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Update #30

Updated our Journal (30): George Ziets Joins Full Time

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TL;DR: George Ziets returning to California to join Torment full time; Jesse Farrell joins; area implementation progress

Ziets here.

Hello, all. It’s been a while (almost exactly a year, in fact) since I last spoke on Kickstarter. Last time, I was announcing that I’d be working as a contractor on Torment. This time, I’m announcing that I’m joining the team full time. Or at least, I will be joining the team full time, just as soon as I move back out to Orange County.

My new role on Torment will be Lead Area Designer. Until now, this position hasn’t really been necessary, but with production starting soon, area creation will become a major focus for our team. We’re in the midst of detailing our plans for area design in Torment (including aspects of pacing, layout, and reactivity). I’ll be making our approach more concrete, establishing standards for our area designers to follow, and then leading the area design team for the remainder of the project.

My role might be surprising to those of you who know me as a narrative designer, but in truth, a lot of the things I’ll be doing on Torment will be similar to the things I did on Mask of the Betrayer. I’ll be making sure that you have multiple ways to solve quests, that your choices are meaningful, and that the repercussions of those choices are felt in many places throughout the game. I’ll be designing characters and quests to reflect both the themes of our story and the fundamental weirdness of the Numenera setting. And I’ll be working with our art team to create cool and bizarre locations to explore, like the floating corpse of Myrkul from Mask of the Betrayer.

So what convinced me to come back to an in-house job? After all, I’ve been a freelance designer for the past two years, and that’s not a bad gig, especially when my commute consisted of walking up the stairs to my (not at all creepy) attic.

First of all, I love the Infinity Engine games – they’re still my all-time favorites – and this is a chance to work on a thematic successor. While it’s satisfying to contribute to a game like Torment from afar, nothing beats the hands-on experience of designing areas on paper, blocking them out in the engine, working directly with artists to make them look great, and seeing the game world take shape before your eyes.

What’s especially great about Torment is that it combines the design sensibilities of the classic Infinity Engine games with a setting that’s weird and unpredictable. As designers, we’re not bound by the conventions of reality. The original Torment could have a giant anarchist golem, a brothel of intellectual lusts, and a pregnant alleyway. Buildings and levels could come in all shapes and sizes. Characters were never conventional archetypes, and inspiration could be drawn from almost anywhere. Numenera gives us the same kind of creative freedom, and that’s typically the sort of environment where I function best.

Another big incentive: we’re putting a part of the old Mask of the Betrayer team back together. That includes Kevin Saunders and me, of course, but also Jesse Farrell, who was a content designer (and our QA lead) on MotB. Notably, he was responsible for the awesome “soul contract” dialogue in the Chamber of Dreamers. At present, Jesse is blocking out levels and implementing basic quest mechanics for the first zone we’re fully implementing – the Bloom (the one I described in my Kickstarter video).

Oh, and the InXile studio is a block away from the beach, so there’s that too.

I’ll be back in the future with more updates on area design, but for now, let me leave you with a summary of what we’ve done so far. Back in update 22, we talked about our high-level design process for zones. We start with a Zone Design Constraints document, written by Colin, which provides the high-level vision for the zone and describes any critical path or story events that must happen there. Then the zone designer writes a Zone Brief, outlining quests, major characters, and the various interior and exterior locations that comprise the zone. Once that is approved, the zone designer writes a Zone Design Document – a detailed expansion of the Zone Brief that details every location (including map layouts), every quest and NPC, and all the assets that will be needed to make the zone, including sound assets, art assets, special animations, dialogues, items, and scripts.

In January, I completed this documentation process for the Bloom. It took longer than it ordinarily would – partly because we were running through the process for the first time and ironing out the kinks, and partly because I was only working part-time on Torment. When the document was finished, I ended up with about 150 pages (47,000 words), which surpasses even my infamous 100-page design document for the Mulsantir module in Mask of the Betrayer (modules in that game are analogous to zones in Torment, though on average a Torment zone is larger). I don’t expect all the ZDDs to be that long, but for the first zone, we wanted to be sure to document everything we would need to build a zone in Torment. (And admittedly, I had a lot of ideas I wanted to include in the Bloom.)

Not all of this content will necessarily be implemented. Most of it will be, but some of the design is B-priority, which means that we can safely cut it (if we need to) without greatly impacting the area. And some is C-priority, which means that we don’t plan to include it, but we can consider adding it later if we’re able to make the time. It’s important to us that the content we include in the game is of high quality, and accounting for possible adjustments to the scope helps us keep the quality bar high.

Not long after I completed the high-level design, Jesse used my design document to create blockouts for all the critical path locations. The blockouts are rough layouts in the Unity engine (powered by Obsidian's Pillars of Eternity Technology), with simple cubes and spheres standing in for important features. They don’t look pretty, but they give us a sense of gameplay space, and they allow us to place entrances and exits, NPC locations, encounter locations, and so on.

In-Engine Blockout of a Bloom Area
In-Engine Blockout of a Bloom Area
Sketch of a Bloom Area by Daniel Kim. Environment artists use this combined with the blockout to shape the final in-game area.
Sketch of a Bloom Area by Daniel Kim. Environment artists use this combined with the blockout to shape the final in-game area.

Now that the initial blockouts are done, Jesse has moved on to implementing bare-bones versions of the quests. These won’t include any dialogues (which will be written later), but they’ll allow us to get the basic scripting and functionality into the zone. It’s an exciting moment – the first time the Bloom will begin to come alive.

Only a few weeks remain until I ship out to Orange County. Should be a lot of fun to get back to in-house game development after two years away! I’ll see you all in a future update.

George Ziets
Lead Area Designer


Update #29

Updated our Journal (29): Cliffs Notes

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TL;DR: Sagus Cliffs Lore, adapting tabletop rules for CRPG gameplay, web developer position at inXile

Heya,

Thomas here. I hope that Spring is breaking on all of our Tormented backers, much as I hope it will break for Colin soon so he can finally be free of the Land Of Eternal Winter – as he likes to describe it. It's an exciting time for us; not only is the Torment pre-production making great progress, we have steadily expanded our ranks as well (more news for you on this very soon). On top of that, we will soon be meeting again at inXile's offices, with Adam flying in from Thailand, Colin from the Land That Knows No Sun this April and me coming in from the Netherlands. We have figured out how to work well together over the internet, and it has been a pretty seamless process all things considered, but it is always nice seeing each other and talking in person.

On to the juicy bits…

Sagus Cliffs

Colin here, with a lore update!

(before going any further here, you might want to refresh yourself on the background of the Ninth World)

Maybe you’d like to see some of the places you’ll be exploring. Sure, you know it’s the Ninth World, and sure, you know that it’s to the far east of the Steadfast, the core part of Numenera’s setting (as revealed by Shanna in one of our updates). But what’s this place actually like?

There’s a road that travels past the Clock of Kala, Beyond the Beyond. Past marshlands polluted with the runoff of eons-old chemical processes, past broad plains where enormous aerial predators swoop upon unsuspecting caravans, a trade road connects to the territory called the Sagus Protectorate. It is here that we enter the lands you’ll explore in Torment.

The Sagus Protectorate, so named after an early settler in the area, lies between the sprawling, occasionally carnivorous Arvrin Wood to the west, the storm-swept Garravia Sound to the east, and the Verxulian Waste to the south.

Last year, we showed you the Sagus Cliffs in concept art form and we told you a little about it:

Sagus Cliffs is a city built atop a cliff and winding its way down through switchbacks and cutout caverns. Lush green terraces overhang the ocean below. Some of the houses, clustered together underneath one of these dripping terraces, are little more than shanties and hovels. Some of those in the open air are strangely fluted spires, delicate works of marble and glass. The city is vast, both vertically and horizontally, built on preceding generations, and the architecture is incredibly mixed. Some of the houses are built out far over the water below, precariously holding through elaborate winches, pulleys, and wires. Some have no such support, practically hovering under their own power. But the old ways still hold – literally – sometimes clinging to the last scavenged beams on which they were originally erected, with bridges of coherent light helping to hold together the city’s economy.

At the base of the cliff, the ocean crashes and swirls around the rubble of fallen houses. The city extends downward even here…

 (I’ve attached a map so you can have evidence of why I like to work with professional artists, and also so you can see the context in which you’ll be exploring Sagus Cliffs. You won’t be able to visit all those areas, but for me it’s important to know where things are so they can inform the design of the areas you can visit. For instance, you won’t be visiting Terminus, which is a) the potter’s field; b) the city dump; and c) a one-time stop for a sky-gondola line, but the people of the nearby slum of Lower Tanningstone know all about it, and its presence is reflected in their vernacular. Likewise, even if you don’t go down to Shorepickers, you’ll encounter people who do, and who’ve brought back interesting things to sell from the wreckage they find [and sometimes cause] on the beach.)

