We're creating the spiritual successor to the critically acclaimed "Planescape: Torment". Between us we have almost 100 years of experience in the gaming field, both tabletop and computer. - Link to our game: http://www.tormentrpg.com - Link to our Kickstarter:http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/inxile/torment-tides-of-numenera

Monte Cook will be joining us around 1 PM EDT.


EDIT: 3:15 PM EDT - we're heading out now -- thank you all for coming! (Our apologies to questions we missed.)

Comments: 560 • Responses: 35  • Date: 

karthink89 karma

First, thank you so much for making a new Torment game. Planescape: Torment was an eye opener to how rich and fulfilling RPGs can be if they strive a little higher. It remains, bar none, the best RPG I have ever played. With the wonderful Numenera setting and various design elements that you are adding, like the meres and the labyrinths of the protagonist's own consciousness, Tides of Numenera promises to provide even more depth and (hopefully) emotional resonance.

That said, I have a few questions--and possibly uncommon concerns--about the project, escpecially with PS:T fresh in my mind:

  1. From what I've read of Numenera, the potential for wonderful weirdness is high in this one. But how do you plan to play the science-as-magic angle? It would be a giant missed opportunity if we end up with, say, spells, enchanted items, or melee weapons with a unique spin in the lore but mechanically and functionally similar to ever fantasy cRPG ever. I imagine the Ninth World setting gives you a chance to completely rethink the mechanics of engagement with the world (I don't mean just combat), and toss away long unquestioned RPG staples. What are some design elements--in the setting, dialog, interaction, and combat or exploration mechanics, say-- that you think really drives home the uncommon science-fantasy setting and distinguishes it from our usual sci-fi or pure fantasy RPGs?

  2. A similar question about the setting: If we are dealing with tribal or medieval cultures in a post-post-post singularity world, are the differences between these cultures and our present view of (say) medieval times going to be merely superficial? Will there be traits wrought by a billion years of (un)natural evolution and the numenera in the fundamental fabric of these societies that lead to completely differing norms of morality, empathy, justice, sexuality and so on? (Differing both from us and from each other.)

  3. The emphasis in the pitch on the question: What does one life matter?, and the bizarre tale of the changing god was a great hook for the Kickstarter. Presumably, you are framing this question as a parallel to "What can change the nature of a man", but I felt PS:T was never really about that question. While I could feel an undercurrent of that theme often, I came across the question itself just thrice in all of Planescape: Torment, roughly equally spaced in time, to make me reflect on my experience so far and think. I think people latched on to it because it's simple, catchy and sounds deep--which I felt was a disservice to the brilliant, often quotable writing in the rest of Planescape: Torment. My concern from watching the kickstarter pitch is that Tides of Numenera might throw its question in the player's face all the time, which I feel would be rather unsubtle, and a shame. Thoughts?

  4. PS:T had more than one "item gate", puzzles in the way of progress that depended on obscure items. Example: finding a hammer/crowbar in the alley of lingering sighs, which brought to mind some of my less happy experiences with point and click adventure games. Do you have more, um, innovative ideas to meter progress in Tides? Hopefully ones that don't involve clicking on piles of debris hoping to find the right thingamajig? I'm okay with the idea of the world being a collection of gated hubs (or anything else, really), my question is about the keys to them.

  5. While PS:T avoided or subverted many common RPG tropes, you still could barge into someone's home only to have them ask you, a stranger, for help on a personal matter. (To its credit, this only happened twice, and one time it was contextualized with TNO's past.) Is this trend going to continue? Will we have to arbitrate disputes between strangers with no reason to besides shifting our tide alignments? These are long standing RPG tropes that most players are accustomed to and wouldn't bat an eyelid at, but I'm really hoping you can shake things up here.

Finally, a suggestion if I may: God AIs, living islands and hive mind societies, these are all well established sci-fi tropes today. Please, please try to go above and beyond the expected quota of delightful (and disturbing) weirdness and mind-blowing concepts and settings, assuming of course that these ideas manage to fit your narrative themes. RPGs are too scared these days to offer anything but rehashes of widely accepted (usually Hollywood/TV fantasy/sci-fi inspired) settings. All I'm saying is: Don't hold back, let's have a world that makes Sigil and The Planes seem quotidian.

