Putting the 'role' back in role-playing games since 2002.
Donate to Codex
Good Old Games
  • Welcome to rpgcodex.net, a site dedicated to discussing computer based role-playing games in a free and open fashion. We're less strict than other forums, but please refer to the rules.

    "This message is awaiting moderator approval": All new users must pass through our moderation queue before they will be able to post normally. Until your account has "passed" your posts will only be visible to yourself (and moderators) until they are approved. Give us a week to get around to approving / deleting / ignoring your mundane opinion on crap before hassling us about it. Once you have passed the moderation period (think of it as a test), you will be able to post normally, just like all the other retards.

Torment I just finished Planescape: Torment and...

Lyric Suite

Converting to Islam
Joined
Mar 23, 2006
Messages
56,910
When i replayed Torment as an adult, i was worried my mature brain would have dispelled some of the magic i felt when i played the game the first time. It didn't. The dialog does sometimes sink to a pedestrian level, but only occasionally. I was amazed by how well it still stood up.

Maybe MRY is right, i don't know, it just pains me that we'll never likely see something like this happening again.

The argument of "literature" is silly. None of the authors listen in this thread classify as "literature" either. Doesn't mean their work isn't enjoyable, but come on.
 
Self-Ejected

IncendiaryDevice

Self-Ejected
Village Idiot
Joined
Nov 3, 2014
Messages
7,407
Hold onto your hats folks... I'm going to recommend Hordes of the Underdark.

Now just wait a moment. I'm not recommending it for scope of choices, though it does have a few. I'm not recommending it for sparkling companions, though it, again, has a few. What I'm recommending is a game which goes that little bit further with regards to the nature of life and providing a vast array of unusual and inventive characters throughout your journey. There are many aspects of the game which resemble PS:T in spirit, though obviously through a NWN combat lens.

The problem with me putting forward to strong a case for the similarities is that by doing so I would be spoilering too much content & I really could talk about an awful lot scenes in HotU. And the parts which draw the most similarities to PS:T increase in quantity the further you go into the game, with the opening dungeon being the most generic, so you have to be able to get to it.

I'll give you one good similarity for starters. In PS:T one of the 'novel and eyebrow raising' moments was realising that there's no death. Death itself had been transformed into a game mechanic. Likewise, in HotU, probably taking inspiration from PS:T, you also do not die. Instead, when you die you are transported to Death's residence, a portal between planes and you buy your resurrection with Rogue Stones (so death is technically limited, but experiencing death is also part of the experience of the game).

As others have said, no game will be another PS:T for pure PS:Tness, but HotU is one of the games out there that can give you some nice tasters of that line of inspiration. Some parts are very nice tasters indeed.
 

FeelTheRads

Arcane
Joined
Apr 18, 2008
Messages
13,716
authors that are garbage... - Clarke, Arthur C (everything except 2001: A Space Odyssey where he had a good collaborator)

cover256x256-d301a58b906648dab484aaad0c8fad29.jpg

Prime Junta never stops to amaze with his retardation.
 

NatureOfMan

Educated
Joined
Jan 27, 2019
Messages
77
Hold onto your hats folks... I'm going to recommend Hordes of the Underdark.

Now just wait a moment. I'm not recommending it for scope of choices, though it does have a few. I'm not recommending it for sparkling companions, though it, again, has a few. What I'm recommending is a game which goes that little bit further with regards to the nature of life and providing a vast array of unusual and inventive characters throughout your journey. There are many aspects of the game which resemble PS:T in spirit, though obviously through a NWN combat lens.

The problem with me putting forward to strong a case for the similarities is that by doing so I would be spoilering too much content & I really could talk about an awful lot scenes in HotU. And the parts which draw the most similarities to PS:T increase in quantity the further you go into the game, with the opening dungeon being the most generic, so you have to be able to get to it.

I'll give you one good similarity for starters. In PS:T one of the 'novel and eyebrow raising' moments was realising that there's no death. Death itself had been transformed into a game mechanic. Likewise, in HotU, probably taking inspiration from PS:T, you also do not die. Instead, when you die you are transported to Death's residence, a portal between planes and you buy your resurrection with Rogue Stones (so death is technically limited, but experiencing death is also part of the experience of the game).

