George Ziets on Torment, Mask of the Betrayer and Pillars of Eternity Interview

Polish website Grimuar Sferowca has interviewed Torment: Tides of Numenera lead area designer George Ziets on his work on the Planescape: Torment spiritual successor Torment: Tides of Numenera, Pillars of Eternity and the Neverwinter Nights 2 expansion Mask of the Betrayer. I highly recommend you read the full interview if you are interested in the developer's work whether you are interested in the design of the Gullet area, care about his inspirations or want to know what story moments he has enjoyed the most in the games he played but here's an excerpt:

When you employ such links 15 years after the original game's release, does it feel like re-telling certain elements of PST in an updated, perhaps more mature way? Is it a way to explore some areas which may not have been given enough spotlight in the first game? Or are those similarities simply a (wink) to the players familiar with the original?

All of the above. I think PST was a pretty mature game, but we are certainly exploring some elements in our own way and taking them in a somewhat different direction that resonates better with our team. Our themes, in particular, feel like they're coming from a more mature and experienced point of view, probably because the average age of our team is greater than it was for PST. (Colin has mentioned a few times that mortality and legacy resonate more strongly to him now than they did when he was in his 20s.)

We're also attempting to take some concepts from PST even farther than the original game did. For example, PST broke the rule that death is a bad thing and requires the player to reload. We're applying that concept more broadly to other sorts of (failure.)

Thus, failing at Difficult Tasks or being defeated in combat won't always mean you have to try it again. Sometimes failure will have interesting consequences that will change your experience but won't block you from proceeding. In fact, you may discover that you actually prefer the outcome of a failure state it may not be exactly what you wanted when you attempted a task, but you may find it to be more interesting.

Like its predecessor, TTON will feature mature themes, such as one's legacy. Are you planning to explore some other themes connected to the nature and state of humanity (such as indifference, struggle for power, slavery, poverty or addiction)? Do such themes prove to be still valid in a world set a billion years in the future? Should we prepare for new major issues which may seem alien to our contemporary mentalities?

In addition to legacy, we'll be exploring the theme of abandonment, which resonates strongly in the Numenera world (where the remnants of countless civilizations have been abandoned and forgotten over the millennia) and in the player's story (where you and your siblings have been abandoned by your sire, the Changing God). You'll encounter many other instances of this theme throughout the game.

Likewise, slavery, poverty, and addiction all appear in the Ninth World, and you'll encounter them in TTON too. We're not avoiding dark thematic content, though we never tell the player what to think about these issues, and you can react to them in a variety of ways.

For the most part, I think these themes are universal human issues they're as valid today as they were in ancient times, and they'll probably be just as valid in the far future. How they are expressed will differ, though, based on changes in technology and culture. and that's what you'll see in TTON. The themes will be recognizable, but in many cases, their specific manifestations will be unique to the Ninth World and the player's unusual narrative.

I can't think of any themes that will be entirely alien to the contemporary audience. but that's mostly intentional. We want the Ninth World to be fun and weird, but we also want our players to identify and sympathize with the characters in the game.


Psychological depth and originality of the characters of Mask of the Betrayer really attract attention. One of Many, composed of mass consciousness of all sorts of criminals, and Okku the Bear God are especially unusual companions. How did you come up with such vivid characters?

On Mask, my goal was to make the companions feel unusual and different, partly to reinforce the player's impression of being a stranger in a strange land. Okku was mostly inspired by the giant animal gods in Princess Mononoke. When I first saw that movie in the early 2000s, I wanted to *be* one of those guys in a game. or failing that, I wanted to travel with one. I also loved the idea of a companion with the truly massive, overwhelming physical strength of a bear. So Okku was one of the first companion concepts I developed (right after Safiya, who arose naturally from the main narrative).

One of Many was the last companion to be fully developed. When I was conceptualizing the companions, I knew I wanted some sort of undead companion that players could somehow shape themselves. (I think that idea arose indirectly from some characters I wrote on NWN2 the Silken Sisters, whose souls had been smashed together by the King of Shadows.) But beyond that, I didn't know what this undead companion would be. The idea of him being an amalgam of murdered criminals and psychopaths came later, when I was finalizing the main story draft and needed more details about the companions. It seemed like a recipe for the most evil and psychologically disturbed companion I could imagine. which was perfect for that character. But I didn't know exactly how the player would create One of Many until I started designing the Death God's Vault.

(Side note: One of Many's name was suggested by Tony Evans, who ultimately wrote the character's excellent dialogue.)