The Bloom sounds like a great start. :)

ksaun37 karma

1: Some of the people of the Ninth World "know" the truth about the technology, while others believe in the supernatural. In Torment, We want to embrace these differences of opinion and sense of the unknown. We want Torment to feel like a high fantasy game to those who want it. One of our ideas for approaching this is to have some of the skills affect how much and what type of information you receive when, say, examine items and the environment. For example, if you are skilled in numenera, then you would get insights that reflect more of the science-fantasy feel.

While we are game designers and as players know the role of technology, the characters we role-play do not. This ambiguity is one of the elements that sets Numenera apart and we want to capture it within both the story and gameplay features.

ksaun34 karma

3: That question for Torment (what does one life matter?) is to frame what the game's about. We don't plan to be heavy-handed about this throughout the game. There was a somewhat tricky line we felt we had to walk here -- we wanted to convey enough of our story and themes to convey that we "get" what PS:T was about, but without revealing too much. The game will be more subtle and have its own explorations and deeper questions.

That is, "what does one life matter?" doesn't play the equivalent role of "what can change the nature of a man?" from PS:T.

karthink15 karma

Thank you, that's exactly what I needed to hear. I understand that you had to find a really delicious hook to convince viewers.

You guys did a bang up job on the Kickstarter pitch and webpage! It seduced many non-gamers I know who are into speculative or fantasy fiction.

ksaun15 karma

Thank you much! We are lucky in that we're among the target audience for our own game, so we could speak from the heart and focus on what we, as gamers, wanted to see.

ksaun23 karma

5: We do plan to subvert such tropes, though it becomes a bit harder since PS:T is now a source of some such tropes. =) We realize that it's hard to be entirely original, so we don't plan to obsess too much about it, but we will be looking to provide the unexpected.

In terms of the Tides... there will be sections of the game (a specific Mere, for example) that might focus on one or a few specific Tides, and the writer would write content geared toward challenging/emphasizing them. But even so, we intend for the Tides to be nuanced enough that a direct dispute like you mention wouldn't be so straightforward. This is something that will evolve further as we design the game -- at some level we need an underlying system that makes sense.

One of the approaches we are taking is to have the writers begin work on the novellas while Colin focuses on fleshing out more of the overall creative design and while we work on designing gameplay systems and such. These novellas tell stories of "legendary" individuals who embody the Tides. So through writing (and reading each others') novellas, we will form in our minds strong pictures of what each Tide really means. This foundation will both acclimate our writers to the Ninth World as well as get us all on the same page as to what these Tides really are.

We expect this will allow us to create much less contrived situations and to more intuitively understand the meanings of the Tides -- something we want players to also experience as they play the game (or read the stories).

ksaun17 karma

On this last point: "God AIs, living islands and hive mind societies" -- I don't believe any of these three things have yet come up as plans in any of our creative discussions. =)

karthink25 karma

Okay guys, the big questions:

  • Pre-rendered backgrounds or real time rendering? In either case, won't the isometric view limit the scale of objects you can show on screen? (Like the amber obelisk, for instance--not that the obelisk itself is in the game.)

  • Turn based/ Real time with pause combat? Or something new? On a scale of deep, clear fuschia to a murder of crows, how do you rate Planescape: Torment's combat?

  • As the budget (and the scope) of the game increases, thanks to Kickstarter, by how much do you think the release will be pushed back? I am totally fine with this by the way. To quote Miyamoto: "A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad."

  • What is your estimate of the expected word count when you get down to it? I still have trouble wrapping my head around the idea that I read through about half of Planescape: Torment's crazy 800,000 words sitting at my screen, completely enraptured. :)

PS: The last question is important because it is how I get my friends who devour fantasy novels to put their hats into the Torment Kickstarter ring.

(Note to mods: Err, my other set of questions went too far out of hand to add in these more straightforward ones. If "double dipping" is disallowed on this subreddit, please delete this post.)

ksaun24 karma

3: Ah, good question! I wouldn't rule it out that we'd find the best use of some of the funding would include spending extra time developing and polishing the game. We expect that most backers feel as you do and would prefer the game later and better. We want to create Torment as efficiently as possible (and more time is more efficient than having more people at a certain point) to make the best use of the backer's contributions and to provide the best final game.

underdabridge27 karma

No, no. You don't get it. What you want to do is release whatever part of the game is done on time. If it's broken just promise patches. If there's other features you want in just make us pay $5 or $10 for DLC.

ksaun47 karma

Brilliant suggestion! Let me talk with Brian about that... ;)

I tell you, this is one of the great things about crowdfunding. It is so refreshing to not have to think about such tactics. To be directly accountable to our players.

