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Interview Matt Chat 445: Kevin Saunders on Torment: Tides of Numenera, Part Two

Discussion in 'RPG Codex News & Content Comments' started by Infinitron, Mar 23, 2020 at 12:20 AM.

  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 has uploaded the second episode of his interview with Kevin Saunders. It turns out they're not done talking about Torment: Tides of Numenera yet. Matt asks Kevin about the difference between working with publishers and working with Kickstarter, where players are in effect the publisher. As an example he brings up Torment's combat system backer poll, where turn-based won by a tiny margin. That leads to an extended discussion, taking up almost two thirds of the episode, in which Kevin lays out his thoughts about decision-making and dealing with player feedback in game development.

    In the final third of the episode, Matt circles back and asks Kevin about the decision to use Monte Cook's Numenera setting for Torment. Kevin reveals that he actually preferred Numenera over Planescape, because it spared his team from having to create an inevitably disappointing sequel or callback to Planescape: Torment, because he thought Numenera's systems were more suitable for computer adaptation than Dungeons & Dragons (not sure I agree there), but mostly because it gave the team a direct line to the setting's creator. Monte was apparently easy to work with and rarely demanded that content be changed, although Kevin does appear to obliquely confirm certain stories we've heard about his dissatisfaction with the game's portraits.


    That being said, Kevin doesn't know what Monte thought about the final game. Nor can he answer that question himself, because it turns out he was so bummed out about being fired that he was never able to bring himself to play it. He knows little about what happened to the game after his departure, but he has full confidence in the team that he left behind.
     
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  2. Roguey Arcane Sawyerite

    Roguey
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    So much for amicable parting. :M
     
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  3. sorinmask Just like Yves, I chase tales. Patron

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    Kevin, if you're reading this, I'm not exactly sure how the game looked when you left, and what you had going, but the game ended up being shit. There were very few nice things going for it, if you're really interested we can enumerate them (they're not many), but the end product was a disaster.

    I'm sorry to say this too, since it sounded like you really cared about what you were doing, but after you left nothing got done.

    We're also strongly speculating *someone* moved funds from it to Wasteland 3, so... it ended up being a train wreck.



    Later Edit: I also have a question for you too. Are you by any chance in the know on who is responsible with the character vision aspect during game production?

    Because the characters had air vision. Meaning walls and obstacles were not impairing character vision. It was VERY frustrating compared to the game it took inspiration from, where vision aspect was a LOT better.



    And that's just ONE of the thousands of questions I would have about this game.
     
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  4. TheImplodingVoice Dumbfuck! Dumbfuck

    TheImplodingVoice
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    That's putting it lightly
     
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  5. Tim the Bore Educated

    Tim the Bore
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    The game is far from perfect... or even from being good, sure, but calling it "a disaster" is a huge exaggeration IMO. It's just kinda mediocre, with some nice ideas randomly put here and there.
     
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  6. Jedi Master Radek Arcane

    Jedi Master Radek
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    Kevin I want to say that I strongly dislike your pro normie bias in the interview. People who answered your MMO exit poll in positive manner would answer most questions in positive manner. Normies tends to agree to most things, do not care about issues, and care more about not hurting your feelings than providing valuable feedback, which they aren't able to do even if they tried because it demands knowledge and intelligence, something they lack. If we listened to normies we would still live in caves.
     
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  7. MrBuzzKill Arbiter

    MrBuzzKill
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    If anything this game taught me that
    1. Big names attached to a video game don't necessarily translate into it being good
    2. You should never expect much (i.e. a true spiritual successor to a beloved game series) from a company that haven't yet proved themselves by releasing a good/great product.
     
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  8. 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
    Yeah, I have to say this episode made me feel more justified about placing the blame for Torment's failure on Kevin's shoulders (as opposed to automatically blaming Brian Fargo like many Codexers did).

    He's very honest here about the great trust he had in his own designers, and in Monte Cook & Numenera. It's all good to have that sort of enlightened management philosophy, but what to do when your people just aren't good enough?