The Sagus Protectorate was once a respectable kingdom, if not quite an empire, but has shrunk to the immediate environs of its once-proud capital city, Sagus Cliffs. For hundreds of years, Sagus Cliffs has acted as a conduit for numenera between the west and the waters of Garravia Sound - travelers who wanted to use the harbor of the city of the ancients had to pay a nominal fee in numenera, shins, or labor. The city began to collect a treasury, and they used the power they accumulated to expand their borders significantly.

Two centuries ago, the city was on the verge of expanding its reach again when a slave revolt spilled from the depths of the nearby Bloom, toppling the power structures of the city and forcing a dramatic rewriting of Sagus Cliffs’s plans for the future. For nearly a hundred years, the aristocrats and the wealthy laid low, moved their money around, and pretended to be paupers along with the rest while they slowly co-opted the former slaves with money and prestige. Once the slave leaders settled into the familiar ritual of establishing place and rank, believing in the importance of law and property, the old families began to reestablish their claims. By intermarrying with the children of the former slaves, the old aristocrats seized on the new power structure, and thus returned themselves to power as the Slave Families – a cruel joke, considering that most of the actual slaves had been neatly excised from the families.

Today, Sagus Cliffs is a city of maybe 90-100,000 people. They regard themselves as the rulers of the entire Protectorate, but in practice they rule little outside their walls; the city’s leaders are more concerned with besting one another politically and socially than with maintaining the land outside their shell. They scheme and jockey for position, retaining the city's imperial pretensions and enslaving its residents to the mindset that their glory will rise again. Sagus Cliffs shows every sign of an empire in decline, with decadence the order of the day.

Three walls define the city. The first is a low plas-steel wall around the perimeter of the new city that girdles the city’s outskirts – that is, any of the part of the city that sits on the broad plain before the great walls of the interior rise up. The plain approaches the headlands of the Sagus Cliffs as a crammed and stinking slum. A variety of architectural styles are in play here, evidence of decade after decade of gentrification and the inevitable decay of the neighborhoods. Major streets are wide, suitable for marching a column of troops, while some of the side streets and alleys are barely wide enough for a single automaton-led cart to roll through. The area is grimy, like living in the shadow of a smokestack. There are manufactories large and small here, smelters and smithies, tanners and slaughterhouses. Many blocks are deserted, desolate, burned out… it has been easier to move than to rebuild in this greatly shrunken city.

The second wall is a shimmering haze, a shield against the deadly nanite storm known as the Iron Wind. It protects the old city like a curtain wall around a castle, and in times of danger the Aeon Priests in charge of its workings can harden it against other threats as well.

The third and inmost wall is older and more physical, and it marks the change between land and sea. Ancient weapons powered by armatures mounted on this wall can fire at enemies kilometers away, toward both land and sea. This is the city center, where the city’s council meets, where universities and artists build and catalog culture and learning, where the economic hub of the entire area comes into sharp focus. It is here that the wealthy dwell, looking across the storm-swept sound, plotting to advance themselves against their compatriots.

To the northeast, the alien growth called the Bloom squats, its tenebrous fibers gripping the walls of the gully through which it heaves itself by miniscule increments every year. Its reach extends into other dimensions, burrowing holes in the fabric of reality. Merchants move into these places, seeking wealth from exotic worlds to bring back to Sagus Cliffs, and stranger things move to and fro on these tendrils, slipping into our space and time from parts unknown. The Bloom is a constant reminder of the dangers of the Ninth World. The people of Sagus Cliffs regard it as a menace and a nightmare, and respectable residents of the city don’t go there if they can avoid it (though they’ll gladly accept the merchant trains that traverse its paths, and some of them go slumming for exotic drugs and experiences).

Sagus Cliffs is the primary trading hub for many hundreds of kilometers – ships sail the nearby inland sea; gyrocopters buzz the harbor; homes and buildings extend beneath the waves with a crystal dome offering protection against the water. The dome is sectional; some of it has broken and water has flooded those portions of the city. Great intakes and outflows, a vast pumping machinery, still operates after millennia, an unintended gift from the previous, vanished residents of this area. Sputtering dirigibles and small airships land outside the city’s walls. Factories are here, as well as numenera counting-houses, temples, universities, criminals, many (many!) residential neighborhoods ranging in quality from poor to ultra-wealthy, factions, cults, and more. As with any city, it has its own needs: infrastructure, sanitation, light and heat, refuse removal, protection, and more. They heave most of the city’s detritus into the nearby Bloom, trucking vast quantities of garbage into alternate dimensions.

The governmental structure of Sagus Cliffs is an aristocratically elected council, with a leader selected by the councilors. The Slave Families each send a representative to the council. These representatives choose one of their own to serve as leader of the council for a year. Other representatives on the council include: one chosen by the Memovira, the de facto ruler of the Bloom and a member each from the Sounders’ Guild (the sailors), the Bridgers’ Guild (the infrastructure and road people), the Mercantile Exchange, the Slavers’ Consortium, and a representative from the University – this latter being more frightened of the real-world power of the Slave Families and thus easily cowed by one faction or another.

The city is a morass of competing influences: economic, political, social, religious, and intellectual. The blatant corruption of the system makes cynics of all its residents. They trust few people, have mercenary hearts, and are quick to take advantage of others. Even the altruists of the city must approach their dealings with cynicism, lest they be taken advantage of by less scrupulous partners. They consider themselves cosmopolitan, able to deal well with people from all walks of life… but they fear to venture far from the city’s walls, and they are quick to judge those who venture within.

Colin out.

GM Agency

Adam here.

I recently opened up a spot on my blog for folks to ask me anything. I've gotten some interesting questions so far, but this one I thought might be of interest to our backers. Thomas said:

A lot of Numenera's rules seem to be designed around a push-pull between the players and the GM. Are you finding that difficult to adapt to a cRPG where the "GM" is static content that is predetermined?

I prefer the term "interesting." The folks who run the Italian Torment blog asked me some fairly in-depth questions along these very lines (you can read my answers here; scroll down for English), so I'll try not to repeat myself.

So while some tabletop RPGs are largely combat simulators—and therefore easier to adapt into a CRPG—Numenera is primarily a storytelling simulator. Combat and tactics are in there, along with rules to adjudicate every other situation, but if you're not collectively telling a story along with it, it could get boring fast.

As I've often said, that's a great thing for Torment, where the narrative is one of the most important things. And not only is Numenera's world amazing, but the Corebook is basically 400 pages of Rule Zero; we can (mostly) interpret it how we need to for our game.

Unfortunately, those interpretations are more work for me.

In general, my design philosophy has been to start with the Corebook rules and only adapt them where a CRPG needs more discrete options. Take Numenera’s Carries a Quiver focus, for example. Four of the abilities granted by that focus have to do with training in making bows and arrows. Taken at face value, that seems fine, though not necessarily suited for a CRPG. The tabletop game expects you to look beyond face value; it relies on the players' imaginations and collaboration with the gamemaster (GM) to expand "making bows and arrows" into cool things like fashioning bows and arrows out of azure steel instead of wood, or attaching some kind of phasing nodule to the bow to create a more powerful weapon. There is no limit but what the players can think of and the difficulties decided on by the GM.

In a CRPG, "face value" is all we have. If a CRPG gamer were told he had an ability that could make bows and arrows, he'd be like, "Can't I just buy those?"

So in Torment, we expand the focus for you. For example, at first tier maybe you automatically replenish arrows whenever the party rests, saving your coin for other purchases. At higher tiers, you could choose to make different kinds of arrows: piercing arrows, smoke arrows, blast arrows, etc. At the highest tier, you could even make arrows that phase through armor or replicate themselves to hit more targets. All this stuff is supported by the core rules, but making the abilities explicit like this helps the focus feel right in a CRPG.

A lot of the core rules work like this, where we're not so much changing what we get from the Corebook as we are putting all the imagination and GM collaboration up front. It is sometimes a lot of work, and we have a lot of balancing and prototyping yet to do, but we're excited about how it's shaping up.

So is it difficult? Yeah, sometimes. But the challenge is what makes it fun!

Adam out.

Seeking Web Developer & Adam Interviewed

While not solely related to Torment: Tides of Numenera, we wanted to point out a recent job opening we now have listed on the inXile entertainment jobs page: we are looking for an experienced web developer to craft and administer our web systems and backer databases, to improve and expand our web presence and systems. Take a look if you're interested!

As Adam mentioned, the Italian Torment blog delivered another excellent interview, this time with Design Lead Adam Heine. Asking and getting in-depth answers on topics such as foci, gear-centric advancement, XP and GM intrusions, save-scumming and combat. Well worth the read for fans of Torment: Tides of Numenera, and as usual available in both Italian and English (scroll down for English).

Thomas Beekers
Line Producer


Update #28

Updated our Journal (28): “What Have I Got In My Pocket?”

