GB: In Planescape: Torment, companions were optional, but the game was clearly intended to be played with a full party and many of the best moments in the game (up to and including the ending) were made far more interesting due to the companion characters. Will there be any advantages to playing solo in Tides of Numenera, and can we look forward to more truly original party members with unique concepts?
Kevin: We discussed this recently, actually, in the context of a video update we were planning. We do intend to allow solo play (i.e., no companions – the game is single player in any case), but not to cater to it. We will certainly have very memorable and intriguing characters, and companions, and those who decide to go alone will miss out on all of the work we’ll be putting into making the companions great. So while we will let you go alone (and maybe you’ll have to or want to at certain points for specific reasons), we don’t plan to spend extra energy on making that gameplay experience better because we want to focus on making the companions (and that experience) stellar.
GB: Many consider the combat in Planescape: Torment to be one of its weaker elements; while not necessarily poor, it was hardly the highlight of the game. Has the decision for turn-based or real-time-with-pause combat been made yet? Is combat going to be tactical and complex, or are you more interested in infusing it with meaningful narrative context?
Colin: We haven’t made a final decision on the combat yet, but it’s one that we’re looking at very carefully. We want to get it right. We’re confident that our core vision for combat will help us do that, and to that end we’ve defined a number of must-haves for our combat system. First, it needs to be avoidable in at least most situations. We don’t want to force people into combat. Second, the player must be able to make meaningful decisions before combat: what to wear, what to equip, what to ready, and how to affect the environment so that it can work to their advantage as well. Third, players must be able to make meaningful decisions within combat, rather than clicking a mouse and letting it roll. We want the combat to be tactical, but we’re also well aware that too much complexity changes the focus of the game from the narrative to the combat, so we want to make sure that combat is connected to the narrative, rather than being a random encounter.
GB: One thing RPGs have always struggled with is reconciling a player-directed story with defined gameplay mechanics. In Tides of Numenera, how much will stats and skills affect your ability to proceed in the story the way you want to? Will you be able to navigate the story however you want no matter what skills you have, or will certain branches and sub-plots be restricted to characters of certain skill sets?
Kevin: Skills are loosely defined in Numenera and it’s one of the aspects we’ll be tightening up for Torment. I’ve been impressed with many aspects of the Wasteland 2 skills system and think we’ll be able to leverage a lot of it well – basically what I mean by that is that the skills have interesting effects on gameplay and interacting both with people and the environment.
GB: Beyond character statistics and skills, what can we expect from the item and magic system in a Numenera-based game, and what are the odds that we’ll see a reintroduction of ideas like enchanted body ink? Do you plan to expand any “staple” ideas like equipment or spellcasting into unknown territory?
Colin: That’s still largely under NDA, but you can expect a similar profusion of ideas as those in PST. The Numenera system is filled with crazy things – from small oddities to massive artifacts – and our designers are eager (so very, very eager) to get going on creating entertaining, deadly, and wildly different effects.
GB: Obviously, Wasteland 2 lends itself rather well to 3D graphics and a fully-rotatable camera. The gulf in art and technology between Wasteland 2 and the original game means you can also get away with some creative license in interpreting that universe. But Planescape: Torment is well known for its fixed perspective and extremely detailed 3D pre-rendered backgrounds. Is the goal to go for entirely hand-drawn backgrounds, pre-rendered or full 3D with rotatable camera? How does this change the production and design for the game?
Kevin: We are still exploring the various options, considering gameplay implications, aesthetics, and, of course the resources that would be required. The decision will have many repercussions and we are still assessing. I can say that had we not received the tremendous support from the backers that we have that we wouldn’t have as many options here. Analyzing which method to improve the visuals of the game is a great problem to have. =)
GB: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Best of luck on Torment: Tides of Numenera – we wish everyone at inXile all the best!
Thanks! We’re confident that we can justify the trust our backers have placed in us, and we’re keeping them firmly in mind as we develop the game.