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Torment: Tides of Numenera Interview

by RPGWatch, 2017-03-31

This interview has been sent to InXile before the release of Torment: Tides of Numenera, of which which we received the answers after the release, so this interview should be read in that context. Answering the questions are Colin McComb, George Ziets, Adam Heine and Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie.
We got to ask three more question to Brian Fargo after the release, which are listed at the end of the interview.

Farflame: A lot of writers collaborated on Torment. How did you organise their work? I ask especially because few writers didnt have big experience with RPGs (different background) so what was the best role for them? Did you wanted to use their specific style of writing or something like that?

Colin McComb: The reason we brought on those writers was indeed for their writing style. I had really enjoyed Mur Lafferty's work, for instance, and thought she could capture what we needed for Torment. Shanna Germain and Monte Cook had co-created Numenera, so they were a natural choice to have to involved. Chris Avellone, Tony Evans, Brian Mitsoda, and George Ziets, of course, had all worked on video games before. For the writers with less experience with CRPG development, we had them design areas, Meres, or novellas. With Pat Rothfuss, because he had signed up to write a companion but had no videogame background, we worked closely with him to flesh Rhin out. Later, because most of the writers we brought on for the Kickstarter had to return to other full-time gigs (it's not easy juggling a full-time writing career or a tabletop game company, it turns out), we brought on new writers: Leanne Taylor-Giles, Mark Yohalem, and Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie, each of whom had experience with game writing.

At that point, it made sense to break them down by their availability and interest. Leanne wanted to write a companion, and Mark was interested in the longer-form fiction of the Meres. Gavin we tied to a hamster wheel and worked him endlessly.

Farflame: Is there some main difference when an experienced writer writes for a game like Torment and wants to support that feel or mood? Something that he focus on or that he chooses to avoid?

Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie: As a team, we focused on obvious and subtle narrative reactivity, as well as one of the central rules of the Numenera setting: mystery. We steered away from weirdness for weirdness's sake, because while that's fun, it doesn't feel as immersive as an object that's strange FOR A REASON. We might not tell you the reason, but we used it to design the conversation around that object.

Farflame: Are there some NPCs that you are especially proud of?

George Ziets: In Sagus Cliffs (first city of the game), I'm very happy with the way a lot of the NPCs turned out, but my favorites include Sn'erf (a researcher who studies reproductive practices of species throughout the multiverse), Varrenoth (a female warrior who isn't quite what she seems), the Genocide (a warlord who tried to conquer Sagus Cliffs in the distant past), and the Dendra O'hur (a cult of corpse eaters). I didn't write any of those characters, though - I mostly handled design in Sagus Cliffs and only wrote a handful of dialogues.

For favorite characters that I wrote personally, you'd have to go to the Bloom. (I got to do a lot more dialogue writing for that zone.) Some of the ones that I especially enjoyed writing were Waits-for-prey (a battle construct from a prior world), Parsim Flint (an auctioneer who sells slaves), Inkpot (a crazy Bloom cultist), a white synth egg, and the Observant Speck.

Pessimeister: The original Torment saw a much more literary and philosophical tinged narrative that arguably gave a new found depth compared to most western cRPGs that came before it. Could you speak generally about being conscious of this heritage and of the challenges to maintain and deepen this literary tradition?

Colin: Zeb Cook, the creator of the Planescape setting, described it as "philosophers with clubs." Given my own major in college, this naturally spoke to me, and I dove right in. Part of the reason this appealed to me is... well, in the Tractatus, Wittgenstein wrote, "Philosophy is not a body of doctrine, but an activity." Planescape was this quote made flesh, and Planescape: Torment was the opportunity to expand on it. Combine that with Chris Avellone's excellent and inventive story, and suddenly you've got a masterpiece.

When you're asked to develop a successor to something like that, it's a responsibility you take seriously. Obviously, whether we've succeeded or not is going to be a subjective matter, but what I can say is that we put a great deal of care into creating a thematically connected narrative, bringing the world to life with a host of NPCs and quests, and creating a rich tapestry of deep reactivity - we have gated a lot of content in this game in order make replays enjoyable and memorable. Part of our goal - my goal, at least - is to take philosophical influences that might be more abstruse and make them accessible through the medium of gameplay. We're hoping that our work here will spark inquiry and exploration in our players' minds, much as PST did 17 years ago.

