Updated our Journal (24): Roll for Initiative
TL;DR: Tides, Q&A with Colin McComb, combat discussion begins!, new Torment forums
Hi Forgotten Ones,
We’re continuing through preproduction on Torment, designing various game systems and continuing to refine the story and character arcs. In a couple weeks, Adam Heine and Colin McComb will be coming out to inXile to meet more of our production team (still hard at work on Wasteland 2) and to discuss various aspects of Torment’s design. I’m looking forward to meeting Adam in person for the first time!
First a refresher: the Tides are essentially our alignment system. Rather than focus on moral axes, the Tides look at a person's legacy, at what they're remembered for. They are not something people consciously strive for; very few individuals even know they exist. They are more like an invisible force (think magnetism or gravity) driven by people's actions.
There are five Tides, and I want to walk you through each of them and then talk a little about how they're used in the game. As you read, remember that the Tides do not care about motives or morality. Each Tide is embodied by heroes, villains, and folks just trying to do their best. The motivations of these people rarely matter; the Tides describe the legacies they leave behind. The Tides are pushed and pulled by action, not motivation.
If you've played through Planescape: Torment, you'll notice examples from that game that we hope help to illustrate what kind of character would fall under each Tide (though remember, most people are more complex than a single Tide, and your character may embody more than one).
Blue is the Tide of wisdom, enlightenment, and mysticism. It is the Tide of people whose goal is to expand the mind and the spirit (Western culture may compartmentalize these, but in many cultures they're the same thing). They seek wisdom or knowledge, and consider death a loss when it means a person's knowledge is lost forever. Characters who embody the Blue Tide can include both scientists and mystics, philosophers and madmen.
Dak'kon would be Blue in that he strives to *know* himself and the teachings of Zerthimon.
Red is the Tide of passion, emotion, action, and zeal. It is the Tide of people who live in the moment, who want to experience life to its fullest, or who choose to follow their heart wherever it leads them. They consider a life lived in chains to be worse than death (whether those chains are real or self-imposed metaphorical ones is immaterial). Characters who embody the Red Tide can include artists, revolutionaries, zealots, Sensates, and charismatic dictators.
Annah would be Red. She's quick to follow her emotions, whether they're anger, fear, or passion.
Indigo is the Tide of justice, compromise, and the greater good. It is not just about law, but about a broader, more global perspective, rather than an individual one. They consider loss of life tragic, but less so if it serves a better outcome. Characters who embody the Indigo Tide can include rulers, lawmakers, vigilantes, and tyrants.
Vhailor would be Indigo, because he believes in justice and order so much that he carries on his mission even after his death.
Gold is the Tide of charity, sacrifice, and empathy. It is the Tide of people whose primary goal is to help others, especially at a cost to themselves. It's tempting to consider Gold the "good" Tide, but that's not strictly true (one can be charitable to others for selfish reasons, for example). Gold is similar to the Indigo Tide in that both seek the good of others, but they can easily be in direct opposition concerning how that good is achieved and who should pay the price. Characters who embody the Gold Tide can include saints (both true or false), philanthropists, and even crime bosses who care for their people and their communities.
Fhjull Forked-Tongue would be Gold, even though his acts of charity are forced upon him by a contract he signed with a deva. Remember, his motivations don’t matter—people remember him as the fiend who must perform good works.
Silver is the Tide of admiration, power, and fame. It is the Tide of people who seek to influence the lives of others or who actively seek to be remembered. It can easily be seen as a selfish Tide, but that is a question of motivation that the Tides do not ask. Whether a Silver character is selfish or not is an ethical question dependent on what they use their prestige for. Silver characters desire influence (whether through personal interactions or through the manipulation of the levers of power) and the immortality of being remembered. Characters who embody the Silver Tide are, above all, personalities.
Ignus would be Silver because he is willing to endure great suffering in his relentless pursuit of power.
The Tides and Tough Questions
The table below shows how someone aligned or attuned with that Tide might answer some of life's toughest questions. These are sort of the stereotypical answers for someone who embodies these Tides; there is significant room for variation (Fhjull Forked-Tongue, for example, would never willingly give the answers listed for Gold). As with everything we show you guys, these are just examples. And don’t expect to see questions like these in the game; Torment explores philosophical themes, but isn’t a philosophy class.
