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A story-driven CRPG set in the world of Monte Cook's Numenera.  We are deeply appreciative to all of you who made this possible. Torment: Tides of Numenera is available now for PC on Steam or GOG, as well as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
A story-driven CRPG set in the world of Monte Cook's Numenera. We are deeply appreciative to all of you who made this possible. Torment: Tides of Numenera is available now for PC on Steam or GOG, as well as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
74,405 backers pledged $4,188,927 to help bring this project to life.

Updated Our Journal (46): Narrative Character Generation

Posted by inXile entertainment (Creator)

TL;DR: Adam at PAX; an update on production and interfaces; Adam on character generation

Hello Tormented Ones,

Kevin here.

First and foremost, if you happen to be attending PAX Prime in Seattle in a few weeks, be sure to check in on the CLASSIC RPGs FOREVER! Panel on Sunday, August 30th at 11 AM in the Sasquatch Theater. It will feature not only DoubleBear's Annie Mitsoda, Obsidian's Josh Sawyer, Harebrained's Mitch Gitelman, and Larian's Swen Vincke, but also our very own Design Lead Adam Heine! Don't miss it!

Most of the team is focused on the Sagus Cliffs content, the opening major area of the game. Environment art is finishing up and will soon be moving on to other sections of the game. Design is executing on George Ziets’ expansive and thorough design for the Zone. (The Sagus Cliffs Zone Design Document weighs in at over 200 pages and 120K words—our largest by far.)

Beyond being rich in content, Sagus also has a high degree of reactivity. It is a a very work-intensive area to write and implement but is a strong depiction of just how weird and wondrous the Ninth World is. We’re about halfway through its writing, but because of the interconnectedness of much of the content, it can’t yet be played through as one complete area. Over the next several weeks, we looking forward to having enough content complete that we can experience the city of Sagus Cliffs and begin iterating on its design content.

One more thing I'd like to talk about is user interface. As conversations are the core of TTON’s gameplay, the first interface we developed (around a year ago) was the Conversation UI, as seen in the First Glimpse video. We began creating our interfaces using a popular and powerful interface plug-in known as NGUI. Leading up to Unity 5 (late last year), Unity released an improved native user interface layer, UGUI. We assessed it at that time and determined that UGUI would solve several technical obstacles we had encountered, so we decided to switch over. Currently most of our interfaces use UGUI, but our Conversation UI remained with NGUI, while our engineers focused on support for Crises, animation, and various other features required by the team. (In fact, at least the first Alpha Systems Test will be released with this NGUI version of the Conversation UI, but we have plans for an even better one.)

As we gear up for a Beta release in the future, we’ve now undertaken the work of rebuilding the Conversation UI in UGUI. This includes adding in various enhancements we’ve identified over the last year. This work is notable because it is a shift from engineers focusing on functionality required by the team to focusing directly on the player experience. We now have two of our five full-time programmers concentrating on UI development. We’re prioritizing revising the Conversation UI over work on the front-ends of other interfaces (such as inventory and level advancement) because we want to first ensure high quality of our core gameplay. This will allow us to, for example, better integrate Effort use into conversations.

Our second UI priority is Crisis UI. As Crises are one of the more experimental aspects of TTON, we believe it will be especially important for their UI to be well-polished, intuitive, and smooth to use. We’re currently completing a major iteration pass on the Crisis UI. The previous version provided the functionality that Crisis designers needed to test and iterate on their content, but was too user-unfriendly for others. After this round of revisions is complete, the team will be better able to assess and give feedback on the Crises. There will be some additional minor iteration on the new version and then it will be ready to include in an Alpha Systems Test.

(Speaking of Alpha Systems Tests, we’ll be launching the first one very, very soon. It will include the first Scene of the game, including the beginnings of character generation that Adam talks about below. Those of you who have Alpha Systems Test access as a pledge reward will be contacted with additional information and instructions about how to participate.)

Narrative Character Generation

Adam here! Let's talk about character generation!

In the first Torment, character generation was unusual for a CRPG at the time, especially one in the Dungeons & Dragons lineage. When you hit New Game, you were given 9 points in each stat plus 21 additional points to distribute as you desired. That was it. You didn't do anything else before jumping into the game – no class, feats, talents, or alignment. Everything else was either predetermined (name, gender, appearance) or determined through gameplay (class, skills, and alignment).

In Tides of Numenera, we are taking that even further, handling as much character generation through gameplay as we reasonably can. The results so far are pretty cool, but it's a challenging for a couple of reasons.