As others have said, no game will be another PS:T for pure PS:Tness, but HotU is one of the games out there that can give you some nice tasters of that line of inspiration. Some parts are very nice tasters indeed.
It seems like I am really going to have to speed up completing NWN and its expansions then. If I wasn't trying to be a completionist I would've ditched the pretty lame OC. I'm in the Luskan part right now and I've got to say that apart from a couple of decent side-quests it's been very dull and worst of all is that according to a lot of people the OC isn't going to get any better after the point of the game I currently am in. Can't wait for HotU though since the Underdark area was my favourite one in Baldur's Gate II and I just really like the setting in general.
 
Self-Ejected

IncendiaryDevice

Self-Ejected
Village Idiot
Joined
Nov 3, 2014
Messages
7,407
Absolutely, there's no value in the OC beyond learning to play the various classes at lower levels, which the OC drags out too much unfortunately. SotU doesn't get good until the last chapter really, but it does introduce you to Deekin, one of the must-have companions for HotU. If you're familiar with D&D classes already and are already comfortable with the radial dial UI then I would recommend working backwards & starting with HotU.
 

Kyl Von Kull

The Night Tripper
Patron
Joined
Jun 15, 2017
Messages
3,152
Location
Jamrock District
Steve gets a Kidney but I don't even get a tag.
You just sat on that for a couple of years and now you’re burying it on the online equivalent of The Glow? I’m having a real tears in the rain moment here.
 

Bah

Arcane
Joined
Oct 6, 2006
Messages
2,946
Location
Northwest American Republic
I guess I'm a bit surprised at how much hate TTON gets here at the codex. I've put at least 100 hours into the game so far, and I'll probably put more in at some point to try different paths; Steam says I've got 63% of the game's achievements, so by that (probably inaccurate) measure, I know there are at least some things the game has which I haven't seen yet.

Do I think it is the same classic as PS:T? Of course not. But I've very much enjoyed it anyway.
 

ScrotumBroth

Arcane
Patron
Joined
May 13, 2018
Messages
1,292
Grab the Codex by the pussy Insert Title Here Strap Yourselves In
MRY
It's interesting you would mention The Witcher up there with RPG writing top examples, a game who took existing writing along with known Polish folklore stories and adapted it in game format. Whilst as a game I'd say it's most RPG out of any other Witcher game, it's writing falls far behind them.

But your insight into obstacles RPG writers face do make me wonder what did, for example, CDPR do differently with the new, young, game industry inexperienced writer who wrote the Bloody Baron quest line, which arguably impressed most people who like the game and is often used as frontman of Witcher 3 writing.

Perhaps there are more talented writers out there, but they're not used correctly. I mean, look at MCA, when was the last time he was utilized correctly. And there are definitely villains out there, people who work in marketing, management etc. People who use writers, misuse them, and misrepresent them with false marketing. It's fair to say, writers should be separated from those people, but vitriolic radiation feedback is almost always justified, just not always pointed in the right direction. That being said, Codex does digging of dirty laundry exceptionally well.

And when something like PoE is just horseshit, it feels like a waste of time to be constructive. And it's not like there weren't constructive fan inputs pre and during production. Sometimes there's just no excuse good enough.
 

DJOGamer PT

Arcane
Joined
Apr 8, 2015
Messages
7,569
Location
Lusitânia
The argument of "literature" is silly. None of the authors listen in this thread classify as "literature" either. Doesn't mean their work isn't enjoyable, but come on.

You don't consider Tolkien literature? How so?
Or better yet, how do you define what is literature and what isn't?
 

Lyric Suite

Converting to Islam
Joined
Mar 23, 2006
Messages
56,910
It has to be serious. If it's for entertainment, it can't be "literature".

I know, vague description, especially because a lot of what is deemed literature is actually just entertainment from an older age. But i don't know if it can really be described better than that.
 

Lyric Suite

Converting to Islam
Joined
Mar 23, 2006
Messages
56,910
I guess I'm a bit surprised at how much hate TTON gets here at the codex. I've put at least 100 hours into the game so far, and I'll probably put more in at some point to try different paths; Steam says I've got 63% of the game's achievements, so by that (probably inaccurate) measure, I know there are at least some things the game has which I haven't seen yet.