Pessimeister: Philosophically speaking, we had the very memorable quasi-buddhist/Schoepenhauerian Dustmen faction in Torment. Could you perhaps elaborate on some of the philosophical influences found in the various factions and quests in the new game? What types of over-arching questions will the player be encouraged to interact with?


Colin: This is one of the great benefit of the Tidal alignment system. It allows us to approach the question, "What does one life matter?" through various philosophical lenses, depending on the emphasis. If, for instance, the life you describe is yours, then it's a primarily existentialist matter. But perhaps you're weighing one life against many, and then it becomes a utilitarian answer. Or maybe you want to approach the question through a dialectical framework, weighing how much a single person can affect. Part of the approach with the Meres was phenomenological, placing the PC into the position of both an observer and an actor. We get into mind-body dualism at the same time. But this is all in service to exploring the central questions of legacy and abandonment, and how each of us struggles to find meaning in our own lives. It's not so much a specific philosophy we adhere to, as it is opening different approaches to address those questions.

Pessimeister: Could you describe the process of maintaining writing consistency and coherency within your team writing framework? How difficult is it to edit work for a setting so profoundly open to the imagination?

Gavin: As I mentioned above, as strange as conversations can get, they have to make sense. Things still happen because of what the player does, not because we want some weird bullshit to happen.

Generally, feedback focused around these areas: noting where a player should be able to ask or do something, for example. Or maybe the NPC wasn't reacting realistically to the player.

In other words, this is a billion years in the future, but people are still people. Even if they're lacking heads, have gills, or aren't people at all.

Farflame: Are all locations and factions in the game taken from Numenera lore? Did you follow some guidelines from Monte Cook about what you can or can't create in that southern part of the world?

George: Our section of the world was entirely developed by us. We needed to maintain the same sensibilities as the rest of Monte Cook's setting, of course - for example, embracing the unapologetic strangeness of the Ninth World - but apart from that, we could do whatever we wanted. Although Monte never gave us any mandates to use creatures or characters from the Numenera books, we still wanted to reward fans of the setting by including some of our favorites, like the murdens and the nychthemeron, as well as factions and characters from the books, like the Order of Truth and Sir Arthour. We also reference quite a bit of content from established parts of the Ninth World, even though the player doesn't go there.

In a fun twist of co-creation, Monte Cook Games released a sourcebook based on our part of the world in the summer of 2016 - Torment Tides of Numenera: The Explorer's Guide. They took our design documents and turned them into content for the pen-and-paper game.

Farflame: Maybe I'm wrong but it seems that, besides Endless Battle and some local conflicts, there is no real large war in the Numenera world. That is not common, especially if you realise the possibility that someone could find some powerfull numenera weapon and use it to conquer some land. Could you tell us something about settlements and society between Sagus Cliffs and Steadfast? Is there some strong state or tribe or potential strong enemy (except Iron Wind)? Or is the land inhabited pretty sparsely?

Adam Heine: There are a few things that make a large-scale war less likely in the present day of the Ninth World. You hit on the first one in your question: the land is inhabited relatively sparsely. The most heavily populated city in the entire Steadfast has maybe half a million people, and the numenera makes travel even within the Steadfast potentially dangerous. So large wars within the Steadfast are already hard. Between the Steadfast and Sagus is even more difficult because of the Beyond-an area even more wild and sparsely populated than the Steadfast. Travel through this area is deadly more often than not, so contact between the Steadfast and Sagus is minimal. You will find many people in Torment that have never even heard of the Steadfast.

Another issue is that, in the present day at least, there are few governing bodies cohesive enough to wage a large-scale war. Sagus Cliffs is governed by a fractious council (which itself is arguably controlled by a crime lord in the Bloom). The Oasis and Haref each have their own internal struggles (not that the water-breathing ghibra would have any interest in a land war to begin with), and the Valley of Dead Heroes is governed by no one.

The multiple kingdoms of the Steadfast do fight with each other on occasion. Moreover, they are ruled by the comparatively well-organized Order of Truth (the Order is not so well-organized in Sagus). The Order of Truth and the kingdoms of the Steadfast actually are involved in a large-scale war with the lands north of them, but this war is thousands of miles away from Sagus and so has little to no impact on Torment.