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TL;DR: Licensing Pillars of Eternity technology; Inventory and Loot; Crowdfunding milestone as Double Fine's Broken Age launches

Hello,

I hope 2014 has been good to you so far. We’re continuing to flesh out our area and systems designs, but lately we’ve had increased emphasis on developing Torment’s aesthetics and environments.

To that end, we have some news related to our environment art: late last March, we announced that we’d be collaborating with Obsidian Entertainment on technology. This primarily meant their conversation editing tools, which provide a very strong foundation for the dialogue reactivity we seek for Torment. We’ve been prototyping conversations with these tools since last summer and have been adapting the technology for Torment’s specific dialogue needs. Meanwhile, we’ve been evaluating other aspects of the Pillars of Eternity technology over the last months and have been impressed with the environments they’ve been able to create with it in Unity. We seek a similar high level of quality for our environments in Torment.

I’m happy to say that we’ve taken things a step further and recently reached an agreement to license Obsidian’s technology for Pillars of Eternity to use in Torment. (In case you haven’t seen it yet, a great Pillars of Eternity teaser came out last month – they are still accepting late pledges for any who missed their Kickstarter.) Torment’s code base will thus include the most relevant components of PE’s technology and Wasteland 2’s. We’re making enhancements to best suit Torment, and some systems will of course be completely new as Torment’s design is its own.

What are the practical implications of our licensing PE technology? It provides us with a stronger starting point for certain game systems and pipelines, including the creation of the 2D pre-rendered environments (we’re working on having something to show you in the coming weeks). This means we will have more resources to invest on other aspects of the game, allowing us to achieve a higher quality overall. (Recall that 100% (and more) of the crowdfunded monies are allocated to development of Torment. So anything that saves effort means that we have more to spend elsewhere on Torment.) This arrangement benefits both games and we continue to push Torment as far as we can in terms of quality.

Inventory

Adam here to fill you all in on a couple other facets of Torment’s design.

In the Q&A forum, Alex asked an excellent question that we're now at a design stage where we can answer (as always, keep in mind that all design decisions are subject to change and your own feedback until we ship the game).

When talking about inventory, it's probably easier to start with a common foundation and tell you what we're changing from there. So here's an inventory you're all familiar with:

Now even though that's an inventory interface up there, note that we're just talking about the elements of the inventory. The interface layout itself has yet to be designed.

So PST's inventory had the following:

1. Equipped slots around the character (8-10 of them)
2. Quick slots for items you need right away
3. Ammunition slots
4. Weapon slots so you can switch between a few different weapons easily
5. A pack with slots for up to 20 different items
6. A weight limit (based on Strength) that determined how much you could carry

First, the Equipped Slots. Torment will have slots for the things you'd expect, plus a few more: Armor, Helmet, Gloves, Boots, Cloak, Rings, Belt, etc. PLUS Alteration Slots and up to three Untethered Slots. Alteration Slots are for things like tattoos, piercings, implants, etc. Like the tattoos in PST, party members will be able to purchase alterations, and the Last Castoff can even collect special ones that reflect your choices in the game. Whether some of these alterations are permanent is still TBD.

Untethered Slots are for equippable items that don't need to be held or carried—for example, a stone that floats around the wearer's head or a prehensile tail that grafts to her body. Most characters will have at least one Untethered Slot, but some (particularly those who train in the Concentration Skill) will be capable of handling two or even three such items.

Quick Slots are for cyphers and other items that you want easy access to. Outside of a Crisis, these slots are just for convenience, and you can swap things in and out of them without penalty. During a Crisis, you can use items in your Quick Slots quickly, but moving something from your pack into a Quick Slot will cost extra time. Additionally, some special items or abilities may give you another Quick Slot to use.

Weapon Slots in Torment will use the concept of weapon sets. You can designate up to four weapon sets and can switch between them easily. You can, of course, change what's in each weapon set at any time, but doing so during a Crisis will take valuable time.

Our weapon sets are representative; you're not physically moving weapons from your bag into your hand, rather you're defining four different—possibly overlapping—configurations of your weapons. For example, let’s say that you’ve picked up an Energy Buckler that you want to use as your main shield. Normally, you'd equip the shield and melee weapon, but when a situation called for your Stingcharge (a one-handed ranged weapon), you'd either have to (a) switch to a weapon set without the shield, (b) use another (lesser) shield for the Stingcharge's weapon set, or (c) waste Crisis time moving the Energy Buckler into the same set as the Stingcharge.

With representative Weapon Sets, you can define Weapon Set 1 to be your Disruption Blade and Energy Buckler, and you can still use the Energy Buckler in Weapon Set 2 (defined as Stingcharge plus Buckler). So you don't lose time and you don't have to carry around multiple shields.

Finally (and to answer Alex's question at last), we come to the Pack. Will it have ample space or will it be limited?

Your pack will be limited by encumbrance only—not by the number of items. The pack will look a lot like PST: a large number of slots where item icons will be displayed. The major difference is that when those slots are filled up, you’ll automatically get another "page" of inventory slots. You can even manually add pages to your party members’ inventory and use those new pages as an organizational tool, if you like. But you'll never be required to make pages—we want to make your inventory a useful tool, not a chore.

"But if quantity's not a limitation," you say, "that means my glaive can carry, like, a hundred ultra-light synthsteel breastplates?! That's ridiculous."

You're absolutely right, but note that inventory's limitation is not "weight" but "encumbrance," which we're using as a measure of unwieldiness. Encumbrance in Torment mostly means weight, but some items will have a higher or lower encumbrance measure because of their size (or, to be more precise, their density). For example, an ultra-light synthsteel breastplate might not weigh much, but it would have a significant encumbrance because it's so unwieldy. Conversely, a bar of gold weighs quite a lot, but because it's such a small object, its encumbrance would be less than a larger object of the same weight. In other words, encumbrance measures both the weight and the size (or unwieldiness) of items to determine the limit of what you can carry.

In theory, this means most characters still will not need more than one page of items, unless they’re carrying a lot of stuff. (That’s my segue into discussing loot.)

Loot

Inventory and Loot are interdependent, and one of our primary goals across both systems is to ensure that your decisions about what you will and will not carry are interesting ones. Specifically, the average player should be able to carry all the stuff she needs and still loot a single area without having to worry about her carry limit (though you might still run afoul of the cypher limit, which is a topic for another discussion).

The carry limit will matter when you need to decide what to sell and what to keep. It may also matter if you're hoarding things, but in Torment, you won't be carting 100 mundane short swords back and forth just to make a few extra shins (verisimilitude is important, but we're not sure it's that important). Loot should always be interesting and usable. There are a few kinds of loot you can find, in order from least to most special, they are:

1. Mundane Items: Anything Ninth Worlders can easily make or find (anything from swords and lockpicks to glowglobes, synth armor, and sprayflesh (the Ninth World equivalent of a healing potion)).
2. Oddities: Pieces of the numenera that are strange, but rarely useful: a silver ball that perpetually drips perfume, a synth mug that keeps whatever you put in it warm, or a button that, when pressed, sends you back exactly 1 second in the past.
3. Cyphers: One-shot, highly useful pieces of the numenera (you'll find a lot of these).
4. Artifacts: Like cyphers, but they can be reused and can often be cobbled together with other things to make new devices. These also include the components and power sources used in the crafting system.

Loot drops—whether from a dead NPC, a locked chest, or something else entirely—will be pseudo-randomly generated (though not purely random, and major, unique items will almost always be intentionally placed). Each of the above loot types has a weighted chance of appearing in a given drop based on a few things: how far you are in the game; what type of loot drop it is (more on that in a second); whether the drop is Poor, Average, or Rich; and other customizations from the area designer. The result will be balanced loot drops that feel right for the area or NPCs that dropped them, while keeping new playthroughs interesting with new or different items each time.

There are also two different types of loot drops. Unlike most fantasy settings, Numenera's magic items (oddities, cyphers, and artifacts) aren't usually lying around in a treasure trove. They might be, but Numenera is about discovery, and often the player is actually scavenging and cobbling these things together himself. In Torment, we abstract that with two kinds of drops: Ninth World Loot Drops and Scavenged Loot Drops.

Ninth World Loot Drops are the stuff that's just lying around for the player to pick up. It might be from an NPC's pack, locked in a chest, or bought from a merchant. The key criteria here is that someone in the Ninth World must have left it there.

Scavenged Drops, on the other hand, are loot directly from the prior worlds, untouched by any Ninth Worlder. They might be parts you find in an old machine, or items scavenged from a pile of rubble that's millennia old. You won't find short swords and steel greaves in a scavenged drop. You'll always find the good stuff.

But the good stuff isn't just sitting there waiting for you to use it. An explorer wouldn't find a gravity-nullifying suspensor belt just lying around in an old machine. Rather he'd grab an electromagnetic thingamabob that, when hooked to another doohicky, somehow nullifies gravity. Then he'd attach that to a piece of metal or leather—something that can serve as a belt—and voila: suspensor belt. The way we handle that in Tormentis to make scavenging a Difficult Task (specifically, an Intellect-based task for which certain Lore skills apply).

