Ask me anything.
We will be designing Torment’s core systems to be what’s best for the computer game, with the Numenera PnP rules as the starting point. I agree with you that a PnP game and a CRPG want some different things from their rules systems (and Torment will have its own wishes!). But there are similarities as well. We licensed Numenera not only for the setting, but also to use its systems as a foundation for Torment’s – one of the appeals of Numenera was that we felt its rules were well-suited for computer adaptation for Torment. This approach also saves time over creating a new system from scratch (as much fun as that can be =) ).
We’ll modify aspects of the rules as is best for Torment. (The skill system, for example, is too open-ended for a computer game.) We won’t be trying to provide a pure translation of the Numenera PnP experience, though many aspects of its essence (the focus on narrative and exploration, for example) are well aligned with our vision for Torment and we see value to creating a shared experience between the two games.
While the core system design will be very important, the story and reactivity elements are more pressing and it will be a while before we are really focused on this part. But from the initial discussions we’ve had, I would say that Torment’s systems will likely have more complexity than the PnP rules do.
Currently, I expect that Adam and I will be the most involved in designing the core system. Though it is possible that we might later bring on board a new systems designer to own this aspect of the game. Monte will be involved, too, of course, though his goal with Torment is also to create the best video game possible and he is very open to our modifying his system as deemed best..
I'll be relocating somewhere... I see George moved to youreply.net. I've heard ask.fm is a good alternative. Or tumblr. So many choices! =)
(Actually, I've been receiving far fewer questions since the Torment Kickstarter began.)
My own humble site is www.ksaun.com. So I'll at least put up there where I go. Might be on hold until things settle down after April 5th, though!
Thanks to all who have asked me questions here!
Yes, we’ll have factions, but we’re not ready to discuss details yet. We have some initial thoughts, but don’t want to nail these down too early as we are curious to see what ideas the backers come up with after we share more about the Tides, some game locations, etc.
I should mention that our current plan is that the Tides are not explicitly known or understood throughout the Ninth World (in contrast to Ultima’s virtues, for example, which have cities devoted to them). There may be some who are aware of the Tides, but even those may not believe that they really exist, or may interpret them differently. So while it’s possible there will be factions that are indirectly or directly tied to the Tides, we’re planning for factions in general to be orthogonal to them.
Aaron is a free agent. (At Obsidian, he was the lead artist on KOTOR2, Dwarfs, Alpha Protocol.) He got in touch with us when he heard we were working on Torment – he’s passionate about the IP, is excited about the direction we’re taking it, and wants to contribute to making Torment the best it can be.
Yes – we want to do this and have talked about this topic explicitly. There are some complications, though. I agree with you that meaningful and appropriate reactivity would not be a major effort. But for some of the languages for which we hope to localize the game, this is no longer true because gender of the speaker or listener affects the word forms used. So localization would require much more work -- we’d need to have both male-PC and female-PC versions for all PC and NPC lines.
And if we allowed both genders, we’d want to do it properly. We really want Torment to be of high quality and will sacrifice feature scope as necessary to increase the quality of the features we do have. So if we had both genders, we’d want them to use different animation skeletons and animation sets. Of course, we need this anyway for the companions and other characters, as we aren’t planning to have a monogender world =) (I made that word up). But because you will play as a specific individual, we would like to do more with custom animations for the player. (By “specific individual” I don’t mean to imply that we will impose a personality on you. That specific individual is what you make of them. But we can give them a little more “physical personality” if you know what I mean.) Allowing choice of gender would magnify any extra animation work we want to do. And maybe we’ll want some unique equipment for the player and these too might require more work if we have both genders.
So if we’re going to do all of that work anyway, we’ll also want to take the dialog reactivity a little further than the minimum required, as reactivity is one of the pillars of Torment. Thus, what could have been a slight amount of work blossoms into a significant undertaking. =) For this reason, we plan to have the option to choose your gender be a stretch goal.
(As an aside: the way I view our target funding goal is that it’s the resources we need for Torment to be worth making. At our target funding, I will be confident that we can make a satisfying role-playing game that delivers on our promises to our backers. We have no way to predict how the Kickstarter will go, but I can’t afford to assume it will do as well as Wasteland 2 or Project Eternity. This is one of the tricky parts of planning the game’s design and the Kickstarter. We need to be fully confident that we can at least meet our backers’ expectations. Since I’m confident we can make Torment great even if the PC’s gender is fixed, I have to relegate supporting both genders to being a stretch goal.