Do I think it is the same classic as PS:T? Of course not. But I've very much enjoyed it anyway.

It would have been easier for the game not to be called Torment. Should have just been called "Plancescape: Tides of whatever the fuck". Game would have suffered a lot less criticism.
 

BlackGoat

Arbiter
Joined
Sep 15, 2014
Messages
505
The writing in Planescape is great because it's pulp. Games have a better chance of achieving greatness and significance by emulating Robert E Howard or Edgar Rice Burroughs than they do by aspiring to, I dunno, Fitzgerald or Joyce.

Really tho, the solution is less writing. RPGs would be better off copying the word count in something like Ultima V than obsessing over complex dialogue trees and "deep resonant themes." Dialogue isn't the end all be all. It should be balanced and work in concert with all the other parts of a game. A game is never gonna be great literature. Cause it's a game, not a book.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don’t know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”

RPGs should maybe aim for simpler and better.
 
Last edited:

MRY

Wormwood Studios
Developer
Joined
Aug 15, 2012
Messages
5,717
Location
California
ScrotumBroth "mention The Witcher" -- It's the only game on the list I haven't actually played through; I included it based on second-hand reports of its excellence, though I meant the series, not the particular title. "the new, young, game industry inexperienced writer who wrote the Bloody Baron quest line" A quick Google brings up this Kotaku article. That one of the writers drew on his personal experiences is obviously a plus (the same as in PS:T). That the two writers had this level of freedom is probably in part because this was a side quest(?) in an expansion, made by a fabulously wealthy company in a country with relatively low costs of labor (and thus the ability to make RPG writing an economically proposition). "vitriolic radiation feedback is almost always justified" I wasn't talking about game criticism.

BlackGoat "The writing in Planescape is great because it's pulp." I agree with that sentiment, but it's weird to invoke Hemingway in defense of it. (I'm not a huge Hemingway -- or Faulkner -- fan, but Hemingway is definitely not pulp, and the use of "big words" is endemic in pulp, see, e.g., Lovecraft.)

Lyric Suite I generally am on the side of those fighting to guard the border between high art and masscult pulp, but this -- " If it's for entertainment, it can't be "literature"." -- can't be right. In fact, I would submit that it is almost exactly the anti-gospel against which I (and I actually think you) often is fighting -- the tendency of modernity to treat "difficult" or "ugly" works as artistic while deriding beauty or classical forms as trash. There is nothing more wonderful than finding works that are both highly entertaining and literary. A contemporary example of this would be the Pulitzer-winning The Orphan-Master's Son. Also, your definition isn't sufficient to rule out the works in this thread because much of what Le Guin wrote wasn't for entertainment. For example, Tehanu is anti-entertainment purely for politico-philosophical ax-grinding. The notion that we should privilege Tehanu (not-entertainment) above A Wizard of Earthsea (more purely entertainment) or The Demon Princes (straight pulp) strikes me as foolish. The Demon Princes may be pulp, but as long as the next two centuries aren't ruled by "hard means high, entertaining means low" critics, I wouldn't be shocked if it wound up at least as "literary" as Lovecraft.*

(* The "time makes literary" process is basically broken with the preservation of everything. Part of why older entertainment was able to ascend to literature is that only the really popular/culturally significant stuff survived. In 200 years, if we haven't destroyed ourselves, almost everything written in 2019 will still exist, with no winnowing ever having happened.)
 

Lyric Suite

Converting to Islam
Joined
Mar 23, 2006
Messages
56,910
Well, you won't find an harsher critic of modern art than me, but i still think a work of art needs to express something of an higher order before it can be deemed to be art in the higher sense. There's also a question of formal perfection, but i guess seriousness in the treatment of the form goes in line with seriousness in the treatment of the subject matter.

Most fantasy or sci-fi literature does not reach sufficient heights to be considered to be anything more than mere entertainment. This literature is mostly escapist in nature, the prosody is often weak, there's generally very little depth in the characters, and so on. The popularity of this type of literature owns precisely to the fact it isn't particularly demanding, either in the style or depth.