It's not a very difficult task—basic scavenging tasks will succeed 75% of the time, and a character who's trained in Lore, or who uses a little Effort, will succeed at basic scavenging tasks pretty much all the time. But there will be those rare, difficult scavenging tasks that require specialization, or a lot of Effort, and the player can decide (after seeing the item in the looting interface) whether it's worth the risk or not.

The resulting whole will be choices that matter, as well as the sense of mystery and discovery that make Numenera special.

Adam out.

In the News

It’s been a fairly quiet time for us as we stay focused on preproduction and avoid the bright lights. In months past, Colin and I talked to Paste, which led to an article-style interview last month that covers a lot of the familiar basics for Torment's design process and crowdfunded history.

There have been two recent spotlights on Mark Morgan's career, one from PC Gamer, one from Game Informer. Neither focuses solely on his work for Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera, but they both give great insights into his career and methods. 

Broken Age Launches

Two years ago, the potential for crowdfunding to support video game development reached new heights as Double Fine launched a Kickstarter campaign for the point-and-click adventure game now known as Broken Age. With over 95,000 backers (including some of you!), it raised more than $3.6M for development. Today’s an exciting day as Broken Age launches on Steam for Windows, Mac, and Linux. (Act 1 is available right now for $25, with Act 2 being free to Act 1 owners when it’s released later this year.)

Broken Age is Tim Schafer’s first adventure game since the acclaimed Grim Fandango came out 16 years ago. The game’s compelling cast of characters is voiced by veterans including Jennifer Hale, who was the voice of Fall-From-Grace in PST. Act 1 has been receiving strong reviews and point-and-click adventure fans should check it out. 

Double Fine's Broken Age
Double Fine's Broken Age

Our thanks to Double Fine for leading the charge into this new world of crowdfunding that made Torment even possible. Congratulations on Broken Age!

Kevin Saunders
Project Lead


Update #27

Updated our Journal (27): Extra Effort

64 comments
85 likes

TL;DR: Skills and exploration; story revisions; the benefits of a lengthy preproduction; Adam Heine promoted to Design Lead

Hi,

Just a quick update to talk about where we’re currently at as we enter the holiday season.

As you may have heard, the Wasteland 2 Early Beta went out to eligible backers last week and is now available on Steam as an early access title. The Wasteland 2 Beta was not part of any of our Torment tiers, but if you selected access to the Wasteland 2 Beta as an add-on, hopefully you saw one of our early announcements about this, received your beta key through the Torment pledge management system (pretty much all digital rewards for Torment pledges will be distributed through that system), and are playing it already. (If not, please write our support team and we’ll get it taken care of.)

Congratulations to the entire Wasteland 2 team for reaching this point!

A Few Words on Preproduction

I wanted to speak a bit about how Torment is progressing. The last round of major story revisions has been completed (more on that below) and we’ve resumed fleshing out and designing specific areas. Artist Aaron Meyers (who was also an artist on Planescape: Torment) has been making great progress on an environment prototype, proving out our art pipelines and helping us assess how the density of our design content will feel in the game. We don’t have any new art to share yet, but expect us to have something for you to see before winter’s end.

For a while now, some of you have been asking when we’d be transitioning from preproduction to production. With Wasteland 2’s recent early beta release, you may be aware that the inXile team will be spending more time on that game to get it done right—one of the fundamental benefits of Kickstarter is that we have the direction from our backers to emphasize quality over punctuality. This decision impacts Torment because most of the production team (e.g., programmers, artists, animators, etc.) will be moving onto Torment later than originally expected, which means we’ll be in preproduction for a longer period of time.

Believe it or not, this is the best situation from the perspective of Torment. When you’re in production with a large team, trying to incorporate any new idea can result in a lot of wasted work and confusion. (An “idea” in this sense could be many different things: an improvement to how conversation data is authored that enables a new type of dialogue reactivity, a new technique for handling shadow-casting lights in environments, a major change to an existing companion that improves the overall party dynamics, etc.) So when considering the new idea, you either accept this negative impact or discard the idea.

With a small preproduction team, the negative impacts have a smaller effect and the values of the ideas are more about the benefits they provide. Fewer people also means fewer miscommunications and greater flexibility both to experiment and to iterate. The closer you can get to your final design and technology before you are creating content at a rapid pace, the better the final result will be. So extra preproduction time is very beneficial, as long as you that time includes prototyping in-engine and iterating on the design instead of expanding the game’s scope.

We approached our preproduction aware that we might begin production later. On a traditionally funded project, you can ultimately be forced to make some decisions that you know are bad for the overall project to meet a specific schedule, but because we are free from external milestones, we can flexibly adapt, keeping our focus on the overall quality of the final game. It can be challenging to think that far ahead, but it’s even more challenging if you have rigid short-term goals binding you.

It’s true that if you just extend preproduction without any making any other changes to your plans, you’ll go over budget and over schedule. But the productivity improvements you gain through a longer preproduction period make up for the added cost of having a small team in preproduction for longer. (This is one reason, for example, that expansion packs are much cheaper to make than full titles – the development cycle for the original title is effectively part of the expansion’s preproduction.)

We’ll let you know if we ever determine that Torment’s release will be delayed beyond the first half of 2015. Thus far, our extended preproduction has been a very good thing and at this time I don’t anticipate it will push us out of that release date window.

Kevin out.

Skills and Exploration

Adam here. It's been a while since I've gotten to tell you about system design, so today I wanted to talk a bit about skills in Torment and how they feed into our exploration gameplay.

Skills and Difficult Tasks

As you may recall from our talk about dialogue, skills work differently in Numenera than in most RPGs. In Numenera, skills don't define what you can do, but they do make success more consistent in related tasks.

Instead of designing with skills in mind, we design the tasks first. Anything you want to try to do – lie to an Oorgolian soldier, activate a long-dormant intelligence, manipulate an unfamiliar beam weapon, or dodge the lethal bite of a steel spider – is considered a Difficult Task. Every Task is assigned a difficulty level, a stat the Task is based on (Might, Speed, or Intellect), and an optional skill (or skills) that can apply. (In the tabletop game, difficulties range from 1 to 10; unmodified difficulties from 4-6 are tough (> 50% chance of failure), and difficulties of 7 and up are impossible without the modifiers discussed below).

Skills have four levels (Inability, Untrained, Trained, and Specialization). Training in any applicable skills lowers the difficulty by a step and specialization lowers it another step. (And as you might imagine, inability increases the difficulty, though inability is something you have to specifically choose through perhaps your descriptor or focus, and some skills don’t go lower than untrained). You'll notice that tasks at the highest difficulty are impossible even with specialization. Either multiple skills would have to apply to such tasks, or there must be another way to lower the difficulty.

And there is. In Numenera, another way – at higher levels, the primary way – to reduce the difficulty of a task is Effort. You can apply Effort by using points from your related Stat Pool (Might, Speed, or Intellect), up to a maximum Effort level determined by your character’s Tier (or level). Each level of Effort you spend lowers the difficulty by one more step. (There’s another stat called Edge that reduces the cost of using Effort, making lower-level tasks easier or even free as your character advances, but that’s a topic for another time.)

What this means is that anyone can have a chance of success at most tasks, if they're willing to spend their resources on Effort. Characters with applicable skills do not have a monopoly on related tasks, but they do have two advantages: they conserve their Stat Pools (saving Effort for the tasks that really matter) and they have a greater chance of success at previously impossible tasks.

Disabling Traps

The concepts of Difficult Tasks and Effort feed into every aspect of gameplay. Take the common exploration-style task of disabling traps. Like any other task, disabling a given trap will have a Difficulty associated with it (and you will be notified of this Difficulty, at least in an abstract way such as "Hard," "Very Hard," "Impossible," etc.). By spending Effort from the associated Stat Pool, you can lower that difficulty (probably Speed, though it could depend on the kind of trap).

And it will have skills that apply. Torment won't have a Disable Traps skill, but the Quick Fingers skill applies to this kind of task (as well as others). Training or specialization in Quick Fingers will lower the difficulty even further. But more than that, certain traps may have other skills that apply. For example, the difficulty to disable a mechanical trap might be lowered if you are trained or specialized in Lore: Machinery, but a transdimensional trap might allow Lore: Mystical to apply, or Lore: Civilizations if the trap has shifting runes for you to decipher, etc.

You might find that, for certain special traps, the nano in your party is just as equipped to disable it as the jack (one being trained in Lore, the other in Quick Fingers), so if one fails, the other can take a shot at it (because each character's first attempt is free, but further attempts will cost you something—assuming your disabling attempt doesn't set off the trap, of course). For some traps, maybe the nano is even better equipped, or at least doesn't have to spend as much Effort to achieve the same chance of success.