Incidentally, this is yet another reason to have the Kickstarter while in preproduction – we can be most efficient with the resources available if we know what they are before we’ve committed to too much of the design. If we have enough support and interest, we’d love to be more ambitious with Torment. But my priority is ensuring that we don’t set our sights so high as to preclude being able to make Torment in the first place. Unlike some other possibilities, this particular decision is, as you note, one we have to commit to early. So we can’t for example, wait to see how Wasteland 2 sells to see if we can afford to add this feature to Torment.)
Anyway. =) So both genders – yes, absolutely in our plans, but it depends how the crowd funding goes. If we do end up only being able to support a single gender, we intend to let the backers vote on which one they’d prefer. =)
That depends on how you define magic. =) Turning the question around, I can imagine a typical fantasy wizard believing his spells to be perfectly scientific, following the “laws of magic.”
But you are right in that we, as players, know that everything has a scientific explanation. But that doesn’t mean we actually (or even often) know that explanation. In Numenera, we don’t have the burden of having to explain (or know) the details. And we, as characters, do not know there’s always science somewhere behind what we observe. Some in the Ninth World might believe this to be true – just as in our world – while others believe in the supernatural.
From a game development perspective, if we want to treat something as magic, if we want to think of something as magic, we can. If we do want to explain, we can do that, too. As storytellers, we have ultimate freedom (though we have to use that freedom wisely!). Our intent with Torment is to embrace the mysterious atmosphere that permeates Numenera. How you explore that mystery is up to you. It will feel magical if you let it. =)
We plan to use dialogue trees for the conversations in Torment, much as in Planescape: Torment. You’ll choose the line you speak (or action you take) from a list of options. You’ll play a specific character, but that character is you more than you are that character. =) That is, you aren’t role-playing as a specific individual who already has a set personality – we aren’t planning to abstract your options as games such as The Bard’s Tale or Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DX:HR) have. Because of the personal nature of Torment, we want the player, not just the PC, to be the one experiencing the story. The game will be telling *your* story and we think this traditional approach to dialogue representation is a great way to accomplish that.
I’m very interested in user interface design and I hope to improve upon the standard dialog tree system/representation, but in ways that are iterative improvements or minor innovations – we’re not intending to make any revolutionary changes or reimagine dialogue. We’ll be polishing what’s already been proven to work well. That said, we’ll be interested in hearing more from our backers about what they’d like to see.
We have talked a little about expanding what you can do within the dialog system like you suggest. I think the DX:HR dialog battle system is an intriguing idea (though it seemed more linear than I would prefer) and a text-based version is worth considering for Torment. Probably not as a required event, but as an option in certain situations, and potentially an alternative to traditional combat if successful. And I don’t have any fundamental issue with decisions in dialog even potentially yielding a fatal outcome, =) so long as the player is receiving enough feedback to make informed decisions. So especially if this (or some other extensions to the dialog system) has a lot of interest from the backers, we’ll look into it further.
Well, first I’ll credit you with your earlier observation: =)
gendregazon: "Basically Gunpowder foreshadows the emergence of modern weaponry, modern combat and overall modern technology. It's the abrupt death of the fantasy. That's were the discomfort comes from : the fantasy world is on the verge of dying. Some words sums up what I'm feeling about all this. And probably what a lot of people feel too (gunpowder). Numenera does have a fair share of obvious contradictions and anachronism, like most science fictions, regarding technology and humanity/society."
That’s a great point and I think definitely part why gunpowder is unsettling (for me, at least). The magic in fantasy makes it easy to escape into that world. Gunpowder (and the implied imminent modern technology, as you mention) poses a threat to that fantasy. Meanwhile, in defining Numenera, Monte refers to Arthur C. Clarke’s quote: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” So while I find it a little discomforting, it lets me have my escape still.
The engineer/scientist in me likes having an explanation, but a larger part of me wants more from this world than can be explained with technology and science. Numenera is intended to invoke a sense of mystery... I feel like it can still contain concepts like “magic” and while they may not really be magical, they can feel that way to me because we don’t necessarily know. For example, I don’t mind if the Force is caused by midi-chlorians, just don’t tell me about it. =) Because maybe it’s not midi-chlorians, maybe it is something magical. Don’t destroy my fantasy of how the world can be. Leave reality for the real world and let me have a place where my imagination and can freely explore.
(I like that just trying to understand the world of Numenera raises these kinds of concepts (Monte even refers to it as science-fantasy, not science-fiction). With respect to Torment, I have to admit that I’m still acclimating to the setting (but I like it and was involved in the decision to select it). Colin and Adam are already totally there.)
