Somewhere in another universe, there are video games that exist alongside movies we have never seen and books we have never read. And while cancellations occur in the world of media all the time, the ambitious projects that do fall under the axe are not always the most deserving of such a fate. Had circumstances been slightly different, they might be sitting on our shelves, installed on our hard drives, and potentially even regarded as a much-loved installment to our favorite genre. Their stories make up a fascinating part of the history of the medium that we usually do not get to see, but they deserve to be told, and we'd like to do our part in preserving these stories so that the world can come to know them.
Colin McComb was a designer at TSR best known for his work on the Planescape campaign setting and its many accessories, as well as the creation of the underappreciated Birthright campaign setting. From TSR, he landed at Interplay to help develop games based on the Planescape license, and how he's over at inXile Entertainment working as a designer/writer on Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera. We managed to catch up with Colin to briefly ask him about a cancelled PlayStation-exclusive Planescape game that he worked on at Black Isle Studios many years ago:
GB: You mentioned a PlayStation-exclusive Planescape game that you worked on at Black Isle Studios in one of your recent blog entries. Can you tell us more about that?
Colin: There's seriously not much to it, though - it was six months of me playing King's Field, talking to people, and getting a design document together. The only team members were me and Greg Christensen, the programmer. Where the expanded design doc is now is anyone's guess. I don't think we had developed any assets for the game, so it's not going to be too exciting to see.
GB: We've always thought it was a shame that Interplay only utilized the Planescape license for one game, but our understanding is that there were other Planescape pitches/projects that never made it out of Black Isle. Why were additional games never developed, and as one of the original designers of the campaign setting, what would you have liked to have seen happen with the setting in the video game sector?
Colin: The three Planescape games that were being made were:
1. Last Rites, which turned into Torment. 2. This one, which turned into a cancellation. 3. Zeb Cook's first-person Planescape, which folded into Stonekeep 2.
I think the reason Interplay folded the other Planescape titles was because they realized that they were spending a serious amount of money developing a license that was (to put it mildly) way outside the fantasy mainstream. Seriously, besides Fallout and the team coming off Rock and Roll Racing 2, I think nearly all the titles in the pre-Black Isle role-playing division were Planescape. It was the right business decision.
It was difficult for me to see all that Planescapey goodness get tossed away, I'll admit. I was proud of the work I'd done on the setting, and I thought it was something that really was a game-changer in terms of fantasy role-playing. It was also the first setting I worked on where my philosophy degree had an actual tangible use. I'd have loved to see what Zeb's team came up with; he has an amazing mind and a rich sense of story and setting, and it would have been a real treat to play in that. Obviously, I'd have loved to see my game come out, but of all the leads on the three Planescape titles, I was the one with the least amount of computer design work; it just made sense to cut mine.
GB: Were you hired by Interplay to specifically develop Planescape games?
Colin: I was hired specifically for my Planescape expertise, it's true. The first time I met Feargus, he told me how they'd love to get me in house as a resource for these titles, and I was ready to move on from TSR anyway - not from my friends or the work, I should add, but just that I was eager to try out something different after five years in Lake Geneva.
The other really interesting project out of Black Isle I was deeply involved with with the preliminary world design for the game that became TORN. I developed a brand-new world for the project, complete with accurate geology, tide patterns, a rudimentary astronomy, detailed history, multiple cultures for each of our races, and mythology anchored by a couple of very real agents of the vanished gods. The team went a different direction, though, and that world languishes on some rapidly-obsolecing storage media.