There have been wars in the past, too. The Tabaht once waged war against most of the Sagus Protectorate, and the Sagus Protectorate itself was once powerful enough to wage war against other areas beyond the Beyond. But in the present day, the power of the Sagus Protectorate has waned considerably, and most of these locations are focused inward.

That doesn't mean there won't be a large-scale war in the future, of course. It could just be a matter of time.

Colin: Monte also described the difficulty of war in the Ninth World like so:

It's interesting to think about what war in the Ninth World would be like. Imagine a battle with 1000 soldiers on each side (that's a big army by Ninth World standards). Now imagine that if even just 1 out of every 10 of these guys has managed to cobble together, find, steal, or buy even one appropriate cypher. Suddenly, what would otherwise appear to be a battle out of Earth's ancient history with spears and shields erupts into the utter chaos of explosions, high energy beam weaponry, teleportation, levitation, force fields, gravity fluctuations, magnetic pulses, sudden appearances by ultraterrestrial entities, poison gas clouds, living steel, and far, far stranger things.

And then, when the battle's over, and all these weird, one-use resources are spent, the survivors exit the battlefield (a place likely forever changed by the sudden use of wildly misunderstood technologies) the same way they entered.

Farflame: Can you describe your approach to designing castoffs? I assume that The Changing God wanted to make each body strong, healthy, extraordinary capable, maybe pretty. But it seems that castoffs are pretty diverse, even physically. I understand you couldnt make all of them pretty similar but still... could you tell us your basic ideas behind castoffs, how to make them different, but offsprings of the same man?


Adam: There are only a few things common to most castoffs: (1) most of them are (as you said) strong, capable, and often pretty, (2) all of them have the castoff's tattoo, and (3) most of them were born in unfortunate or deadly circumstances. Beyond that, they are intentionally diverse because the Changing God wanted to experience a wide variety of lives. In addition to humans, there have been varjellan castoffs, ghibra castoffs, mutant castoffs, diruk castoffs, and more.

What defines each castoff as a *character* is what the Changing God made them for, what he did while in their body, and what state he left them in. Some castoffs were damaged at birth. Some have made something of themselves, becoming powerful leaders or working from the shadows. Others have chosen to remain hidden, fearing either the Sorrow or what others might think of them. Some castoffs were born into terrible situations, or found out that they were accussed of having done horrible things, and so they spend the rest of their lives trying to make it right. Others go insane from the circumstances of their birth. So in that way, too, no two castoffs are alike. They all share incredible regenerative properties and a father who abandoned them, both of which define them as a group, but each of them is an individual as well.

Farflame: The world of Numenera is weird. You can create almost anything, but on the other hand some players can be distracted if the world is "too weird", without much logic or coherence or common theme. I assume you had initially a lot of crazy ideas but how did you decide which ideas or charactera are worth pursuing and developing and which aren't?

Adam: The beauty of Numenera is that there is no such thing as "too weird." I honestly can't think of any idea we had where we said, "That's too weird. Scrap it." We certainly had ideas that were dumb or boring, but never too weird. So everything goes, but we wanted everything to have some kind of internal explanation behind everything. We almost never tell the player what that explanation is, specifically because that would remove the weirdness and mystery, but it informs the design of all we do.

[Gavin] With a billion years of history behind this game, pretty much everything is allowed. The player should be able to sense the logic of a character or item, even when the mysteries behind them are never explained.

For example, I find a sliver of glass. When my character lifts it to the light, they notice that it turns black. As the writer, I might decide that this shard of glass was part of a viewscreen on a spaceship that could fly into suns and harvest their gasses, but the player would only ever know that the sliver of glass turns dark when you raise it towards the sun, and maybe that it reflects heat and light pretty well.

Farflame: Moving "cities" seems to be a kind of "trademark" of Numenera. Can you tell us how Bloom was created? What was the initial idea about its purpose and origin?

