Updated our Journal (20): Some Stories
TL;DR: $4.5M Stretch Goal reached; design update; job opening for an experienced programmer; Numenera preorder ends May 31st; new concept by Andree Wallin.
Hi Forgotten Ones,
It's been a while since we've sent out an official update, so we wanted to fill you in on various happenings over the last month. (You can follow our tumblr site if you're interested in more frequent Torment news.)
First, in case you missed Thomas Beekers’s tumblr announcement at the beginning of May, we did achieve the $4.5M Stretch Goal!
Despite a strong rally throughout April, the total by the end of the month was a bit shy of the $4.5M mark, at $4,428,365. Early in the Kickstarter, we stated that the additional $200K contributed by Brian Fargo (@BrianFargo) and Steven Dengler (@Dracogen) wouldn’t be applied to our Stretch Goal targets and totals because those funds were intended to buffer against the fees and dropped pledges. But when we received the final tally from Amazon Payments, we were pleasantly surprised at how low the percentage of dropped pledges was.
So our net funding was more than expected and we are going ahead with both the stronghold and the expanded reactivity, length, and depth. Thank you all – every Stretch Goal we set was met!
We’ve been continuing our work on the design preproduction and want to share some of what we’ve been up to.
Since we announced the project back in January, Torment fans have been wondering what combat system we'd use. Would Torment be real-time with pause (RTwP) like Planescape: Torment, turn-based like Wasteland 2, or something else? We’ve explained our high level goals for combat, and how we felt multiple types of combat system could achieve them. (If you missed it during the Kickstarter, check out Tony Evans’s Tales of Torment video about combat.) We've explained that we plan to have the decision about the type of combat system through a discussion with you, our backers.
This combat discussion is something we’re curious and excited about, but it’s still months in our future. Combat design will be very important, but our current focus is on the aspects that contribute the most to conversation design and reactivity because figuring these aspects out is necessary for all of the writers to get to work. Combat is an important topic, just not an urgent one, and we’ll talk more about it soon as we’re ready.
We’ve thought a bit about how we’ll approach the combat discussion when the time comes. We are planning a staged approach over a period of a few weeks. First, we’ll present the high level designs for the systems we think would work best for Torment based upon all of the other design work we’ll have done by then. We’ll then create a separate, backer-only Combat forum on User Voice for the topic to be discussed. A bit later, we’ll open up “voting” on this forum – thereby giving everyone who is interested some time to read and think about the approaches, as well as the ideas and comments of other backers, before weighing in numerically. We’ll leave the forum open until any debate has stabilized - we don’t expect there to be complete consensus, but after some time the major points will have been made and we’ll have enough information to make our decision.
Some of you have expressed concern that a popular vote could override our judgment and lead to an inferior game. This is a valid concern, but we’re not going to let this happen. First, we’re not going to present any option that we feel would be tragic for Torment. Second, we won’t blindly look at the numbers and decide based on those. Ultimately, we’ll take everyone’s comments and ideas into account and make the decision that we feel will be best for the game. But, again, this will be some time in the future – after we have fleshed out enough of the more pressing design topics to give combat the thorough attention it deserves.
Story Outline (Colin McComb)
Kevin asked me to write a few words about the process of fleshing out the game's story, so here goes: It's fun!
I suppose technically that was only "a couple" of words, so I'll put down a few more. Without giving away any spoilers, here's how the process works. First, I sat down with the outline and bare bones that Adam, Kevin, and I had assembled before the Kickstarter (with the input of a few others; thanks, Nathan Long!) and started to get it into a more cohesive shape. Our first goal was a story document we could show to Brian Fargo and Matt Findley for their input. I… I overwrote a little. What should have been a 4-5 page document turned into 25 pages; the initial document turned into a bit of a brain dump with a lot of area ideas with less of a uniting framework.
In order to create a better focus, I took that document and re-emphasized the story structure, breaking the game apart into modules for design and thematic consistency, with a rough guide for how much content we were aiming for in each section. I put our main cast of characters up front, along with a quick sketch of their motivations and defining characteristics, and defined a little more about how we're going to pursue some of our mechanics (Tides, Legacies, and Meres, among others).
Then I sent the revised document around for high-level review -- Fargo, Findley, Avellone -- and I've gotten some excellent feedback from them on a number of more technical issues. I've been spending some time integrating those comments; they do nothing but enhance the story.