Jeppeboy19 karma

A question about items: One of the reasons I think PS:T is so great is because of the wacky and very unique items in the game. Compared to for example Baldur's Gate where a magic item simply had +1 to something, Torment had really strange and interesting effects. Even the item slots where much more interesting (with slot for eyes and tattoos, for example). Will this carry on to Torment: Tides of Numenera? If so can you give us an example of an equip slot that you are considering that might not be a RPG standard?

ksaun23 karma

This is an aspect of the design that we have not explored in great depth yet. We agree about this strength of PS:T and hope to continue that tradition. But it's not an area of high risk and will be driven in part by other aspects (the narrative, the Tides), so we haven't thought about it very deeply yet.

littlelark18 karma

Did you know there is a reddit community right here that's all about Torment? http://www.reddit.com/r/Torment

ksaun23 karma

Yes, and we've lurked there at times. =)

littlelark14 karma

What are your top five favourite games, in no particular order (or even in the same genre)?

ksaun17 karma

My favorites based upon me at some point in my life, not on an absolute scale of me today:

Ultima V, Alpha Centauri, Chess, Master of Orion 2, Neuromancer

dozniak7 karma

I love the deep reactivity, cause and effect ripples in Chess. Mmmm, greatest ever.

ksaun16 karma

And the role-playing opportunities and philosophical themes are endless!

NolanArchia14 karma

One of the things that really got me into T:ToN was Monte's short story "The Amber Monolith", which painted an intriguing setting and how the numeneras were mysterious artifacts of many past civilizations. It sold the concept really well, so I hope that people on the fence about this game's setting will give it a try. With that said, I have few (abet randomly assorted) questions about your endeavor:

  1. Will you be able to use numenera sans identification (i.e. you know where the button is, but you don't know it's function) as a gamble in combat/exploration?

  2. Will the printed copies of the short stories listed in the reward tiers be commercially available in the future?

  3. Is the name 'Torment' now a franchise name, and if you consider Tides of Numenera a 'success', will there be future CRPGs that follow the design and mechanics of their predecessors?

(*edited for better formatting)

ksaun10 karma

1 - that's a cool idea, it's not something we've decided upon yet. 2 - we are considering this, but aren't certain yet. the novella compilation will be a limited edition one, but we might do other print runs that are available beyond this kickstarter. 3 - it is possible, yes, but it's too soon to say.

littlelark13 karma

Can you tell us a little bit about how one actually designs a reactive RPG? It's more complex than it sounds: how did you personally deal with problems like combinatronically explosive possibilities once you start including multiple choices that have true effect? How do you maintain that in a game?

ksaun20 karma

We have some tricks. One is that to spend enough time in preproduction to plan our all of the elements of reactivity so that you can develop strong conventions and test them out. For example, what sorts of things will we use for reactivity, where/how will they be used, and what types of effects will we allow them to have? By setting up constraints along these lines, you can have all of the writers then working from the same toolbox. This can require some arbitrary constraints, but it also makes the game more accessible to players as they, at least at a subconscious level, get to know the "rules." An extreme example from the past (that's not so subtle) - you learn in Ultima IV that if you try to cheat the merchant, this lowers your Honesty.

Once you have these rules and guidelines, you do allow exceptions for special cases, but you make sure these are called out so that it's easier to keep track of the effects.

Another trick, which we used in Mask of the Betrayer, was to constrain the majority of quests to exist within a single "Module" (the game had 6 modules). One designer owned each module, so this approach made it easier by having their work not depend so much on each other. The creative lead (George) set up the constraints for each module and the global quests, and provided the glue that connected the parts together.

Another very useful tactic is the use of choke points. This is similar to what I just wrote about modules. You have a lot of reactivity within some limited scope, and then have it ultimately simplify to a small number of discreet cases you have to keep track of.

