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Planescape: Torment - minus the D&D stuff


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#1 dechorus   Members   -  Reputation: 120

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 04:56 PM

Planescape: Torment was a phenomenal game. Its greatest criticism however, was the clunky combat mechanics - while its greatest strength was its adventure game-like story telling and attention to detail.

The point of this topic is to explore the idea of a game like PS: T, minus all of the contrived role playing mechanics. The game is enjoyed most when cutting through its thick plot and dialog, and least enjoyed when weapons are drawn. Most of the game can be played like an adventure game, but at certain points combat is inevitable, and it makes all those stats and all those items you've ignored in favor of the plot come to bite you in the backside. Inventory management, spellbooks, statistics, THAC0... yuck.

Would a game like this have been improved if it weren't a D&D role playing game? Is it possible to have a legitimate 'game' out of simple exploration and conversation? Of course, it would more or less turn into an adventure game, but what is it about experiencing a story in a video game and allowing player input that makes it superior to a experiencing a story in a book or film for example? Player input means player choices means branching storylines - but in terms of gameplay all that really translates to is pointing the cursor to your desired answer to a multi-choice question. How can we turn a story experience into an "interactive experience", truly, and how can it be better by being one rather than not?

I know I'm really exploring two (almost) separate ideas here, but I feel they go hand in hand, as one came about from the other. In any case, share your views about either one!

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#2 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3877

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 05:32 PM

You mean like gamebooks (the ones where you read paragraphs and from time to time are asked to choose a question which will determine in which direction the story will go)?

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#3 dechorus   Members   -  Reputation: 120

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 05:44 PM

Well, sure. To a certain degree, adventure and roleplaying games that take choice into account do pretty much the same thing. Though they offer visuals and sound, the gameplay more or less comes down to making those choices.

I know that's not the case with most games, but if you strip them down, that's more or less what you end up with. And to a lot of us, that is one of the most compelling parts of those games.

How can we expand this kind of gameplay - is my question, really. Slapping a roleplaying game on top of it expands the gameplay significantly, yes, but it doesn't really improve it. Planescape: Torment being Exhibit A.

#4 BLiTZWiNG   Members   -  Reputation: 349

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 07:40 PM

Well, sure. To a certain degree, adventure and roleplaying games that take choice into account do pretty much the same thing. Though they offer visuals and sound, the gameplay more or less comes down to making those choices.

I know that's not the case with most games, but if you strip them down, that's more or less what you end up with. And to a lot of us, that is one of the most compelling parts of those games.

How can we expand this kind of gameplay - is my question, really. Slapping a roleplaying game on top of it expands the gameplay significantly, yes, but it doesn't really improve it. Planescape: Torment being Exhibit A.


Go play games like Space Quest and Kings Quest.

#5 Ashaman73   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 7797

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 03:20 AM

Well, sure. To a certain degree, adventure and roleplaying games that take choice into account do pretty much the same thing. Though they offer visuals and sound, the gameplay more or less comes down to making those choices.

I know that's not the case with most games, but if you strip them down, that's more or less what you end up with. And to a lot of us, that is one of the most compelling parts of those games.

How can we expand this kind of gameplay - is my question, really. Slapping a roleplaying game on top of it expands the gameplay significantly, yes, but it doesn't really improve it. Planescape: Torment being Exhibit A.

Isn't the problem, that when you strip the RPG part from PS:T you are left with an interactive story/movie ? It's like taking away the golf ball from a golf tournament to get a better view of the landscape. Yes, it is a lovely landscape, but it is no longer a game.

A good story can be very important for a game, but you should always start with a good gameplay first instead of bending the gameplay to the story (IMHO this is one reason movie/book adaption are poor rather than good).

#6 LorenzoGatti   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2735

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 04:37 AM

Planescape: Torment was a phenomenal game. Its greatest criticism however, was the clunky combat mechanics - while its greatest strength was its adventure game-like story telling and attention to detail.

The point of this topic is to explore the idea of a game like PS: T, minus all of the contrived role playing mechanics. The game is enjoyed most when cutting through its thick plot and dialog, and least enjoyed when weapons are drawn. Most of the game can be played like an adventure game, but at certain points combat is inevitable, and it makes all those stats and all those items you've ignored in favor of the plot come to bite you in the backside. Inventory management, spellbooks, statistics, THAC0... yuck.

