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"Turns out the only thing that can take down the Planes is IP ownership": A Colin McComb Interview

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"Turns out the only thing that can take down the Planes is IP ownership": A Colin McComb Interview

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 5 January 2013, 23:23:45

Tags: Colin McComb; inXile Entertainment; Planescape: Torment; PSX Planescape game; Torment: Tides of Numenera; Wasteland 2

The Polish Planescape: Torment fansite Grimuar Sferowca has managed to score an interview with Colin McComb, writer for Wasteland 2 and creative lead on inXile's not-quite-announced-yet Torment spiritual successor. It's an excellent interview, in which Colin reveals new information about his work on Wasteland 2 and about his plans for the Torment successor, among other things. Some excerpts:

GS: Colin, you'd worked on numerous books and adventures for the Planescape setting, you took part in the development of Torment's storyline, and lately you've been involved in the designing of a post-nuclear world of tomorrow. Could you tell us in brief what were your responsibilities on the Torment team and what are you responsible for now as a writer on Wasteland 2?

Colin McComb: In 1996-99, my title was "game designer". Now, that title would probably be adjusted to "narrative designer"; though I was responsible for some mechanical work and some scripting, I was primarily responsible for developing characters, quests, and some items.​

My work for Wasteland 2 is very similar to that. Right now I'm working on fleshing out a very polite cannibal cult and making sure there's plenty to do and experience in my particular area. I think there's a good depth of reactivity here, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it plays when it's implemented. One of the great things about the preproduction lead-time we have is that we'll have time to make necessary changes and get everything working just right.​

GS: You've written books, you've written games - which poses the bigger challenge? Do you prefer to create worlds that come to life solely in the reader's imagination or interactive ones offering the support of graphics and sound?

Colin: They're both challenging, but in different ways. Still, I think I'm going to have to give the edge to CRPGs, because in addition to developing compelling characters, an interesting plot, and narrative threads for other supporting actors, you need to develop a game that reacts to the player's choices. Is the protagonist going to make certain choices? You'd better think about those choices, and about how far you're going to allow the player to go down that path. This is one of the questions we had while developing Wasteland 2: how evil do we want to allow the player to be? At some point, the story starts to go sideways. An organization like the Rangers probably doesn't look too kindly on a rampage killer, and we've discussed ways to implement what happens when the player reaches that point.​

GS: Matter shaped by sheer willpower, despotic devils warring with chaotic demons, a city linked to every place in the multiverse, and finally the Lady of Pain, the silent ruler of that city... Planescape is a crazy setting and an oasis of radically good ideas, many of which haven't yet been used to their full potential. Do you have any favorite themes or concepts that you deem especially worth cultivating?

Colin: I don't think we really explored the notion of what it means to struggle to be good, actually. Writing goodness without being boring is *hard*, especially when you do it without the contrast of evil. That is, it's easy to for Good to be exciting when you're in Baator and surrounded by devils - it's not so easy when you're in Mount Celestia and everyone around you is encouraging you to be a better person.​

I'd love to explore the madness of Pandemonium more, too, the endless tunnels of howling wind. Or the orbs of deeper Carceri, or the chaos of Limbo and the shifting cities of the githzerai, or... well, I could go on for days.​

I guess the answer is all of them. I'd love to develop all of them further. I really loved that setting.​

With the new setting we're looking at, we have a fresh set of concepts to examine. While we're not looking at metaphysics made flesh, we're looking at some ideas that are equally as cool, and we're going to have the opportunity to dig deep into the idea of legacies and the individual choices that define our lives and provide meaning on a broader scale. Our new setting is just as Big-Idea, and I am really looking forward to expressing some of those concepts in a way that is emotionally and intellectually satisfying.​

There's also this tidbit about the cancelled Planescape game for the Playstation:

GS: Upon several occasions, you've mentioned the cancelled PlayStation Planescape game you'd worked on before you joined the Torment team. Could you tell us a bit more about it? Which elements of the original campaign were to be the main focus of the project? Which planes would the player get to visit?

Colin: Sure! The game would have been similar to the game King's Field, a first-person style game of puzzles, exploration, and real-time combat. You were to have taken the part of a Mercykiller, pursuing the source of a riot in the Hive. Your investigations would lead you to a thieves' guild in the Lower Ward, an arms dealer in Ribcage, and then into the depths of Baator as you sought to deliver justice to the people responsible for so much suffering.​

Now that I think about it, it would have been a really cool tie-in to have your character be named Vhailor.​

The interview also touches upon topics such as Colin's writing career, his inspirations, and his thoughts on the viability of narrative-heavy games in today's gaming industry. In the second half of the interview, he answers some specific questions about Planescape: Torment and the Planescape setting. It's fascinating stuff - I highly recommend that you read the entire thing.

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