Torment: Tides of Numenera Update #40: Companion Design

inXile has released a new update for Torment: Tides of Numenera. As usual, the update contains a round-up of articles on the game released recently, and given Pillars of Eternity releases today, project lead Kevin Saunders spends some timeto congratulate Obsidian on the release and explain why the crowd-funded title got him back into the game industry. All that said, the meat of the update is without doubt a write-up on the companion design from writer Nathan Long.

Here's a sizable excerpt from it:

The goal for the companions is to give them each their own distinct personalities, voices, character arcs, and lots and lots of reactivity - which of course means lots and lots of writing. Lots.

So where do we start?

Well, though I had the honor of developing one of the companions from scratch, more than half of them were created by our fearless leader, Colin McComb, who wrote up a series of what we are calling CDCs, Companion Design Constraint documents. CDCs are bare-bones descriptions of the characters and what role they are supposed to play in the story and the party. They are two or three pages at the most, with a paragraph each for appearance, personality, history, motivation, a few sample lines to get the feel for the character's voice, and a brief outline of their arc and how it hooks into the Last Castoff's story.

Aligern is one of the companions Colin came up with - a crusty old Aeon Priest weighed down with guilt, who uses the tattoos that cover his body to power devastating attacks and daunting defenses - and a few weeks ago Colin asked me to flesh him out and start writing the barks, banters, and dialogs that he'll have throughout the game.

My first step was to read carefully through Aligern's CDC and then expand it into a CB, otherwise known as a Companion Brief, a ten to fifteen page document that goes into more detail about Aligern's back-story, his goals and personality, and gets specific about where and when in the game the Last Castoff will meet him, at what locations his story will advance, and how many different possible endings he will have. Most of these things had been figured out in the abstract long ago, but I fleshed out the details.

Once I put together something I thought felt pretty solid, I showed it to Colin, Kevin, George, and Adam, who gave me a raft - several rafts actually - of notes, and we had a flurry of email and Skype conversations as we discussed their suggestions and the best ways to implement them.

After several revisions and reviews, Colin and the others gave me the okay to take Aligern to the next step, the Companion Design Document - or CDD for short - which I've never ever confused with the CDC or the CB. Never! (We also have ZDCs, ZBs, ZDDs for Zones and MDCs, MBs, MDDs for Meres. Is your head spinning yet?)

The CDD is a 50 to 70 page behemoth of a document where the character's back-story, personality, and story arc are finally turned into actual dialog.