This is simply your taste, and it is definitely misaligned with Planescape taste: you dislike the closely tied tactical combat optimization and strategical power accumulation that are the true soul of AD&D.

Imagine a RPG character whose best plan to win fights is "yuck". Can you honestly imagine such a character not dying ignominiously as soon as he has an adventure in a dangerous place like Sigil?
Produci, consuma, crepa

#7 dechorus   Members   -  Reputation: 120

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 09:29 PM

Isn't the problem, that when you strip the RPG part from PS:T you are left with an interactive story/movie ? It's like taking away the golf ball from a golf tournament to get a better view of the landscape. Yes, it is a lovely landscape, but it is no longer a game.

A good story can be very important for a game, but you should always start with a good gameplay first instead of bending the gameplay to the story (IMHO this is one reason movie/book adaption are poor rather than good).


Going with that golf analogy - suppose one wishes to see some amazing sights, but are held back because they have to play (and win) a game of golf, and until they do, they cannot see what they came for. Golf is fun in its own right, but you may find yourself spending more time than you'd like on it all because you'd like to see some landscapes.

This is simply your taste, and it is definitely misaligned with Planescape taste: you dislike the closely tied tactical combat optimization and strategical power accumulation that are the true soul of AD&D.

Imagine a RPG character whose best plan to win fights is "yuck". Can you honestly imagine such a character not dying ignominiously as soon as he has an adventure in a dangerous place like Sigil?


Going by reviews across the web, these are not just my views. Plenty of people found the actual combat and interface to be frustrating and obtrusive, and interfering with what they enjoyed most about the game: the story. And more importantly, the experience. Meeting new people, discovering new places, finding new truths, solving mysteries... and the like.

I realize that my views seem to contradict the idea of 'playing a game'. A story without any roleplaying could be found in a book or a film, and I realize that these should be the alternatives I ought to go for if I cannot simply handle the 'game' aspect of these games. But that is not true at all - and Planescape: Torment is the perfect example I can use, for it simply cannot EXIST as a book or a film. What makes the experience so enthralling is the interactive element. YOU are the Nameless One, and you need to find out what's going on. You make moral choices. You can explore the locations and get to know its citizens. You are in control of solving the mystery behind your past.

But the problem is it exists as a 'game' when it really ought to exist as an 'interactive experience'. I think that is, in a sentence, how I would summarize what I think of it.

#8 BLiTZWiNG   Members   -  Reputation: 349

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Posted 08 December 2011 - 10:02 PM


Isn't the problem, that when you strip the RPG part from PS:T you are left with an interactive story/movie ? It's like taking away the golf ball from a golf tournament to get a better view of the landscape. Yes, it is a lovely landscape, but it is no longer a game.

A good story can be very important for a game, but you should always start with a good gameplay first instead of bending the gameplay to the story (IMHO this is one reason movie/book adaption are poor rather than good).


Going with that golf analogy - suppose one wishes to see some amazing sights, but are held back because they have to play (and win) a game of golf, and until they do, they cannot see what they came for. Golf is fun in its own right, but you may find yourself spending more time than you'd like on it all because you'd like to see some landscapes.

This is simply your taste, and it is definitely misaligned with Planescape taste: you dislike the closely tied tactical combat optimization and strategical power accumulation that are the true soul of AD&D.

Imagine a RPG character whose best plan to win fights is "yuck". Can you honestly imagine such a character not dying ignominiously as soon as he has an adventure in a dangerous place like Sigil?


Going by reviews across the web, these are not just my views. Plenty of people found the actual combat and interface to be frustrating and obtrusive, and interfering with what they enjoyed most about the game: the story. And more importantly, the experience. Meeting new people, discovering new places, finding new truths, solving mysteries... and the like.

I realize that my views seem to contradict the idea of 'playing a game'. A story without any roleplaying could be found in a book or a film, and I realize that these should be the alternatives I ought to go for if I cannot simply handle the 'game' aspect of these games. But that is not true at all - and Planescape: Torment is the perfect example I can use, for it simply cannot EXIST as a book or a film. What makes the experience so enthralling is the interactive element. YOU are the Nameless One, and you need to find out what's going on. You make moral choices. You can explore the locations and get to know its citizens. You are in control of solving the mystery behind your past.

But the problem is it exists as a 'game' when it really ought to exist as an 'interactive experience'. I think that is, in a sentence, how I would summarize what I think of it.


