Friday, April 8, 2011

Planescape: Torment portrait mod

If you've been here before, and want to know what's changed, jump directly to the Revision History or Update News sections. A copy of the readme file follows.

Download link

Tchos' portrait mod for Planescape: Torment

by Tchos


To replace the 3D character portraits in the game with high-quality hand-painted portraits, as other Infinity Engine games used, such as Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale, which are more aesthetically pleasing than the 3D character portraits in PS:T. These replacements occur where they appear in the PC/NPC section of the journal, in the stat screens, and the inventory paperdolls. Ideally, future releases of this mod will include replacements for the portraits at the bottom of the gameplay screen, as well as replacements for the rest of the recruitable party members, and perhaps more general NPCs.


Inventory paperdoll example -- The Nameless One, before and after
Stat screen example -- Fall-From-Grace, before and after
Journal portrait example -- Annah, before and after


This mod comes with a WeiDU installer. To install, copy all of the files into your PS:T "override" folder, located wherever you installed Planescape: Torment, run the file Setup-Tchos-PST-portrait-mod.exe, and follow the prompts. To uninstall, run the file again.

Most of the files are in .bmp format, which can easily be viewed so that you can preview the portraits, and perhaps remove any you don't like.


I've tried to find portraits that adhered as closely as possible to a certain style (leaning toward realism) and a high level of quality, and so there are a couple of party members who are not replaced here. Although I did find art of some of those characters, they fell too far outside my criteria for this mod. This may seem too arbitrary, especially since some of the official concept art I used strays pretty far from realism, but I'd like to leave the door open for future version releases of this mod to include good replacements for them, if suitable art becomes available in the future.

Of course, this mod could not exist without the permission graciously given by the artists whose work appears in it. I encourage users of this mod to voice your appreciation to those artists, where they may be found in the credits to follow.

Credits for original art, used with permission:

The Nameless One:

Artist: Samizé


Artist: Eleni Tsami (Eilidh)


Artist: Michele Chang

Misc. NPCs

Fell (and general Dabus), male and female tieflings.

Artist: Phaere (Lisette W.)

Her comments posted on her mod resource submissions collection repeatedly give permission to use any of the portraits in mods:

"You can change the portrait as you see fit." "If you wish to use any other portrait you can, so long as you credit me." "I only want my name mentioned if it in a module for public use. Other than that; use any picture you'd like."

Official concept art used:

  • The Nameless One (cover art, used for stat screen)
  • Deionarra
  • Vhailor
  • Wererat
  • Various creatures

Revision history

  • Version 0.90
    • Released 2011-04-08
    • Replaces journal portraits of: The Nameless One, Annah, Fall-From-Grace, Vhailor, Deionarra, Fell/Dabus, male and female tieflings, wererat, larval worm.
    • Replaces stat screen portraits of: The Nameless One, Annah, Fall-From-Grace, Vhailor, Morte
    • Replaces inventory screen paperdolls of: The Nameless One, Annah, Fall-From-Grace, Vhailor, Morte
  • Version 0.91
    • Released 2011-04-09
    • WeiDU installer kindly provided by GhostDog

Update News

2011-04-09: Updated file to 0.91, incorporating a WeiDU installer, kindly provided by GhostDog.

2011-04-08: I wasn't able to get the animated portraits done for this release using BAM Workshop II. The portraits just didn't work. I'll try later if I can find a better BAM editor. In the meantime, here is release v0.90. Do not link directly to the download page, because updated versions will require a different link. Link instead to this blog post, which I will keep updated with the latest information.

Closing remarks

As I plan to update this mod as I am able, please inform me if you want to host this mod elsewhere, so I can be sure to keep them all up to date. I can be contacted through my blog at

Download link

Monday, April 4, 2011

Planescape: Torment, part 1

After finishing Baldur's Gate and its expansion, I wasn't sure which game I might focus on next. I ended up dabbling with several, including Classic Adventures, a total conversion for Baldur's Gate 2 that I'm writing about for a future post, as well as Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale, and Arx Fatalis. This post will be dedicated to Planescape: Torment.

This was one of the games from my X-mas list this past December, and it was the highest priority on that list. My time playing it has confirmed that priority to be warranted. It is an excellent game.