Tides in Torment
In the game, the Tides are a background force. Your actions, especially your actions in dialogue, will often increase one or two Tides, moving your character toward dominance in those Tides. Then your dominant Tides determine the Legacy you are building for yourself. The Tides are increased when you have a real choice. For example, although identifying numenera is a Blue thing to do, there's no gameplay reason for players not to do it, so that sort of common action wouldn't increase the Tide. But if identifying a particular device required the PC to complete a quest or spend XP, then that could conceivably increase Blue. (By the same logic, increasing certain skills or abilities might increase certain Tides as well, because it costs you something to do so.)
The Tides don't judge your motivations, but if you voice those motivations, then the Tides can be moved. For example, if you express shock at a murder, your reason for being shocked can change which Tide is affected if you voice it: "How can you do this? He was an innocent victim!" might increase Gold while "What purpose does this death serve?" might increase Indigo. Neither, of course, would increase the Tides as much as equivalent actions (actually attacking or arresting the murderer, for example). Your character is what we call Attuned to the Tides, being both aware of the Tides and affected by them. Most NPCs are unaware of the Tides' existence, though a significant percentage can be affected by them.
Affected NPCs, and the rare Attuned ones like you, will have one or two Dominant Tides as well. If your Dominant Tide(s) match those of an NPC, it can have varying effects. You might be able to understand their motivations and manipulate them better. They may like you more (or less) without knowing why. The difficulty of certain dialogue tasks may decrease (or increase). Most of this is done behind the scenes, but certain skills and abilities can reveal some of this information.
Additionally, special NPCs who are aware of the Tides may recognize your Dominant Tides and try to manipulate you.
And whether they're aware of the Tides or not, your reputation with NPCs can be affected by your Dominant Tides. Assuming you've earned a reputation, Silver would make you like a celebrity, while Blue would make you known for intelligence or wisdom, and so on. This reputation effect might be either cosmetic or logical, opening doors that would be closed for those of other Dominant Tides.
And, as we've often said, the Tides will have an effect on certain items and abilities as well. They may even impact side effects that appear during crafting.
There's more, too, some of which we’ll talk about in the future and some you’ll have to discover in the game.
Q&A with Colin
Colin answered a few of your questions recently.
(Coboney): Will you control your companions in combat or will they act on their own? If not under direct control will you be able to set the AI? Will you be able to manage their inventory and equipment?
(Ouroboros): Any legacy for evil diplomats (Deceivers, manipulators)?
(Eireks): If we have the ability to channel pain to others, why can't we channel it to our enemies?
(Christof the Castoff): Will there be a consequence to dying?
(Adam again) Back in May, we described our plan to determine our combat system. As we've said from the beginning: we know our goals for combat, and we feel that we can accomplish them with any system. As detailed in our Vision doc, those goals are:
1) Integration of narrative elements.
2) Meaningful player decisions in combat.
3) Meaningful player decisions out of combat (e.g. character build, preparing for combat, etc).
4) Quality encounters (no dungeon crawls or trash mobs).
Our Crisis concept is the manifestation of that vision. It accomplishes all the above goals without defining whether the Crisis plays out in turns or real-time (though we do have a preference; see below). All combats are Crises, so we had to design that concept out and present it before we could have this discussion. But as fun as concepts and prototypes are, there comes a time to decide.
You may be curious as to why we’ve waited this long for the vote and why the options below might not have elaborate details. We originally had planned to have this discussion early next year and to give you greater detail to consider, but we’ve decided to move things sooner, before we had detailed designs.
You see, while we haven’t invested much effort into designing TTON’s combat system yet, we have been mulling it over for many months. Early this year, we had no preference, but as other aspects of the game’s design have solidified, a turn-based combat approach has been gaining momentum within the team. Rather than invest the energy in delving into the design of multiple systems, we wanted to talk with you first to see how you feel about our current preference. The granular control of the turn-based system and the work we’ve done on Wasteland 2 is very much in-line with the Crisis concept.
But we haven’t made a final decision yet—we are still open to feedback, and we very much want to hear what you have to say.