Thanks for the link! Yes, it is a cool concept. I’m curious to see how far they can take it. To me it feels like something that’s special enough that it really needs to be a core focus of a game. It feels so integral to the gameplay, that if you invest the energy in making the system really polished then you’ve got to really leverage it or it’s a missed opportunity, a waste of development resources that you could have invested elsewhere.
I’m not sure how many will get this analogy, but it reminds me of building a Magic: The Gathering deck (for competitive play). A good card that didn’t quite fit the focus of your deck wouldn’t make the cut when you tried to pare your deck down to 40 (or 60). Many cards (e.g., The Rack, Wrath of God, Brain Geyser, etc.) were generally useful, but were a waste of a slot if they didn’t fit your deck’s style. [Personally, I most enjoyed designing decks that focused on trying to highlight somewhat dubious cards (e.g., Oath of Lim Dul, Venduran Enchantress, Dracoplasm). But I digress…].
I think the dimension jumping concept, while fun and full of potential, is too far removed from some of the other core aspects we’re exploring for Torment story and gameplay, so it would be an awkward fit. That said, “something like it” could be possible in a given location. =) We are entertaining some ideas for areas where we change things up quite a bit (but in ways more consistent with the other elements we have going on). Numenera is a world of mystery and Torment is a game of the unexpected. =)
The soul aspects are very intriguing to me and souls are my favorite part so far. I’m not sure yet exactly where they’re going, but there’s a lot of possibilities and potential. The fact that one of the first updates talked about souls, that they have been mentioned on other occasions, and that they permeate multiple character classes all suggest that souls will be a focal point of the game. So I expect we’ll have a lot to discover about them and how they influence the world and cultures.
I really liked the initial information released about the gods. Woedica is interesting – I like the idea of a god who was, or felt she was, in charge, and no longer is. Sounds like some very cool background stories/myths to uncover there. Berath (cycles, doors, and death) sounds great to me (and harkens back to the souls concept...). I like that Berath has multiple identities and facets (as discussed in Update #24) – not only is that specific example cool, but I like the level of richness it suggests we’ll see throughout the world (not that I expected anything less =) ).
And I’m not sure that this was intended as any sort of inside joke, but the “doors” part cracks me up. In implementing an RPG, doors are one of those things that cause way more problems than it seems they should. I mean, how hard it can be to have an object that just opens and closes, right? =) But you have to worry about their impact on lighting, pathfinding, line of sight, their animation speed… so many things that can go wrong or look bad. Add to that things like combat or scripted events or party control… it’s just not fun times. I remember a late night conversation with Feargus once (I forget which project we were working on) where he just said to me: “Doors are hard. They just are.” =) On one of the games I worked on at Alelo, my team wanted to implement doors and I said, “No, too much work. Just trust me on this.” So the fact that the god of doors is also the god of death is very amusing to me. =) Anyway, I like Berath. I’m definitely planning to have a chanter who worships him (it?).
The one thing I haven’t been fond of is the existence of gunpowder. Well, I like it from the perspective of its implications for combat gameplay – the way Josh has described the limited applicability of gunpowder is cool from a systems design perspective. But in general, I don’t like it mixing gunpowder technology with my fantasy… it gives me a sort of uncomfortable feeling. (This may seem odd for me to say as Numenera involves much more technology than gunpowder. And, in fact it took me a little time to acclimate to Numenera and grow to really like it. The way technology is present in the world helps create the aura of mystery and discovery that Monte is fostering and ultimately it works well for me. And feeling a bit uncomfortable with the setting, at least initially, seems appropriate for a Torment game anyway. =) ) Somehow, the gnomish technology in Krynn won me over, so I think it’s an aspect I’ll adjust to in P:E. (Gnomes, incidentally, are my favorite fantasy race, so I’m a little bummed that they didn’t seem to make it in. Lose the elves and give me gnomes, I say! ;) )
I like the more unusual character classes – the ciphers and chanters in particular. Probably at least in part because of the souls aspect. =) (And chanters don’t feel like bards to me at all, incidentally. =) Nor do orlans make me think of hobbits.) A part of me wishes that the classes veered more from D&D in at least their names, but the part of me that has precious little time to play others’ games is thankful for the easier learning curve. (Personally, I wish the classes were organized as a few core classes and then subclass variants – I actually liked the concept of class groups from AD&D 2nd edition.)
Overall, the setting feels so vast to me still – I’ve only seen a tiny glimpse of the world, so it’s not yet well-defined in my head. I like the details I’ve read so far, but I don’t know enough for it to evoke strong impressions like those I have for some other RPG settings/worlds, like Dark Sun, Dragonlance, or Paranoia. But some of the official worlds I’ve played in (or read about) the most, like Forgotten Realms and the World of Greyhawk, never did achieve much defining personality to me and I still had great adventures in them, especially when focused on specific regions with rich cultures and backstory (e.g., Rasheman).
