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Interview Matt Chat 444: Kevin Saunders on Torment: Tides of Numenera

Discussion in 'RPG Codex News & Content Comments' started by Infinitron, Mar 16, 2020.

  1. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Grab the Codex by the pussy Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Pathfinder: Kingmaker
    Tags: inXile Entertainment; Kevin Saunders; Matt Barton; Torment: Tides of Numenera

    Matt Barton's interview with former Obsidian and inXile game director Kevin Saunders begins on a somber note. Kevin has been working at a robotics company called Embodied since 2018, but he's been on extended leave since last summer after being diagnosed with colon cancer. He's been undergoing chemotherapy and unfortunately it sounds like his odds aren't the greatest. Like Matt, we wish Kevin all the best and find it a bit awkward to continue with the interview after learning that, but continue we must. For this interview, Matt chose to start from the present day and work his way backwards, so the next topic of discussion is Adhara, the cancelled fantasy co-op RTS that Kevin worked on at Nexon back in 2016-2017. The game's setting was created by Neal Hallford and the twist would have been that it was secretly set in our universe 1000 years into the future. Some of the design documents can be seen in the video.

    However, the majority of the episode is focused on Torment: Tides of Numenera and the recurring question of how it went wrong. Kevin has a more wide-ranging take on this than George & Colin. Despite the fact that it was a record breaker on Kickstarter at the time, he says the game didn't really have a large enough budget. There wasn't enough time to iterate and it was also in preproduction for too long. Kevin agrees that the game had too many stretch goals and reveals that to a large extent he was simply copying what the Project Eternity Kickstarter had done half a year earlier, under the assumption that Obsidian knew what they were doing. This proved even more unsuitable for a game like Torment because of its greater visual diversity which made map creation more expensive. The game was also hurt by the postponement of Wasteland 2 past its (wildly unrealistic) original release date of late 2013.


    In summary, Kevin appears to feel regretful about the expectations and constraints that were placed on him by working with Kickstarter. He does think that the compromises he arrived at, such as turning the Meres into text-based CYOA sequences, were reasonable ones. Ultimately, he's found that game development and oncology have something in common. They're both far less of an exact science than people might think.
     
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  2. Ismaul Citizen First Class #3333 Patron

    Ismaul
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    Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech A Beautifully Desolate Campaign
    :deathclaw:
     
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  3. Jedi Master Radek Arcane

    Jedi Master Radek
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    :negative:

    This is how half of late capitalistic companies are run. And that's an optimistic variant.
     
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  4. rusty_shackleford Arcane

    rusty_shackleford
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    Did TToN actually end up being a financial failure though? I never paid attention.
    It has actually been sitting on a positive rating on Steam for a while now, probably has picked up a lot of late sales.
     
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  5. luj1 You're all shills

    luj1
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    I am always puzzled by people who care whether a game was a financial success or not. Except in rare cases there is no correlation between mainstream popularity and quality. Nor is there a reason you should give a fuck how many copies it sold or how popular it turned out. Both are null as arguments. The only success that matters is cult success.
     
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  6. Politician Lurker King

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    Unfortunately, cult success can be generated and reinforced by sales success -- see Undertale, D:OS, etc. There are no reliable criteria to identify a good game besides deep analysis. The result of your analysis will involve abstract and non-obvious shit.
     
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  7. Morality Games Arcane Patron

    Morality Games
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    PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Serpent in the Staglands Bubbles In Memoria A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    I'm interested because I'm interested in the economics of game development (and economics generally).

    Mainly its a separate issue from what games I enjoy recreationally, although I do care about the market strength of companies whose creative output I have an interest in playing so that indies/AA companies have the resources they need to keep making the products I enjoy purchasing.
     
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  8. Verylittlefishes Erudite Patron

    Verylittlefishes
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    Imo, Numenera was better than Pillars.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 16, 2020
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  9. Morality Games Arcane Patron

    Morality Games
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    PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Serpent in the Staglands Bubbles In Memoria A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    I'd have to agree with that. Numenera was an underwhelming game but it didn't nearly destroy my interest in what had been my favorite genre, isometric role-playing games.

    Aspects of it were definitely interesting. If they started from scratch using Disco Elysium as an example of the direction modern Torment-likes should be going, they might accomplish something.
     
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  10. Darkforge Scholar

    Darkforge
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    Sorry but this is pretty dumb. Financial success is the difference between a developer you like making any new games or just going bust...
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2020
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  11. Politician Lurker King

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    First of all, you are misquoting me. I didn't say this. luj1 did. Besides, I think he was right. His point was that we shouldn't look at financial success as a reliable criterion of quality. Whether your favorite developer will go bust or not is not something that should concern you because it is dictated by a million variables that are out of your control. So at the end of the day, worrying about this is nothing more than a poor excuse for shameful displays of fanboysm.
     
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  12. Roguey Arcane Sawyerite

    Roguey
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    Kevin worked under Feargus and he thought he knew what he was doing? Man is not a learning animal.

    The only problem with the meres is the ugly art.
     
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  13. Darkforge Scholar

    Darkforge
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    First Corrected, Accidentally removed the wrong person from the multi-quote. Sorry....
    Secondly I was just referring to the aspect of his post that suggested you shouldn't care how it does. If there is a game I like I always hope it sells at least well enough to keep the doors open and the idiots of the world will realize actual quality. Then we all get more content from said developer in the future.