You're kind of arguing against your own point here. You have to make choices and solve problems, but what if making choices and solving problems is stopping you from enjoying the story? You solve puzzles in Myst, but it's certainly not easy. There is no AD&D there.

#9 dechorus   Members   -  Reputation: 120

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Posted 09 December 2011 - 02:17 AM



Isn't the problem, that when you strip the RPG part from PS:T you are left with an interactive story/movie ? It's like taking away the golf ball from a golf tournament to get a better view of the landscape. Yes, it is a lovely landscape, but it is no longer a game.

A good story can be very important for a game, but you should always start with a good gameplay first instead of bending the gameplay to the story (IMHO this is one reason movie/book adaption are poor rather than good).


Going with that golf analogy - suppose one wishes to see some amazing sights, but are held back because they have to play (and win) a game of golf, and until they do, they cannot see what they came for. Golf is fun in its own right, but you may find yourself spending more time than you'd like on it all because you'd like to see some landscapes.

This is simply your taste, and it is definitely misaligned with Planescape taste: you dislike the closely tied tactical combat optimization and strategical power accumulation that are the true soul of AD&D.

Imagine a RPG character whose best plan to win fights is "yuck". Can you honestly imagine such a character not dying ignominiously as soon as he has an adventure in a dangerous place like Sigil?


Going by reviews across the web, these are not just my views. Plenty of people found the actual combat and interface to be frustrating and obtrusive, and interfering with what they enjoyed most about the game: the story. And more importantly, the experience. Meeting new people, discovering new places, finding new truths, solving mysteries... and the like.

I realize that my views seem to contradict the idea of 'playing a game'. A story without any roleplaying could be found in a book or a film, and I realize that these should be the alternatives I ought to go for if I cannot simply handle the 'game' aspect of these games. But that is not true at all - and Planescape: Torment is the perfect example I can use, for it simply cannot EXIST as a book or a film. What makes the experience so enthralling is the interactive element. YOU are the Nameless One, and you need to find out what's going on. You make moral choices. You can explore the locations and get to know its citizens. You are in control of solving the mystery behind your past.

But the problem is it exists as a 'game' when it really ought to exist as an 'interactive experience'. I think that is, in a sentence, how I would summarize what I think of it.


You're kind of arguing against your own point here. You have to make choices and solve problems, but what if making choices and solving problems is stopping you from enjoying the story? You solve puzzles in Myst, but it's certainly not easy. There is no AD&D there.


The learning curve for an adventure game is significantly lower than that of a D&D RPG. Compare the playing manuals of each type of game, and you'll find the latter to consist of hundreds of pages.

In any case, I'd rather not consider this thread as an argument of A vs B, but rather to simply explore B as an alternative to A. CAN a game like PS: T be just as amazing (perhaps even more so?) if the gameplay was that of a different genre entirely?

#10 LorenzoGatti   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2735

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Posted 09 December 2011 - 04:31 AM

In any case, I'd rather not consider this thread as an argument of A vs B, but rather to simply explore B as an alternative to A. CAN a game like PS: T be just as amazing (perhaps even more so?) if the gameplay was that of a different genre entirely?

But the story you would like to tell in a better way would be "of a different genre entirely" too. If you remove combat from a violent adventure, it becomes a completely different nonviolent adventure consisting of different dangers, different challenges, different purposes (no climactic combat with the evil mastermind for you, sorry), different characters (starting from the player's one, for whom different skills and perks and equipment will be important).

You cannot simply replace, for instance, a fight that you are expected to win decisively with no need to run away (meant as entertaining action and as a warning that someone hates you) against a group of thugs that assault your home to kidnap you and deliver you to your enemies with a puzzle. What kind of puzzle could plausibly get rid of the thugs? Do you need to involve NPCs to employ violence on your behalf (e.g. you manage to call the police) instead of fighting alone? Do your enemies use less violent means to capture you, for example threatening loved ones? What good reasons do they have to use inefficient methods that don't require combat on your part? Everything changes.
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#11 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 3877

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Posted 09 December 2011 - 06:05 AM

RPGs are about killing monsters for gold and experience.