I’m certain that Obsidian will achieve the depth I crave within the areas covered in the first game and I’m optimistic that the world itself will also develop more of unique feel for me as we read and learn (and play!) more. (Get crackin’ on that novella, Avellone! =) ) Many games set in new worlds focus on just that game first – which is much easier – but then makes it harder to later expand to become a complete and satisfying setting, sometimes resulting in the game feeling hollow and disconnected. So I’m glad that Obsidian has taken on the exciting challenge of crafting the entire setting beyond what a single game requires – it will provide many more possibilities for the future and also result in a deeper experience in Project Eternity.
Well, as you have seen by now, we’ve gone with Torment: Tides of Numenera. =) You may wonder what the significance of "Tides" is. (These are not a core Numenera concept, though they are compatible with the setting in multiple ways.) The Tides are key levers (but not the only ones) in the choices and consequences system we’re designing. They could be loosely compared to D&D's alignments or Ultima IV's principles and virtues. But unlike alignments, they are not in direct opposition to each other and unlike the virtues, you won’t necessarily want to achieve them all. Nor can you, really... you’ll have to decide what’s most important to you.
The Tides are more nuanced and complex, with the “best” choice for any situation being a personal decision for you (or how you want to play) rather than a decision that we as designers judge. Now, NPCs in the game will certainly judge you based upon their own beliefs and agendas, but we will strive for the game itself to be impartial. We want to provide satisfying reactivity and allow you to explore your own answers, for you to play as you wish and have the game’s story unfold accordingly. We’ll talk more about the Tides down the road and there are aspects of the system for which we’ll be seeking backer input.
An interesting question. As you might guess, for the foreseeable future, I’m concentrating on making sure that first “if” becomes a “when.” =) It’s far too early to say, but you gave me an out by saying “in your opinion.” =) Therefore, so as to not completely evade your question, I’ll offer my opinion: It could be either – or both!
As Brian has mentioned, our long term vision is to develop Torment as a thematic franchise. This could be done either across various settings or by continuing to explore Numenera, which is certainly rich enough. One thing I like about the latter is that it would allow for appropriate tie-ins between different Torment titles. While Colin is focused most on this present game, as he is crafting the creative vision, story, and characters, he is keeping in mind possible extensions. (That said, this game will tell a complete story with a satisfying conclusion, much as Planescape: Torment or Mask of the Betrayer did.) Additionally, I’m excited about Numenera and Monte has been great to work with, so for those reasons, too, my current thought is that I’d like to continue in this setting.
But I would venture that our decision for a future Torment would be based upon what speaks best to the players. We’ll be learning more about what this Torment’s backers want throughout the course of development, and we’ll be listening to their (and latecomers’) feedback after they’ve played the final game. Work on the next one probably wouldn’t begin until some time after launch and we’d craft the next Torment in the direction the players crave. The ability to do so is one of the most appealing aspects of creating games as an independent developer.
I don’t think that’s necessarily true. For example, I felt that despite its epic overarching plot, at the core of the Lord of the Rings (the books more so than the movie) were personal stories – Frodo and Sam's in particular. The Dragonlance Legends trilogy is another example of a very personal tale embedded within an epic plot.
That said, I do think it’s a matter of focus (as is true of many aspects in game development). The more you focus what’s most important to the game, the higher you can ensure the quality will be – not only is the game more cohesive, but you’ve concentrated your development resources. Defining and holding to strong pillars for a game (or a game story), will result in a richer experience. This potentially risks appealing to a smaller audience, but depending upon the game, this may not matter. Torment and Wasteland 2, for example, aren’t being made for the mass market.
Returning to your question: in exploring introspective themes, I’d err on the side of a less epic story to reduce the risk of watering down the personal nature of the game. I’ll add something Colin has said, which is that even the most personal story is epic to the one it’s happening to. =)
[Variations on this question also asked by Rehvenge4 and Manaf82.] This is an important question. We are looking to create a style/feel that is reminiscent of PS:T, but we’re still exploring what approach we’ll use. The answer will depend in part upon what funding level we reach with Torment – we are looking into various options and their required resources so that we can have realistic goals (and make realistic promises) for the game’s art. (While of course we want to make the game look as great (and “Torment-y”) as possible, we’re not going to shelve the project if we aren’t able to afford the graphical approach we would all really want.)