Colin: One of the things that people really liked about the first game was the strange city filled with mysterious races and a variety of things to do. There was the sense of mystery, and there was the excitement of portals. But we wanted to make the city live and breathe, and we wanted to make the place feel organic. Using the term "organic" opened a bunch of possibilities for us. This was our first pitch for the Bloom:

The Bloom, a densely packed area (kinda like Kowloon Walled City) where the buildings seem to sprout out of the ground like the fronds of an anemone, many of them bending over at their heights, seeming to defy gravity. The area looks like it grew, or perhaps exploded, out of the ground. In some places, the underlying stone (and chitin?) pokes out, but mostly all one can see are the buildings clinging to each other like some kind of fungus. Rope bridges stretching across the gap like spider webs.

The Bloom is a place people go to hide, or when they have nowhere else to go, but there are stories too. Rumors of buildings and rooms that actually do defy gravity, that seem to twist and shrink even as you look at them. Escher-esque staircases leading to nowhere. Caverns within the coral-like growths that the buildings are anchored to.

We're also thinking it could be cool to have certain pathways within the Bloom, vein-like structures that push the unwary from one destination (or planet, or dimension) to another. The active pathways change depending on certain conditions: maybe ambient temperature, presence of a certain item in a certain room, number of travelers present in a hallway, a combination tapped on the wall beside a door, essentially causing the city to react in a certain way.

We'd also like to have the city partially mobile, but only by inches per year. Ultradimensionals steer clear of the Bloom. Some of them claim that it is a super-intelligence, a living creature that occasionally devours those within it, and others say that it is a mind-trap and to speak of it is to draw its regard and foul attention.

Farflame: The core theme of Numenera are cyphers and looking for them. But powerfull cyphers could be very dangerous. What if some cypher could destroy the whole city or reshape the land? So my question is - is there some community or city state in Numenera world that tries to control cyphers and ban their users? For safety reasons.

Colin: The initial idea behind Sagus Cliffs' economy is that it would a central repository for cyphers - that it would offer bounties or citizenship to people who brought the council artifacts. The city would provide protection, amplifying its strength through its accumulation of weird power. We wound up backing away from that idea a bit, because it started to drain the weird from the world.

That said, yes, I'm certain there are such communities. I believe Monte and Shanna included some just like this in the core campaign book.

Farflame: The theme of parallel lives and transformations seems to be pretty strong in Tides of Numenera. There is Bloom that eats people, Callistege, TGC, other dimensions etc. Is it a pretty common thing for the Numenera world? Do some people in the Ninth world care less about their real life because they believe they can somehow transform and live a better life later, in a better body, or in a better place?


George: Transformation is something that comes up a lot in the Numenera setting - maybe the most iconic example is the Iron Wind, which reshapes everything it touches, usually in horrible ways. And plenty of characters have used ancient technologies from prior worlds to alter themselves, though not always intentionally. It's something that flowed naturally into our game, where the idea of transformation and multiple lives is core to our narrative.

I don't think people in the Ninth World necessarily assume they can transform themselves into something better, though. The vast majority of people don't understand the numenera (technology from prior worlds) and, if anything, are probably a little afraid of it. Only the most skillful nanos have confidence that they can manipulate the numenera to achieve the results they want... and they are usually wrong. The Changing God's ability to transfer from body to body is almost unprecedented and makes him seem divine to most people.

Zloth: Torment hit its funding goal in hours. The website is showing over $5 million in pledges and, judging by dollars pledge per donor, is not being funded by a few Planescape fans with deep pockets. Yet the game is turn based, set in a very strange environment, and will be getting into some philosophy with the "what's one life worth" question. You might as well put a "your IQ must be *this* high to play this game" sign out front! So is this saying something about some untapped market? If so, just what is this market looking for? Are we going to be seeing Plato: The Roleplaying Game soon?

Colin: Ha! We're not setting out to be the "we're so intelligent" guys - we just want to make a game that's not all about running around and shooting people in the head. Whether people are actually interested in this kind of game is something that remains to be seen.

Silver: Do you want to make more Torment games and are you open to a Torment game in a different setting such as Dark Sun?

Colin: I'd love to make more Torment games. We've had discussions about what a new Torment game would look like, and yeah, they'd generally be in different settings.

Silver: Would you ever consider a direct sequel to a Torment game or are they one shot deals?