What we try to be careful of is to have the more expensive types reactivity be worth it in terms of entertainment value. You can accept a lot of complexity, and find ways to deal with it, but you want to make sure that it's worth it for the player from an entertainment perspective. Will they notice the reactivity? Will it increase their enjoyment? Does it support the pillars of the game?

It can be very tricky and we (well, I, anyway =) ) never achieve this to the full extent we'd like to. With Torment, we are trying to (and able to) make it such a strong focus that we can invest the energy in doing it right because there are many other elements we don't have to worry as much about.

aKrreh12 karma

Will the game be as large as Planescape: Torment? (word count wise)

ksaun21 karma

PS:T was noted as having 800K words, but that number's a bit inaccurate from what I understand -- it included a lot of duplicate words that were the result of how the dialogue system was implemented. So in terms of true word count, it was perhaps 1/3 less than that. Though still an impressive volume!

We don't have a specific target word count for Torment, but we expect to be in the same ballpark as PS:T in total scope.

ericinthewoods11 karma

There has been a lot of controversy about sexuality in games from the gamers. Some say "lets bang everyone," some say that homo relationships are the reason that they're... whatever... stupid. But many find the romantic story lines all together distracting or shoehorned into a plot that they don't really fit in.

How are y'all addressing these issues? Will there even be "love interest" type interaction at all in the game?

ksaun28 karma

We will focus on the characters and narrative. We want rich, deep characters and they will be involved in situations that arise through the story. What relationships develop will arise organically through the writers developing the characters in believable ways. Given this emphasis on the narrative, and what we're envisioning thus far for our characters, it seems unlikely that sexual encounters will find an appropriate place in the story.

That said, love is very relevant to the theme of ones legacy. How many of us are motivated by love, do things for love? And look at all of the kinds of love there are. So love is certainly a concept that we will explore -- though how much of it you encounter during your play through will depend upon the choices you make. (Because for some, love plays only a peripheral role.) The theme of abandonment (and mystery, for that matter) is also very relevant to love. So we will explore relationships, but only so far as they naturally develop given our themes and characters.

To be a bit more explicit: we don't expect there to be any sexual encounters in Torment, though we do foresee affection and love (independent of gender) to be explored.

weealex11 karma

Would you rather:

Falls-From-Grace or Anna?

ksaun15 karma

Falls-From-Grace, fatal though it may be.

Sator10 karma

Would you consider making a $60 digital tier containing both wasteland 2, Torment and their sounds tracks?

ksaun19 karma

Good idea! Yes, we will look into that.

bonniedi9 karma

I have to say The Tides are the most interesting moral system I've yet to see in a game. It's actually the main reason I backed the project. They are almost like a psychometric system, not only analysing the players' ethical choices but their personality as well. I'm wondering what inspired the creation of the tides? I'm guessing a frustration with typical binary ethical systems and the limitations of simplistic categories like "good" "evil" "lawful" & "chaotic"?

ksaun17 karma

The concept of the Tides evolved over many weeks of discussion between myself, Colin, and Adam Heine (who is in Thailand, and asleep right now, so he's not with us here today). With one's legacy being our core theme, we knew we wanted a morality system that would support that -- we see Torment as being driven by its creative side -- it's narrative, its story, its characters. And so those elements (and thus the legacy theme) drives gameplay systems as well. That's the core answer to your question -- they are where the creative vision took us, particularly in our quest to fulfill our 4th pillar of over-the-top reactivity and choices and consequences.

We asked ourselves what types of things people are remembered for, and what types of things people want to be remembered for. We also decided that we didn't want the elements of our legacy system to be in direct opposition to each other, like D&D's alignments, or to be aligned with each other like Ultima's Virtues. We wanted something more subtle and nuanced. We don't want to provide players with any moral "answers" -- as these are very personal questions. We want to provide a sandbox for you to explore these sorts of questions and concepts for yourself.

There's also the question of what the Tides really are within the Ninth World. Are they just concepts? Are they forces in the world like gravity is? Can people manipulate them or do they influence people? The Tides are not a universal truth that all believe and understand. Some believe in them, but many haven't even heard of them.

ChronoTrav9 karma

Since Torment: Tides of Numenera is set so far into the future, will the people of this time have mutated or evolved physiologically beyond the people of today?

ksaun14 karma

Yes, though this question is generally left a mystery in Numenera. Anything is possible, but the Ninth World provides more answers than questions.

