Will There Ever Be Another Planescape CRPG?

Spinks is looking at the number of Diablo-esque games coming out in the near future, and mentions Neverwinter in the same context. However, she's also calling out the fact that Neverwinter is set in, well, Neverwinter, in the rather generic Forgotten Realms. She's asking "Where are my Planescape or Dark Sun games?".

There have been Planescape and Dark Sun games in the past, of course. Planescape: Torment is often held up as being the best CRPG ever, and you'll have a tough time finding people who disagree with that. There's a fan-made patch which enables a lot of content which was, for one reason or another, not in the release version, and that makes it even better.

There were also a few Dark Sun games, back in the day, Shattered Lands and Wake of the Ravager - both released in the mid-90s. There was even a short-lived sort-of-MMO, Crimson Sands, although since it closed down in 1998, it's ancient history in computer game terms.

At first glance, both settings are ideal for CRPGs, co-op games, or even MMOs. They both have the kind of setting where everyone you meet being some hyper-powerful adventurer is not out of place - in Planescape, everyone is a planar traveller, experienced in magic and exploring bizarre places. In Dark Sun, everyone has psionic powers, and the world is so unpleasant that you need to be reasonably powerful just to get through the day.

For a single-player CRPG, or a co-op game, this would be sufficient. I suspect that the only reason we're not seeing such games now is that MMOs and casual games are more in fashion - although the massive success of Dragon Age: Origins may change that.

For MMOs, despite them being in fashion at the moment, there's a different issue. There have been so many games that looked great out of the gate, and then either didn't take off, or crashed spectacularly. At the moment, if I had the rights to an IP like Planescape, or Dark Sun, or even Spelljammer, I wouldn't be selling them for MMO purposes. You'd have a fair chance of doing more harm than good.

There's also the fact, of course, that these settings come with their own system. It's very difficult to get away from the D&D rulesets, and let's be honest: the older rules have to be seriously mangled to work as CRPGs, let alone online. This may be better with the 4th Edition rules, but it remains to be seen. Dark Sun is only just out as a 4th Edition product, and I doubt Planescape will see the light of day in this edition at all.

Both settings have masses of potential, visual appeal, and so forth. They're different enough to be interesting, but that raises another issue: they may be too different to appeal to many people. Certainly, the original Planescape product line was brought to an end because it just wasn't selling enough - despite being, in my opinion and that of many others, far and away the best line ever produced for any tabletop RPG.

However, here's my guess: If Cryptic get Neverwinter off the ground, then it's possible, maybe even likely, that the same engine can be re-used for Planescape and Dark Sun games, maybe even Ravenloft. A little tinkering, and Spelljammer could appear again. But it rather depends on how the new D&D game works out.

Posted by Drew Shiel at August 25, 2010 10:10 AM

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