Right now I'm working on developing a flowchart for the main quest line. When this is done, I'll be breaking it into smaller sub-quests and helping to outline the module and zone design documents with Adam's help. I'm also developing a number of endings that will be appropriate for the Legacies of the game; because of the hugely iterative nature of game development, these endings will undoubtedly change, but they'll at least give us a target to aim for. Early on, we decided that we didn't want to have a "best" ending - we wanted every ending to be the best, most logical ending based on the way you've played the game.
Oh, and how could I forget the companions? I've got some quest arcs for the companions percolating, and I've heard from Pat about the character he wants to create… and is he ever excited for that. Chris and Nathan are both starting to get amped on some character ideas as well, so we'll be having some discussions about that shortly. We want to ensure that our companions are memorable, deep, and each with a hook that will make you want to explore their personalities. Having spoken extensively with Pat about his idea, I can guarantee that he's bringing something new and very, very different.
The best part about the process right now is coming up with crazy ideas and throwing them out for discussion. If, for example, I were to suggest that we have a worm that tears open the fabric of space when you eat it (perhaps a defensive mechanism on its home world?), we could have a lively conversation about how we'd use it in the game and how we'd implement it. We're not going to have that worm (probably), but we're very much at the stage where ideas like that are worth discussing. Creating the twists and turns that go into the plotline (as well as the narrative setbacks, the seemingly insurmountable challenges), developing strange but believable locations, populating the world with factions, cults, friends, enemies, allies, and foes… there are a lot of moving pieces that are going into creating Torment’s story, and I think you'll be happy with the end result.
Zone Design Documentation (Adam Heine)
As you’ve just read, Colin has mostly been working on the main story. Meanwhile, one of my jobs has been to figure out our design doc templates, along with standard definitions for terms like "area" and "module," so that we're all talking about the same things back here.
Because of our Mere design (as described in Update 6) and the decentralized nature of our writing team, one of the concepts we came up with is a Zone. A zone is a smaller collection of areas to be created by a single designer with about 20-40 minutes of gameplay. To use the original Torment as an example, if the Clerk's Ward was a module, then Ravel's Maze and the Brothel of Slating Intellectual Lusts would each be an example of a zone (with each loading screen inside those zones denoting an area). Colin will ensure the zones connect smoothly to the main storyline, so we can use this concept to split up the work in a way that makes sense, without ending up with a bunch of disjointed areas. Zones give us a degree of narrative freedom while maintaining consistency.
A perfect example of a zone are the Meres, self-contained vignettes (mostly) that add to the larger framework of the Last Castoff's search for answers. Kevin has asked Tony Evans and me to design example Meres. These example Meres not only test the concept of a zone, but they also allow us to figure out what needs to be in our design docs, to try out some of the tools we'll eventually use to implement the game, to test our initial ideas for things like conversation systems and the Tides, and to give us something to show the other writers so that when we say, "Hey! Design a zone!" they know exactly what that means.
In game development, the first areas you design are likely to be the weakest because you’re still figuring out the details of the game. Often they're scrapped or redesigned later in the project. So we’re not expecting these example Meres to end up in Torment. But we’re treating them as if they were real areas anyway because who knows? If they are good enough, they’ll earn a spot in the final game.
From the Depths Novellas (Adam Heine)
On top of that, we've had the five From the Depths novella authors start on their stories (Colin and Monte won't be starting theirs until much later). As we’ve mentioned before, not only does this get our heads in the world for when we start designing areas within the game, but it also helps us define the Tides better for all the designers.
So Mur Lafferty, Nathan Long, Ray Vallese, Tony Evans, and I have been spending part of our time writing synopses of our novellas for approval. This part is exciting as we envision ways to connect the novellas to each other and to the game. They won't all have strong ties, and you certainly won't have to read the novellas to understand any part of the game, but there will be common threads here and there that you’ll pick up on if you’ve read them.
Each of the novellas is focused on one of the five Tides, following the descriptions we gave you from Update 7 (with one exception: Nathan Long had an idea for Zelor's novella that was not only more awesome, but defined the Red Tide even better; we told him to run with it). The novellas take place centuries before the Tides of Numenera, and so form part of the lore of the world.
We're aiming to finish our first drafts over the next couple of months. But if you know anything about writing, you know there's even more months of work to be done after that, so don't expect the novellas for a while still.
As we mentioned in the last Update, the current team working on Torment is very small, focusing on the story and design while our production team (programmers, artists, etc.) is working on Wasteland 2. We will have some openings for Torment over the next few months, with the first being for an experienced programmer. If this may be you (or someone you know) and you want to move to southern CA and work on Torment, check out our job opening.
