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Game News Torment Kickstarter Update #27: Pre-Holidays Report from the Torment Triumvirate

Infinitron

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Codex Year of the Donut 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 Pathfinder: Wrath I'm very into cock and ball torture I helped put crap in Monomyth
Tags: Adam Heine; Colin McComb; InXile Entertainment; Kevin Saunders; Torment: Tides of Numenera

We have a new Torment: Tides of Numenera Kickstarter update today, a progress report on the state of the game from Kevin Saunders, Colin McComb and Adam Heine. As always, it's massive, and massively interesting. The most important takeaway from the update is that Torment's preproduction phase has been extended due to the ongoing development of Wasteland 2, something which the team considers beneficial. Kevin Saunders explains:

For a while now, some of you have been asking when we’d be transitioning from preproduction to production. With Wasteland 2’s recent early beta release, you may be aware that the inXile team will be spending more time on that game to get it done right—one of the fundamental benefits of Kickstarter is that we have the direction from our backers to emphasize quality over punctuality. This decision impacts Torment because most of the production team (e.g., programmers, artists, animators, etc.) will be moving onto Torment later than originally expected, which means we’ll be in preproduction for a longer period of time.

Believe it or not, this is the best situation from the perspective of Torment. When you’re in production with a large team, trying to incorporate any new idea can result in a lot of wasted work and confusion. (An “idea” in this sense could be many different things: an improvement to how conversation data is authored that enables a new type of dialogue reactivity, a new technique for handling shadow-casting lights in environments, a major change to an existing companion that improves the overall party dynamics, etc.) So when considering the new idea, you either accept this negative impact or discard the idea.

With a small preproduction team, the negative impacts have a smaller effect and the values of the ideas are more about the benefits they provide. Fewer people also means fewer miscommunications and greater flexibility both to experiment and to iterate. The closer you can get to your final design and technology before you are creating content at a rapid pace, the better the final result will be. So extra preproduction time is very beneficial, as long as you that time includes prototyping in-engine and iterating on the design instead of expanding the game’s scope.

We approached our preproduction aware that we might begin production later. On a traditionally funded project, you can ultimately be forced to make some decisions that you know are bad for the overall project to meet a specific schedule, but because we are free from external milestones, we can flexibly adapt, keeping our focus on the overall quality of the final game. It can be challenging to think that far ahead, but it’s even more challenging if you have rigid short-term goals binding you.

It’s true that if you just extend preproduction without any making any other changes to your plans, you’ll go over budget and over schedule. But the productivity improvements you gain through a longer preproduction period make up for the added cost of having a small team in preproduction for longer. (This is one reason, for example, that expansion packs are much cheaper to make than full titles – the development cycle for the original title is effectively part of the expansion’s preproduction.)

We’ll let you know if we ever determine that Torment’s release will be delayed beyond the first half of 2015. Thus far, our extended preproduction has been a very good thing and at this time I don’t anticipate it will push us out of that release date window.
Creative Lead Colin McComb has used the extra time to overhaul Torment's story:

As the Creative Lead on this project, it’s my job to make sure we don’t settle for “good enough” on the story. To that end, we took the original story, examined its component pieces, and reassembled it in a different (and better) configuration. We kept all the elements we described in the Kickstarter—all the characters, all the items, all the *everything* except the fine details of the narrative. This was a reorganization of our elements in a way that is more focused, clearer, and more entertaining.

Which is to say, our original story was good, but now (if I may be immodest for a moment) I think it’s pretty great. With the combined talents of Adam, Kevin, Chris Avellone, Tony Evans, Nathan Long, and George Ziets, it had better be.

Anyway, as I was saying, much of what we were doing was hammering down the last stray nails of the upgraded story and making sure that we are ready to bring our outside writing talent to bear on a number of different areas at once. We now have a unified set of documents that will bear the combined scrutiny of some excellent writers, effectively share our vision for the story, and help us gauge the player’s experience throughout. These are our Story Spines.

That sounds a little creepy and maybe a bit murder-y, so let me explain what I mean: a spine is a firm through-line of the story, the pieces on which the rest of the experience hangs. The first and most important is the PC’s Spine. This is the narrative of the game as experienced by the PC (and thus you, the player), from the very beginning of the game to the end, laid out from point to point. We took our design doc and stripped out all the extraneous details and the information that the player might never know—even if this was information that would inform the motivations of the other major characters in the game, if the player didn’t know it at the time, we moved it to where the player would learn it or removed it from the PC Spine altogether.

Doing this exposed some potential problems in the plot of the game, and it was invaluable to us in making sure we have written a whole and cohesive through-line for you to experience. We did the same thing for other major characters in the game: what’s their history? What do they know, and when do they know it? What are they trying to achieve at any given moment in the story?