Other Exploration Tasks

If you can't (or don't want to) disable a trap, maybe you can jump over it? Not jumping like a platform game; it would be a specific action you take—like bashing a door or picking a lock—where you end up on the other side of the trap when you're done. We're talking about this and other alternatives (levitation, anyone?). Jumping would be like any task: Might-based Effort for which the Jumping skill can apply. Some traps might be extra tricky to disable but easy for your whole party to jump over. Other traps might be harder to jump over, but the means to disable it lies within easy reach on the other side, such that one party member can spend some Effort to get over the trap and turn it off.

The flexibility of Numenera's skill system gives us extra options for environmental puzzles. For us, a "puzzle" isn't an attempt to divine the will of the designer, but rather an obstacle with multiple solutions involving various Difficult Tasks and their applicable Effort and skills. To get at the beating heart of some ancient machine, you might smash through its cardiac gate, bypass the whisperlock, persuade the machine's custodian to give you a key, use a cypher to walk through the gate, etc. All of these are different tasks with different applicable skills, any of which you might try based on your party's skills and available Effort.

And if we're being true to our philosophies, different solutions can each have reactivity of their own (smashing down the gate might trigger extra defenses, persuading the custodian could mean you've gained a friend or used up a favor for another quest, using the cypher means you won't have it for a later task, etc.), ultimately resulting in more interesting replayability across the board.

Adam out.

Story Time!

Colin here. You may have seen this picture of Adam, Kevin, Steve, and I standing in the inXile office together at the culmination of our intensive meetings there last month. But we weren’t just standing around smiling the whole time (we almost forgot to take the picture in fact). In actuality, much of what we were doing was hammering down the last stray nails of the upgraded story—

::record scratch:: “What do you mean, upgraded story? Like, you re-wrote it?”

No. We *revised* it. It's different.

Like game development, writing is an iterative process that requires occasional sledgehammers... and we wanted to make sure our foundation was as strong as possible. On this project in particular—a thematic successor to one of the most beloved CRPGs of all time—we want to make sure we get it right. It’s a rare writer who can spit out perfection the first time (and if you know one, please send him or her my way).

As the Creative Lead on this project, it’s my job to make sure we don’t settle for “good enough” on the story. To that end, we took the original story, examined its component pieces, and reassembled it in a different (and better) configuration. We kept all the elements we described in the Kickstarter—all the characters, all the items, all the *everything* except the fine details of the narrative. This was a reorganization of our elements in a way that is more focused, clearer, and more entertaining.

Which is to say, our original story was good, but now (if I may be immodest for a moment) I think it’s pretty great. With the combined talents of Adam, Kevin, Chris Avellone, Tony Evans, Nathan Long, and George Ziets, it had better be.

Anyway, as I was saying, much of what we were doing was hammering down the last stray nails of the upgraded story and making sure that we are ready to bring our outside writing talent to bear on a number of different areas at once. We now have a unified set of documents that will bear the combined scrutiny of some excellent writers, effectively share our vision for the story, and help us gauge the player’s experience throughout. These are our Story Spines.

That sounds a little creepy and maybe a bit murder-y, so let me explain what I mean: a spine is a firm through-line of the story, the pieces on which the rest of the experience hangs. The first and most important is the PC’s Spine. This is the narrative of the game as experienced by the PC (and thus you, the player), from the very beginning of the game to the end, laid out from point to point. We took our design doc and stripped out all the extraneous details and the information that the player might never know—even if this was information that would inform the motivations of the other major characters in the game, if the player didn’t know it at the time, we moved it to where the player would learn it or removed it from the PC Spine altogether.

Doing this exposed some potential problems in the plot of the game, and it was invaluable to us in making sure we have written a whole and cohesive through-line for you to experience. We did the same thing for other major characters in the game: what’s their history? What do they know, and when do they know it? What are they trying to achieve at any given moment in the story?

We had these spines written and ready for the meetings we had in November, with significant input from George and Tony. Then we borrowed the talents of Chris Avellone and Nathan Long to tear them apart, and we rebuilt them again—faster, stronger, better. After making sure we had all these details fully ironed out, we had several more meetings, in which I gave a summary of the improved game to a variety of teams, starting with Brian Fargo and Matt Findley. After that first meeting, Brian said (and I paraphrase): “This is awesome. This is the story for this game. Go.”

We then presented the story a few more times to several other groups—the art team, the programming team, the designers—and I upgraded my Fast Talk skill to Specialized [Adam: not a real Torment skill], tearing through a high-level summary of the game in about 10 minutes (Kevin and Adam took over the meetings after those speeches while I recovered with a tank of oxygen).

Barring a few minor changes and detail fixes, these spines form the core of the Torment story. We’ve provided four writers with some design constraints for their areas and these spines, and I’m anticipating some very cool ideas back at the start of the new year.

Oh, and maybe I should mention down here that we’re working on quests and storylines for multiple particular areas, and as soon as I’m done with this post, I’m back to crafting the first player experience in the game. It’s looking... pretty good.

Colin out!

A Promotion

Kevin again. It’s my pleasure to announce that Adam Heine has accepted a promotion to the role of Design Lead for Torment. From the beginning he has played a key role in the design of the game, and he has repeatedly demonstrated to everyone involved in the project that he has a strong command of the sensibilities that will make this game great. Adam’s ownership of various aspects of system and area design has grown over the past months, and when he visited inXile’s office last month, I formally recognized his contributions by promoting him to Design Lead. In this role, he’ll be leading the design vision of the game much as Colin is leading the creative vision. Though honestly, Adam's work hasn't changed very much – the promotion is largely an official acknowledgement of what he’d already been doing.

Colin brought Adam onto the fledgling project last year and wanted to provide some backstory and share his own thoughts:

“Adam came on board Planescape: Torment early during the development process, when all we had was a Mortuary. We desperately needed scripters to create the rest of the Planes. He quickly distinguished himself as an agile thinker, extremely creative, and able to solve problems by approaching them from multiple different angles. He showed his excellence in catching bugs, in creating scripts, and in delivering new ideas for quests and characters.

After PST shipped, he became a designer on Black Isle's TORN. But eventually he had to succumb to reality, realizing that as a newlywed, he shouldn’t be commuting an hour and a half (each way!) to Irvine from San Diego every day, and that 60-80 hours a week of work wasn’t a recipe for a happy marriage. So he left Interplay and took a standard programming job closer to home... and eventually he packed up and moved to Thailand to foster orphans.

Years passed. In that time, he has continued to flex his creative muscle by writing novels and short stories, all while raising as many as 10 kids at once. He’s also continued to design board and computer games in his spare time, but without a production team, they’re mostly thought exercises. Fortunately, you don't need a production team to write fiction.

Last year, Eurogamer had a small PST retrospective with Chris Avellone, Halo 4’s lead designer Scott Warner, Adam, and me. At the end of it, Adam said that he’d love to get back into games. I said I’d love to work with him again sometime—I had nothing but positive experiences with him on PST.

It was shortly after that that Brian Fargo asked me if I’d like to work on a new Torment. And it was mere moments after that I strongly suggested that Adam be involved. Adam has proven the wisdom of that decision over and over again on this project. He has helped me shape the story from the outset. He has delivered reams of excellent design work: from loot to inventory to crafting to area design to... well, he’s been touching almost every system in the game.

And while we were out in California a couple of weeks ago, his hard work and insight paid off. Kevin offered him the position of Design Lead, and Adam accepted. Adam is an extraordinary designer, and I’m proud to be working alongside him.”

Congratulations, Adam! (And thanks!)

Hope you all have a great holiday season!

Kevin Saunders
Project Lead


Update #26

Updated our Journal (26): Decision

844 comments
208 likes

TL;DR: Combat vote results completed – statistically it was a tie! Torment: Tides of Numenera’s combat (and Crises) will be turn-based combat. We’ll address concerns expressed by Real-Time with Pause fans in our design.

Hello,

Your participation in the combat discussion and vote has been terrific! Almost 20% voted and over 2000 comments were made on our forums alone. That’s twice the turnout I expected, and it’s great to see all of the passion our backers have for the project. I’d like to thank everyone who got involved.

It’s been an exciting vote! The leading system changed a couple times early on and the final tally is: 7,267 TB, 7,052 RTwP and 782 Indifferent. With the vote at 48% to 47%, and with those who voted “indifferent” being more than triple the difference between the TB and RTwP camps, it is essentially a draw.

As we explained in Update 24, we were leaning toward turn-based combat because we believe it’s better suited for the kind of tactical complexity we're looking for through our Crisis system. We believe it’s a stronger fit for bringing narrative elements, including dialogue with NPCs, into hand-crafted combat situations. We have considered the vote, but more important than the vote are the comments (not just in our forums, but on many of the community forums and articles on this topic). Your comments have helped us greatly in understanding why people have the preferences and concerns that they do.