(Yes… I read an interview with Tim in which he downplayed his role on PS:T, but having worked with him some, I suspect he understated his contributions. =) )
That’s a great point in favor of turn-based (TB) combat, and of course we’ll be looking to leverage as much from Wasteland 2 for Torment as makes sense. The combat system is an aspect that really is up for discussion and we are by no means cemented on real-time with pause (RTwP). Actually, for the recent Rock, Paper, Shotgun article, we considered not even suggesting a direction, but a) it’s true that our initial inclination was RTwP and b) thought we’d glean more useful feedback in terms of community response by indicating that. That feedback is important to us and, in fact, we plan to look to the Torment backers for their input on this topic.
We have several design goals for combat that aren’t inherently dependent upon whether the combat is RTwP, TB, or something else. These include aspects such as meaningful player decisions at both the strategic and tactical levels (I use the terms “strategic” and “tactical” in the same manner that JESawyer does); emphasizing quality of combat encounters over quantity (including the ability to avoid the majority of combat through gameplay decisions); the integration of narrative elements (the spirit eating mechanic of Mask of the Betrayer is an example of this.)
Because we can achieve these goals with either system, and because we don’t feel that the choice of RTwP or TB is fundamental to the Torment experience, it is exactly the type of design decision in which we’ll want to engage the game’s backers.
Good question – what any given title or role entails can vary quite a bit company by company or even project by project. "Project director" can be synonymous with "producer," depending upon how the role of producer is defined. At some companies, producers can be more focused on schedule and budget - more of a focused organizational role. At others, producers are project leads and provide more direction.
In my case, what it means to be project director is that I am ultimately responsible for all aspects of the game – my role is to do whatever is necessary to maximize its quality and success. This could include anything. What exactly it will entail in practice will vary based upon the game’s final budget. As is probably a surprise to no one =), inXile will continue to embrace the crowdfunding model and the freedom it provides from traditional game publishing. (One of the major appeals that led me to choose to join inXile was this approach – it is great to be accountable to the players first and to be able to (and expected to!) make decisions on their behalf. This can be hard to do in a typical developer/publisher relationship.)
So while we’ll know what the minimum budget for the game will be (assuming it reaches its funding goal), the final budget is an unknown until our crowdfunding campaign concludes. The more we raise, the bigger the project will be and the more ambitious of a game we can support. (This, by the way, was another draw to inXile for me – I appreciate Brian Fargo’s commitment to the quality of the games in that everything raised goes toward the project. And even though he directly contributes to the games, Brian doesn’t take a cent from the funds for himself. From the perspective of someone managing the budget, this is gold – free labor! ;) )
I’m the de facto lead designer, but if we have sufficient resources, I’ll be managing more and doing less hands-on design. For example, as you know, Colin McComb is the creative lead for the project and he’s leading our vision from that perspective.
But even the well-funded Kickstarters have very modest budgets when compared to current major game development projects. From the funded amount you see, 9% of that immediately goes to Kickstarter and Amazon. Depending upon the details of the pledge rewards, another 10-20% of the funds could go toward physical goods and fulfillment – paying for the game boxes, the cloth maps, the printed materials, shipping, etc. So, for example, Wasteland 2 (WL2) raised about $3M, but the effective development budget was closer to $2M. This is sufficient to make a great game, but doesn’t go as far as you might think. It is in the ballpark of the budget for a PC RPG expansion (such as Mask of the Betrayer and Storm of Zehir). But there’s more work to be done than in an expansion because the RPG game systems aren’t in place – you’re creating a first title, not building upon an existing RPG game engine. I’ve used Unity on a couple past projects (at Alelo) and it’s terrific to work with, but it lacks many of the pieces that a good RPG wants/needs. And you don’t have all of the art assets from a previous game to repurpose (which is part of our motivation behind the Wasteland 2 experiment in conjunction with the Unity Asset Store – we want to stretch the game’s funding as far as possible to deliver the best game we can for its backers).
Anyway – my expectation is that I’ll be operating in the role of lead designer as well, and I think my position will be very similar to what it was as the producer and lead designer on Mask of the Betrayer. I’ll certainly have help in the area design arena and hopefully in terms of systems design as well. Also, while the game will have some RPG systems that differ from WL2’s (to be true to the game style as well as setting we’ll be exploring), we’ll be leveraging as much of our WL2 work as we can. And I’m fortunate to have joined inXile at a time when I can contribute to some of the WL2 design decisions, both to help out with that game and to influence the foundation we’ll have for the next one (without, of course, compromising WL2 in any way – that Wasteland 2 be of highest quality is critical). Making the most of Wasteland 2’s accomplishments – again, when it makes sense – will allow us to create the best Torment game possible for its backers.