The Pen is Mightier Than the Polygon: Why Words Matter

The Pen is Mightier Than the Polygon: Why Words Matter

Games like PlaneScape: Torment used the power of the written word to build worlds and stories that have been remembered and revisited by gamers for years.

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Wish you had emphasized the importance of setting a little more.

PS:T does use the power of the written word to build its world, but the world it builds is important too. If it was just yet another 'totally not middle earth' setting with pagan-style gods in it, ala faerun, it would not have gone down in history as the masterpiece that many consider it.

Good writing isn't enough if all you do is write about the same boring things, the way that Dragon Age or Wasteland 2 are doing. The same premise yet again, yet again, yet again... often handled worse than older iterations. Fallout: Tactics (and just FO in general) did Wasteland 2's premise much better than Wasteland 2 did, almost 15 years ago. Did its combat much better too, incidentally. I would even say its writing, but now I'm going off script.

PS:T was set in a very interesting world. Where the immortal amnesiac is considered a mild curiosity by most, where alleys give birth, where the power of belief's ability to influence reality is taken so seriously (that it takes its ideas *seriously* is also very important) that you can debate people out of existence, where one of the party members is a person who didn't notice that he died and remains animated purely by his own sense of justice and duty, where the main character is cursed to attract tormented people. It's not even a hero's tale; it's more a melancholy tale of loss and failure than it is about reveling in the power of the nameless one. Even the ending is melancholy, and could easily be seen as just as big a 'fuck you' to the audience as ME3's ending... but it doesn't end up feeling that way, because it makes perfect sense for the game's narrative. The hero dies, in not even a death of self-sacrifice, and gamers still love it.

All of this is much more interesting than playing HeroMcAwesome#9001 in NotMiddleEarth#Xy4LKWP47, with the same boring elves, and the same boring dwarves, and the same boring orcs, and the same boring gods and spirits, and the same boring everything else.

And I think it's important to remember that. I hope Pillars of Eternity, or at least Tides of Numenera remember this. ToN looks promising, but I am worried that it's going to try too hard to be inoffensive to explore any very many interesting ideas. It's a lot safer to just do the same old, same old again, and I won't be tricked by the same old in a different coat of pain... hopefully I'm delightfully wrong.

Beautifully written game, I still find things about it to enjoy even this far down the road. And its one of the few games from that era to survive intact in its original format (I own the CDs and they're still in good shape) because of the love I have for that game. TNO is probably the most well written tabula rasa character. I mean sure you can make him do and be whatever you want within the limits of the mechanics but he's got his own history... its ultimately so tragic. It fits damn awesome.

It is not even the need to improve graphics that is driving the cost of triple-A titles upwards, it is the competition to have the very best graphics possible.
While technological progress makes graphics at the cutting edge better, it also makes graphics at the cheap and better. Case in point: just compare the kickstarter projects mentioned in the article to Dragon Age 3. Only EA sees the need to invest dozens of millions into graphical fidelity. If developers really wanted to, they could create games like Planescape Torment with Unity, and have a result that looks worlds better than PS:T ever did, but is still cheaper.
It is a conscious choice on part of the developers (probably more often publishers) to choose graphical fidelity as the #1 priority that gets the most attention and the most money. Nothing else is to blame, not technology, not the market. IF they chose to do so, they could make games with mid-rate graphics and spend money on having a first-rate story and first-rate gameplay. But they don't.

This style of game is now the domain of the small indi dev for thosse reasons, and I cannot say I see a huge problem with that. We've seen a lot of smaller, leaner studios taking advantage of this

That being said, it's interesting to see established studios like Obsidian get into this mix. If Pillars is successful financially for Obsidian, for instance they will have a viable IP that THEY own and can develop as they see fit independent of the need of a major publisher. That can change the fortunes of a developer in ways we can only imagine. If the game is good, my longer term hope is that we will see the rise of mid-level independent Developers that are funded to an extent that they can avoid getting gobbled up by EA. WE could do with a newer, stronger generation of studios like Looking Glass, Microprose, Origin, and Westwood.

 

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