EDIT: ahem. yes, thanks, that's "more questions than answers." =)

DoktorTeufel8 karma

Other than the combat, what do you guys think the biggest flaws were with PS:T? How do you intend to avoid making the same mistakes this time around, if you're approaching it that way at all?

ksaun14 karma

I feel the alignment system, and the resulting reactivity to alignment, wasn't very satisfying -- this is something we're addressing through the Tides.

In general, we've learned a lot about user interface design, and more is possible technically, since 1999, so we plan to have interface improvements as well. (While maintaining the same type of experience as PS:T -- for example, you'll select lines of dialogue like you did in the Infinity Engine games.)

aanek8 karma

Will there be any cooperation between the Torment team and the Project Eternity team?

ksaun15 karma

Yes, at least informally. I worked at Obsidian for > 5 years and really like the people there. They've already been supportive in various ways throughout our Kickstarter planning and launched.

zUkUu7 karma

How do you plan to get "feedback" from the community during the development process, since you said you want to take that into account (e.g. for Combat mechanism)? Forums? Polls? Twitter? Or is there an elaborated system that you will use?

ksaun8 karma

We have been using UserVoice, which allows the community to submit and vote on ideas as well as comment. We can also easily communicate with those interested in any given idea and change the status of ideas to indicate if we've decided to do something or not. This is one means. We used this before the Kickstarter campaign to get the input of our community on the rewards, tiers, and other aspects of the campaign and it has worked pretty well. We plan to continue to use UserVoice, though we'll iterate on how we're using it to make it more effective. (And after the Kickstarter ends, we'll have sections that are closed except to the backers.)

For some types of feedback, we are finding that forums and polls could be more effective so we may look into that as well. But it's harder to keep up with a forum and to get the right information out of it. We lurk in some of the larger RPG forums to see what people are thinking and looking for as well.

Colin and I have maintained Formspring accounts to answer specific questions, but Formspring is closing soon, so we'll need to move somewhere else. And it's hard to find the time to answer all questions properly. But it is refreshing to actually be able to devote time into reading feedback -- in the past (except when I worked on MMOGs), there where enough other demands that it was hard to get (and incorporate) any feedback from the community.

micsunderland36 karma

Will the game use pre rendered cut scenes to introduce new characters, locations, or major events, Kind of like how the firs Torment did?

ksaun10 karma

This is open for discussion still, but in general we want to be careful about investing resources on cut scenes, which can be cost-ineffective.

Antwarge6 karma

To Colin, Monte or anyone who wants to pitch in:

Could you tell us a bit about the writing process? How will all the different writers collaborate and who has the final say in what goes in? Do you have any guidelines for how each writer should approach their parts of the game and how do you choose who gets to do what?

ColinMcComb13 karma

I'm the creative lead, so I'm basically in charge of the writers. Kevin's the project lead, so he has veto authority over me. And Brian owns the company, so he has veto authority over Kevin. And then Monte laterally is the licensor, so he has some veto authority as well.

As for the writing process... well, we're still in the midst of finding out just how far we can go. But I'll be providing the broad framework of the story, outlining specific areas and what our intentions are for those areas, and showing the writers how to work within the constraints we've set. I'll be providing constant feedback, especially during the first part of the process, and then will be collating and collecting in order to ensure that the writers are remaining within the broad vision of the main questline.

ksaun15 karma

I'd like to add that in general, throughout the entire chain, we try to empower everyone to own their portion of the game/project as much as possible. We set clear goals, guidelines, and constraints and let people run with it so that they can do what they do (and excel at) best.

SerrisHawk5 karma

Would it be possible to go into some detail on how InXile organizes project writers and the task of writing the game in the preproduction process?

ksaun7 karma

Colin, as creative lead, will be fleshing out the major story elements, characters, and plot lines. He'll be setting up the constraints for the various portions of the game (with input from others, where it makes sense). Each writer will then have their "box" to play in, and run with their area given those constraints. We'll have a big writing kickoff meeting after we've set up enough of the foundation. (Until then, the writers will be doing things such as working on the novellas, which will allow them to become accustomed to the setting and game.) There will be frequent review, especially initially, as we work to get all of the writers aligned. Of course, along the way, all will be providing input to Colin and he'll be iterating on aspects of the story and game as we go. It's a very iterative process and we will modify our plans as it makes sense. (Did I answer the question? =) )

littlelark5 karma

Let's ask tougher questions. You're all creative geniuses; many of you could (and do) have successful careers in many different mediums.

