Updated our Journal (19): Building Foundations
TL;DR: Less than $94K from the $4.5M Stretch Goal (and Stronghold), what we’re up to (design and planning), Shanna Germain talks about Torment’s setting (video), some Q&A with Adam Heine.
Hi Forgotten Ones,
Hope you’ve been well!
Stretch Goal and Stronghold
After the Kickstarter ended, we extended the time table for the $4.5M Stretch Goal, which includes the “stronghold” feature, to the end of April. Through last Sunday, April 21st, the PayPal amount was about $217K, bringing our combined total for Stretch Goal purposes to $4,406,094. One week left! Note that if you pledged through Kickstarter, you can still use PayPal to move to a higher Tier or to add add-ons at this time (see “Upgrade Your Donation” and “Add-ons” sections toward the bottom of that page).
We thought it would be helpful to clarify a bit what we mean by a stronghold for Torment. It would be a location in the game that is “owned” by the PC, but won’t be a cozy home – it would be designed to fit the atmosphere of Torment and the setting of the Ninth World of Numenera (examples include an airship or a dimensional pocket). It would be a playable area and would include its own sorts of quests and challenges. We don’t intend for the stronghold to be a management mini-game, but it may serve gameplay functions as a storehouse, travel hub, and/or “museum” for accomplishments.
While a permanent home can be very relevant to one’s life, many do not leave such a legacy. Thus not only would the stronghold likely be optional, but its exact form within the game might change based on your decisions. It might not be a physical location at all (or even a static one – it may travel with you) and it would be well integrated into the storyline. Colin’s been resurrecting and evolving ideas from when we first considered the feature before culling it, and we hope to be able to run with them.
What Are We Up To?
So what are we doing on Torment right now? Our emphasis for the next while is on planning the project and building a strong foundation for the writers before they begin their work. I’ll talk more about the project planning in a future update - for now, I’ll explain what types of design work we’re focused on.
Colin, with support from Adam and me, is focused on better defining the story and its scope. As we talked about a few times during the campaign, we designed the story (and other aspects of the game) to be highly modular so that we could adapt it to best fit the funding we received. Now that we know our budget for development, we can solidify the scope of the game. We reached the Longer Story Stretch Goal and Colin is looking into how to best incorporate some of the story ideas that we had pruned prior to the Kickstarter. In parallel, we (with Adam leading the charge) are drilling down into the details of how we’ll implement all of the Tidal and other reactivity. We have talked about this reactivity at a high level, but we need to establish more concretely how we will be executing it.
A strong foundation for the writers means more than just the story though. We are also developing templates and examples for area and companion design, as well as conventions and constraints for dialogue. Once we have those, we can implement some preliminary dialogues to test out conversation creation and get a better sense of how the conversations will play.
These early prototypes will be made easier from our work on Wasteland 2, along with some preliminary collaboration with Obsidian and their work on Project Eternity. These prototypes will be critical in efficiently focusing the creativity of our writers. As you recall, we have quite the writing team assembled! Some of our writers are very talented creatively, but haven’t had as much video game development experience. Having clear, well thought-out guidelines will help ensure the work of our decentralized writing team is consistent and perfect for Torment.
This design and planning with a very small team will be continuing over the next few months (along with some technical aspects that we’ll talk more about in a later update). This means that another thing we’re doing is conserving funds while we build this foundation - Torment has the benefit of a longer pre-production period (than Wasteland 2) and we want to make the most of it.
Meanwhile, the From the Depths novella writers are beginning work on their stories. Digital or printed copies of these (including also the novellas by Colin and Monte) are rewards for many of you, but they also serve a design purpose. Writing the novellas at this stage will allow the writers to immerse themselves in the Ninth World, and flesh out the nature of each of the five Tides. These novellas will essentially provide the full definition for each Tide, with the protagonist in each being the embodiment of what that Tide means. So the writers will be delving into the true meanings of the Tides and the novellas will help the entire team better understand what each truly encompasses.
Shanna on the Ninth World
Shanna Germain, the lead editor for Numenera and also part of Torment’s writing talent, talks about the Ninth World and our place within it. Most of Torment will take place in the furthest reaches of the known land: Beyond the Beyond. This video also includes a sneak peek of the map of the Ninth World!
We released a video Q&A from Adam last Friday about level and skill progression. He was getting over a nasty flu when he recorded this, but don’t worry. He’s back to his old self now.