    He says he's against design by committee, but he was also not able to go all the way to the other side and become a dictatorial auteur. For example, what kind of game would Torment have been if it was "Kevin & George the Obsidian veterans decide everything and Colin McComb is just a text monkey"?
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2020 at 4:29 PM
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  9. sorinmask Just like Yves, I chase tales. Patron

    sorinmask
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    Not even 30s into the game, 1 of the characters uses the word "antedilluvian". I'm not sure what your thought process is, but when you have a setting billions of years into the future, and a character uses a biblical term, that automatically feels like someone is either looking down on you, or doesn't know what they're doing.

    And you can keep going with your mediocre claims, and I can refute them. One by one.

    The game is shit. And Colin is a pandering fool.

    I agree, that part sounded a bit fishy.
     
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  10. SausageInYourFace Codexian Sausage Patron

    SausageInYourFace
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    What do you mean?
     
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  11. sorinmask Just like Yves, I chase tales. Patron

    sorinmask
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    Sounds like Kevin admires a certain way of running things, but when it came to practice it in his own projects, he wasn't as rigurous.

    Speculation, of course.
     
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  12. 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
    I think you misunderstood him. By "design by committee", what he meant was a system where everybody would sit down and decide everything as a group. What he prefers is delegation, where each designer receives autonomy over his domain that is rarely overruled (though it can be). You can think of that as a sort of midpoint between design-by-commitee and a true top-down auteurial dictatorship. I guess it's confusing because he also used the term "dictatorship" to describe his system, while it's actually kind of like many dictatorships.
     
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  13. sorinmask Just like Yves, I chase tales. Patron

    sorinmask
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    You may be right, of course.

    As far as I am concerned I think the best projects are the ones that immitate film: the director has a vision - everyone else works to put that vision into existance. Simple.

    Since this game didn't turn out so well, I am willing to assume no singular vision or rigurous system was respected, regardless of the specifics of the system.
     
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  14. ksaun Arcane Developer

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    I was the project director and any blame is ultimately mine.

    ***

    For any mistakes made by anyone involved anywhere in the process, it is the leader's responsibility to correct, mitigate, adjust, etc. to maximize the outcome. In my opinion, this is a critical part of the definition of a leadership role (or most such roles).

    There are always constraints, risks, unknowns, etc. and these can come in many forms. It is the leader's responsibility to successfully navigate all such challenges, on behalf of their players, their team, their company.

    (In my opinion, this philosophy/perspective even applies to events after departing. If a leader is removed, that means they failed to properly assess/mitigate the risk of their removal. They should have made some different decisions to secure their position lest, through their removal, they lose all ability to affect the outcome. Being stripped of influence does not erase the original responsibilities -- a key responsibility is to ensure this doesn't happen (assuming that their continued leadership is in the best interest of the effort, of course).)

    ***

    To whatever extent one feels Torment was a failure, I am the correct person to blame. I am the one to hold responsible.

    Yes, I did care greatly about what I was doing.

    Your clarification is accurate, thanks, Infinitron. Yes... I lack certain characteristics that I believe are critical to be a auteurial dictator. Both confidence and courage are very finite resources for me. In my opinion, a dictator must either employ sycophants or have near limitless self-confidence and courage. (To be less... glib (?): You are welcome to interpret this to mean that I am too weak and too cowardly; I will not dispute that interpretation.)

    My approach to team leadership is a combination of a) my belief that it really is a good approach (in certain circumstances) and b) my attempts to mitigate my own character peculiarities/flaws.

    I could only be a auteur dictator if I felt I had complete and unwavering support. This is not a realistic expectation, in my opinion. So I attempt to provide such support to my leads/team whenever possible. So that they can achieve what I cannot. (This doesn't mean that I don't provide direction, guidance, etc., but it does influence the ways in which I do so, how hard I push when I disagree, etc. Context and details matter.)

    (I intended to also cover this angle in the interview, but I already felt I was being overly verbose and talking too much about myself. (So I'll subject readers here instead, apparently.))

    Shattered Galaxy was probably the closest I got to acting like an auteur. I suspect I had more confidence and courage then, partly from greater ignorance.
     
