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Brian Fargo and Kevin Saunders talk Torment with Rock Paper Shotgun

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Brian Fargo and Kevin Saunders talk Torment with Rock Paper Shotgun

Interview - posted by Infinitron on Wed 7 August 2013, 18:57:07

Tags: Brian Fargo; inXile Entertainment; Kevin Saunders; Torment: Tides of Numenera

Rock Paper Shotgun's Nathan Grayson continues the chronicle of his visit to inXile with an interview about their other Kickstarter title, Torment: Tides of Numenera. Here are a few of the more interesting questions:

RPS: Especially on the reactivity front, how much are you taking from what the Wasteland team has already accomplished? They’re obviously making a very reactive game. What kind of lessons are you taking from that?

Saunders: We’re striving for the same over the top level of reactivity, like we are for Wasteland 2. There’s a couple of big differences. One is that we’re not planning to let you fight anyone, anywhere. There’s a level of open-world reactivity that Wasteland 2 specializes in, and Torment is not heading that route, so we can put more energy into the story reactivity. Through Wasteland, we’ve developed reactivity into all different types of things. We’re adopting a lot of that for Torment too. We’re assessing all of that to see what makes sense for this flavor of game.

RPS: On that train of thought, one of my favorite things about more old-school RPGs is that there are a lot of dialogue choices. Some of them aren’t even necessarily of any real consequence. But I think that just helps you role-play better. More modern games, like Mass Effect, it’s very to the point. That keeps the cinematic flow of it going, but it doesn’t give you as much leeway to inhabit your character. “I’m going to be this version of the character, or that one. I’m not going to be mine.”

Fargo: He sounds like me now [laughs].

Saunders: We definitely want to have a lot of variety there. We’ve talked about a few different kinds of reactivity. We want what we call cosmetic reactivity, where the next set of player options will be the same, but the NPC’s response to what you said will be different. There might be some other side effects to what you said. Then also logical reactivity, which is where the entire conversation branches off. Obviously logical reactivity is more expensive. The conversations become more complicated.

We’ve defined how we’ll have some of the abilities work in conversation. There will be a class of skills that are lore skills. They will unlock responses you wouldn’t have had otherwise. Often, when games have done this, they’ll advertise the skill that unlocks it. Lore or Linguistics, that’s one of the examples we’re using. It’ll show you the option. But we think that encourages people to not really read it. They see the special one and they pick the special one, because they think it’s better. We don’t want to show you which one to pick that easily.

We also want to have [instances where] what you learn might not be a good thing to say. We want to be able to have those choices be what’s appropriate for the conversation. If we’re advertising, “Hey, your skill gave you this option,” then we have some sort of obligation to make it be a good option. What we’re planning to do there is to show that information on the other side of it. You’ll see an extra choice, and if you’re reading it, you might be able to infer why you have that option. But after you’ve chosen it, you will then see for sure that you had it thanks to your skill.

RPS: That’s a good approach, I think. Modern dialogue systems have evolved to show you very deliberate cause and effect, and if not what the exact outcome of something will be, then the general one. Mass Effect highlighting the answers in red and blue, basically. And then also, a thing that faded out was skills having direct effects on your dialogue choices and what you can do with it. It transitioned into, “Okay, you have a persuade ability. That will add on to what you can say.” But beyond that, not really a lot. Whereas if you look at something like old-school Fallout, you have idiot dialogue options if your intelligence is really low. Are you trying to go back to that way of having your character interface with dialogue?

Saunders: Yes, definitely. I think the first part you mentioned is very mass-market friendly. That’s been great in bringing more people to RPGs, so there’s definite value to that approach. But that’s not what Torment is about. We are starting with the assumption that our players want to read and think – both about their choices and to see the appropriate reactions to them.

Fargo: We gave an example in the update yesterday. I don’t know if that’s relevant to what you guys are talking about.

Saunders: I’ve alluded to that. Another thing that we plan to have, which Planescape Torment also had, which is that some of your options would be prefaced with “Truth” or “Lie,” to show your intent. We don’t want to interpret the player’s intent, but this is a way for the player to tell the game what they intend to do. We can have reactivity based on that. With the tides, the five tides, which are our version of a morality system… Those we have focused on the effect of what you do, not your motivations. We can then more definitively say what the result is, as opposed to with a good/evil system, where to some extent you’re inferring what the player’s intent is.
Read the full interview for more information about inXile's plans for Torment and a strange digression about the decline of reading in modern society. Oh, RPS.

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