Why did you pick gaming?

ksaun14 karma

For me it was an accident. I was studying to be an environmental engineer. I was doing research involving the biodegradation of contaminents in groundwater. The nature of my experiments gave me a lot of downtime while heavily sleep-deprived and I played online games during that time. (late 1990s) By accident, I had a job interview to lead one of the games (Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds -- it's still out there.). I couldn't pass up the chance to work in games, but I thought it would be a short term adventure and didn't expect it to become my career.

Someday I will utilize my education to design the best sewer level ever.

phimseto5 karma

Congratulations on the successful Kickstarter! Will there be an inXile presence at PAX East? Would love a chance to talk with devs in person!

For here: will the game feature VO work and, if so, would you consider bringing back any of the voice talent from Planescape? They wouldn't be playing the same characters, obviously, but it would be in keeping with the the "variations on a theme" that you are going for.

ksaun7 karma

We won't be at PAX East, unfortunately.

We will have at least some VO (but not full VO). We haven't explored who to use for voice actors yet -- we will cast for our chaarcters, I expect. Given that, I think we would favor talent from PS:T if there is a good fit.

bonniedi4 karma

The idea of the protagonist taking on other people's lives intrigues me quite a bit. I'm interested in how deep this goes, from a story perspective. When the protagonist 'becomes' another person how much of them does he take on? Does he just control their actions like a puppet or also have access to their inner worlds, perhaps begin feeling as they do? Does his identity change in the process? I don't mean this in terms of him having empathy for the people he becomes, but becoming them in a more total sense. Basically this part of the game really intrigues me if it goes deep, because we could really get into themes about the fluidity of identity, transgenderism, and all that good stuff that hasn't really been done in any game i can think of..

ColinMcComb13 karma

If I tell you the answers to this, someone will crucify me for spoiling. :)

ksaun7 karma

Who, Colin? =)

smishNelson4 karma

If Wasteland 2 is as commercially successful and has great reviews, will it bring about a Wasteland 3 and/or are there an plans for sequels/expansions etc?

BrianFargo12 karma

Of course I would explore making additional Wastelands should there be a demand. I love the post apocalyptic world as a setting.

BrianFargo9 karma

I could not be happier working on Wasteland 2.

ksaun5 karma

Except working on Torment, Brian? ;)

DoktorTeufel4 karma

How will world travel be presented? Will it be Fallout "slow"-style overmap travel, BG-style fast travel, or something else?

ksaun4 karma

We haven't discussed this in detail, but Wasteland 2 has an overland map and I really like that approach. Plus we'll have it implemented already, so it will be a matter of adapting it to Torment and its art style.

littlelark3 karma

For those of us just tuning in, can you tell us what projects you've worked on before and what you're known for?

ksaun4 karma

My most relevant game was Mask of the Betrayer

I have some of my past projects listed on a modest site here: www.ksaun.com

Amonadune3 karma

Thank you so much for this opportunity. Torment is my favourite game so I'm looking forward to ToN a lot.

My question: Will there be full voice acting? As in every line?

ksaun5 karma

No. The expense is significant (the recording, the editing, the QA), but even more importantly, you really need all of the content locked down before you can record. So it pushes out the development schedule significantly and complicates further changes to the dialogue. You can do pick-ups, but its another expense. Typically, projects are schedule-constrained, so you end up compromising the quality of the design in order to get all of the voice in.

As an aside -- on Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2, we had a trick here -- by having aliens and alien voices for some of the characters, we could change some lines even after the VO was recorded -- we turned more than one voiced character into an alien so that we could avoid the VO issue when fixing bugs.

littlelark2 karma

What are your five favourite films, in no particular order? (might as well learn more about your tastes- I noticed Brian was linking a fair amount of French cinenma on twitter)

ksaun2 karma

These are the first five that came to mind:

Amelie Life is Beautiful Schindler's List The Muppets The End of the Affair Harvey

Oh wait, that's six.