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Colin McComb on Black Isle's cancelled Planescape RPGs and TORN

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Colin McComb on Black Isle's cancelled Planescape RPGs and TORN

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 30 April 2013, 10:18:50

Tags: Black Isle Studios; Colin McComb; Planescape; Planescape: Torment; PSX Planescape game; TORN

We've known for quite a while that Planescape: Torment was not the only Planescape title in development at Black Isle back in the late 90s. In addition to his work on Torment, Colin McComb also worked on a Planescape RPG for the Playstation, which was inspired by King's Field, the precursor of the popular Demon's Souls and Dark Souls games. In an interview with Colin posted today at GameBanshee, we learn more about the cancelled PSX Planescape, and other cancelled Black Isle titles. Here's an excerpt:

GB: We've always thought it was a shame that Interplay only utilized the Planescape license for one game, but our understanding is that there were other Planescape pitches/projects that never made it out of Black Isle. Why were additional games never developed, and as one of the original designers of the campaign setting, what would you have liked to have seen happen with the setting in the video game sector?

Colin: The three Planescape games that were being made were:​

1. Last Rites, which turned into Torment.​
2. This one, which turned into a cancellation.​
3. Zeb Cook's first-person Planescape, which folded into Stonekeep 2.​

I think the reason Interplay folded the other Planescape titles was because they realized that they were spending a serious amount of money developing a license that was (to put it mildly) way outside the fantasy mainstream. Seriously, besides Fallout and the team coming off Rock and Roll Racing 2, I think nearly all the titles in the pre-Black Isle role-playing division were Planescape. It was the right business decision.​

It was difficult for me to see all that Planescapey goodness get tossed away, I'll admit. I was proud of the work I'd done on the setting, and I thought it was something that really was a game-changer in terms of fantasy role-playing. It was also the first setting I worked on where my philosophy degree had an actual tangible use. I'd have loved to see what Zeb's team came up with; he has an amazing mind and a rich sense of story and setting, and it would have been a real treat to play in that. Obviously, I'd have loved to see my game come out, but of all the leads on the three Planescape titles, I was the one with the least amount of computer design work; it just made sense to cut mine.​

GB: Were you hired by Interplay to specifically develop Planescape games?

Colin: I was hired specifically for my Planescape expertise, it's true. The first time I met Feargus, he told me how they'd love to get me in house as a resource for these titles, and I was ready to move on from TSR anyway - not from my friends or the work, I should add, but just that I was eager to try out something different after five years in Lake Geneva.​

The other really interesting project out of Black Isle I was deeply involved with with the preliminary world design for the game that became TORN. I developed a brand-new world for the project, complete with accurate geology, tide patterns, a rudimentary astronomy, detailed history, multiple cultures for each of our races, and mythology anchored by a couple of very real agents of the vanished gods. The team went a different direction, though, and that world languishes on some rapidly-obsolecing storage media.​

GB: Before we let you get back to Tides of Numenera, can you briefly sum up the main path or plot of the game?

Colin: This was about 16 years ago, so I hope you'll forgive my hazy memory on the exact details: The core of the game's story was that you took the part of a young Mercykiller recruit. It's your first day on the job and there's a riot in the Hive, the slum of Sigil. You go into the tenements with your squad, but are quickly separated from them by the press of flesh and the flames, and you need to find your way out. Clues lead you into the Lower Ward, where you discover a criminal enterprise run by (apparently) a shadowy thieving organization. Your superiors send in investigators to wrap up most of the conspirators, and they send you to Ribcage in order to pursue certain loose ends. While there, you discover that this is a much bigger conspiracy than you thought, with tendrils extending into the politics of Baator itself. You plunge into Hell to exact justice, even though it means your near-certain death.​

We'd have had the politics of Sigil tied into this, which is to say lots of other factions getting involved, and some celestial hierarchy as well. I was looking forward to doing it, but I learned so much from Torment that I have to say it was really for the best.​

Read the full interview for more details on how the PSX Planescape game would have compared with King's Field. By the way, does "accurate geology" also include soil erosion?

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