I'll begin with a brief overview of my impressions of the gameplay, interface, and graphic design, to get all that out of the way first, since I have harsh critiques in those areas. My praise will come afterward, in regard to its well-deserved reputation as a very well-written game. Some of it is extremely moving, especially as accompanied by the beautiful character theme songs (especially Annah and Deionarra's themes).

My setup

I own the GOG version of the game, so that means no CD-check to deal with. Installation went smoothly, and was followed by the mods as listed in this mod installation guide. The Bigg's widescreen/high rez mod, Ghostdog's UI mod to fix up the UI for the higher resolutions (and to make the font more readable), The Ultimate WeiDU Fixpack for bug fixes and spelling/grammar corrections in the text, Qwinn's Unfinished Business patch for restoration of some additional content that was cut from the game as released, and finally Qwinn's PS:T Tweak Pack, for some convenience tweaks (stackable rings/scrolls/etc.), banter acceleration, and other things.

The graphics

The primitive 3D graphics are very unappealing -- especially the character models. They have not aged as gracefully as BG and Icewind Dale, which used hand-painted artwork for the characters. The backgrounds aren't as bad, aside from everything being overly busy in texture and lacking specular highlights. I suppose lack of specular highlights is better than "default" specular highlights, which is responsible for so much early 3D looking like smooth plastic, but properly done specular maps can work wonders in the richness and appeal of a surface, and such functionality was basic to all 3D rendering software of the time.

I was able to replace the large portraits in the character database section of the journal (and a couple of the NPCs) with beautiful, hand-painted artwork of the characters drawn by various independent artists, for everyone except Dak'kon, Nordom, and surprisingly Morte. For some reason, finished paintings in a similar style focusing on those characters are proving elusive, even after hours of searching. Ignus is one of the few that doesn't necessarily need to be replaced, since he's just a man on fire.

I've been given permission by three artists to use their Planescape character paintings in a portrait replacement mod for everyone to use (The Nameless One from a detail of a painting by Samizé, and Fall-From-Grace from a painting by Eleni Tsami, and Annah from a painting by Michele Chang). There are also a number of NPCs, such as Fell the Dabus, and some general townspeople, which have open permission from the artist Phaere to be used in mods, and there are a couple of pieces of official game concept art that I think I can use as well, such as one for Vhailor, and the wererats, and one of the creatures. My plan is to release a version 1 of the mod containing this allowed art and the official art, and hope to be able to find appropriate (and allowed) art for the other main characters for a more expansive version later. This will replace both their portraits in the NPC journal, and their face icons in their stat screens. I may also go ahead and replace their paperdoll graphics with the portraits, since they don't actually change to reflect worn equipment anyway (aside from TNO wearing the Dustman robe), and those figures with harsh black shadows in front of bright primary coloured backgrounds is rather off-putting. I thought perhaps they were trying to establish some kind of colour-coding for each character, but then why is TNO's orange background so similar to Dak'kon's orange background?

The "animated" portraits at the bottom of the screen, however, are posing more of a challenge, and my first release will probably not change them.

I'm sure they had high ideals for these animated portraits when they decided to do them, but the result is frankly terrible, as if major concessions had to be made, and they didn't have time to just scrap them altogether. Bad, very unconvincing single-frame "blinks" make up the bulk of their "animation", while the rest is occupied by occasional unclear actions which simply distract from the gameplay when they occur. For instance, Grace occasionally moves into a profile and places her hands together as if to pray, but then immediately returns to her normal position, or Ignus occasionally seems to yawn and stretch, with the flames behind him suddenly coming to life for the brief time he's moving, before freezing in place again. If they had simply gone with the still-image method that the rest of the Infinity Engine games had used, they would have been much easier to replace with more appealing hand-drawn artwork. I hated them so much, I actually went and investigated the BAM file format, educated myself about their purpose and use, and downloaded some tools to modify them. My attempts were partially successful, but they became glitchy if the characters took enough damage. I'll have to try a slightly modified method.