Now of course, in practice things aren't always so clear cut but as a general rule the weakness of pulp literature is that it is, well, too human, and by extension it becomes a bit... irrelevant. Reading those type of works is a form of killing time. You don't learn anything from it, there's no growth. A particularly clever author may be able to capture some interesting psychological aspect in the portrayal of a character, but at the end of the day we are still talking about a human perspective, one among an infinite number which are all relatively ephemeral and inconsequential in nature (there's some parallels here with what is happening to cinema, because in the older days movies were centered around a specific concept or idea, where as now they seem to focus more and more on the subjective and the psychological with the result that cinema is increasingly becoming irrelevant as an art. Movies, even very well made films, tend to garner little interest and are quickly forgotten). Ancient literature was focused entirely on first principles, there was very little interest on the every day human experiences, because those experiences are all ultimately relative. In Shakespeare one finds several philosophical concepts, many of which are of a metaphysical kind:

http://www.worldwisdom.com/public/v...ret_of_Shakespeare_part_1_by_Martin_Lings.pdf
http://www.worldwisdom.com/public/v...ret_of_Shakespeare_part_2_by_Martin_Lings.pdf
http://www.worldwisdom.com/public/v...ret_of_Shakespeare_part_3_by_Martin_Lings.pdf

As time went by however literature was "dragged" down to the more commonplace realm of human subjectivity and the human experience in general, and from there it slowly descended into increasingly mundane aspects of this dimension. Videos games are really the bottom of the barrel when it comes to this, but that's owning mostly because writing in games is in the majority of cases nothing but an afterthought. Torment is one of the few rare cases where somebody actually took it seriously. Now it's not some great masterpiece of literature (durr), but i think it's virtue is precisely that it attempted to be "serious" (to the best of Avellone's ability, whatever the results) without being ugly.

This ties my argument to your point, because one wonders whether the increase in the popularity of simple entertainment owns entirely or in part at least to the fact "serious" art has become sick and ugly. It's like with music too. I guess one was more willing to experience "serious" music when that meant Bach and not Schoenberg.
 
Last edited:

MRY

Wormwood Studios
Developer
Joined
Aug 15, 2012
Messages
5,717
Location
California
¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Like I said, I'm a simpleton. To me, it is not immediately obvious why The Iliad, the Odyssey, and Beowulf -- say -- are "focused entirely on first principles" whereas, say, The Belgariad is mere "a human perspective." The Belgariad is dumb, to be sure, but I'm not sure that its dumbness lies in being too human; perhaps the opposite. In fact, setting aside the ancients, most "serious" literature is defined by its hyper-humanness in some sense -- its unwillingness to embrace or applaud or invent the transcendent, the romantic, etc. The Human Stain is more "human" than the Belgariad, but it's also more like "real literature." (Candidly, I don't like either very much.)

"Reading those type of works is a form of killing time. You don't learn anything from it, there's no growth." Well, maybe you don't, because you had a stronger sense of self, of morality, of idealism than I did. But I learned tons from fantasy literature. I read basically only "noble" fantasy -- not deconstructionist or rogue-ish types -- and I would say that the vast volume I read served in some respect as a series of scenarios in which to test, and prove, moral truths about integrity, dignity, charity, etc. Many of the stories also had interesting, if romanticized, takes on interpersonal relationships (especially male friendship, but also father-son relationships, mentor-student relationships, and romantic relationships). To be sure, they weren't at the level of Thomas Mann or what have you, but they meant a lot to me. Maybe what they taught me was dumb and wrong; maybe I grew crooked; but I did learn and grow.

"In Shakespeare one finds several philosophical concepts, many of which are of a metaphysical kind." Maybe so -- at least in a few of the more profound tragedies, like Hamlet and Lear. But for the most part, I think we read philosophy into Shakespeare. I think his works are more important in terms of character, structure, and language. But, again, what do I know?