Even if a game is played for the story and revolves around the story and the story is the most important (like Final Fantasy series) then still combat takes the majority of the playtime. That's what the player will do most of the time. The reason is quite trivial, the story (any story) is too short to make a full fledged game, it would be too short. And too expensive (if you intend to add visuals to the storyline). Combat is cheap and easy to make. Also uses up a lot of playtime and is understandable by all players (unlike puzzles for example). Plus, contrary to your first post, most players do enjoy combat.

Actually, even in many gamebooks (which are the most hardcore story driven games I think) combat is not so rare.

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#12 Paul Franzen   Members   -  Reputation: 334

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Posted 14 December 2011 - 01:16 PM

There are certainly examples of RPG-style games without any combat--To the Moon being the most recent one, but also A Light's End on XBLIG, and...and...

OK, maybe there's not a lot of them, but it happens, sometimes. And it's awesome for players like me, who fit exactly into the mold you're talking about--I tend to play games because I want to get immersed in a story where it feels like I'm the star and I'm the director, not necessarily because I want to hit things with a sword. Not that I think combat is inherently bad--for me, personally, it just tends to be filler that gets in the way of what I'm most interested in.

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#13 dechorus   Members   -  Reputation: 120

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 12:26 AM

There are certainly examples of RPG-style games without any combat--To the Moon being the most recent one, but also A Light's End on XBLIG, and...and...

OK, maybe there's not a lot of them, but it happens, sometimes. And it's awesome for players like me, who fit exactly into the mold you're talking about--I tend to play games because I want to get immersed in a story where it feels like I'm the star and I'm the director, not necessarily because I want to hit things with a sword. Not that I think combat is inherently bad--for me, personally, it just tends to be filler that gets in the way of what I'm most interested in.


You describe me exactly. It's not that combat itself is bad - and again, with our example here, I'm not saying that the narrative should have been altered not to include fighting. I'm just saying that sometimes, games like Heavy Rain - a game entirely focused on its story, and the way it tells it - doesn't need to have a combat engine like Tekken or Virtua Fighter, or give the player full FPS controls for segments involving shooting. The game Dreamfall: The Longest Journey suffered from using such contrived combat mechanics, and in my opinion alongside *many* others, so does Planescape: Torment.

Heavy Rain is an 8ish hour long adventure game. Imagine that length being padded out because of a complicated fighting engine with a steep learning curve. The player would be forced to master the mechanics well enough to progress through one or two tough battles that are setting them back, when all they really want is to save the damn kid and see how the mystery unfolds.

My argument isn't against combat, or D&D. I'm simply exploring the idea: would Planescape: Torment have been more *immersive* if it were stripped of its D&D mechanics? What are the alternatives? What alternatives do you think would have worked?

Thanks for everybody's input so far.

#14 ImmoralAtheist   Members   -  Reputation: 118

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 10:43 AM

My argument isn't against combat, or D&D. I'm simply exploring the idea: would Planescape: Torment have been more *immersive* if it were stripped of its D&D mechanics? What are the alternatives? What alternatives do you think would have worked?

I dislike the D&D combat mechanics. Haven't tried Planescape Torment, but I was quickly put off by Baldurs Gate 2. That, and the vast amount of spells/skills with often minor statistical differences. Sure correct use of it can be called "tactical", but I did not find it fun or immersing. Felt more like a chore.
I believe new mmorpg's should focus on physical action based combat. Stats would be important. Good reactions will have some use, but most is decided by your stats, and not just hp and damage, but also influence the effects of block/parry where chance of block would be dependent on your vs enemy strength, and type of attack, weapon and shield (or no shield). Easier enemies will therefore be technically easier to beat, while hard enemies will be very hard to beat, and it would be much more easy to make sure a strong enemy couldn't be "tricked" by exploiting weaknesses in it's ai.
I'd throw away the D&D combat calculations (it's designed for use without domputers) and use whatever suits best, and probably "hide" much of the details.

#15 n00b0dy   Members   -  Reputation: 103

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 02:58 PM

lets say you played planet scape torment with only the "background" scene graphics.
You would have finished the game in 5 minutes and you would have found it boring.
For something to achieve value, it needs player interaction, combat, quests and dialog enchance the game.
combat: action, freedom, battle strategy.
quests: rewards, without combat there would be no rewards.
dialog: thinking, player choice, morality, ...

#16 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 10234

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Posted 30 January 2012 - 09:07 PM

You cannot simply replace, for instance, a fight that you are expected to win decisively with no need to run away (meant as entertaining action and as a warning that someone hates you) against a group of thugs that assault your home to kidnap you and deliver you to your enemies with a puzzle.

