Torment: Tides of Numenera Devs on Art Progress, Writing and Action System

Recently, the Torment: Tides of Numenera official Tumblr account has published a couple of posts that round up some interesting forum tidbits from the developers.

For example, Kevin Saunders, project director, gave an abridged explanation of the studio's writing process and standards for the project compared to Wasteland 2:

Nathan Long was the lead writer for Wasteland 2, which among other things meant that he wrote the majority of the conversations in the game. He's currently a writer on TTON. He owns one of the companions and is also writing some area conversations for a region that Adam designed (and thus owns). Nathan has a strong background in traditional fiction and also experience with writing screenplays and films. As such, Nathan brings an interesting perspective to the team -- he is approaching Torment from a different perspective and has frequent insightful comments and questions that stem from his experience in story telling and his understanding of techniques used in cinema.

Nathan has little experience in writing for video games, and TTON has a very specific need there given the interactive nature of the dialogue. Wasteland 2 was his first video game writing experience, though he had veterans, such as inXile's president Matt Findley, to help him adapt to that part of the process.

Fortunately, we have that video game writing experience in spades. Both Colin McComb (our creative lead) and Adam Heine (our design lead) are not only accomplished fiction writers (see Adam's short story currently being digitally published by Paizo, for example), but were also key members of Planescape: Torment. (Adam was a scripter back then, not a writer, but Colin was the second most prolific contributor to PST's conversations.) We have a good balance there between Colin's over-the-top creativity and Adam's more pragmatic perspective.


Adam and Colin (and I) have been fleshing out the writing standards and conventions since the project began, including prototyping and internally trying out some ideas. We also identified a plethora of new toolset features that would further encourage both higher quality conversations and the faster creation of them. Through fleshing out the conventions, prototype conversations were written and implemented. In some cases, this lead us to change some decisions because an idea didn't work as well as we had hoped. In other cases, we had a great example that new team members could then play through to help them understand the feel of the game and the writing.

After George joined the team full time, we spent some time calibrating the writing styles and approaches and implementation techniques of each Adam, Colin, and George, to ensure that everyone was on the same page. They did a lot of cross-review of each others' work and we further refined our conventions and ideas through that process. We've spent a fair amount of energy on all of this review, but decided it would be well worth it for Torment. The improved consistency in style and the bolstering of everyone's understanding of dialogue structures and techniques results in higher quality first draft conversations, and also greater efficiency in writing new dialogues now.

Saunders would later explain in another thread why the game currently has lie/truth indicators in dialogue:

One clarification: As Caerdon noted, a person's intentions have no bearing on the Tides. One reason we defined the Tides in this way is because we (as game developers) cannot objectively determine what motivations the player intends for the PC to have. If the Tides cared about motivations, then we'd have to guess -- and we'd doubtless get it wrong sometimes. Basing the Tides on actions still has its complications, but at least we aren't pretending we're mind readers.

Another reason we took this approach is because of our central theme of legacy. History judges people by their words and actions, not their motivations.

(Some have noted this, but to be explicit: we aren't planning to use "(Lie)" tags so that we can thwart you. =) We don't "win" by frustrating you or by serving you a Game Over death (unless you deserve it!). We are trying to aid you in telling and experiencing your story as the Last Castoff.)

Design lead Adam Heine explained what kind of action system the team is designing for the "Crises":

For our Crises, we're looking at a system similar to Temple of Elemental Evil, where you get an attack action and a move action, or you can forego your attack for a double move.

As Caerdon stated, Intellect points are used for esoteries (and Might and Speed are used for other abilities as well). These stat points can be recovered by resting.

In Numenera tabletop, you get four kinds of rests, each requiring an increasing amount of time: 10 seconds (which you can do instead of your action in combat), 10 minutes, 1 hour, and 8 hours (sleeping). After the 8-hour rest, you get all of your other rests back.

In Torment, we're simplifying that a little bit, but we are keeping the basic idea. In particular, PCs will have a quick rest available during combat, and sleep will recover all your rest rolls (as well as allowing you to recover stats with any rest rolls you haven't used yet).

We're also using Sleep as a means of counting time. So when you Sleep, a day is assumed to have passed. This will have reactivity with certain events throughout each Zone. For example, two guys getting pissed off at each other in a bar might (if you don't do anything to push them one way or the other) have gotten into said fight while you were gone. So after you Sleep and return to the bar, there might be only one of the guys there with a black eye, or maybe both are gone and the barkeep tells you they got arrested for disturbing the peace, etc.

This way, we give the player more control over how fast time passes, and we can script much more interesting reactivity to time passing without worrying that the player is going to miss it all. (Some players might still miss some of it, and that's okay, but they won't miss it because they were taking their time exploring or because they left the game on for an hour while they went to eat dinner).

And envirnoment artist Jon Gwyn talked about the progress on his front:

On the Overall Art front, things are progressing nicely. We've recently bolstered our Effects team with an experienced artist who I know from my old days at Shiny as well as a young upstart who wowed the art director on a recent trip to Gnomon. Our newest Environment artist Paul is quickly making his mark with some nice Crystal environment work as well as helping me on some hidden Bloom rooms. Paul comes to us from our friends at Obsidian and was an artist on Pillars of Eternity so he knows his way around our process pretty well.

Cant wait for all of our kickstarter friends and fans out there to get a gander at what were putting together. All this cool art mixed with the really in depth design and story work should make for a special game that classic RPG fans deserve.

ps. The whole team is also playing Planescape Torment every week to keep us grounded in what we are trying to accomplish ( i just found my way out of the Mortuary into the I know I have a long way to go :shock: )