We had these spines written and ready for the meetings we had in November, with significant input from George and Tony. Then we borrowed the talents of Chris Avellone and Nathan Long to tear them apart, and we rebuilt them again—faster, stronger, better. After making sure we had all these details fully ironed out, we had several more meetings, in which I gave a summary of the improved game to a variety of teams, starting with Brian Fargo and Matt Findley. After that first meeting, Brian said (and I paraphrase): “This is awesome. This is the story for this game. Go.”
Meanwhile, Adam Heine, who was recently promoted to the role of Lead Designer if you hadn't heard, has taken the opportunity to tell us a bit more about Torment's skill system:

As you may recall from our talk about dialogue, skills work differently in Numenera than in most RPGs. In Numenera, skills don't define what you can do, but they do make success more consistent in related tasks.

Instead of designing with skills in mind, we design the tasks first. Anything you want to try to do – lie to an Oorgolian soldier, activate a long-dormant intelligence, manipulate an unfamiliar beam weapon, or dodge the lethal bite of a steel spider – is considered a Difficult Task. Every Task is assigned a difficulty level, a stat the Task is based on (Might, Speed, or Intellect), and an optional skill (or skills) that can apply. (In the tabletop game, difficulties range from 1 to 10; unmodified difficulties from 4-6 are tough (> 50% chance of failure), and difficulties of 7 and up are impossible without the modifiers discussed below).

Skills have four levels (Inability, Untrained, Trained, and Specialization). Training in any applicable skills lowers the difficulty by a step and specialization lowers it another step. (And as you might imagine, inability increases the difficulty, though inability is something you have to specifically choose through perhaps your descriptor or focus, and some skills don’t go lower than untrained). You'll notice that tasks at the highest difficulty are impossible even with specialization. Either multiple skills would have to apply to such tasks, or there must be another way to lower the difficulty.

And there is. In Numenera, another way – at higher levels, the primary way – to reduce the difficulty of a task is Effort. You can apply Effort by using points from your related Stat Pool (Might, Speed, or Intellect), up to a maximum Effort level determined by your character’s Tier (or level). Each level of Effort you spend lowers the difficulty by one more step. (There’s another stat called Edge that reduces the cost of using Effort, making lower-level tasks easier or even free as your character advances, but that’s a topic for another time.)

What this means is that anyone can have a chance of success at most tasks, if they're willing to spend their resources on Effort. Characters with applicable skills do not have a monopoly on related tasks, but they do have two advantages: they conserve their Stat Pools (saving Effort for the tasks that really matter) and they have a greater chance of success at previously impossible tasks.​

All three members of the Triumvirate have much more to say than I could ever possibly quote here, so be sure to check out the full update.
 

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Adam Heine I find the use of dice rolls in non-combat skill checks to be generally obnoxious, but if you insist on using them, please consider doing it in this way.

Allow the player to spend Effort points to pass a skill check AFTER he fails it the first time without spending Effort. So, for example, if a player rolls 5 when he needed to reach 8, you tell him that he's now incurred a penalty of 3 Effort points, and that he needs to pay up or fail the check.

By doing this, you shift the semantics of the dice roll's randomness. Instead of "random chance of success, reload until you win", it becomes "random number of Effort points I needed to spend in order to win".

Under such a system, Effort would become something like "non-combat HP" - which is a concept that's highly appropriate for a Torment game.
 
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hiver

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Did you miss ... well, it seems you missed that you cannot apply effort and succeed if your skill is too low or task too difficult to start with. You cannot win with random chance of success - at all (in cases like that). And even if you succeed it only means you wont have effort to spend on the next one or the narrative will provide a consequence of its own. Examples are in the update.

Shifting semantics?

:lol: dear lord...

:picard facepalm:
 
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Roguey

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Shaping up to be quite the degenerate game. Turns out publishers were never the problem after all. +M
 

FUDU

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That kind of thing, only matters to simple minded fucktards, with no self control. Feeling guilty Roguey?
 

Jedi Exile

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Maybe they will disable quicksave/quickload. If you cannot die, why have it anyway? :troll: (I think you cannot die in Torment: Tides of Numenera, but I am not sure).
 

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You guys are pretty dumb for arguing about this with Roguey, but he still hasn't explained what the hell publishers have to do with it
 
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It was a huge problem in Fallout 2 when it came to stand-alone non-combat checks.

Hm. Good point. Better outlaw any form of saving altogether.

... Nintendo Famicom anyone?

You guys are pretty dumb for arguing about this with Roguey, but he still hasn't explained what the hell publishers have to do with it

The implication was that developers left to their own devices will make the design-compromising decisions necessary to reach for larger markets. On some level they have to, but on nowhere near the same level.
 

Roguey

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I'm saying "RPGs are bad because publishers force them to make bad games" is wrong, and "RPGs are bad because developers are bad at making them" is the real reason.
 

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I'm saying "RPGs are bad because publishers force them to make bad games" is wrong, and "RPGs are bad because developers are bad at making them" is the real reason.

Well, most of the people who typically say that "RPGs are bad because publishers force them to make bad games" don't particularly care about degenerate mechanics (and neither do the publishers, for that matter) so you're not actually proving anything.
 

hexer

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Mechanics that encourage reloading to get desired results without doing anything different.

Isn't saving - reloading exploit something you can do in any cRPG? The purpose of a save game is to help you, not to hinder you. I don't get the criticism.
 

almondblight

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Eschalon I believe got around this pretty easily by generating a seed whenever you entered any map and saving it. Not sure if they're considering this.
 