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  15. ksaun Arcane Developer

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    I must be out of touch as the term "normie" is unfamiliar to me. But, via context, I think I know what you mean.

    You may be correct. I honestly don't know. I will say that, back then at least, I was ignorant of the possibility you present here, at least in the context of our simplistic exit poll. And that it might be good that I was, in this instance, as we did see a surge in players after committing to the change.

    I think that, back in 2001, our in-game forums were not necessarily populated by the hardcore players. As the forums were, in part, a way to pass the time (while waiting for strategic orders to fully execute), they were populated by people who wanted to talk, which might include normies.

    Though, really, I think that part of SG's lack of commercial success (i.e., sales) was that it failed to reach into the normies. It was too limited to the hardcore audience from the start. (Not that all hardcore players liked it, but that few who liked it were not hardcore players. This was pre-WOW. Everquest was the "mainstream" MMO of the time and it had maybe 100-200K players around then? I don't recall exactly, but I don't think MMOs had much reach toward "casual" players yet.)
     
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  16. J_C One Bit Studio Patron Developer

    J_C
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    I just want to say that don't listen to everyone on the Codex. Despite its faults, Torment was one of the best RPG of that year, you and your team did a lot of things right.
     
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  17. SausageInYourFace Codexian Sausage Patron

    SausageInYourFace
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    Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech Bubbles In Memoria A Beautifully Desolate Campaign Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Yeah, it wasn't the greatest thing ever but I had some fun and interesting experiences with Numanuma. However, I'll also have to admit that I burned out on reading wall of texts and dropped the game roughly around getting to the last location. I'll eventually finished it tho, its not the first game I dropped and then finished years later, happens all the time.
     
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  18. thesheeep Arcane

    thesheeep
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    The game's biggest problems were without a doubt the lack of time.
    Especially the writing seems to have gotten the short end of the stick - I think one of the previous MattChats made it clear that some writing was still the "first pass"/"first draft" and it really showed.

    Sure, other parts also weren't perfect (or even good..), but I would have stuck with the game's "meh" combat and the bad performance if the writing would've been much better.

    If something good came from all this, it is that it really taught some devs and gamers to be very, very, very careful about stretch goals.
    I'd say most larger KS/etc. campaigns have been more realistic since then.
     
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  19. Nihiliste Arcane Patron

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    It would have still been bad with Colin being the main writer in a writing focused game
     
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  20. luj1 You're all shills

    luj1
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    Is that why core systems were trash? Come on now. Between Effort and using companions, it's nigh impossible to fail skill checks which absolutely butchers character development and sense of accomplishment. Such things are the pink elephant in the room, not purple prose.

    Time constraints are everyone's favorite excuse, but let's be real; the vision was bad, and I don't mean the art direction (which was superb), but the mechanical side of it. Game was created to be overly accessible and please everybody, which was ultimately its downfall.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2020 at 3:41 PM
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  21. sorinmask Just like Yves, I chase tales. Patron

    sorinmask
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    The historical revisionism coming out in this thread is hilarious. You boys are fucked up.
     
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  22. thesheeep Arcane

    thesheeep
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    There are games that I play for challenge, I'd say most games even.
    Torment wasn't one of them, and neither was Planescape. Could've played those games on the famous "story mode" for all I care and it wouldn't have influenced my opinion a lot - though I guess your point is that it was on "story mode" by default :lol:

    Of course I would've preferred if the game was more challenging (partly what I meant with the "meh" combat), but it's just not what I care about in writing focused games.
    Just like it's almost impossible to fail in Disco Elysium - and yet I enjoyed the game immensely.
    DE is a writing-focused game with great writing.
    T:ToN is a writing-focused game with... ehhh... :/

    The way I see it, every game has a core identity.
    As long as the game gets that identity right, I'm willing to ignore a lot of other shortcomings.
     
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  23. Nihiliste Arcane Patron

    Nihiliste
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    I cringed reading this self defeatist blackpilling. If you were a random codexer and not an industry veteran, I would tell you to stop apologizing for your existence and snap out of it.

    Game development aside, I hope you overcome your self limiting beliefs.
     
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