Torment: Tides of Numenera Interview

Article Index

Eschalon: Book II

Developer:inXile Entertainment
Release Date:2017-02-28
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
When news came of inXile's Torment: Tides of Numenera Kickstarter, we just knew that we had to have a sit-down with the developer. And because all of us here at GameBanshee is a huge fan of the original Planescape: Torment, it took some time for us to whittle down our questions to a reasonable number. We were eventually able to do so, and today we're pleased to announce that both designer/writer Colin McComb and project lead Kevin Saunders were able to get back to us with their detailed answers. So without further ado, let's get started:

GB: First off, we're absolutely astounded at the success that Torment: Tides of Numenera has seen on Kickstarter. Only 6 hours before being funded? To say that exceeds anyone's expectations is a given, but what do you feel this show of support says about the popularity of old-school Western RPGs in this day and age, and the future of the genre?

Kevin: We had a lot of awareness built up in advance. Fans surmised what we were up to as far back as December and we admitted it soon after. Project Eternity supported us by letting their backers know, and we communicated with our Wasteland 2 supporters to explain how the Torment Kickstarter wouldn't interfere with Wasteland 2 and would actually be a good thing.

GB: Planescape: Torment is obviously an enormously beloved game, in large part for its narrative qualities, with its writing often cited as some of the best the medium has produced. Aside from having some of its key developers on Torment: Tides of Numenera, and the help of pen and paper veteran Monte Cook, what are you doing to match the extremely high bar set by the original?

Colin: We're bringing on a number of professional writers including (hopefully) Patrick Rothfuss. And by the time you read this, we'll have announced Chris Avellone's involvement in the project (hopefully). We're incredibly excited to have these two creative forces join the team. As we've said before, we're not trying to beat PST we want to sit as a companion piece.

GB: Building upon our previous question, are you in a position where you can work directly with Monte Cook to make concessions in the universe that might help you better adapt the game to an electronic medium? And regardless of whether or not such concessions can be made, are you at all worried that the Numenera universe might not strike a chord with as many gamers as you'd like, even if Torment itself is an enjoyable game?

Colin: Monte's not just a licensor for this project. He's actually part of the team, and he'll be working with us to craft areas, dialogues, and some of the systems as well. So we'd say it's a healthy give-and-take, rather than concessions Monte is aware that a CRPG requires intensive rules and systems, and he has encouraged us to develop those systems. He designed the Numenera system to be primarily a storytelling and narrative system for tabletop, and he knows that this is a different industry.

As for the second question, not at all! Planescape: Torment itself was a shot in the dark it wasn't TSR's (or WotC's) most popular setting, and many tabletop gamers hated it and its attitude. The Ninth World should appeal both to people who loved the first Torment and to people who are looking for something new in their gaming.

GB: How will the Tides and Legacies factor into Torment? Will we see different societies and cultures that follow one Tide over another? What sorts of gameplay impact will they have? Will they be integrated into the character system, or are they mainly a plot device? Is a Legacy basically just a label ((chaotic evil)), or will it significantly alter gameplay?

Colin: We're planning to have a variety of inputs and options based around the Tides and Legacies, but we don't want to give away too much just yet. They're not widely known, though certain groups have indeed risen that believe that they comprehend (whether dimly or more insightfully) the forces of the Tides, and some of them are consciously or not pursuing aims that accord well with the Tides. The Tides might just be a belief system for others, and unknown to far more. As for what impact they'll have in gameplay... you'll have to wait and see. We're integrating them into both plot and character, and we're looking to move well beyond 2nd Edition D&D's alignment system for the effects the Tides have on gameplay. The more funding we receive for the game, the deeper we'll be able to make this system, and we're hoping for some incredible reactivity when the game is complete.

GB: The old dialogue tree system is a tried and true way of handling conversations, but some have remarked that it's also showing its age and it can have some downsides (such as the reliance on huge volumes of text and binary if->then logic). Are you planning to experiment with the dialogue system in new ways for Tides of Numenera, or are you not going to mess with a good thing?

Colin: We do plan to experiment with it in some interesting ways (though many of our readers have demanded extensive text, in the tradition of PST), but we're not going to overhaul the system entirely and scrap the good work that it produces. Instead, we're planning to fine tune it.

GB: Choices with consequences is one the core pillars of Planescape: Torment, and you've made it clear that Tides of Numenera will be similar. Despite its focus on C&C, Planescape still told a very fixed story that didn't change too dramatically; rather the consequences of actions were more in the smaller details. Are there plans for greater gameplay consequences in Tides of Numenera, or is the story going to remain similarly linear?

Colin: We do plan for great gameplay consequences. We want the story to be a logical, natural outgrowth of the actions you've taken throughout the game so that there is no (best) ending... or rather, that the best ending is every ending, because it's the culmination of how you played.
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.