Why do we need to replace it with anything? Leave the fight in, just let it play out as a cut scene. Since losing the fight isn't actually an option, it makes no difference if the player or the designer wins it...

For something to achieve value, it needs player interaction, combat, quests and dialog enchance the game.
combat: action, freedom, battle strategy.
quests: rewards, without combat there would be no rewards.
dialog: thinking, player choice, morality, ...

Clearly one can still have dialogue, and there are plenty of quest possibilities without combat (fetch quests, puzzles, etc.). The action involved in combat would have to be replaced with exploration or something, but it doesn't seem overwhelmingly difficult.

Tristam MacDonald - Software Engineer @Amazon - [swiftcoding]


#17 LorenzoGatti   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2735

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 07:55 AM


You cannot simply replace, for instance, a fight that you are expected to win decisively with no need to run away (meant as entertaining action and as a warning that someone hates you) against a group of thugs that assault your home to kidnap you and deliver you to your enemies with a puzzle.

Why do we need to replace it with anything? Leave the fight in, just let it play out as a cut scene. Since losing the fight isn't actually an option, it makes no difference if the player or the designer wins it...

Since the OP disliked combat-oriented roleplaying, I was discussing replacing a segment of the game (fighting and winning) with another player activity (solving a puzzle), both without a guaranteed outcome (or it wouldn't be a game). Replacing a part of the game with a cutscene is just an amputation, not an attempt to produce a different sort of RPG; cutscene violence could be a valid storytelling tool, but the player is supposed to do something.
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#18 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 10234

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 08:00 AM

Replacing a part of the game with a cutscene is just an amputation, not an attempt to produce a different sort of RPG; cutscene violence could be a valid storytelling tool, but the player is supposed to do something.

My take is that the OP is primarily interested in the story-telling aspect of the game (i.e. the Role Playing elements, rather than the combat). All I'm trying to assert is that interactive combat is not essential to telling a violent story. Sure, the combat has to be replaced by something equally time-consuming and 'fun', but it doesn't have to be a 1:1 replacement - and the setting need not be drastically changed to account for it.

Tristam MacDonald - Software Engineer @Amazon - [swiftcoding]


#19 Ryman   Members   -  Reputation: 115

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 06:55 PM

If you strip the combat out of Planescape then it would've become an Adventure Game. Which it could be argued that it would've been more appealing to a wider audience. However, Planescape did flop big-time when it was released, and one of the reasons could've been that the combat system (even though at the time, most RPGs had the same or very close combat system) was very bad.

I don't understand the love for Adventure Games (point-and-click ones), because everytime I try to make one it feels like I've stripped everything out of an actual video game and instead created a cartoon show. It's very unmotivating...

#20 dechorus   Members   -  Reputation: 120

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 04:46 AM

If you strip the combat out of Planescape then it would've become an Adventure Game. Which it could be argued that it would've been more appealing to a wider audience. However, Planescape did flop big-time when it was released, and one of the reasons could've been that the combat system (even though at the time, most RPGs had the same or very close combat system) was very bad.


Absolutely - it would have been an adventure game. And that's what everybody loves about the game; it's in-depth and ridiculously well written story. In other words, the adventuring portion (the greater portion).

I don't understand the love for Adventure Games (point-and-click ones), because everytime I try to make one it feels like I've stripped everything out of an actual video game and instead created a cartoon show. It's very unmotivating...



It's true with linear adventure games. You're just moving from one node to the next, solving arbitrary inventory puzzles. I dislike most that are structured this way.

The beauty of PS:T is it's non-linearity, and the stupendous amount of choice players have. The game often intellectually challenges in regards to knowing where to go, what people to go talk to, what places to look, who to probe for information, and what choices to make to turn a conversation to your favor.

With games such as this, the interactivity is *pivotal* to the experience.


With those that say that role playing games, or games in general *require* combat in order for it to *work* are severely limiting themselves with such narrow-mindedness. There are so many different ways games can offer challenges, or breathtaking experiences. It is by far not limited to combat.

The amount of combat in PS:T is still relatively very small, but yet it still *feels* padded out, only because of the clunky D&D mechanics, and in turn, feels less enjoyable. A different approach would likely have kept the level of immersion more consistent throughout the game. That is all I'm really saying.




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