    Of course popularity does not equal quality. It's so obvious I don't even feel this point is worth mentioning. MacDonalds is one of the most popular restaurants in the world, but the food is virtually plastic. Or <insert latest commercially popular Pop artist> vs any musician that's actually good yet not overtly successful, causes there are hundreds.
     
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  14. thesheeep Arcane

    thesheeep
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    I think it should concern you a lot if the game at hand happens to be the beginning of a series, or if it is a game showing lots of potential, but would need more development time (either in early access or not).

    Sure, if what you have is a completely finished game with no further development required and no cliffhanger endings, etc. you are right.
    But that's often not the case, especially nowadays.

    Just ask people who watched Firefly - they'll never get rid of that kind of disappointment that something they very much liked will never be continued/finished.
    Same with games.
    I sure as hell don't want to get invested in a game that has no chance of being finished/its series completed/etc.

    Also, there are not a million variables.
    There's financials and that's it. Everything else is marginal at best.
    A developer stopping development in 90+% of cases is due to a lack of income.
     
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  15. Van-d-all Arbiter

    Van-d-all
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    While I wouldn't go about a studio staying afloat given sales, as they can go either way despite that, financial viability of a product is a thing in a genre wide spectrum. A successful title will have it's features cloned, be it good or bad (shitty nuXcom TB...), while a major flop can postpone or even cancel entire other titles in remotely similar setting/genre. Even while nowadays a lot of good tiles come from dedicated indies, most people still need to take self sustainability into consideration during long time commitments like game development.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2020
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  16. Fenix Cipher Vatnik

    Fenix
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    Virtually? I heard Jamie Oliver won the case vs MacDuck, ammonium hydroxide. Which can cause cancer...
     
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  17. Politician Lurker King

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    Look. It’s a guilty pleasure. It’s just like armchair game development. It serves no purpose besides our pleasure of knowing more about cRPGs. To speculate about what made a cRPG successful or not is the natural extension of it, because it is aimed to express what made a cRPG connect with his target audience or not. That doesn’t mean it will help developers figure it out or have a clear view of what’s at stake, because that’s their job, not ours. If they don’t know how to do it, our forum speculations won't help, even if by some miracle they are accurate and informed.
     
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  18. Politician Lurker King

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    Nobody does. But playing armchair accountants won’t make any practical difference.

    It all depends. If by successful you mean ‘selling millions of copies’ then it will be copied by opportunistic studios — see InXile trying to jump in the D:OS bandwagon with co-op. However, there are still plenty of newcomers taking risks and doing their own thing. Not surprisingly, their games draw some attention. So this ‘hits dictate the genre’ line of reasoning must be taken with a grain of salt.

    It’s the other way around. Indie developers need to take self sustainability seriously because they are on their own. Studios like Obsidian and inXile on the other hand will gladly ignore these considerations because they were bought by Microsoft. Never mind Epic with its ‘you don’t need to sell anything to make ends meet’ policy.
     
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  19. TheSentinel Arcane

    TheSentinel
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    Fuck, hearing about his colon cancer is heartbreaking. Wish him the best, and can only hope he departs in peace.
    :negative:
     
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  20. MrBuzzKill Arbiter

    MrBuzzKill
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    Come on, man. Don't bury him yet...
    Show Spoiler
    Note to self: have to try again to get into shape and stay there. A lot of problems stem from extra weight.
     
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  21. Ismaul Citizen First Class #3333 Patron

    Ismaul
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    Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire Make the Codex Great Again! Grab the Codex by the pussy Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech A Beautifully Desolate Campaign
    I want to make a Colon McComb joke but it wouldn't be proper.
     
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  22. Zboj Lamignat Arcane

    Zboj Lamignat
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    That's cool, but in modern times there is pretty much no developer that can be trusted. They're all liable to make a game you like and then fart and laugh in your face when you expect them to follow up on it. If anything, financial success makes such turn of events more likely.

    Whenever you feel like philosophizing, just remember one thing: awor was right.
     
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  23. sorinmask Just like Yves, I chase tales. Patron

    sorinmask
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    I can't even begin to imagine what a hipster you are irl, if you're a hipster here.

    Betcha you like the music of bands no one heard of.
     
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  24. ksaun Arcane Developer

    ksaun
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    It's good advice (the spoiler part).
    FWIW, I gained > 30 lbs. over a few months of chemotherapy. Though, to be honest, I was overweight beforehand and your point remains valid. (I had also gained ~30 lbs. from 2012 through 2015; I credit sleep deprivation and lack of attention to basic health.)
    There's a history of colon cancer in my family, which is partly how I was diagnosed as early as I was. In an alternate universe, I'm probably still blissfully unaware that I have cancer and don't find out until it's inexorably terminal.
     
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  25. ksaun Arcane Developer

    ksaun
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    FWIW, I disagree with some nuances of Infinitron's characterization -- I hope through my actual words I sounded less like a hapless victim deflecting blame than the summary kind of makes it sound. Ultimately, the quality/success of TTON was my responsibility and the risks taken and the decisions I made (both good and bad) were generally very deliberate and thought through.
    Also, to briefly respond to Roguey's comment, I want to say that I learned much from Feargus (and also Brian). And I am saying that in the positive sense.
     
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