"Most fantasy or sci-fi literature does not reach sufficient heights to be considered to be anything more than mere entertainment." This is definitely true, and definitely true of games, too, but the "most" reserves space for a special subset. Also, "mere entertainment" isn't nothing, depending on the form of entertainment. For instance, I recently watched the play Noises Off, and while it's obviously "mere entertainment," it's spectacular. "Recreation," after all, says a lot about human nature in its etymology. The question is whether the entertainment degrades or enriches the mind/soul/what have you. For the most part, I'd say that pulp fantasy and science fiction is at worst neutral that regard, and some of it is fairly positive.
 

Fairfax

Arcane
Joined
Jun 17, 2015
Messages
3,518
MRY Great piece. :salute:

RPG Writers Cannot Meaningfully Develop Their Talents Before Their Work Goes Into a Game

I'd say they can do it via PnP. It's less similar to actual CRPGs than mods, but it's easier to get going and far more flexible. It's no coincidence that most (if not all) CRPGs with good writing were made by experienced DMs/PnP buffs. That's where they developed most of their talents, including additional skills (encounter and level design, world-building, plot structuring, and so on). They can't improve the technical aspects of writing there, but these should be the easiest to practice and revise.

The Classics Offer No Formula
That's true, but you can see some patterns. Take MCA's golden rule, for instance:

Why should the player give a shit?
With game stories, always start from the beginning - the player. You are constructing a power fantasy, and the game story should be player-centric and player-reactive: EVERYTHING should be built around the player. We may have carried that philosophy a little too far in Planescape: Torment, but I think the importance of story lies in just one question: "Why should the player give a shit?" If you put this question to every event, every location, every NPC and companion ally, and ANSWER it, then you have the makings of a good story - and even better, a good motivation. The rest is execution.
The main thing all the classics have in common is that they have a good answer to that question more often than not. Games like PoE are on the other extreme: players rarely have a reason to care, but they're still bombarded with aggressively dull walls of text.
 

MRY

Wormwood Studios
Developer
Joined
Aug 15, 2012
Messages
5,717
Location
California
> P&P

Disagree 100%. In P&P, you don't need to structure dialogues (in fact, you seldom have "dialogues" proper) or even quests; you just need some high-level general concepts. I'd say it helps for area design a lot, but not for writing. That said, DMing may serve as a decent proxy for "willing to work on cRPGs," "verbally talented," and "creative." But I don't think it makes you a better writer or dialogue-structurer. That's what I mean when I'm talking about writing, though it's not the only part of RPG storytelling (and maybe not the most important part).

In some ways, the best thing from P&P might be learning how to efficiently set a scene because players won't put up with long-windedness.

> Golden Rule

It's not a bad rule, but even among the best-regarded game stories, I'm not sure it's true. For instance, I don't think it's true of BaK. I'm not sure it's true of Bloodlines. It also may be a bit question-begging since "the player cares about the story" is more an effect than a cause of good writing. It's possible that PoE's (or TTON's) flaws were not a lack of player-centric design but simply too much text, or not good enough text, or too many words/terms that were a pain to wade through.

[EDIT: In fact, since Chris is talking about "game stories" generally, I would throw out Freespace 2 as an example of a story in which the player's role is largely tangential -- not only is the story that's being told in the cinematics wholly disconnected from the player's actions, the story that's being told in the missions is one in which the capital ships are the focal points and the player's little ship plays a support role. Yet Freespace 2 has a great story.]
 
Last edited:

Sykar

Arcane
Joined
Dec 2, 2014
Messages
11,297
Location
Turn right after Alpha Centauri
PS:T is vastly overrated. A lot. But there's one thing I really like, and it is that it fleshes out its characters. All of them, from the protagonist, to the companions, to the less important companions, to even street vendors. And despite working with a "set" protagonist, you have a huge amount of leeway in making the Nameless One your own.

If the combat had been of the same quality as the writing, it would have been far better, that's for sure.

No.
 

JDR13

Arcane
Joined
Nov 2, 2006
Messages
3,938
Location
The Swamp
Actually, Sigourn hit the nail on the head.

Not about it being overrated (that's completely subjective), but about the game being even better if the combat was on the same level as the writing. The combat in PS:T is boring as fuck.
 

As an Amazon Associate, rpgcodex.net earns from qualifying purchases.
Back
Top Bottom