appealing, and the strong points you described in the game sound very intriguing. I don't mind heavy dialog if the dialog keeps the story moving and keeps me interested in the outcome. Bland, pointless dialog and side-plots seems to have killed my interest in many a game, particularly RPG's.

Apparently, it was designed (or co-designed) by one of the big Planescape guys who had worked on the tabletop campaign. At any rate, if you really read the text and so on, this FEELS like a real role-playing game with a kickass dungeon master.

Quote:

Another "selling point" of many games, particularly RPG's, is the "100+ hours of gameplay" feature. This actually tends to scare me away from a game, because it's very rare that I can stay invested in a game for that long, especially since it will probably take me double the amount of time to complete the game compared to the experienced CRPG'er. CRPG's are a genre that MUST have a great story for me to maintain intest to the conclusion.

I don't care so much about the 100+ hours as long as that time is spent doing worthwhile things and not just "farming" or "grinding." I think you should be able to complete a main quest in under 48 hours, perhaps even 24. The extra can be spent exploring optional areas, developing extra skills, just doing fun stuff. This is a win-win situation.

Quote:

I blogged not to long ago here about my first MMORPG, "Perfect World." My initial reaction was quite favorable, as evidenced by my blog about it. However, after performing a neverending series of "fetch it" quests, I became bored and gave up after achieving a level 11 character. "Go kill five giant beetles," "go collect 10 plants," "go kill 20 walking venus fly traps," and etc. etc. No story to keep my interest.

Welcome to MMORPGs.

WoW is literally one quest after another like that--fetch this, kill X of this, escort Y to Z, gather X of Z, on and on. Ultimately, it's little more than just updating cells in some giant database somewhere. As far as the quests or creatures, "Only the names have changed." Indeed, you might kill 20 turtles in one area, then go somewhere else where it's the SAME DAMN TURTLES but now they're reddish instead of greenish and have bigger stats--and now you have to kill 40 of them. Groan, somebody gag me with a vorpal sword already. The MMORPG is about three things: lather, rinse, repeat. Oddly enough, you never can get rid of that stinking cloud stench.

I kid you not, many of my friends into the game talk about doing their "chores." These are "daily quests" where they literally do the same damn quest over, and over, and over, everyday to "grind rep" or gold so they can get an item that's only marginally better than the one they have. Where's Matt--oh, that dude used his dust of disappearance!

I've *had it* with online gaming. Nothing but a bunch of idiots, kids, lifers, and griefers. You'd have more fun in a laundromat with a roll of quarters and a detergent dispenser than playing that crap.

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Alexander M (not verified)
And here I was thinking to

And here I was thinking to give MMORPG's another shot.

I played Guild Wars for several afternoons before becoming bored with the endless grind. I thought it must be like that because its free to play, perhaps WoW, Warhammer or Conan are better.

Apparently not.

Alexander M (not verified)
And here I was thinking to

And here I was thinking to give MMORPG's another shot.

I played Guild Wars for several afternoons before becoming bored with the endless grind. I thought it must be like that because its free to play, perhaps WoW, Warhammer or Conan are better.

Apparently not.

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