Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ins and Outs of the Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition UI

Our Art Team discusses what it took to recreate the original Planescape: Torment UI feel in 4K for Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition.

While Beamdog QA team is busy with patching the Enhanced Editions, we sat down with the Art Team for an exclusive interview about developing the UI for Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition.

How did you come up with the PST:EE UI?

At the heart of it, we wanted PST:EE to have the spirit of the UI Planescape: Torment fans remember, only without nearly as many warts and blemishes.

Since we didn’t have the source assets for the original UI screens and the existing PST UI simply could not support being scaled up to fit current generation monitors, we decided the best option available for a widescreen release of PST was to rebuild it from scratch using similar texturing and sculpting techniques used at the time of the original game, and then re-render those images.

What were the key areas to change from the original PST UI?

When going from 640x480 to 3840x2160, there’s significantly more resolution on every screen, so many of the UI details we’ve recreated are crisper, more defined, and easier to “read” while playing.

With more options exposed to the player, we had to reconcept the Options menus to fit all sorts of tweakables and modes. Popups have been rotated, so they’re less cramped. Icons were cleaned up or redone completely to be sharper. The world map framing is entirely new with some nice ease-of-use tweaks.

At the centre of all our changes the main quickbar has replaced the right click modal menu, that makes accessing combat and conversation options much simpler and cleaner.

What were the guiding points in creating an UI for PST:EE considering the existing UIs of BG:EE, SoD, IWD:EE and original PST?

While recreating screens, the art and design teams reviewed documentation provided by the original team on what they had planned to do, tried to do, and wished they’d done. We held these ideas at the center of any changes we felt were needed. Our beta testers brought up a number of features we added to the Enhanced Editions (Quickloot, adjustable combat logs, etc...) that felt absent during play, and late into development we made an extra push to add that functionality in.

We feel the new UI creates a much smoother, user accessible version of Planescape: Torment without changing the core gameplay or story found in the original.

Take us through the work on the PST:EE UI? Where did you start? What were the biggest challenges you encountered?

Our biggest challenge was to rebuild the original UI elements and insert them into the much larger frame of UHD with the same look and feel as the originals. Each new piece of UI started with an image of the screen being redone, which was used as a template. 3D elements were laid overtop, building details up until all the pieces were in place.

In the case of screens like the Inventory or Character Record, we didn’t just blow things up larger and stop there, we also repositioned and created elements extending further width-wise than they previously did. If a pipe or wire hit the edge of a frame, for example, we’d have to extend it further and create elements that fit together, as if we were seeing more of what was already in the original.

How did the design change during the development of the game?

Developing Planescape: Torment: Enhanced Edition was as much about preserving as much of the original as possible as it was about making necessary improvements. Issues arose when we started texturing and applying colour with a modern perspective on design. PST is a unique setting, and respecting choices that were made for the original was essential to preserving the same feel and mood with the UI.

This was also sometimes true with buttons, sliders, and widgets. We tried as much as possible to stick to the original intent and since launch we’ve had a lot of, fans tell us they appreciate that effort.

Was the tablet interface for PST:EE developed at the same time as the PC interface, or did development of the tablet interface start later?

We started with desktop version and there was a lot back and forth between the two as we iterated, especially when it came to adding some Enhanced Edition functionality late in development. We felt that the lower bar should be a similar solution regardless of platform, and that having the tablet interface option on desktop was welcomed by our testers.

Modders! Here's a link for the archive with all the UI wireframes. Have fun!

We thank the Art Team for the interview and already can’t wait to see what ideas the modding community will come up with using the UI wireframes uploaded above!

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