We have decided to go with turn-based combat. Ultimately, there are no losers here. This is all part of the process of making an RPG we are all passionate about and we think you’ll like Torment’s combat even if you voted for RTwP. While we have not been looking forward to disappointing half of our backers, we were happy to find that many of the reasons people gave for disliking TB and preferring RTwP can be addressed through the details of our combat system and encounter design. I’d like to go over some of the more common comments we saw either for RTwP or against TB and explain how we will address them.

Comment #1: Turn-Based combat can be tedious

If one were to take Planescape: Torment and, changing nothing else, switch to TB combat, the result would be miserable for many. You'd be stopped midstride in every Hive back alley to perform the same boring actions on meaningless thugs and zombies.

This isn’t what we’re going to do.

Turn-based combat certainly can be tedious, but that comes down to encounter design. As we stated during the Kickstarter, Torment will have no trash mobs—those hordes of filler battles that require little thought from the player. That type of gameplay is at odds with our emphasis on the story and character development, so each Crisis in Torment will be hand-crafted. It will have narrative relevance and consequences. We'll iterate on them until each one is a quality encounter and provides the experience we seek for that moment in the game.

If any combat situation in Torment were tedious, it wouldn’t be because it's turn-based. It would be because we failed in our goal. And our Crises aren’t just combat. They contain exploration, dialogue, and time-relevant actions and events that can exist outside of combat, like pursuits, environmental puzzles, and application of special skills. You’re going to have to work throughout the game toward your goals, and the Crisis concept is a primary way that we put your intentions to the test.

We understand the importance to you of combat not being tedious. Emphasis on encounter design is important for any CRPG, but for Torment, the bar will be even higher – we believe that through well designed encounters, and extensive gameplay iteration on them, we’ll be able to address the majority of the concerns expressed by those who favored RTwP.

Comment #2: Turn-Based combat can break immersion

"Immersion" is a tricky term that can mean a lot of things, but generally this comment is referring to the jarring sense a player gets when they're walking through a town and suddenly the whole world stops because, say, a feral dog saw them coming down the street.

Again, this isn't what we're going to do. In general, we don’t plan to “surprise” you with a Crisis. Through the design of the areas and the pacing of the game, you’ll know when and where combat is a possibility. The situation will feel tense and in some cases, you will be explicitly initiating the Crisis. This doesn’t mean we won’t ever ambush you, of course, but if we do, it will be very deliberate and not an arbitrary event.

We get that you don’t want to be pulled out of the game in this way and we’ll look for ways to keep you in control and prevent Crises from disrupting the normal flow of the game.

That said, Torment isn’t an action game. Real time doesn’t pass in conversations, for example – you have as much time as you want to decide your choice. And while exploration occurs in real-time, it won’t include twitch elements. All of your decision-making throughout the game will consistently be free from real-time considerations. Torment is a game about thinking and deliberation and will not have any actual time pressure, so turn-based combat will maintain a more consistent feel.

Comment #2a: Turn-Based combat isn’t realistic

A variation of the concern about immersion is that TB gameplay isn’t realistic. In a real battle, you don’t patiently observe while your opponents orderly take turns one at a time.

This is true, but the lack of realism is inherent in most videogame combat and gameplay (again, turn-based conversations come to mind), and RTwP combat isn’t immune to this issue. What we strive for isn’t realism, but creating an immersive experience that allows you to suspend your disbelief. In other words, realism is not at the core of Torment’s party-based combat.

That said, we will strive to make the combats as dynamic and visceral as possible – attacked characters will animate appropriately when struck instead of standing lifelessly, for example, or perhaps having readied actions such as overwatch or interrupts to take actions on the opponent’s turn. We will maintain tension and flow, creating the sense that you are in actual danger and making your tactical and strategic decisions matter.

Comment #3: Controlling the entire party in Turn-Based can be boring

The idea behind this concern is that if only one character in your party is relevant to the combat (e.g., it’s in a narrow passageway or a specific skill/weapon is needed for some aspect of it, etc.) then gameplay gets bogged down. It’s not fun to have to skip most of your characters’ turns, cycling back to the one character who can actually do something.

This problem also comes down to encounter design, and we’ll be paying close attention to this aspect in our specific Crisis designs. Strong support of ranged combat will help, as melee-focused battles can exacerbate this problem. The Numenera rules also help here because skills, while beneficial, generally aren’t required to accomplish specific tasks, and Effort can be expended to give any character a better chance of success at tasks outside their character build. Adam discussed how this works in Update 21 (in the context of dialogue, though it applies to Crisis gameplay as well), but we’ll copy it here again so you don’t have to search for it.

Using skills will be different, too (side note: I say "will," but we're still in pre-production, so any of this can change). Say there's a difficult task you want to attempt—lying to a prison guard or deciphering the text on an ancient puzzle box. Typically, in D&D-style RPGs for example, if you don't have the associated skill, your chances of success are very low, or you might not be able to attempt the task at all. In Numenera, all such tasks are treated the same, and anyone can try them. Training in a related skill or skills will lower the difficulty of the task, but even if you're untrained, you can still apply Effort.

Effort is a concept from the Numenera tabletop game. Essentially you spend points out of the appropriate stat pool (Might, Speed, or Intellect) to lower the difficulty of a task. The idea is, even if you've never been trained in lock picking, a very smart or dexterous character can, with some Effort, increase their chances of cracking a lock.

Your stat pools are renewable with rest. And of course, all of this is balanced. If you're trying to crack a combination lock created by a culture that died out millions of years ago, which requires a combination of smells rather than integers, well . . . you'd have to have a high-level character specialized in the task, who spent all the Intellect they had on Effort, just to make the task possible. That character would still have to roll ridiculously well.

Effort provides more options to customize your character and tackle obstacles. If there's a task you want to attempt—even if it's something normally contrary to your character build—you still have a chance of succeeding if you can use enough Effort. On the other hand, someone who has trained or specialized in that sort of task will have a greater chance of success, and will maintain that edge in similar tasks throughout the game.

Note also that party members can “assist” others in particular skill-based tasks, boosting their chances for success.

In short, we’re fully aware that cycling can be a painful way to play, and that this aspect of gameplay is important to you, and we’ll design the Crises to keep your entire party engaged.

Comment #4: You should implement both RTwP and TB and make it a gameplay option

This solution may sound ideal, but it wouldn’t give anybody what they really want. Area and encounter design needs of the two systems are very different. Designing for both would dilute the quality of the encounters for one or both systems, and most likely require so much time and resources as to impact the rest of the game. In a deep RPG like ours, where combat isn't even the focus, trying to implement two combat systems would lead to an inferior game across the board.

Comment #5: Planescape: Torment had Real-Time with Pause combat, so the new Torment should too

This is a reasonable perspective and valid point of view. Shouldn't we stick with what made the original great?

But is RTwP combat what made Planescape: Torment great? For some of you, the combat may have been an important part of your PST experience, and we hope that you’ll find the combat in Torment: Tides of Numenera to be at least equally enjoyable. But we don't think PST’s combat system was what most players loved about the game.

We believe PST is considered one of the greatest RPGs of all-time, not because its combat was Real-Time w/ Pause, but because of its emphasis on the narrative and on role-playing your character. We explained this in the four pillars we described in the Kickstarter, which are the foundation for Torment: Tides of Numenera:

 1. A Deep, Thematically Satisfying Story
 2. A World Unlike Any Other
 3. A Rich, Personal Narrative
 4. Reactivity, Choice, and Real Consequences

We’re using all four pillars to influence and reinforce our Crisis and combat design. Throughout the campaign, we stressed that we would find an approach for combat that worked well with these pillars. With the approach we have planned – including turn-based combat – we hope to integrate more narrative and more choice and consequence into the combat experience.

Though Planescape: Torment is the starting point for many of our design decisions, Torment: Tides of Numenera was never intended to be a game that, by default, duplicates everything PST did. It is a thematic successor that is inspired by PST, not derivative of it. The themes we are succeeding are the things that made Planescape: Torment a classic – the four pillars and other elements as described in our vision document  – and we don’t see the specific combat system as core to PST’s legacy. We have several of the people from the PST team involved in the project and we hope that you continue to trust that we will deliver the type of CRPG experience you crave.

"The Planescape: Torment experience was never defined by its combat. In Torment: Tides of Numenera, the combat is intended to complement both the narrative systems and the basic gameplay mechanics. It is a challenging decision for the team to make, and I respect and support their decision to choose turn-based."

-- Chris Avellone, Lead Designer of Planescape: Torment; Creative Director at Obsidian Entertainment

Comment #5a: Why all this focus on combat? Planescape: Torment wasn't even about that

This is kind of the opposite sentiment as the previous comment, or rather it's the other side of the same coin. Rest assured that combat is not, and never has been, our primary focus, as you can see in the four pillars above. Torment is very much about the story, the characters, the conversations, and the world, and we are focusing most of our efforts in those areas – it wasn't until six months after the Kickstarter that we even started talking seriously about combat in our updates.

