Friday, May 13, 2011

Planescape 2: Electric Boogaloo

Apparently Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart is feeling nostalgic lately. First it's his public campaign to win an Icewind Dale sequel. Now this:
“I remember right after finishing Planescape: Torment I spoke to Chris Avellone [Obsidian creative director] and asked what he wanted to do, and he was like, ‘I don’t wanna do a sequel!’ We haven’t talked about it in ten years, but it might be different now. But a lot of revisiting old games is about saying, ‘okay, that worked in 1999, what would work now?’ And how would you do it again?”
OK, clearly this is just blog fodder. Urquhart seems to be humoring the interviewer - based on the quote, he doesn't strike me as being all that thrilled with the idea. And why would he be? The original game's ending is about as final as you can get. And by now it's so old that only ancient gamers and true RPG connoisseurs have played it, and only a subset of them would like to see a sequel (for some, it would be akin to making Citizen Kane 2). And on top of all that, PST apparently didn't sell all that well. Other than that, it's swell idea.

But still, as a topic of conversation, I find it irresistable (I did say it was blog fodder). In my post about a potential Icewind Dale 3, I ran through what I thought were the essential elements of the original that would have to be continued in a sequel (hack and slash, full party creation, etc). In contrast, I don't think the hallmark of PST was a particular style of gameplay. It was more about the story, characters, and - probably most importantly - the setting.

The challenge in making a Planescape 2 would be one of narrative design. The first game was brilliantly intricate, and featured possibly the greatest ending in an RPG videogame ever. Figuring out how to restart it would be as hard as trying to continue Baldur's Gate after the epic events of Throne of Bhaal. Actually, harder. In the case of Baldur's Gate, the hallowed property was the sequel, which itself used a fair bit of hand-waving to bridge the gap between itself and the original. PST was a standalone masterpiece - a hole-in-one, to use a golf metaphor - and thus a much more difficult act to follow.

That said, problems of narrative design are always solvable when you have smart writers, as Obsidian does. The Planescape setting is in many ways a writer's wet dream, precisely because it's so "out there." The lack of verisimilitude provides a smorgasbord of options, which I'm sure would allow writers to come up with a story that connected to the original without trampling on continuity. It could be done.

The question is, should it be done? You tell me.


  1. Should it be done? Absolutely not. I think the divide between PST and a commercially viable modern-day sequel would be too wide to bridge. IWD3, on the other hand, seems a no-brainer and even BG3 can be made to work.

    Red Dead Redemption recently displaced PST as the videgame with the greatest ending in my eyes. If you have a PS3 or *spit* an XBOX, I'd highly recommend checking it out.

    Great post.

  2. Hey Alazander. If I had a console, Red Dead Redemption would probably be the first game I would play. The Western theme really appeals to me. Given how much I like fantasy RPGs (but not so much scifi), I guess I like low-tech settings. Anyway, I've heard a lot of good things about that game.