Colin: These are generally intended to be one-shot deals. I wouldn't be opposed to making sequels, but I'd suggest that they not be titled "Torment" - maybe something like "Redemption: Tides of Numenera".

HellRazor/Meldimor: Some backers are unhappy about the decision to cut stretch goal content from the game. Stretch goals are announced for the purpose of securing additional funds to implement them, so many backers view this as not meeting a commitment. Presumably, some content, such as extra companions, was cut due to insufficient time to "do it right" prior to the scheduled release date. But once the release date is behind you, does InXile have any specific plans to continue development to provide any of the cut features post-release?

Colin: We do! In fact, we just announced that we're working on a new patch to restore some of this cut material.

Meldimor: What exactly has been cut, reduced, or delayed?

Colin: A few companions, the Voluminous Codex, and we changed the second major city from the Oasis to the Bloom.

Meldimor: What went into the decision-making process for what to remove? In particular, many fans are disappointed by the supposed removal of The Toy.

Colin: Basically, the question was whether we would have the time and resources to do that particular feature justice, and whether we would prefer to make the game broader but shallower, or narrower but deeper. We chose the latter. Good news, though: Oom is coming back!

SMcM: How long wil this game take to complete if I only go for the main quests? And what if I am a completionist?

George: Precise time estimates are really difficult for this game because 1) there are so many different ways of solving quests, some longer than others, and 2) the game involves a lot of dialogue, and everyone reads at a different pace. We've seen vastly different play times from people who have tried the game. For example, I'm a completionist who likes to read every line of dialogue, and it took me almost 20 hours just to get through the first zone of Sagus Cliffs (roughly a third of the game).

SMcM: How big is the map the game takes place in?

George: Torment is pretty unusual, and it's hard to quantify the space in which the game is set. For example, Sagus Cliffs and the Bloom are right next to each other - within a radius of a few miles, probably - but from inside the Bloom, the player will travel to other worlds that might be halfway across the universe. Other parts of the game take place in a labyrinth that exists inside the shared consciousness of all the castoffs.

Also note that we don't have a world map in the game. You'll travel from one zone to the next as the game proceeds, but it's always a one-way trip. To illustrate, the game begins in the city of Sagus Cliffs, and the player can wander the city and complete content in any order they want, but once they depart Sagus Cliffs, they won't ever return.

Farflame: In your experience what has changed in the demands or ideas of developers and publishers regarding RPGs, in the past and now? Was their approach different, focused on other things?


George: Hm. A lot has changed over the past couple decades. One big change is that the quality of writing and storytelling expected from RPGs has improved drastically. When I started out in the industry, it was acceptable and customary for people with no experience in writing to be called upon to write dialogue and craft stories. Sometimes that worked out well... but often it didn't. Writing quality varied dramatically, even within the same game, and full-time writers were rare (and not terribly well respected). Those practices are increasingly rare today. Over the past ten years or so, developers and publishers have recognized that excellent writing and storytelling can actually be a selling point that will attract audiences and improve the sales of a game. Now there are tons of writer and narrative designer jobs in the industry, and it has become a viable (and fun) career path.

Another big change is the length of RPGs. We used to pride ourselves on making long games - the more hours the better. That is also shifting, with shorter games far more acceptable, and even demanded by gamers, who have less free time and many more games to compete for that time.

Farflame: Looking at the RPG genre, do you see some common shortcoming in RPGs nowadays?

George: Many big budget RPGs are still fairly linear, at least in their main narratives. I've never understood that - the one unique thing that games can do, in comparison to other creative media, is react to the choices of their "audience." It's not unreasonable or over-ambitious to develop a branching storyline, especially if you're careful about when and how you present important decisions.

[Gavin] Personally, I like my RPGs with reactivity and exploration. But I play pretty much everything that comes out eventually.

Farflame: Puzzles and usage of items was common in old dungeon crawlers and RPGs. Then it dissapeared. Do you think that some (light) puzzles should return for both CRPGs and ARPGs? We have internet now so even action players can find help if stuck.