If it feels like we are suddenly focused on combat, it's only because our recent updates have had that focus. In a month or two we'll talk about something else—art creation or story design or exploration gameplay or something—and then it'll feel like we're 100% focused on that.

Moving Forward with You

We're excited about what we have planned, and as you see more of what we’re doing, we think you’ll be excited, too. We’ll be talking about other aspects of the design in the near term, but we’ll certainly be talking more about Crises and combat down the road. We hope that you’ll continue to trust our judgment and dedication to the project and to you. Remember that you’ll have future opportunities to influence the game’s development, including aspects of its combat. We’ll be seeking your feedback in the future and you’ll be able to weigh in on details later to help us hone the experience.

We're grateful that we can solicit your feedback and your input throughout this process. This style of development would never have been possible even five years ago, let alone fifteen. It's encouraging to see your interest and passion in what we're doing. We learn a lot from your comments and posts on these topics, and we come that much closer to creating something great.

We will not take for granted the trust that you placed in us this past spring. We are making this game for you, our backers. When you play Torment, we want you to feel you trusted us wisely. We’re not looking for mass market success – our only metric is your satisfaction, and we are working hard toward that goal every day. Thanks for your support and understanding,

Kevin Saunders
Project Lead

P.S. We have a couple more things to say, but they’re more about our communication and our gratitude, so we’ve put them on tumblr to keep this update focused on combat.


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    SCHOLAR - ALL DIGITAL - TRUE BELIEVER ============================= Digital downloadable copy of Torment: Tides of Numenera DRM-free for PC, MAC OSX, or Linux. This low price only available for those who help fund. You'll also receive the digital enhanced game manual in all its textual glory.

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    11712 backers

    SCHOLAR - ALL DIGITAL ============================= Digital downloadable copy of Torment: Tides of Numenera DRM-free for PC, MAC OSX, or Linux. This low price only available for those who help fund. You'll also receive the Digital Game Manual in all its textual glory.

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    10995 backers Limited (4005 left of 15000)

    ENLIGHTENED SCHOLAR - ALL DIGITAL - TRUE BELIEVER ============================= It is not too late to be a True Believer of Torment! This Tier includes a digital downloadable copy of Torment: Tides of Numenera DRM-free for PC, MAC OSX, or Linux. You'll also receive the Digital Game Manual in all its textual glory, as well as the Digital Strategy Guide and a Digital download of Colin McComb's Torment novella, which will tell a tale that is tied into Torment: Tides of Numenera and the Ninth World. This low price is only available to those who help fund. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ You will also receive the Planescape: Torment Developer Retrospective, a series of dev diaries/blogs by more than a dozen PS:T developers, including Lead Designer Chris Avellone.

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    4303 backers

    PATRON OF THE ARTS - ALL DIGITAL ============================= Digital downloadable copy of Torment: Tides of Numenera DRM free for PC, MAC OSX, or Linux + Digital Game Manual in all its textual glory + downloadable DRM-free digital soundtrack by Mark Morgan (VBR, V0, or MP3 formats) + Digital Concept Art Book.

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    3503 backers Limited (1497 left of 5000)

    LORE ASPIRANT - ALL DIGITAL - TRUE BELIEVER ============================= It's not too late to be a True Believer of Torment! This Tier includes a digital downloadable copy of Torment: Tides of Numenera DRM-free for PC, MAC OSX, or Linux. You'll also receive the Digital Game Manual in all its textual glory. You'll receive the Digital Novella Compilation, which includes novellas penned by Colin McComb and Monte Cook, as well as the FROM THE DEPTHS collection - five interlinked novellas that tell the stories of legendary individuals, each of whom embodied one of the Tides. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ NEW REWARDS: You will also receive the Planescape: Torment Developer Retrospective + the Digital Strategy Guide. Additionally, the Novella Compilation has been expanded from the original three novellas to seven.

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    10273 backers

    ALL ABOUT THE GAMES - RPG SPECIAL - ALL DIGITAL ============================= Two great RPGs from inXile for under the price of a single game! You'll receive a digital downloadable copy of Torment: Tides of Numenera and Wasteland 2, both DRM-free for PC, MAC OSX, or Linux. You'll also receive Digital Game Manuals for both.

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    2987 backers

    LORE SEEKER - ALL DIGITAL ============================= ALL Rewards from PATRON OF THE ARTS + Digital Torment Novella Compilation from members of the original Planescape/ Planescape: Torment team, Colin McComb, Adam Heine, and Ray Vallese. You'll also receive high resolution Digital Concept Art as our art team builds this incredible world.

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    1219 backers

    BOXED COPY - PHYSICAL GOODS ============================= BOXED COPY OF TORMENT: TIDES OF NUMENERA which includes Game DVD for PC, Mac OSX, or Linux + Printed Manual + Digital Copy of Game + Digital Manual.

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    2315 backers Limited (185 left of 2500)

    NUMENERA SEEKER - ALL DIGITAL ============================= ALL Rewards from LORE SEEKER + Digital Copy of Monte Cook's Numenera Player's Guide and a Hi-Res Digital Map. You'll also receive Beta Test Access where you can experience Torment before it is released to the public. At this level, we include you in the credits (Oddity Level) along with the development team.

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    2203 backers

    LORE MASTER - ALL DIGITAL ============================= ALL Rewards from LORE SEEKER + Digital Downloadable Copy of Wasteland 2 (or additional digital copy of Torment: Tides of Numenera) DRM-free for PC, MAC OSX, or Linux and a Digital Map. You'll also receive Beta Test Access for Torment: Tides of Numenera where you can experience Torment before it is released to the public. At this level, we include you in the credits (Oddity Level) along with the development team.

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    1000 backers All gone!

    ODDITY COLLECTOR - TRUE BELIEVER - PHYSICAL GOODS ============================= Backer-Only COLLECTOR'S EDITION BOXED COPY which includes Game DVD for PC, MAC OSX, or Linux + Digital downloadable copy of Torment: Tides of Numenera + Classic Printed Manual + Cloth Map + Printed Concept Art Book + Audio CD Soundtrack from Mark Morgan + DRM-free digital soundtrack + Digital Concept Art + Digital Game Manual + Digital High Resolution Art + Digital Torment Novella Compilation + Digital Map. At this level, we include you in the credits (Oddity Level) along with the development team.

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    Add $18 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $110 or more
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    2001 backers All gone!

    ODDITY COLLECTOR - PHYSICAL GOODS ============================= Backer-Only COLLECTOR'S EDITION BOXED COPY which includes Game DVD for PC, MAC OSX, or Linux + Digital downloadable copy of Torment: Tides of Numenera + Classic Printed Manual + Cloth Map + Printed Concept Art Book + Audio CD Soundtrack from Mark Morgan + DRM-free digital soundtrack + Digital Concept Art + Digital Game Manual + Digital High Resolution Art + Digital Torment Novella Compilation + Digital Map. At this level, we include you in the credits (Oddity Level) along with the development team.

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  • Pledge $125 or more
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    998 backers Limited (1 left of 999)

    NUMENERA SCHOLAR - ALL DIGITAL ============================= ALL Rewards from NUMENERA SEEKER + Digital Copy of Monte Cook's NUMENERA COREBOOK (FULL-COLOR, 416 PAGES). You'll also receive ALPHA SYSTEMS TEST and BETA TEST ACCESS for Torment: Tides of Numenera where you can provide feedback on some core systems of Torment before it is released to the public. At this level, we include you in a SPECIAL SECTION OF THE CREDITS (Cypher Level) along with the development team and INCLUDE YOUR NAME IN-GAME ON A TOMBSTONE (Be Dead and Remembered).

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  • Pledge $125 or more
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    1839 backers Limited (1161 left of 3000)

    ODDITY COLLECTOR 2 - PHYSICAL GOODS ============================= Backer-Only COLLECTOR'S EDITION BOXED COPY which includes Game DVD for PC, MAC OSX, or Linux + Digital downloadable copy of Torment: Tides of Numenera + Classic Printed Manual + Cloth Map + Printed Concept Art Book + Audio CD Soundtrack from Mark Morgan + DRM-free digital soundtrack + Digital Concept Art + Digital Game Manual + Digital High Resolution Art + Digital Torment Novella Compilation + Digital Map. At this level, we include you in the credits (Oddity Level) along with the development team.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $18 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $130 or more
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    927 backers Limited (73 left of 1000)

    NUMENERA SCHOLAR 2 - ALL DIGITAL ============================= ALL Rewards from NUMENERA SEEKER + Digital Copy of Monte Cook's NUMENERA COREBOOK (FULL-COLOR, 416 PAGES). You'll also receive ALPHA SYSTEMS TEST and BETA TEST ACCESS for Torment: Tides of Numenera where you can provide feedback on some core systems of Torment before it is released to the public. At this level, we include you in a SPECIAL SECTION OF THE CREDITS (Cypher Level) along with the development team and INCLUDE YOUR NAME IN-GAME ON A TOMBSTONE (Be Dead and Remembered).

