RPG Codex - Interview with Colin McComb
You can say whatever you want to say about the RPG Codex, but one thing is for sure they have good interviews. This time the interview is with Colin McComb about writing for Torment: Tides of Numenera.
You’ve credited Chris Avellone with being responsible for a pretty extraordinary 50% of the overall writing on Planescape: Torment, including the first drafts for three-quarters of the characters. T:ToN, on the other hand, seems to be gaining creative contributors almost by the day, one of whom (Pat Rothfuss) is coming to games-writing for the very first time. As the lead writer, how exactly are you planning to manage all of these disparate voices? Is there a danger of an individual vision being lost in the rush to bring in more recognisable, Kickstarter-friendly names?
Having a distributed ensemble writing team is something that we planned for from the start, so while the danger you mention is a risk, we’re prepared for it. Now that the Kickstarter has wrapped, I’m sitting down and fleshing the story out further. This involves outlining specific story beats, levels, and thematic elements to hit at certain points, among other things. It has been a very busy month since the Kickstarter ended and it’s going to be (at least!) another very busy month before we get anyone else really going on the design. That’s just as well, because narrative development is a hugely iterative process, and we’ve already improved and tightened various aspects of the story. By the time our other writers come on board, we’ll have a solid base for them to work from. Further, we’re going to get them rolling in stages, so issues flagged by the first group will translate into improvements for the second, and so on. This staged roll-out will make it easier for me to review their work for consistency and style.
In the meantime, we’ve got our novella writers working on the Tides stories, and we plan to use those to help acclimate the other writers to the baseline of the Tides.
It’s my hope that our writers will feel grounded and able to work with what we have by the time of the first writers’ meeting. At this meeting, we’ll be discussing the story in excruciating detail and breaking it down bit by bit in order to tidy it up.
And then, after they all get moving, I’ll be overseeing and reviewing their work throughout the process. I don’t imagine that I’ll be writing 50% of the game, but I will be writing a fair portion and am going to have my hands in pretty much all of it – whether writing directly, editing, or providing feedback. Fortunately, we have the example of PST to prove that the game doesn’t need to be the work of a single author – multiple writers works just fine, provided there’s good oversight.
The year is 2015, and Torment’s been released. A man appears in a fiendish puff of smoke and offers you the chance to create a game in a setting entirely of your choosing, with absolutely no need to worry about marketability or mass appeal. What do you choose?
Do I have to worry about legal issues? Frankly, I want to keep going with stuff I’ve been involved in and already made a part of me. Numenera is right up at the top there—it’s new, exciting, and the boundaries are wide open. Rothfuss’s Kingkiller world would be pretty great; I know he’s interested in making a game set there. Hell, if we’re novelizing fiction, I’d like to make a game in my Oathbreaker setting, because I’ve been living with that in my head for more than a decade. I’d love to explore the world I created for Torn before they went in a different direction.
If we’re talking tabletop settings, I’d love to work in Birthright again. Doing something with Paizo’s Golarion would be cool, and of course Planescape is always going to have a special place for me.
But even beyond that, I’d love to develop a brand-new setting, because world-building is so goddamn fun. I’d love to do something in the world of Endless Night, where the players are the last bastion of Light... or perhaps the first. Or what about a modern-day horror game being penetrated by dimension-crossing monsters that attack by creating passages through nightmares? Or an urban crime fantasy?
Seriously, though, just one setting? There are so many good ideas out there that I can’t possibly choose one right now while I’m neck-deep in the Ninth World. Let me ask Lucifer (or is it Mephistopheles?) when we’ve wrapped up Torment. I might have a better answer then.