Adam: Personally, I would love to see more puzzles and item usage come into play in RPGs. We tried to do some of that in Torment (by "we" I mean mostly me and Joby Bednar) and had several ideas for more "real" puzzles, though most of them never made it into the game. But even in our Torment puzzles, we tried to make sure there was a brute force solution for players who just didn't want to play that way. The reason we did that is primarily expectations: the vast majority of RPG players expect combat and conversations with interesting choices, and while puzzles have always been a staple of RPGs in any medium, it can be jarring for someone who isn't ready for them. More than jarring, they can be frustrating if a puzzle means they can no longer progress without cheating, in a game they thought they had mastered.

Another reason puzzles sometimes fall out of favor is because it's harder to design a good puzzle than one might think. It's easy to design a puzzle that's difficult to solve, but it's much harder to design a puzzle that doesn't feel arbitrary-that makes the player feel cool for having solved it.

I do think light puzzles have a place in RPGs still, and I would like to see more designers make use of them. The Shadowrun trilogy, for example, had some great mini-puzzles to figure out passcodes. These provided a nice break in gameplay pacing without risking players getting stuck (you can always fight your way through any Shadowrun problem), and I think most RPGs could benefit from them for that reason alone.

But I doubt we'll see difficult puzzles make a comeback, or even systemic puzzles of the Nethack variety, at least not as a broader trend. No one's more sad about that than me.

Farflame: Combat in CRPGs was simplyfied from the golden age of CRPGs. For example many things seems to be generally worse - variety and AI of enemies, encounter design, variety of tactical spells, we have simple cooldowns instead of mana, "aggro" mechanics from MMOs etc. Do you agree? Where do you see the biggest room for improvement in CRPG combat? And do you want to implement and improve your Crisis system from Torment for other CRPGs?

Adam: It depends which RPGs we're talking about (and which golden age-my "golden age" was in the days of Quarterstaff and Curse of the Azure Bonds, and I considered Baldur's Gate to be pretty simplistic when it came out). Divinity: Original Sin has some fantastic encounter design; Shadowrun uses mana and a variety of spell effects; and although Banner Saga quantifies "aggro," it also provides some of the best tactical combat I've played in recent years. So I wouldn't say it's gotten *generally* worse, but I agree that what has become the most popular is perhaps not what *I* look for in a CRPG.

As far as improvement goes, I think all CRPGs can benefit from good encounter design. Even the simplest system can be made more interesting by forcing the player to change up the way he plays in order to succeed. Planescape: Torment's combat was pretty ho-hum for example, but Icewind Dale-which used virtually the exact same systems-had great combat. The only real difference between the two games was encounter design.

That said, quality encounter design is expensive. We learned that very quickly on Torment, where we had to prioritize which Crises would get most of our bandwidth in terms of design, writing, scripting, and balancing. I would love to take the Crisis system and apply it to every CRPG, but that won't always be realistic. As a player, I loathe trash mobs, but as a designer they're the quickest way to fill out an area, allowing me to focus my attention on other scenes that are, perhaps, more important to the overall goals of the game.

Farflame: One tricky question about gaming trends and mainstream media. Swen Vincke from Larian once said that the new generation of RPG players needs to be "reeducated" because they don't understand what you can do in more complex RPGs. Sometimes media and players abandon proven concepts too easily. For example I remember media guys who demanded full voice acting in RPGs and give lower scores in reviews because of that. We can say that voice acting is cool but they completely ignore the negative side of full VA. Some designers admitted that they had to cut text, had less time to write and can't make late changes because of expensive voice acting. And this info was (almost) never mentioned in media at the time despite the fact it harms CRPGs with a lot of text. So do you think that developers could or should explain these things a little more? Maybe even defend proven design ideas against shallow or clueless campaigns or trends that can harm experience in complex RPGs?


George: All the challenges that you listed for full VA are accurate. Voiced dialogues need to be finalized much earlier so that they can be sent for recording and localization. If bugs are found in those dialogues later, or if the team wants to make a dialogue change to fix a quest or iterate on the main story, you have to bring an actor back into the studio for pickups (which can be an expensive proposition) or find a way to live with the text you have. Yet another challenge is that casting dozens or hundreds of NPCs is a huge endeavor, and for a variety of reasons, it's very hard to get the "right" voice for every character. The wrong voice actor, bad direction, or a poor performance can ruin an otherwise great dialogue.