We’d also like to introduce another of our writers, Natalie Whipple. She was discovered by Adam, who writes:
“I know, I know. More writers, right? But every writer means more reactivity and more content for the production team when they move onto Torment. It's gotta start somewhere. I've been a fan of Natalie’s science-fiction and fantasy writing for a long time and have even been lucky enough to critique a few of her works. Her stories are hugely imaginative, and she has a unique voice that's memorable and intriguing. Her debut novel, Transparent, was released just last week and her second will be out next year. Transparent is a science-fiction novel for young adults that is something of a cross between the X-Men and the Godfather. It’s a story about an invisible girl who works for her father, Vegas's biggest crime lord – at least, she does until her father pushes her too far and she goes on the run.
When Colin and I were talking about writers who would be good for this project, Natalie was one of the first I thought of. After reading her stuff, Colin agreed she would be a strong addition to our existing voices. Obviously her style and tone for Torment will be different from her debut novels, since the audience (and medium) is different. She’ll begin contributing to Torment later this year after we’ve set up our story and design guidelines.”
Ideas and User Voice
Our Torment UserVoice Game Ideas forum is fast closing in on 1000 ideas. We’re still getting a steady influx of ideas every day and look forward to more detailed suggestions as we reveal more of the game. If you’re looking to get your ideas to us, the UserVoice forum is by far the best place to go. We check it multiple times a day, keeping an eye on new, hot, and top ideas, and have regular internal discussions about the best and most-voted ones.
One thing our regulars may notice is the addition of a new status, “seen.” Seen was added for sorting and clarity purposes, and is used when no other tags really apply. This also helps alleviate some of the confusion caused by the “considering” tag, as considering can mean we’re open to some parts of the ideas but also sometimes means we’re not really seriously considering implementing all of it.
(We still do plan to set-up a more traditional Torment forum in the future.)
Recent Interviews and Q&As
With the Kickstarter campaign over, we’ve been shying away from most interviews so that we can focus on the game’s preproduction. But we had several articles that were already underway and have been finished over the last month.
Here’s an article written by Ian Miles Cheong, who interviewed Colin McComb as part of the Game Front 1-on-1 series talking about various aspects of the game and setting.
Colin was also recently interviewed by grotsnik of the RPG Codex and answered a variety of questions about our design plans for Torment.
Though not exclusively Torment-related, RPG Codex (Zed) also interviewed George Ziets recently, where he talks about writing for games and several of his past and present games.
And here is a brief Q&A response from Colin about conversations, recorded on April 4th when he was en route to southern CA for the Torment Kickstarter closing party and post-Kickstarter planning meetings.
Finally, Colin and Kevin have answered a few FormSpring questions over the last month as well, and a summary of those is on tumblr.
Numenera Preorder Ends Friday!
The first two books for the Numenera tabletop RPG are on track to be out this August. For those of you who have either the Numenera Corebook or Numenera Player’s Guide in your pledge Tier, you’ll receive these rewards as part of this initial Numenera release.
If the Numenera books aren’t part of your Torment rewards, you can preorder them through the Numenera website. If you preorder either printed book, you’ll receive an ebook version for free. (These will be in PDF format and normally sell for $20 for the Corebook and $8 for the Player’s Guide). The preorder will end this Friday, May 31, so if you want to take advantage of these specials, now’s the time!
The Corebook is a 416-page full-color hardcover rulebook and setting guide, and it’s a primary reference for us in the design of Torment’s locations, characters, items, and rules system. (It doesn’t talk about the Tides and Legacies, as those are extensions we’re creating specifically for Torment.) Much of Torment will take place Beyond the Beyond, but we’ll be visiting some locations discussed in the corebook as well. It’s $60 (plus $10 S&H in the US or $20 internationally).
The Player’s Guide is a 64-page softcover book that provides a brief synopsis of the rules and setting. It contains the essentials from the Corebook that a player needs to understand to jump right into the tabletop game. It’s $20 (plus $5 S&H in the US or $10 internationally).
If you don’t pick these up via preorder (or through a pledge Tier), you can order them in August – make sure your local gaming store is set up to receive it!
New Concept (and Wallpaper)
And finally, we have a new concept by Andre Wallin that shows another of Torment’s exotic locations. Titled Before the Fall, it’s available as a wallpaper from our website.