First, TTON has a lot more to teach than PST. This is a challenge because it's hard to teach rules and systems through conversation, especially without breaking the fourth wall (which we are loathe to do). And while many players knew at least the basics of AD&D before playing Planescape: Torment, we have to assume that a larger portion of players won't know Numenera's rules.

Second, TTON has more starting choices to make than PST. Although both Torments have three classes, Tides of Numenera offers many additional choices in the form of your Descriptor and your Focus (more on these later).

Instead of walking you through a standard, step-by-step character generation process, we wanted to get you into the story as fast as possible. For TTON’s themes, we felt it was appropriate to have character creation occur in-game, but we didn’t want to compromise the narrative to do this.

At the start of the game, the only immediate choice you'll make is what gender you want to play. Like PST, your name and appearance are predetermined, and you’ll start with 9 in all three Stat Pools (Might, Speed, and Intellect).* With that, you'll be dropped immediately into the world.

Early in the narrative, you explore several memories and, in doing so, allocate 6 additional Stat Pool points while also showing a leaning toward what Descriptor best applies to you. The way you will do this is entirely in-world and part of the story. Your Descriptor gives you a few first Skills and some Stat adjustments, defining a flavor for everything you do. TTON has seventeen different Descriptors for the PC to choose from. That's too many to sift through in an RPG conversation. Instead, the opening of the game will pay attention to the choices you make and how you decide to handle the situations you come across. As you interact with the environment (through scripted interactions), you'll be given a subset of TTON’s 17 Descriptors based on those choices.

You'll have a chance to review your choice after the fact, and even choose a Descriptor outside the subset—so you can still face the full fury of 17 Descriptors if you want to. Our method of having gameplay decisions guide character creation does not mean you will be locked into the options the narrative provides for you. You can freely pick between all options if you wish.

Choosing your Type (i.e. class) and Focus will be similar, though simpler. Unlike PST, you can't change your Type whenever you want. Instead, all three are presented at once in a unique part of your mind created (presumably) by your sire. The Numenera Types—Jack, Nano, and Glaive—are pretty straightforward, so handling them in the narrative is relatively simple (before this choice, your Type is "Castoff"). As with the Descriptor you will have opportunity to review your choice and study the details of each Type if you want to do that.

Last is your Focus—the abilities that make your character unique. You will be able to change your Focus throughout the game (for a cost of course, though the first one's free), and you can discover and unlock additional Foci later. You'll unlock the first set in the opening quarter of the game and choose your initial Focus there. Learning about the Foci and choosing your first one will be wrapped in the narrative like Descriptor and Type.

The goal of all this is to combine learning the system with playing through the story. In the same way that your Tides (being your alignment, so to speak) are determined organically by your actions, your mechanical choices will also be a natural extension of how you choose to play the game.

Adam out.

* Those of you familiar with Numenera rules will have noticed that we are handling starting Stat Pools a little differently from the Corebook, but don't worry. The resulting values will be the same once you choose your Type.

Other Kickstarters

There's been quite a lot of activity on Kickstarter lately, and we'd be remiss if we didn't share some of those most promising projects with you.

First off, Monte Cook Games is back on Kickstarter creating another bundle of Numenera books. These three books (Into the Night, Into the Deep, Into the Outside) expands on previously unexplored parts of the Numenera setting, taking us into the stars, deep beneath the Ninth World's ocean, and into other dimensions and worlds. Previous books touched on the possibilities of going beyond the Ninth World's shores, and now we can jump in both feet first! The campaign funded in just an hour, and now has a series of meaty stretch goals to reward its backers even further.

Our friends from XOUNTS have an ongoing Kickstarter that you may have seen pass by. They were offering a special early bird deal on The Bard's Tale IV Style Xounts before, and now have expanded that deal to also offer Torment Styles! What is Xounts? It is an all-in-one sound and light system, perfect for your living room or wherever you prefer, with very high-quality sound and atmospheric lighting, easy to set up with any computer or handheld device. Watch an unpacking video with our associate producer Thomas Beekers, or listen to our CEO Brian Fargo speak to his Xounts experience:

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Last but not least, one of our contract programmers Nathan Fabian has been working on a fascinating project now on Kickstarter, called Disciples of the Storm. This spiritual successor to 1997's NetStorm is a fast paced RTS set in a fantasy world that has been torn apart by an ancient fued between its deities. Battles happen on the floating, shattered islands of the world, with a unique and expansive bridge-building mechanic between these islands as part of the core design. We hope you check each of these projects out!