Below, we present the options we're considering for combat, based on the design work we've done so far. Read them carefully, then voice your opinion in this forum. Right now, the forum is for discussion and debate only, but we’ll open it up for voting after everybody's had time to consider our plans and the ideas and comments of other backers.
Understand, the vote is strictly advisory. In any debate, there is always a vocal crowd and a silent majority. The discussion period is for the vocal crowd to sway people to their side, and then the vote ensures everyone's voice is heard equally. The point of all of this is so we can take your ideas and opinions into account as we make the decision we feel is best for the game.
So without further ado...
Option #1: Real Time with Pause (RTwP)
When combat begins, all characters act simultaneously. You tell your party members what to do and they do it in real-time. PCs will continue basic attacks until their target is dead or you say otherwise. If you tell them to perform special attacks (using esoteries or items, for instance), they will do that and then await further orders.
You can pause the game at any time and issue orders then, or you can issue orders in real-time. Like the Infinity Engine games, actions will still take place in rounds, so faster clicking is no advantage. RTwP is not about reflexes, but about handling character actions simultaneously.
You can also set the game to auto-pause at various events, giving you a chance to respond when the situation changes. Candidates for auto-pause events include: when a party member's target is dead, when a new enemy appears, or when a party member is badly wounded or dead.
The time-based pressure of a Crisis (whether it's a device about to self-destruct, kidnappers getting away with a hostage, enemies trying to kill you, etc.) would be in real time. You can pause the game to examine objects and make plans, but actually carrying out actions will run down the clock.
In our Crisis example, the Red Automata would begin attacking the field and generator immediately, whether or not you did anything (though presumably you'd pause, or have an auto-pause set, so you could react to it quickly). After a set number of seconds or a triggering event, new Red Automata might appear if you aided the Blue Servitor. Elements activating on timed intervals would be in real-time, so you might have to let several seconds of real-time pass before a device charges, for example.
The primary advantages we see in RTwP are:
- Combat is resolved more quickly, even with a large number of combatants.
- It is more flexible: the player can pause a lot or a little depending on whether they’re looking for a fast pace or a slow one.
Option #2: Turn-Based (TB)
When combat begins, all characters stop moving. On each of your party members' turn, you tell that character what to do and they do it immediately.
Character movement might be regulated through Action Points, like Fallout and Wasteland 2, but this is not set in stone.
If turns are strictly sequential, then each character must complete his turn before you can move on to the next. Alternatively, turns might be more fluid, allowing you to move each member of your party in any order, even jumping back and forth between them, until they are out of actions or you choose to end the turn (e.g. you could move every party member into position first, then have them each attack in turn before ending the round).
In the first, sequential method, the turn order of party members and enemies would be mixed, based on initiative order. In the second, fluid method, initiative would determine which side (party or enemy) acted first, then all members of that side would take their turns together.
Characters cannot act during an enemy's turn unless they have readied an action (e.g. instead of taking an action on their turn, a character readies a counterspell for if/when an enemy casts a spell). Otherwise they wait for their turn to move.
While it's your party's turn, you have freedom to examine objects and characters (giving you more information on how you can interact with them during combat), check out your esotery list or cyphers, look something up in the journal, etc. To speed things up, you can set up default actions for characters to perform until you give them a new order (for example, if your glaive is set to bash an enemy by default, you can press End Turn without giving him a new action and he will automatically bash the enemy; next turn you can tell him to do something else or leave him alone to bash again). The game will warn you if you hit End Turn while one or more party members has done nothing (and they have no default action to perform).
The time-based pressure of a Crisis would be in rounds (where every character gets a turn in each round). The more rounds you take to achieve an objective, the fewer rounds you have to do other things before an event occurs. (It’s important to note that time “running out” doesn’t mean that you lose, just that the situation in the Crisis changes, for better or worse; for example, a bomb goes off or allies arrive). While it's your turn, you have freedom to examine objects and make plans, but carrying out actions will use up, and eventually end, your turn.