ZagorTeNej

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I'm saying "RPGs are bad because publishers force them to make bad games" is wrong, and "RPGs are bad because developers are bad at making them" is the real reason.

It's a mix of both but you letting publishers off the hook for this one is absolutely hilarious considering that if not for kickstarter your hero Josh would never have this opportunity to make a"perfect" RPG you keep yapping about all the time.
 

Roguey

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Isn't saving - reloading exploit something you can do in any cRPG? The purpose of a save game is to help you, not to hinder you. I don't get the criticism.
It's fine if you're reloading to do something different. It's not fine if you're reloading, doing nothing different, and succeeding when you would have otherwise failed.

Think thievery in Fallout. It was terrible because there was no feedback about how easy/hard it was to steal something and there was a chance of failure even if you maxed the skill out (and failure would lead to everyone in the area wanting to kill you). One of the easter egg NPCs in Fallout 2 even points out how reload-intensive it is. Making it a threshold with no randomization preserves the mechanic without any of the obnoxiousness.
 

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Isn't saving - reloading exploit something you can do in any cRPG? The purpose of a save game is to help you, not to hinder you. I don't get the criticism.
It's fine if you're reloading to do something different. It's not fine if you're reloading, doing nothing different, and succeeding when you would have otherwise failed.

Think thievery in Fallout. It was terrible because there was no feedback about how easy/hard it was to steal something and there was a chance of failure even if you maxed the skill out (and failure would lead to everyone in the area wanting to kill you). One of the easter egg NPCs in Fallout 2 even points out how reload-intensive it is. Making it a threshold with no randomization preserves the mechanic without any of the obnoxiousness.

I think you don't get how effort works. It doesn't encourage anything. It's just a tool that improves player agency and enhances flexibility in the p&p system. Applying effort essentially means spending a finite resource (stat points) to rise your chance of success in a test (up to 100%, if you want). It works both in combat (chance to hit) and outside of combat (any test of the game). Basically it's a trade-off. You spend "hit points" (stat points tracks your health in Numenera) for a better chance of success in whatever you want.
 
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Roguey

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I think you don't get how effort works. It doesn't encourage anything. It's just a tool that improves player agency and enhances flexibility in the p&p system. Applying effort essentially means spending a finite resource (stat points) to rise your chance of success in a test (up to 100%, if you want). It works both in combat (chance to hit) and outside of combat (any test of the game). Basically it's a trade-off. You spend "hit points" (stat points tracks your health in Numenera) for a better chance of success in whatever you want.
That's fine in P&P where there is no save/reload. However, in this game there is. Applying effort to meet a flat standalone check is fine. If there's a % chance of success/failure it's going to encourage degenerate play.
 

Dr Schultz

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I think you don't get how effort works. It doesn't encourage anything. It's just a tool that improves player agency and enhances flexibility in the p&p system. Applying effort essentially means spending a finite resource (stat points) to rise your chance of success in a test (up to 100%, if you want). It works both in combat (chance to hit) and outside of combat (any test of the game). Basically it's a trade-off. You spend "hit points" (stat points tracks your health in Numenera) for a better chance of success in whatever you want.
That's fine in P&P where there is no save/reload. However, in this game there is. Applying effort to meet a flat standalone check is fine. If there's a % chance of success/failure it's going to encourage degenerate play.

According to your post, everything that hasn't a 100% deterministic result encourages save scum, so is inherently bad.
I'm a chess player. I'm fine with deterministic games, but I also like games such X-Com and Jugged Alliance. Simply put, I wouldn't appreciate a 100% deterministic CRPG. Or you mean, deterministic just outside of combat?
In that case, I can't see why "chance to hit" is good and "chance to succeed in a test" is bad. In Numenera all the tests work in the same way, and players have agency on the outcome, both in combat and outside of combat.
 

Dr Schultz

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PS: to avoid the "degenerate" save scum, there's no need to change the ruleset. They simply can do what Firaxis did with the new XCom: generating all the dice rolls when a new map is loaded for the first time. This way, you can save/reload how many time you want, but the result of your tests will be always the same.
 

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Roguey has a good point, even if the wording is troll-bait. Any probability check is gonna cause save-scumming, and that's pretty poor design. I also think adding a mechanic to reduce this chance of failure by spending stat points is making it even worse.

I think chance of failure is okay (but not good) for combat. There's a chance you miss and that makes sense. Combat is long, a lot of things happen, you can easily make up for any mistakes. Chance usually go both ways here as well -- you can get lucky and land a crit, for instance. It can add excitement.

But dialogue?
PC: [Charm - 86%... FAIL] Hey baby, how 'bout GAH FUCK INTESTINES GRAPEJUICE SHIT
NPC: Why I never! [leaves party]
Player: duh, okay, I'll keep on playing.
... or what?

I prefer a system where stats determine options, and those options are pre-determined, even if the options are failures. I mean, I'll see from the text whether or not a lie sounds good or not. If it looks like shit I'll try another option. Or fight. Or whatever.
 
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