Until next time,

Kevin Saunders
Project Lead


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    1. BlackGauntlet

      Hello, InXile! I'd like to ask about the Foci. If I unlock, say, the Focus of "Commands Nature" after saving, for example, Sentinel Keeper of Yggdrasil, will this unlocked Focus which was not available initially in my 1st play-through be available immediately on my 2nd one?

    2. Ailantan | Story addict on

      That video should have epilepsy warning.

    3. Torment- The Enduring Exile on

      @Peter the Xounts are way too tacky to put in a living room. I can see them being sold to small venues but in the living room is the wrong place.

    4. Peter Hoogeveen on

      Another great update. The Alpha gameplay was awesome and I want more! :D

      To me, personally, that Xounts system looks way too 'in your face' and I don't like it _at all_, but of course I wish them all the best and hope they make their goal, although it's pretty unlikely at this point.

    5. Logan on

      @Colin thanks for the Alpha videos...I watched a bit but want most to be "new" when it comes out.

      @inXile Thanks for giving a shout out to Xounts Up...there product looks great to me. I don't have more than a 2.1 on my PC and nothing in my livingroon so I think I found something functional and good looking!

    6. Ryan "Keokuk" Smith on

      Uh oh "suitably impressed" I always catch small phrases like this. Hope its not a canary in the coal mine eh. I hope you're able to come around on it if you're a lil down on it.

    7. Torment- The Enduring Exile on

      @Epislon You get a choice use Might or Intellect for example, and a prediction of "Simple" Hard" etc. on how diffcult your roll will be. You can spend points of "effort" from your pool to bring it back to "Simple."

      The point is if you do bring it to "Simple" you can still fail depending on your dice roll.

      Just reload and keep trying!

      RNG has been abandoned a long time ago in favor of fixed values. If your Dexterity is 9 then you pass. No dice roll. In Torment you have to add a finite number of points (rest to replenish hahaha) and then roll a random dice against it.

      Have fun with that :)

    8. Epsilon Rose on

      @Torment: What do you mean about the RNG?

    9. Christian on

      Sagus Cliffs is the most appealing area to me from what I've seen so far. So don't fuck this up ;)

      Also ... some new art from there? Pretty please? :)

    10. Torment- The Enduring Exile on

      The chargen is pretty cool (from the Alpha systems test). It's fairly quick.

      Yikes on the RNG though. Inxile is going to find a lot of people hate how they took the RNG from the tabletop verbatim and put it into the game.

    11. Groghunter on

      As long as it doesn't take 10 hours to give you actual abilities like FF XIII does. ;)

    12. Groghunter on

      Loving the sound of this, I often find myself feeling like I'm either making uninformed choices, or feeling like I'm not giving character creation as much attention as it deserves in games with traditional character creation, because I want to get into the game, or I spend hours on it, then don't get to actually play the game very much. I remember finding that I'd picked a class that didn't work very well in NWN, for example, because I didn't know how skewed it was from standard 3rd edition. Later, I found lots of examples of other people complaining that they couldn't complete the game due to several abilites for Rangers not being as useful as they had seemed in character creation, & having gimped builds because of it.

    13. Nohvarr on

      I do have some concerns about the visual look of my character being predetermined. Some influence over skin tone would be appreciated, but aside from that it all sounds good.

    14. Fitheach on

      Everything sounds good to me though everything is in the implementation.

      Not sure how relevant any Elder Scrolls game design is to Torment they mostly focus on do or do not and the ability to wander where ever as the choice you exert so the no choice starts are particularly egregious. With Torment I can easily imagine the introduction area blended with character creation. As to lack of visual customisation I'm fine with that I want a character I can define and a game world that will reflect their choices. That said I'm hoping that the character is blank visually so the player can layer whatever they want onto it. A mask for the face clothing covering the body so that skin eyes hair can be whatever the player wants them to be in their head.

    15. Simon Kristofer Haugdal on

      @Lars Tangvald
      I found Morrowind's character creation to be far more interesting and engaging than that of Oblivion and Skyrim. A question of personal taste, I reckon.
      But I don't think the existence of mods or other short-cuts to bypass a part of the vanilla gameplay in any way proves that the vanilla implementation was a decent compromise.
      In fact, I think it proves the opposite.

    16. Missing avatar

      Lars Tangvald on

      But the process in Morrowind was also far less interesting. It was the first attempt at making more narrative character generation. It lets you pick your stats, but the newer games also give you a few choices that will have an impact later in the game. If you look up some other modern-ish western rpgs like those made by Bioware, you'll see many of them have mods for letting you skip the first dungeon :)
      Any area designed to teach new players how to play the game are generally more linear by necessity, which will make them less interesting to play through many times.

