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Codex Interview RPG Codex Interview: Colin McComb on Writing for Torment: Tides of Numenera

Discussion in 'RPG Codex News & Content Comments' started by Crooked Bee, May 18, 2013.

  1. Crooked Bee wide-wandering bee Patron

    Crooked Bee
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    Codex 2013 Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire MCA Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Tags: Colin McComb; InXile Entertainment; Planescape: Torment; Torment: Tides of Numenera

    To this day, Black Isle's Planescape: Torment is widely regarded as video gaming's most finely crafted narrative. It goes without saying, then, that it won't be easy for InXile's spiritual successor to Torment, Torment: Tides of Numenera, to live up to its predecessor's reputation. On the other hand, Planescape: Torment's amazing story came packaged alongside a fair share of problems, such as weak combat and a number of poorly designed areas. In this interview, esteemed community member grotsnik talks to Torment 2's creative lead, Colin McComb, about the approach Colin takes in designing and writing for the game so it can live up to the hype, as well as in addressing the weaker parts of Torment: Tides of Numenera's illustrious predecessor. Have a snippet:

    It’s often argued that PS:T suffers from a drop in quality from Curst through to Carceri, when the player’s no longer free to explore the hubs of Sigil but instead has to work their way through a succession of smaller, wilder locations with a far higher number of hostile creatures. As a writer, how exactly do you go about trying to pace a game where the player can leap from world to world and spend longer inside one conversation tree than an entire dungeon?

    A large part of this is defining our base storyline and the behavior of our NPCs within those modules. Right now we’re establishing our constraints and briefs for area design, and we’re planning of the relative size, in terms of gameplay, for each section of the game. We’re also working on character and Mere placement and number and size of dialogues. At some point, even the most completionist of players are going to decide they’ve wrung every bit of reactivity out of an area and move on. But some choices are mutually exclusive, and we don’t see it as a possibility that you’ll be able to experience the entirety of the game in a single playthrough. In fact, I don’t think you’ll get it on two.

    Now, I should mention that we don’t see it as our job to make sure people move along at the pace we’ve dictated. We’re designing the story so that people can progress through the mainline at their own pace, while trying to keep the sense of urgency on the story.

    But the real answer to the question is that we’re designing the game so that you can go back to areas and explore at your own pace, though you’ll start to have difficulties if you stagnate too long in one place. I see that’s the next question, though, so I’ll save further discussion for that question.

    It's often held that the combat in PS:T left a great deal to be desired not only in its mechanics, but also in the sense of (to air videogame theory's most impressive-sounding new buzzphrase) ludonarrative dissonance; in that whether you were murdering your way through the Tenement of Thugs just to get to the alleyway on the other side or bashing entire swarms of mindless critters in the Weeping Catacombs or Curst Underground, fighting frequently came across as arbitrary obstacle-placing, rather than relevant to what the player character was trying to achieve in the game's narrative. Without delving into the undecided technical side of things, how would you want to go about ensuring that the combat never feels disjointed from the story?

    Combat should be a part of the story, whether to indulge or to avoid. It should always serve the purpose of moving your understanding of your character ahead, and that’s one of the ways we fell down on PST. Kevin, Adam, and I have talked about this fairly extensively, and we agree that our combats should serve a narrative purpose, and that avoiding those combats will help reveal more about your character as well—whether you talk your way out of fighting or flee from your foe, you’ll create a picture of who you are in this game.

    So trash mobs won’t be prevalent in Torment. No random gangsters deciding that you look like a prime target. No killing rats for XP. I’m not saying that we won’t have any mindless fights, just that trouble won’t always come looking for you to ruin your non-combat playthrough. In Numenera as well, you don’t get XP for killing monsters, so combat becomes optional – your XP comes from telling a story, from solving problems, from being clever players. We are enjoying exploring in that vein.​

    Read the full interview: RPG Codex Interview: Colin McComb on Writing for Torment: Tides of Numenera
     
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  2. Infinitron I post news Patron

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  3. Diablo169 Arcane

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    :excellent:
     
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  4. Roguey Arcane Sawyerite

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    Good luck figuring out that time pressure thing without pissing off a lot of people. Having to blindly choose which activities you think might be the most interesting or rewarding sounds pretty terrible.
    Time for pages of argument.
     
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  5. 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
    Eh? I'm hoping they piss a lot of people off. Posting a link to this interview in Kickstarter comments so everybody sees it. :troll:
     
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  6. Roguey Arcane Sawyerite

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    Pissing off your customers is actually a bad thing. :) But their funeral. +M
     
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  7. evdk comrade troglodyte :M Patron

    evdk
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    Codex 2012 Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 A Beautifully Desolate Campaign
    Pissing off morons that would only bring decline is only a good thing. The game should be strong enough to survive that anyway, otherwise why bother.
     