And here is a text answer to another popular question from the Q&A UserVoice:
[Asked by Alexman17c] Since a deeper game seems to be preferred over a longer game, how will you implement this design focus? Will it be mostly through bigger and more interconnected dialogue/decision trees, or will it also be through adding more locations within areas (i.e. shops, houses, alleys, etc.) and more NPCs?
We’ll be adding depth in many different ways, but primarily depth is focused on choice and consequences. That is, a given scenario might have 3 or 4 different solutions, and each of those solutions will close certain paths and open others. This will apply in small ways — within dialogue trees, for example, as you follow one line of dialogue, it will close off others — and occasionally in larger ways as your choices shape the world around you. Entire areas might be altered or closed off, and new ones opened that would’ve been unavailable had you made a different choice.
Depth also means going deeper with the companions. For example, additional choices you can make with their characters and your relationship with them, or deeper interactions between the companions themselves, so different combinations of companions in your party will lead to different results.
Ultimately, depth is about making each playthrough unique, since you won’t be able to explore every path to its fullest extent. It’s about emphasizing the fact that your choices matter.
In case you were curious, like in Wasteland 2, we’ve intended to allow you to save your game anywhere, except when within a conversation (and possibly during combat). So you will be able to reload after a conversation and try something different. However, in many cases, the full consequences of your actions won’t be clear until long after you made that decision. We’re taking this approach to increase the impact of the reactivity in Torment. You might suspect that long-reaching effects of your actions could make the game challenging to design. That’s true, and we’ll be carefully designing how exactly we achieve these effects. This approach has the side effect of encouraging replaying the game and reducing the urge to “save scum,” but those aren’t our primary motivations.
You may already be familiar with MrBtongue (on YouTube), but in case you aren’t, he posted a video about Choice and Consequence last week that we identify with – in Torment, we are intending what he calls “Type One.” (We also enjoyed his Planescape: Torment commentary. We agree with what he says and what he hopes for from us with Torment: Tides of Numenera.)
In our last update, we discussed administrative matters, such as managing your pledge, Amazon payments, and forums/UserVoice, so please look there for that information, or contact us through our Support form if you have specific questions. (Our Support form is better for handling the large volume of messages than the built-in Kickstarter system, so please use it instead.)
We haven’t imported the data from Kickstarter yet and will send out a message when it’s all ready for you to modify your data. (We expect this to still be at least a month away.) But we will be able to combine PayPal upgrades and add-ons with Kickstarter pledges, so adding add-ons now won’t cause problems.
Some expressed concerns about having to register with inXile’s system to manage their pledge. We require this based upon our experience with Wasteland 2 – we developed our system after Wasteland 2’s campaign because Kickstarter does not provide the features and functionality we need to ensure that we can get everyone their rewards. (The quantity of both backers and rewards that we have had for both Wasteland and Torment brought logistic challenges that required a different solution.) The truth is, as much as we wish a separate system wasn’t required, we simply don’t have the manpower required to data check 77,000+ entries across both Kickstarter and Paypal (and in some cases, a mixture of the two). So please register so that we can ensure you will receive your rewards. (And thanks to the more than 10,000 who registered after the last update!) We appreciate your understanding and are sorry for the extra step and inconvenience.
For those of you who are interested in MMORPGs (or just the crowdfunding phenomenon), you might check out Camelot Unchained, which focuses on realm versus realm gameplay. They have some interesting new design ideas that innovate on MMOs and will provide a unique experience. City State Entertainment’s founder, Mark Jacobs, is contributing $2M of his own money to the project and they are supporting the Kicking it Forward initiative, pledging to donate 5% of their finished product’s profits to other Kickstarters. (Camelot Unchained will be a subscription game, not free-to-play.) Their Kickstarter is doing well at over 2/3 funded, but still needs a strong finish to reach their funding goal over the next week.
Another Kickstarter you might be interested in is Larian Studios’ Divinity: Original Sin. It’s an RPG with turn-based combat that supports both cooperative and competitive multiplayer (as well as solo gameplay). The game is well on its way to completion and is targeting a release date later this year, so you can already see some gameplay footage of it. They’ve funded already, but have almost 3 days left to reach additional stretch goals.
Our next update (in a few weeks) will include how we did toward the $4.5M Stretch Goal, but if you want the final verdict on May 1st, please check out tumblr as we’ll post there as soon as we know.
Thanks! Until next time,