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Back when ZA/UM Studio's upcoming detective RPG Disco Elysium was still called No Truce with the Furies, a developer blog post told us about the game's Intellect attribute and skills, then, after the name change happened, we got introduced to Psyche, and then Physique. And now we also have Motorics, the flashy and agile attribute that governs a number of interesting skills like Composure and Interfacing. You can read about the individual skills in the blog post, but here's a general overview for Motorics:
Motorics (MOT) covers your peripheral nervous system, your five senses, and your vestibular system. It’s our take on the classic Dexterity and Perception stats, but not only. Motorics also has an added mental aspect – your street smarts, the ability to think on your feet and maintain a poker face in stressful situations.
Above all, the Motorics skills make you cool.
And, unlike the other skill sets, they don’t come at a huge cost. Put too many points into Physique and it turns you into a violent animal – something like Marv from Sin City. Overdo Psyche and you’re Dale Cooper on MDMA. Too much Intellect turns you a Holmesian pedant. The twist with Motorics is – there is no such twist. Ultra high levels of the Motorics skills surprise you with expanded functionality. It’s the stabilizing element of your build, the binding agent.
A high Motorics cop is one smart, streetwise operator, closest to the classic Detective archetype: your Johnny Dollar or Sonny Crockett. It’s also the flashiest attribute animation-wise, and definitely the best-dressed.
Which is not to say that the Motorics skills make you perfect. You may come off as jumpy or high strung. A bit of a cokehead, even. But, honestly, that’s nothing compared to the trouble you can get into with the other three.
And in addition to that, Rock, Paper, Shotgun recently got a chance to chat with ZA/UM's design lead Robert Kurvitz, which resulted in a massive interview that tells us a lot about Disco Elysium, the game's world, systems, and inspirations. It's quite a read. Here's a brief excerpt:
RPS:: Is Disco Elysium something you can be bad at?
Robert Kurvitz: Yeah, Yeah, definitely. It’s a hardcore RPG: You can fail at it. You can be a bad detective who just doesn’t solve the case at all, and everything goes really badly – and you can die. You can also be too scatterbrained, just not a good enough detective generally, to piece together what happens.
RPS: Right, so there might be bits where you just can’t deduce what’s happening?
Kurvitz: Yeah, and you can also build yourself a build that doesn’t work for what you might try to do. You have to be strategic, and you have to think “right, how am I going to go about this? How am I gonna get out of this? How am I going to get these guys to face up to what they did?” Because some people are just gonna stonewall you. And then we have active skill checks, white checks we call them, and when you fail them you can try them again – but to try them again you have to put one point into what you did, and you may not be able to do that because you don’t have that kind of character, or you don’t have enough experience yet, or you’re at max points already. Then you have to find modifiers in the world, and you have to think “what character would influence these guys?”
RPS: I saw your dev blog describe the “Shiver” skill as the only skill with a supernatural element to it. Are there other supernatural goings on, in the world of Disco Elysium?
Robert: Oh yeah. So the world of Disco Elysium… I think one of the reasons a detective RPG hasn’t been tried yet is because no-one wants to go to fucking noir 1930’s LA. It’s such a dreary place, and such a dreary place for the people who were there. Like the real-worldness of it has been off putting, so it’s kind of important to make you understand that this is a cool escapist other-world that’s terrifyingly different. When the concept of Pale starts coming up it turns really, really other worldly.
RPS: The concept of what, sorry?
Kurvitz: Pale, like the colour. There’s a territory in the world called ‘Pale’, and it’s a really terrifying concept. It’s kind of shaped the geopolitical, and even psychological existence of these people a lot. So there are things drastically different from our own world, which you’re going to start discovering later on in the game. We didn’t want to make that classical RPG mistake of putting a lot of world-building first. We want the personal stuff first, and then we want you to slowly realise that this isn’t your world. We actually get the character themselves starting to ask “Hey, what world is this? Where am I?”
RPS: Ah, that’s interesting because where I was going with this was to ask…How do you be a detective in a world that defies logic?
Kurvitz: You put a lot of points in the Encyclopedia skill, and hope it gives you something you can work with that isn’t Wikipedia tit-bits.