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  • Pledge $135 or more
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    383 backers

    ODDITY COLLECTOR UNLIMITED - PHYSICAL GOODS ============================= Backer-Only COLLECTOR'S EDITION BOXED COPY which includes Game DVD for PC, MAC OSX, or Linux + Digital downloadable copy of Torment: Tides of Numenera + Classic Printed Manual + Cloth Map + Printed Concept Art Book + Audio CD Soundtrack from Mark Morgan + DRM-free digital soundtrack + Digital Concept Art + Digital Game Manual + Digital High Resolution Art + Digital Torment Novella Compilation + Digital Map. At this level, we include you in the credits (Oddity Level) along with the development team.

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    Add $18 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $250 or more
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    499 backers All gone!

    CYPHER COLLECTOR - PHYSICAL GOODS ============================= ALL Rewards from ODDITY COLLECTOR + PRINTED TORMENT NOVELLA COMPILATION from members of the original Planescape/Planescape: Torment team, Colin McComb, Adam Heine, and Ray Vallese + HARDCOVER COPY OF MONTE COOK'S NUMENERA COREBOOK (FULL-COLOR, 416 PAGES) + PRINTED NUMENERA PLAYER'S GUIDE + DIGITAL COPY OF WASTELAND 2. You'll also receive ALPHA SYSTEMS TEST and BETA TEST ACCESS for Torment: Tides of Numenera where you can experience and provide feedback on some core systems of Torment before it is released to the public. At this level, we include you in a SPECIAL SECTION OF THE CREDITS (Cypher Level) along with the development team and INCLUDE YOUR NAME IN-GAME ON A TOMBSTONE (Be Dead and Remembered).

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    Add $18 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $275 or more
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    889 backers Limited (111 left of 1000)

    CYPHER COLLECTOR 2 - PHYSICAL GOODS ============================= ALL Rewards from ODDITY COLLECTOR + PRINTED TORMENT NOVELLA COMPILATION from members of the original Planescape/Planescape: Torment team, Colin McComb, Adam Heine, and Ray Vallese + HARDCOVER COPY OF MONTE COOK'S NUMENERA COREBOOK (FULL-COLOR, 416 PAGES) + PRINTED NUMENERA PLAYER'S GUIDE + DIGITAL COPY OF WASTELAND 2. You'll also receive ALPHA SYSTEMS TEST and BETA TEST ACCESS for Torment: Tides of Numenera where you can experience and provide feedback on some core systems of Torment before it is released to the public. At this level, we include you in a SPECIAL SECTION OF THE CREDITS (Cypher Level) along with the development team and INCLUDE YOUR NAME IN-GAME ON A TOMBSTONE (Be Dead and Remembered).

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    Add $18 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $350 or more
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    144 backers Limited (56 left of 200)

    NUMENERA HISTORIAN - IN-GAME CONTRIBUTION - ALL DIGITAL ============================= ALL Rewards from NUMENERA SCHOLAR + YOU WRITE AN ITEM DESCRIPTION AND HISTORY FOR IN-GAME ITEM (Oddity or Cypher) specified by the Torment team (content subject to approval by inXile and will be edited by Ray Vallese). You will be mentioned in the game credits ("Additional Design") that notes the item y ou chronicled. At this level, we include you in a SPECIAL SECTION OF THE CREDITS (Cypher Level) along with the development team and YOUR NAME AND EPITAPH will appear in-game IN THE VALLEY OF DEAD HEROES.

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    300 backers All gone!

    ARTIFACT COLLECTOR - SIGNED PHYSICAL GOODS ============================= ALL Rewards from CYPHER COLLECTOR + COLLECTOR'S EDITION BOX is SIGNED by Brian Fargo and the development team + PRINTED NOVELLA COMPILATION is SIGNED by the authors + HARDCOVER NUMENERA COREBOOK and NUMENERA PLAYER'S GUIDE is SIGNED by MONTE COOK + LARGE CLOTH WALL MAP. At this level, we include you in the extremely LIMITED SECTION OF THE CREDITS (Artifact Level) along with the development team and YOUR NAME AND EPITAPH will appear in-game IN THE VALLEY OF DEAD HEROES.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $18 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $525 or more
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    156 backers Limited (144 left of 300)

    ARTIFACT COLLECTOR 2 - SIGNED PHYSICAL GOODS ============================= ALL Rewards from CYPHER COLLECTOR + COLLECTOR'S EDITION BOX is SIGNED by Brian Fargo and the development team + PRINTED NOVELLA COMPILATION is SIGNED by the authors + HARDCOVER NUMENERA COREBOOK and NUMENERA PLAYER'S GUIDE is SIGNED by MONTE COOK + LARGE CLOTH WALL MAP. At this level, we include you in the extremely LIMITED SECTION OF THE CREDITS (Artifact Level) along with the development team and YOUR NAME AND EPITAPH will appear in-game IN THE VALLEY OF DEAD HEROES.

    Estimated delivery:
    Add $18 USD to ship outside the US
  • Pledge $750 or more
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    53 backers Limited (47 left of 100)

    DESIGN AN ITEM - IN-GAME CONTRIBUTION & PHYSICAL GOODS ============================= ALL Rewards from ARTIFACT COLLECTOR + YOU WRITE AN ITEM DESCRIPTION AND HISTORY FOR IN-GAME ITEM. Do you have an idea for an item in the game? That’s great! Following guidelines from the Torment team, you provide an idea for an item within the game. We’ll approve it, implement it, and Ray Vallese will edit it. We’ll also note the name of your item with your name under "Additional Design" in the credits along with the development team.

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    50 backers Limited (50 left of 100)

    DESIGN AN NPC - IN-GAME CONTRIBUTION & PHYSICAL GOODS ============================= ALL Rewards from ARTIFACT COLLECTOR + YOU DESIGN AND PROVIDE A NAME AND DESCRIPTION FOR A NPC. You’ll provide the name and description for a minor NPC for the game! We can’t guarantee this character won’t die a gruesome death, but think of all the great screenshots you’ll be able to take! We’ll need to approve the content, of course, and Ray Vallese will edit it. We’ll also note the name of your NPC with your name under "Additional Design" in the credits along with the development team.

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    13 backers Limited (87 left of 100)

    LIMITED EDITION SIGNED PRINT - SIGNED PHYSICAL GOODS ============================= ALL Rewards from ARTIFACT COLLECTOR + receive a LIMITED EDITION TORMENT CONCEPT PIECE SIGNED AND NUMBERED BY THE ORIGINAL ARTIST.

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  • Pledge $2,000 or more
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    9 backers Limited (41 left of 50)

    LIMITED EDITION STATUETTE - SIGNED PHYSICAL GOODS ============================= ALL Rewards from ARTIFACT COLLECTOR + receive a LIMITED EDITION Torment: Tides OF NUMENERA BUST/STATUETTE OF AN IN-GAME CHARACTER (approximately 12 in. (0.3m)) SIGNED AND NUMBERED BY THE SCULPTOR.

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    3 backers Limited (9 left of 12)

    LEAVE YOUR LEGACY - SIGNED PHYSICAL GOODS ============================= ALL Rewards from ARTIFACT COLLECTOR + CRAFT AN OBELISK FROM A LOST EMPIRE recognizing your greatness in the Valley of Dead Heroes. Work with the Torment team to choose the obelisk's characteristics and design, including the Tides represented by this momument to your future self. YOU'LL HAVE A DESIGN CALL WITH BRIAN FARGO AND TORMENT TEAM to discuss your obelisk + LIMITED EDITION Torment: Tides OF NUMENERA BUST/STATUETTE OF AN IN-GAME CHARACTER (approximately 12 in. (0.3m)) SIGNED AND NUMBERED BY THE SCULPTOR + LIMITED EDITION TORMENT CONCEPT PIECE SIGNED AND NUMBERED BY THE ORIGINAL ARTIST + your NUMENERA COREBOOK will be LEATHERBOUND and SIGNED BY MONTE COOK. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Should this Tier be SOLD OUT, then we will hire Mark Morgan to create an additional 10 minutes of game music. All will sing your praises!

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  • Pledge $10,000 or more
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    9 backers Limited (3 left of 12)

    ONE LIFE MATTERS - EXCLUSIVE LAUNCH PARTY AND MORE ============================= ALL Rewards from LEAVE YOUR LEGACY + DIGITAL OR HARD COPY OF EVERY INXILE GAME RELEASED FOR THE NEXT 10 YEARS + INVITATION TO EXCLUSIVE LAUNCH PARTY WITH THE TORMENT TEAM (must be able to arrange travel to Newport Beach, CA) + EXTREMELY LIMITED PERSONALIZED PLAQUE acknowledging your contribution. At this level, we include you (or your company) in the OPENING CREDITS.

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Funding period

- (30 days)