Positive aspects of the interface

The journal and quest tracking system is very well done. I might say it's better than the one in Baldur's Gate, since it's separated into categories to create more of a knowledge database as new things are learned, with characters you meet, a bestiary of monsters, and the usual diary entries and current/completed quest sections. The only thing it's missing is a user notes section, as in BG, where you can type additional information for future reference, or for role-playing purposes. This would be especially useful in this game, since there are many more puzzles, scattered clues, and items that may be useful later. I also think I may have forgotten about a stash of items or two (which, in hindsight, is pretty appropriate for this game). In Baldur's Gate, I tended to store items I didn't want to carry with me in the chest by the door in the Friendly Arm Inn, but the only place that feels like a "home base" in PS:T (the little crypt near the mortuary where you can rest for free) doesn't have a storage chest inside, so I stashed items in a few different locations. Setting things on the ground outside of a chest seems to risk letting those items disappear.

Of course, what I really should do is simply get a real paper notebook for these games, since most games don't have that BG-style user note section anyway. Some games don't even let you make notes on the maps, although PS:T does have that function. I've written notes here and there on little notepads and scraps of paper, but I think I'd like to keep a more permanent set of notes as I play.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any way to make random NPC comments appear in the dialogue window, as they can in BG, or certain other technical information that tends to appear over the character's head and then fly away out of sight when I might have been distracted by something else on the screen.

Complaints about the interface

Despite finding the game to be a positive overall experience, I find the interface to be slow and clunky compared to Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale. The interface departed from the intuitive and simple to use action bars that previous games enjoyed, in favour of a very counter-intuitive system wherein right-clicking would pause the game and pop up a radial interface, from which you then choose from several sub-menus such as "use item", "cast spell", or "use special ability". Confusingly, right-clicking on a character's portrait does not, as I would have expected, bring up the context menu for that character -- instead, it brings up the context menu for the currently controlled character, because it doesn't appear to matter at all where you right-click, just that you right-click. Worse, even though pressing the space bar pauses and unpauses the game in any other circumstance, it does not unpause the game when the menu is up, even if you already issued your command. You have to right-click again to make it go away, or hit escape or enter.

This is horrible interface design. Aside from the inconsistency in the functions of keys depending on context, why the need for submenus at all? Space on the screen is not at a premium here. If you're auto-pausing the game anyway when you bring up the menu, why not expand it, letting it take up all the screen space it needs to show all options on the screen at once?

Also, why a radial menu? Radial menus make sense when you're using a game controller, and you can point the analog stick toward the action you want to take. They could even make sense if you could press the arrow keys to select an option when it pops up. But here, it seems to have no function whatsoever. I tested every key on the keyboard, and found none that would act as directional selectors for that radial menu.

Movement in the game is also worse than Baldur's Gate. Characters pause noticeably between you clicking on your intended destination, and their departing for it. Pathfinding seems to take much longer here than it should, especially on a modern system.

This game also complains if I try to quit the game by hitting Alt-F4, which is nevertheless the fastest way to quit, bypassing all the menus and "are you sure" prompts. BG only gives one such prompt if I use it: "Are you sure you want to quit? Boo will miss you." PS:T first gives me a warning that since my desktop is set to higher than 16-bit colour, movies won't play in windowed mode (needless to say, when attempting to close the program, this is of little concern to me) before giving me the "are you sure you want to quit" prompt.

And the rest is praise

An elderly man was sitting alone on a dark path, right? He wasn't certain of which direction to go, and he'd forgotten both where he was traveling to and who he was. He'd sat down for a moment to rest his weary legs, and suddenly looked up to see an elderly woman before him. She grinned toothlessly and with a cackle, spoke: "Now your third wish. What will it be?"

"Third wish?" The man was baffled. "How can it be a third wish if I haven't had a first and second wish?"

"You've had two wishes already," the hag said, "but your second wish was for me to return everything to the way it was before you had made your first wish. That's why you remember nothing; because everything is the way it was before you made any wishes." She cackled at the poor berk. "So it is that you have one wish left."

"All right," said the man, "I don't believe this, but there's no harm in wishing. I wish to know who I am."

"Funny," said the old woman as she granted his wish and disappeared forever. "That was your first wish."