Sometimes writers and designers do push back against voice acting in games, but they're overridden by executives or marketing departments who believe that full VA is necessary to attract a more mainstream audience and thus bring in more money. Marketing folks might argue that a few poor performances won't hurt sales enough to justify removing full VA from a game (and from a purely economic standpoint, they're probably right).

In smaller studios with more limited budgets, arguments against full VA can be made far more effectively. We don't have the money to pay top VA talent, and fans of our games aren't expecting AAA production values, so we can limit VA to the most important characters (and make sure they are cast and directed well). Personally, I do support strategic use of VA on important characters - especially companions. (Think of how much personality was added to Planescape: Torment by its iconic companion voices.) Beyond that, I think the benefits of more extensive VA diminish rapidly, unless a studio has the time and budget to bring actors back for pickups as often as needed.

Adam: When Planescape: Torment first came out, every review we got was high-except one. I remember getting so mad at that review. "What is wrong with these guys?" I thought. "They don't get it at all! They're complaining about things that have nothing to do with what the game *is*!" Looking back, I feel silly about that. After all, we all bring our own expectations and assumptions to every game or movie or book. I was right that they didn't get it, that they were expecting a different game than PS:T was. What I was wrong about is that it was *okay* they didn't get it.

Sometimes a reviewer like that will try the game again, or they'll read a good review and approach the game with new expectations and love it. More often though, that person just wasn't the target audience to begin with. Not everybody is-especially with a game like Torment. As a developer, of course I would like to have all good reviews, but that's impossible. So at the end of the day, I make the games I want to play and hope that they find their audience.

Colin: I think it's incumbent on us to make the game educate the player each time on how to maximize the game's potential. I don't think that it's necessarily the case that we need to explicitly teach the player what is and isn't possible, but we do need to set up the situations where the player can uncover this for him- or herself. For instance, in TTON, we have a number of situations where the player learns what it is this game's about - you can game-over die in the first few choices of the game; failure can be interesting and rewarding; exploration of the dialogue can be interesting. It's just a matter of helping the player learn the size and constraints of the game.

Zloth: And for fun: I've played men and women in RPGs. I've played characters both young and old. I've played as every race under the sun plus several that aren't. A few games have even let me play as a mentally ill character! Yet 12% of the population is completely ignored. Tell me inXile, just how do you expect left handed people to identify with their character when you refuse to make it an option in character development!?

Gavin: Good question. Very good question. We don't have any specific plans for this at the moment, but in the meantime, maybe try flipping your screen backwards. Bam. Everyone's left-handed now.

RPGWatch: How do you feel about the feedback received up to now? I'm sure you are happy with the positive feedback, but do you feel there is some merit in the negative?


Brian Fargo: The feedback on TTON has been a bit polarizing no doubt. We have some folks who think it was the best RPG they've played in a decade and then we have others who are disappointed. Some of the disappointment comes from comparisons to PST or some of the missing content but there are some other more objective gameplay comments I agree with.  Torment is a very ambitious game that experimented with a combat and pacing and that is always a risk. I'm proud of the quality and craftsmanship of this game.

RPGWatch: We were expecting a spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment. Do you think you have achieved that?

Brian: We had a unique opportunity to work with most of the creative team behind PST and I supported their vision for the game they wanted to make. I don't look at it as a competition between the two but as an artistic endeavor by a group of really talented people who wanted to make a game that took you to an otherworldly place with writing that holds up to the best novels.

RPGWatch: Looking back, is there anything you would like to have done differently during development and why?

Brian: Unrelated to production I would have communicated faster on the changes we made to the design and to be more careful laying out too many specific details in a crowdfunding campaign. Otherwise you end up with people judging not what is there but what was supposed to be there. We've took that approach with BT4 and WL3 to make sure we can hopefully over deliver like we did with Wasteland 2. Also I'm a big fan of getting the core game systems running as fast as possible, something that I would have wanted sooner. But we are quite proud of the craftsmanship and final game that Torment ended up becoming.

Box Art

Information about

Torment: Tides of Numenera

Developer: InXile Entertainment

SP/MP: Single-player
Setting: Technofantasy
Genre: RPG
Combat: Turn-based
Play-time: 40-60 hours
Voice-acting: Partially voiced

Regions & platforms
· Homepage
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2017-02-28
· Publisher: InXile Entertainment

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