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

Discussion in 'RPG Codex News & Content Comments' started by Infinitron, Apr 30, 2013.

  1. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    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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  2. Cyberarmy Love fool Patron

    Cyberarmy
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    Meh, that Torn could have been something great :/, Shame we only found out about it after its cancelation thanks to our crappy internetz...
     
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  3. t Arcane Patron

    t
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    Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Serpent in the Staglands Divinity: Original Sin Torment: Tides of Numenera Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Colin is great. T:ToN will be fucking sublime.
     
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  4. Lady Error █▓▒░ ░▒▓█ Patron Literally Hitler

    Lady Error
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    The story doesn't sound as good as that of PS:T, so I agree with him, it was the right choice to abandon it.
     
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  5. Scruffy The janitor Patron

    Scruffy
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    Codex 2012 Torment: Tides of Numenera Codex USB, 2014
    Sidetracking this a bit: Planescape was a great setting that allowed for endless situations VERY different from your run of the mill D&D “you are in a tavern, you go to a dungeon, you kill X goblins and an ogre, you find the loot, you come back to the tavern”.

    Why was a good setting vastly ignored by mainstream audience and didn’t become popular, while a piece of shit like Eberron was pushed down players’ throats, and they gleefully swallowed?

    Instead of Eberron, why didn’t WotC improve on Planescape? And why did player go with that horrible Eberron thing?

    It’s like having a beautiful diamond that needs polishing in your hands, and setting it apart to work on a shitty zircon. Why?
     
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  6. BobtheTree Savant

    BobtheTree
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    Casuals prefer familiar, safe settings over weird, new (to them) things.
     
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  7. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Actually I believe Planescape was considered edgy grimdark 90s weird wacky hipster shit (think Rifts) before MCA showed its potential
     
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  8. Scruffy The janitor Patron

    Scruffy
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    Codex 2012 Torment: Tides of Numenera Codex USB, 2014
    i loved it right away. i guess that makes me a hipster edgy piece of shit. oh well.
     
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  9. Hobo Elf Arcane

    Hobo Elf
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    Why did this not happen? WHY?
     
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  10. tuluse Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    tuluse
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    Serpent in the Staglands Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    The default settings for DnD are nice because as a DM you can just slap together some shit and no one will notice any difference in quality between your stuff and the official content.
     
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  11. Misconnected Savant

    Misconnected
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    Not by anyone who bothered to check it out, I hope. Unlike Rifts, PS didn't pile everything together. It gave everything an entry point into the setting, but it kept them separated from each other and the PS setting in general. The melange of crazy was mostly not lifted from shitty comics and even worse films, and the few bits that were got a serious rewrite to fit the setting, rather than trying to fit the setting to them. It was weird, but it wasn't the wacky hipster kind of weird, just different weird.

    And it most definitely wasn't grimdark. It was more focused on the stories of the PCs than the epic undertakings of the party, but that's about the closest PS ever came to being even a little bit grittier than the popular D&D settings. It's probably also what made it the best D&D setting that ever was. Ravenloft & DarkSun kind of strayed into gritty or outright grimdark territory on occasion, but PlaneScape never did. For a setting that literally was the home and endless battleground of good, evil, law and chaos, it was almost shockingly un-crapsack.

    ... Did anyone ever port it to BRP?
     
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  12. Mother Russia Andhaira Dumbfuck Queued

    Andhaira
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    Uhm, no. I and may others, especially back on the ol' Interplay, Sierra and Arcanum Inn boards (rpgvault/IGN) knew about TORN from Day 1 announcement and followed it eagerly. We also saw screenies as they were released, as well as followed the Black Isle's: TORN fiasco where first in an interview a Black Isle dude gushed about how Black Isle should totally form it's own brand, while after cancellation another Black Isler (maybe the same dude, who knowz lolz) said that putting the Black Isle label in front of the title was a hugely bad and stupid idea.

    Honestly, I think Interplay got jealous of Black Isle and how popular they were getting, or something like that. That may not have been the reason for cancellation of course, but likely led to bad blood.

    Truly, Planescape was a DIAMOND in a SEA of ZIRCONS. No surprise, as tt was the penultimate setting after all.
     
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  13. Cosmo Arcane

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    Alas it's true that Planescape was a fantastic setting plagued with adventures that couldn't match its sheer inventiveness and abundance of fuckin' great ideas.
     
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