--A little story told by Morte in Planescape: Torment

I was unfamiliar with the Planescape campaign setting of D&D, though I knew about some of the planes that one might travel to, and that the plane where Baldur's Gate was located is called the Prime Material plane. This game takes place mostly in a "city of doors" called Sigil (so far it hasn't been explained if there's any intended significance to the name, but sigils have nothing to do with doors), where there are doors/portals leading to every other location imaginable, though they will not open unless you have the "key", which can be anything -- even abstract things like a memory, a thought, or a gesture. A couple of quests, in fact, revolved around finding keys that people had lost, so they could return to their homes. Most of the doors don't look like doors, though, in case you're picturing a city with actual doors covering every surface. Instead, any space that's bordered on all four sides by something can become a door under the right circumstances.

Anyway, I like stories where magic doors to distant places can be opened almost anywhere if you either have the key or know the time and place, like in Neverwhere, Time Bandits, Pan's Labyrinth, The Lost Room, etc. (and in some of those cases listed, it was one of the few things I liked about them). Unfortunately, as a gameplay mechanic, it made me worry about whether I should sell anything at all, and instead just cart around as much junk as my party could carry, just in case some item might open a door somewhere. Eventually I relaxed, and started selling stuff off.

Character build

You play as a predefined character -- a human male with a past. I've criticised other games for this, so why not this game? It helps that this character has no memories, and the game establishes that each time he loses his memories, he tends to develop a different personality. Thus, I as a player am creating his new personality from scratch. The game has a recurring theme of "What can change the nature of a man?" Well, losing all your memories would probably do it.

In this regard it also makes sense that you cannot choose your class at the beginning of the game (you start out as a fighter), as having a class means you have training in those class-related disciplines. In this game, if you want those disciplines, you'll have to find someone willing to train you.

This is a game where you get a lot more out of it (or at least a different experience) if you invest in certain stats. The descriptions of the stats indicated that Intellect and Wisdom are very important for regaining lost memories, and since I prefer to play mages anyway, I invested heavily in those stats. I couldn't become a mage until about a week into playing, of course, for the aforementioned reason.

It also helps that this game has long, detailed dialogue options, which sometimes also take into account your favoured stats. This engages the role-player in me. Having a good selection of detailed responses is the primary element that raises it above games that only offer brief responses of no consequence, especially those that are presented as mere summaries.

The intellectual stats also play an interesting role in dialogues, as you can get hints that people are lying, or get opportunities to shame/embarrass people who mistake you for a brainless oaf or otherwise underestimate your intellect. Your wisdom can also stop you from saying the wrong thing in a conversation that might lead to an unwanted (perhaps violent) resolution, though you're free to disregard the warning if that's what you actually want. I hear Fallout 1 and 2 make heavy use of stat-related differences in dialogue options as well, which is something I really like.

As it turns out, the recovery of memories from high Wisdom gives you more than puzzle pieces to the mysteries of the game's story, but also rewards you with items and special abilities, as you remember locations of old secret stashes, or forgotten arts (such as how to raise the dead).

The puzzles

The first puzzle I encountered in this game was an ancient copper earring. Examining it gave a description, suggesting it bore further examination, and it had a "use" button. In Baldur's Gate, various items have such buttons, but these had always been limited to things like expending charges on an item that buffs your stats or similar things. But this item's description also included a helpful note explaining that the "use" button in this game allows you to manipulate items through dialogue prompts. Interesting! This adds another new dimension to the gameplay! Through the dialogue, you can attempt to open combinations by making choices such as "Turn it this way," "twist it that way," "do this other thing," etc.

Stats seem to play a role in puzzles as well (giving little indications such as "this way feels right"), and in the ability to answer riddles without being told the answers in-game. It seems that if your intellect isn't high enough, it won't even give you the option of answering correctly, which eliminates the multiple-choice aspect that usually makes riddles in these games easy to beat (since there's usually one answer that makes perfect sense). This could be frustrating if I really did guess the answer and wasn't allowed to enter it, but that's one of the differences between an RPG and some other kinds of games -- the limitations and advantages are based on how you build your character, rather than what you as a player know. In this case, however, I couldn't even guess the answer in reality:

Ahem! Now, think of words which end in "-GRY". Angry and hungry are two of them. There are but three words in the Common Tongue... what is the third word? The word is something that one uses every day. If thou hast listened carefully, I have already told thee what it is.