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  8. Niektory one of some Patron

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    :thumbsup:
     
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  9. Zed Codex Staff Patron

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    If you want to create a sense of urgency without actually imposing it, wouldn't it be best to just write "and time is running out!" as a narrative, but actually never do anything? Perhaps with Baldur's Gate-style dream sequences on resting.

    Thanks for the interview grotsnik. Thanks McComb for taking the time. Very good read.
     
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  10. 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
    They said they don't want to fake it.

    Personally I guess there won't be an actual timer, but rather certain actions performed by the player will advance time in a scripted fashion - like in the old Laura Bow adventure games, for those who've played them.
     
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  11. Gozma Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    The predatory playstyle that happened with a max craving run in MotB struck a good balance using a procedural core mechanic, because the more you explored the more people/stuff you would find to eat. There was always time tension, but it wasn't a choice between explore vs. not explore.
     
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  12. Crooked Bee wide-wandering bee Patron

    Crooked Bee
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    Codex 2013 Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire MCA Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Like in Colonel's Bequest? Now that would be :incline:

    Sadly, I don't think they have the guts for that. I challenge you, InXile
    :rpgcodex:
     
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  13. 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
    Heh, what's so gutsy about it? It's a lot more forgiving than a real time timer.

    Actually, you know what game sort of did that? Mass Effect 2, with its three missions until your crew turns to goop if you don't do the suicide mission and rescue them.
     
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  14. Crooked Bee wide-wandering bee Patron

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    Codex 2013 Codex 2014 PC RPG Website of the Year, 2015 Codex 2016 - The Age of Grimoire MCA Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Wasteland 2 Shadorwun: Hong Kong Divinity: Original Sin 2 BattleTech Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
    Well, you referenced the Laura Bow games. In Colonel's Bequest, It's actually done in a pretty hardcore way, with a lot of missable stuff, both crucial and flavor. I do think it would be pretty daring to introduce a scripted timer like in that game, so I don't think they'd do that (unfortunately).

    Mass Effect 2 sounds like a more realistic comparison, yeah.
     
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  15. Infinitron I post news Patron

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    Yeah, I doubt there'll be missable stuff in that sense, but on the other hand if you're forced to flee to the next area before doing all the sidequests in the current area (those that don't affect the timer) then you've "missed" those.

    Although maybe the game would allow you to return later on. We'll see!
     
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  16. Niektory one of some Patron

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    No, because it quickly falls apart and becomes silly if the player takes his time.
    "The church is burning! You must rescue Aeris before it's too late!"
    2 weeks later.
    "She'll die any minute now!"
     
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  17. FeelTheRads Arcane Patron

    FeelTheRads
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    Because Kickstarter games need to be identical to mainstream games and follow all the mainstream design decisions. This is what good game design is, did you know?
     
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  18. tuluse Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    Serpent in the Staglands Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    God no, that's always been shit. It's always obvious and patronizing and shit.

    I loved the time limit in Fallout, it felt god damn real for once. I'm tired of all the whiners "I couldn't travel back and forth between every single location 67 times before the vault ran out of water, I feel so restricted."
     
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  19. tuluse Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    Serpent in the Staglands Divinity: Original Sin Project: Eternity Torment: Tides of Numenera Shadorwun: Hong Kong
    Anyways as always I like what I hear about this game, and excellent questions grotsnik
     
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  20. AN4RCHID Arcane

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    Hmm... I had hoped they would avoid "game overs" completely. Part of the charm of Planescape: Torment was being able to play beyond any fail-state. At least I don't think there were any game-ending states, though I guess I could be misremembering. Just seems like kind of a waste to design a system that can handle player death, and then still force reloads.
     
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  21. 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

    [​IMG]
     
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  22. J_C One Bit Studio Patron Developer

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    It was annoying that every question started with "PST was shit in this regard...how will you do it in TToN2". grotsnik do you even like the game? Apart from that, good interview.
     
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  23. AN4RCHID Arcane

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    Ahh, right. :oops:

    well I would still prefer if there were no absolute fail-states.
     
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  24. Kirtai Augur

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    Yeah, there's quite a few game overs in PS:T. Try pissing off the Lady of Pain a second time for another one of them.
     
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  25. Mrowak Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    Well, but that's the stuff we are actually interested in - the rest we know from the marketing. To my mind it was a very polite but inquisitive interview. Superb job grotsnik!
     
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