In our Crisis example, the Red Automata would begin attacking the field and generator on their turn, after which (or possibly before which) you'd get a turn to perform your actions. After a triggering event or a set number of rounds (not seconds), new Red Automata might appear if you aided the Blue Servitor. Elements activating on timed intervals would be in rounds as well, so you might have to wait one or more rounds (or perform another action in those rounds) before a device charges.
The primary advantages we see in TB are:
- Combat is more thoughtful, even under intense pressure.
- TB combat is truer to tabletop RPGs.
- It allows greater depth of choice: you have time to explore all your options, so we can include more options, and more complicated options, without overwhelming the player.
- We can adapt Wasteland 2’s combat system, modified to work best for Torment.
- Companion AI becomes less necessary (you directly control each party member on their turn).
Both systems will provide a similar range of abilities. You'll be able to use cyphers, esoteries, and other abilities from both quick slots and menus. You'll have the option of telling each party member what to do or letting a simple AI handle their actions. You can swap out which weapons you're using, interact with objects, start dialogue (conversations within combat will be limited, but allowed), counterattack, counterspell, etc.
The main difference is in how and when actions are carried out, and how that changes the feel of the game.
Whichever system we decide on, we will implement it to be as fun and exciting as possible. That was part of our goal with the Crisis concept: to create a fun, tense scenario that could work with either system. So, you aren't voting on whether the system will be good, but on which feel you'd prefer.
With that in mind, PLEASE DO:
- Read about the Crisis concept and consider which system you think would best suit it.
- Ask us questions to clarify our design plans.
- Tell us and other backers why you feel one or the other system would suit Crises or Torment in general.
- Make suggestions for specific implementations within a given system (e.g. slow motion in RTwP or not? Sequential vs. fluid turn order in TB?).
- Thoughtfully consider the ideas of your fellow backers.
And please DO NOT:
- Expect us to have super-detailed answers (we haven't actually designed the full system yet).
- Argue that one system is always, inherently better than the other (it's neither helpful nor true).
- Be hateful or insulting of your fellow backers.
- Forget to vote when we announce it.
- Insist that we’ve abandoned fun if we don’t pick your favored method.
We're excited about this and will be watching the discussion closely. We'll announce the vote as soon as we feel the major points have been made and the debate has more or less stabilized, and shortly after that, we'll announce our decision.
Are you ready for this? Let's go! We’re looking forward to what you have to say. Please note the forum is open for votes but we're not actually tallying them, we're looking for comments more so than votes, and we'll reset the count when we're looking for a vote on the topic. This forum is available to backers only. If you register at our website, that same login/password connects you to User Voice. You’ll be recognized as a backer and be allowed to access this forum. Adam out.
STASIS and The Strange
We’d like to draw your attention to two Kickstarters that you might find interesting. The first is STASIS, a sci-fi horror adventure game with 2D isometric graphics. Primarily the work of a single developer, Christopher Bischoff, STASIS emphasizes aesthetics and storytelling. You can check out an Alpha demo of the game to see if it’s for you. It just launched on Monday and is off to a good start, but will need more support to make it.
Meanwhile, Numenera creator and Torment contributor Monte Cook has teamed up with tabletop RPG veteran Bruce Cordell in creating The Strange. Using the same RPG mechanics as Numenera (the Cypher System), the game spans multiple worlds, called recursions. These are hosted by an alien data network called The Strange and in each you have a different focus (and thus abilities). There’s no direct relation between The Strange and Torment, but the underlying game system is the same and if you like Numenera you may want to check it out. The Strange funded on its first day and is moving through stretch goals, including some that provide extra books for backers of certain tiers.
Forums & In the News
Thanks to Joby Bednar and Thomas Beekers, we have new Torment: Tides of Numenera forums to better support update discussions, longer-form discussions on various topics, and more casual discussions. You can find the new Torment subforums here. Meanwhile, our UserVoice now includes backer-only forums. It remains the best way to provide specific ideas directly to us, but if you prefer traditional forum formats, we're pleased to have them available for you. Further improvements to come!
Gameranx declared Torment one of the top 20 PC games of 2014. (Though as mentioned during the last week of the Kickstarter, we’re targeting early 2015 for our actual release.)
Coolest of all, some of our Italian fans got together to create a fan-translated mirror of our Torment tumblr, with some additional content of their own to come. Molte grazie!