Although I couldn't guess it (because either my intellect or wisdom wasn't quite high enough), what I was able to do was challenge the riddler to a riddling contest. Unfortunately for me, since I enjoy riddles, this was a section where my character automatically knew the answers, so I couldn't pick them myself. This contest, however, presented some that were new to me, and clever, like this one:

What is the beginning of eternity, the end of time and space, the beginning of every end, and the end of every place?

Answer: The letter E.

The story delivery

PS:T takes its narrative a step further than BG. Aside from having a lot more flavour text in the descriptions of locations (the ones where clicking on an item in the scenery gives you a description of it), it also takes the dialogue from script-style (mostly spoken lines, with occasional descriptions of actions), to full literary style, with the dialogue in quotes, framed with descriptions of actions, expressions, tone, and internal thoughts, as you would see in a novel.

For instance, when you initiate dialogue with a non-hostile NPC in Baldur's Gate, it begins with the NPC's opening dialogue, and then provides you with response options. In PS:T, initiating dialogue first provides you with a description of the NPC, including their appearance, current actions, expression or attitude, and how they may be reacting to your approach. At that point, you are given the option to actively greet them, or leave them alone.

Additionally, during dialogues, you are also often given two versions of the same answer, except that one is marked "Truth", and the other is the same statement, but is marked "Lie". I'm not sure exactly what effect this has on the game aside from the obvious role-playing benefits (you can say something advantageous that you don't actually agree with), aside from the idea that telling the truth is considered Lawful, and lying is considered Chaotic, in terms of alignment. I also understand that making vows in this game is taken seriously, and will affect your alignment one way or another depending on whether you uphold that vow.

That leads me to another interesting difference in this game, which is that alignment is something that evolves via your actions, instead of it being something you decide upon at the beginning of the game. You begin as True Neutral (aka Neutral Neutral), and your actions determine whether your order side swings toward Lawful or Chaotic, and your moral side swings toward Good or Evil. I think it's correct to characterise the "good" alignments like this: Lawful Good characters do good things because it's the law. Neutral Good characters do good things because their empathy moves them to do so. Chaotic Good characters do good things when it suits them to do so. In my case, my actions pretty quickly landed me at Neutral Good, and it has not changed since then. I suppose this means that I've been right to think that my natural inclinations are toward that alignment.

The music

The main theme song makes great use of French horns and strings to evoke a sense of a haunted character with a tragic past. The percussion and certain other instruments also contribute to create an eastern feel to the music, highlighting the exotic and foreign locales where the game takes place. (The end credits theme song goes further with its eastern exoticism in a rather strong departure from the rest of the music, before suddenly transitioning into a surprising electric guitar solo.) The majority of the character themes are variations on the Nameless One's theme, with their own particular flavours.

Deionarra's Theme, the theme of the anguished spirit of a girl whose love had been betrayed by one of my prior, crueller selves, incorporates a heartbreakingly beautiful piano bit which, combined with her dialogue, moved me to vow to do whatever it took to put things right with her. Much of the game, in fact, seems to consist of me trying to clean up the mess left behind by my former selves' actions.

The game calls these previous selves "incarnations," but that's not exactly appropriate. "Incarnation" denotes a singular spirit entering a new body (essentially meaning "into the flesh" in Latin), whereas The Nameless One retains the same body, but is essentially a new "spirit" each time, as a tabula rasa. Although this is not a normal usage of the word, perhaps we could appropriate the word "inspiration" for this, since it literally can mean "the drawing in of an animating spirit" (or also breath, since "spiritus" actually means "breath" in Latin, but that's irrelevant here).

The other standout track is Annah's Theme, which came to my attention shortly outside of the Mortuary, near the Gathering Dust Bar. I didn't understand that it was Annah's Theme at the time, since I didn't know characters' themes play whenever you pass nearby them (or during dialogues with them), and Annah had been standing around outside that bar. I'll reserve my impressions of her and the other characters for the next post, however, since there's a lot to get into, along with my reactions to the story as it progressed, but her theme (which remains my favourite of all of the soundtrack) solidified my admiration of PS:T's music.

That should do as an introductory overview post.