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Torment Interview at Urban Gaming Elite
Interview - posted by Infinitron on Sat 21 February 2015, 19:51:00Tags: Adam Heine; Colin McComb; George Ziets; inXile Entertainment; Jeremy Kopman; Torment: Tides of Numenera
Over at the unusually named Urban Gaming Elite, there's a fantastic new two-page interview with no less than four of the developers on Torment: Tides of Numenera - Colin McComb, Adam Heine, George Ziets and Jeremy Kopman. Unlike the recent interview at Eurogamer, this one has lots of new stuff. I can't possibly quote all of it, so here's an excerpt:
Adam Heine: The biggest challenge is that we don't have a GM. More than most RPGs, Numenera encourages players to come up with creative solutions and the GM to come up with creative responses to those solutions. TTON has to anticipate what players will want to try and handle it in interesting and satisfying ways.
It's a daunting task, but it is in many ways uniquely suited for a Torment game. When the player comes across a lock, it won't be just a lock you can pick, but maybe a riddle you must solve using clues gained through Lore: Civilizations, Visual Perception, or even items you've picked up in your travels.
Numenera's play style encourages us to create unique, scripted interactions like this, instead of dropping locks and traps everywhere that differ only in their difficulty level. It is most certainly a challenge, but it should make for a more interesting game across the board.
George Ziets: We’re planning to draw Numenera creatures from both the Corebook and the more recently published Bestiary. For example, we recently implemented a quest for the Bloom that revolves around a Decanted – a construct that keeps a withered biological head in a little tank on its chest. I can’t reveal the rest of the creatures right now, but in the Bloom zone, the current design includes: 1) one of the abhuman races, 2) a transdimensional hunter, and 3) a crystalline entity… as well as some non-adversarial creatures like the aneen. In the Oasis zone, we’re planning to build a similar set of creatures that fits the local flavor, including one iconic Numenera monster for the desert exterior.
According to your website, there are 8 writers working on Tides of Numenera. What made you decide to go with such a large team of writers?
Colin: In part it’s because I wanted the opportunity to work with each of them, in part it’s because I wanted to get a broad array of voices to contribute to the project, especially in the early stages when their literary contributions can make the most impact. Now that we’re in a more technical phase and working directly in our tools, we have fewer writers involved. At this stage, those who are need to be able to understand the intricacies of the dialogue tool and writing dialogue specifically for a computer role-playing game, and that’s a pretty steep training curve. It’s also because most of our writers have projects of their own, and can’t devote their attention to the game full time. In practice, the writers we have working most closely with the project are Nathan Long, Adam Heine, George Ziets, and me.
You've indicated that you're trying to emulate tabletop encounters. Can you tell us a little bit about what that means, and how you're doing that?
Jeremy Kopman: The lynchpin to a satisfying tabletop RPG encounter is the nearly endless variety of options available to the player in any given situation. When you're rolling real dice that flexibility comes from quick thinking on the part of the GM. Players can—are encouraged to! —use anything the GM has described to come up with a plan of action. Say you've encountered a hostile Murden (a crow-like abhuman) on a rope bridge. As a player in a tabletop game, you might decide to rush the creature with a melee attack, possibly knocking it off the bridge. You might try to pin it down with ranged fire. Or you might try to cut the bridge free of its stakes before the murden can cross. And depending on how much you know about the creature, you might try to talk to it or use telepathic powers to convince it to flee ("Hey, don’t murdens usually travel in groups? What are you doing out here alone?"). A good GM will take those player ideas and turn them into specific tasks to roll quickly enough to make the players believe she had it planned all along.
That openness of action—the possibility for the player to make use of anything in the scene as well as a broad array of their character's abilities—is the feeling we're trying to capture with our Crises. In our case, we really do need to predict and implement as many of the things a player could think up as we can. While the visual nature of a computer game, especially the camera and environment art, set a few more constraints than the infinite possibilities of your imagination, this is still a big job. As Adam alluded to earlier, we're integrating conversations with NPCs, interactions with objects, and a very diverse set of combat abilities into our encounters. You can exchange a few lines of persuasive dialog with a weak-willed NPC with your first party member, slice open an enemy with a sword attack with the next, and use a crane that blocks a group of incoming reinforcements with another (making use of their Lore: Machinery skill). Since there's no live GM, we're planning a continuous cycle of iteration and improvement for our Crises, layering in option after option. We're limiting the total number of Crises, so that we'll be able to make each one as rich, reactive, and interesting as possible.
In addition to a wealth of ways the player can interact with the Crises, NPC AI provides another weapon in our arsenal of fun. We're refining a behavior tree system that allows us to easily script complex NPC behaviors that react to specific player actions as well as work toward their own goals. For example, an NPC might want to keep a machine running at all costs, prioritizing manipulating a control panel over attacking you or ordering minions to handle combat while he works. But if you get too close, or start targeting the machine itself, he could fire off his own esoteries [NOTE: esoteries are Numenera's version of spells] or manipulate the machine to speed whatever process it is running. He might even yell out for mercy, starting a conversation with the nearest PC. The aim is to ensure that NPCs can do all (or at least most) of the kinds of things you can, employing character-appropriate tactics in working toward their goals.