Tuesday 25 May 2010

Planescape: Torment Vision Statement!!!!!!!1

NB. Please note: the exclamation marks in the post title are ironic. But only just. The '1' was a genuine mistake.

I don't know how the public existence of such a document has eluded me for quite so long, but via a tiny reference in a recent RPS post I'm led to another RPS post in which the excellent Kieron Gillen says the same thing - only that was way back in 2007.

The thing we're talking about is the Planescape: Torment vision statement, hosted at RPGWatch.com - a 47 page PDF from 1997 (two years before the game was released) - outlining, well, everything. It's informative, hilarious and fascinating. The original RPS post was regarding a similar document Irrational Games has been publishing for Bioshock, which any other day would have raised an eyebrow, but to my mind is really rather overshadowed. Still, Irrational's new blog occasionally has some interesting insights so it's worth a trawl at some stage. While I'm on the topic, thank god the '2K Boston' label is under the ground - let's pray Illusion Softworks manages to ditch '2K Czech' in time for Mafia II.

Anyway, the doc itself includes stuff like this:
Designer: The brief story summary's below, followed by a list of all the cool shit we plan to include in the game.

Mort: “Sheesh. Can this guy write any more text? I'm already bored, and I’m fucking dead.”
Planescape has long been held as the go to exemplar of good games writing, so much so I was forced to dig it out, patch it up (hi-res graphics hacks et al) and replay the opening chapters to see if it really stood the test. It really, definitely has. I haven't played it since I was about 13, and it's depressing that modern RPGs have, if anything, stepped back from the sophistication, subtext and all round brilliance we already had over ten years ago.

One of the interesting things in the design doc (which is, in all, fairly close to the final product) is the irreverence paid to the content, and the emphasis on combat. I remember Planescape as a funny game that took jabs at other RPGs, but I also remember it as a game with more focus on a mature and touching story than on hitting orcs with big sod off swords.

I'm often asked what the best way is to prepare for a career in games writing. My default answer is ability, practice and perseverance, but writing a best-selling novel doesn't hurt either. From now on I'm going to start recommending reading things like this, and the Van Buren (Interplay's cancelled Fallout 3) level designs.

You have seen the Van Buren design docs, haven't you?


  1. Is this sort of content something that interests you? Reading behind the scenes of some of my hallowed influences as a writer has always been a fascinating and fruitful activity for me, but maybe I'm in the minority?

  2. I'm certainly interested.

    One of the reasons I used to write 'Making of's for Edge was to dig up this kind of thing, and as a handy excuse to talk to the people who made my favourite games.

  3. No I'm interested too.

    I was going to make some hideous smart alec comment along the lines of hoho can't believe you're so behind the times and missed this, that explains all those eighties era Hollywood clich├ęs in Penumbra like the sport training montage but... then I realised hadn't seen the Van Buren docs.

    (never tried any of the Fallout series, so not quite on my radar, that be my excuse)

  4. Ha, well I DID want to follow through on this:


    I enjoy those Edge Making Ofs - It's unfortunate transarency in games dev often suffers for NDAs etc.

  5. Tom, I never want to see another image like that linked with any Penumbra game =)