My friend Colin McComb is trying to decide what to do next. He’s wrapped his part of the work on Wasteland 2, and some other stuff coming down the pike still leaves him with a bit of spare time on his hands. If I had spare time on my hands, I’d stare at the wall, or fail to clean the house, or watch something I’ve already seen. Colin, on the other hand, might be a bit more productive…
You see, Colin’s been around the block. The dude was instrumental in creating the Planescape universe back when D&D was still owned by TSR; apparently that achievement was insufficient, so he went into video games and was one of the core designers on this one RPG you might have heard of - Planescape Torment, Black Isle’s brilliant, Dickensian meander through one of the least-appreciated and most imaginative D&D licenses. Its bizarre setting and… memorable… characters were just the beginning of that title’s relentless genius.
And now Colin’s thinking that maybe the world could use a little more Torment.
Check out his thoughts on the subject, right here in his blog. But come back! Clicking that link isn’t like passing through a portal in Sigil, the City of Doors, where any threshold can transport you everywhere, where such gates are often one-way, so venturing through might trap you forever in a faraway place that could glitter with all your dreams or cackle and moan with all your nightmares. No, here on the web you can just push the BACK button on your browser.
So Colin is toying with the idea of making another Torment game. Not a D&D license, of course; and not a direct sequel. Possibly, given IP ownership, not even bearing the Torment title. But torment is a state of mind, not a name, and Colin – of all people – knows exactly how to bring it about again.
I remember much from Planescape Torment, but two things stand out in my memory:
First, it was one of the only RPGs I’ve played, to this day, that forced me to think about my decisions. And not just in the usual way. The towering moral dilemmas of Mass Effect and The Walking Dead are often just that: moral dilemmas. Do the wrong thing or the right thing, with the decision muddied by your immediate needs.
In Planescape Torment, the decisions were occasionally black and white, but more often, they were not. I remember so many conversations where I was presented with three or four (or five, or more) dialogue options, each dense and rippling with meaning, none obviously right or wrong. And often my life – to whatever degree life mattered for the game’s immortal protagonist – hung on answering correctly. It was brilliant.
Second, I fanboyed about it. They published emails in the back of the instructions, so the 24-year-old-me sent one to Chris Avellone to thank him, and say how much I was enjoying the game. And he wrote back! He wrote back immediately! Chris Fucking Avellone emailed me, and said thank you very much for the note, that it really meant a lot to hear from me, and that he’d shared my message around the office with the rest of the team. Can you believe it?
With strange eons I now live in a world where I know Chris; where I’ve actually had lunch with him and sat on panels with him and he’s a Facebook friend. I don’t call him Chris Fucking Avellone any more (just Chris), but I mean come on.
Oh! Third, there’s a talking armoire named Louis in the game.
Since Colin and I both live in the same state we really need to get together for beers more often. But in the interim, he’s asking the world at large what’s next for him, and whether what’s next might be a project that will hopefully bring back the spirit of Torment.
So he asks, what would you want to see?
I’d want to see a setting as strange and surreal yet clearly lived-in.
I’d want to see characters as memorable, each having a story as tragic – yet occasionally hilarious – as the oddities that populated that 1999 masterpiece.
I’d want to see decisions that I had to think about. Not because I was deciding right and wrong, but deciding correct and incorrect.
That’s what I’d like to see. Tell Colin what you’d like to see.