    17. Simon Kristofer Haugdal on

      @Lars Tangvald
      The fact that the tutorial area was so long that you would want to save-skip it on subsequent characters hardly makes it a decent compromise, does it? I mean, I never did that in Morrowind because the tutorial and character creation area was so quick and to the point.

    18. Missing avatar

      Lars Tangvald on

      The newer Bethesda games (Oblivion and later) have a decent compromise between engaging character creation and getting a quick start by putting a point at the end of the tutorial area that lets you redo your character (so you can save there and just skip the tutorial bits on later plays). This lets you avoid the issue where many players will be bored to death with the first area of the game from having played it so many times :)
      So while I really like narrative character creation, I hope it'll be possible to skip it after the first time.

    19. Vasiliy Khokhlov on

      Nice update! That character-creation narrtive, hopefully, must result not only in character "class" but have some other gameplot consequences, cause narrative only for character creation would be boring on next playthrough even if it's good. And, really, no true fan of Tormen ever expected FaceGen in this game.

    20. Bryy Miller on

      A 200 page GDD for *one area*? Jesus lord. Was it Alan Moore-level descriptive?

    21. Torment- The Enduring Exile on

      Adam, not to sound mean but you could have just as easily said: We're doing this like Oblivion and Fallout 3.

    22. Chet on

      I sure hope we don't have to suffer through 20 minutes of sudo character creation before we can change the results to what we really want. The only thing I don't like about the Bethesda games is this very thing. And please consider letting us the players and backers at least choose a little of how our character looks in game.

    23. Torment- The Enduring Exile on

      Sounds like Fallout 3 chargen only without the character customization.

    24. Missing avatar

      Fry on

      Considering how streamlined the character creation process is in the Numenera core rules, I don't see a big problem with an in-game system. There aren't a ton of decisions to make.

    25. Adam Heine on

      *fistbumps Jean-Luc Picard*

      Oh, God, I wish that weren't an avatar handle ;-)

    26. Jean-Luc Picard on

      Great stuff, thanks for the update.

      Don't worry about people complaining about customization. No one would complain about customizing Geralt's name or appearance for example. Such is the way of torment and strong narratives, people will accept it. ;)

    27. Tomimt on

      I like the sound of the character creation, it sounds like a good fit for an RPG of this type, which already gives certain limitations on what kind of a character you play.

    28. Mikhail Aristov on

      Guys, I think you didn't read the update carefully enough... It says that you can basically choose any of the 17 available Descriptors after the story introduction to them is done, as well as freely choose the Type. The update is a bit vague on the Focus, but since you can switch to any unlocked Focus, it seems like another free choice to me. If any of you have played P&P Numenera, you'd know that these three choices are as much freedom at character creation as you get in this system. :-)

      Not being able to customize the appearance and name is a bummer, but I think I get the narrative reasoning behind it: you are not supposed to have a custom avatar, because you are basically wearing another guy's discarded face, with all the awkwardness that comes with it.

    29. Vynxar on

      Not being able to customize my character and fine tune the character i'm going to use for so many hours is just a huge turn off to me. Plus in-game character creation is always a bit anoying when you restart a game.

    30. elorebaen on

      Love in game creation!

    31. Missing avatar

      Scelous on

      I'll agree with Epsilon Rose and say I'm a bit disappointed about how we can't customize how our character looks. That's always a huge draw for me in RPGs.

      That being said, being unable to customize the looks of your character is true to the original Torment, and it is by no means a deal-breaker for me; just a tiny disappointment in an otherwise fantastic looking game system.

    32. Helena on

      I'm not really sold on the in-game character creation - it sounds a lot like Oblivion's, which I really didn't like. I much prefer to be able to craft my character right off the bat, especially on a replay, rather than having the game try to make decisions for me. However, the choices themselves do sound quite interesting.

    33. Daryl Putman on

      I rather enjoy narrative character creation... but I also prefer when, like Oblivion had, where it will ask you [possibly optionally via a menu selection] at the end, "These are how your choices worked out. Want to manually alter your selections?" Sometimes, no matter how well-written they are, certain choices can be obtuse or difficult paths vis-a-vis others.

    34. tarasis on

      I'm liking the sound of the character creation mechanism. Looking forward to one day trying it out :)

    35. Epsilon Rose on

      I'm not sure I'm sold on not being able to choose how my character looks. Having to play as that blue lich was one of the main reasons I couldn't get into the original Torment.