Updated Our Journal (28): “What Have I Got In My Pocket?”
I hope 2014 has been good to you so far. We’re continuing to flesh out our area and systems designs, but lately we’ve had increased emphasis on developing Torment’s aesthetics and environments.
To that end, we have some news related to our environment art: late last March, we announced that we’d be collaborating with Obsidian Entertainment on technology. This primarily meant their conversation editing tools, which provide a very strong foundation for the dialogue reactivity we seek for Torment. We’ve been prototyping conversations with these tools since last summer and have been adapting the technology for Torment’s specific dialogue needs. Meanwhile, we’ve been evaluating other aspects of the Pillars of Eternity technology over the last months and have been impressed with the environments they’ve been able to create with it in Unity. We seek a similar high level of quality for our environments in Torment.
I’m happy to say that we’ve taken things a step further and recently reached an agreement to license Obsidian’s technology for Pillars of Eternity to use in Torment. (In case you haven’t seen it yet, a great Pillars of Eternity teaser came out last month – they are still accepting late pledges for any who missed their Kickstarter.) Torment’s code base will thus include the most relevant components of PE’s technology and Wasteland 2’s. We’re making enhancements to best suit Torment, and some systems will of course be completely new as Torment’s design is its own.
What are the practical implications of our licensing PE technology? It provides us with a stronger starting point for certain game systems and pipelines, including the creation of the 2D pre-rendered environments (we’re working on having something to show you in the coming weeks). This means we will have more resources to invest on other aspects of the game, allowing us to achieve a higher quality overall. (Recall that 100% (and more) of the crowdfunded monies are allocated to development of Torment. So anything that saves effort means that we have more to spend elsewhere on Torment.) This arrangement benefits both games and we continue to push Torment as far as we can in terms of quality.
Adam here to fill you all in on a couple other facets of Torment’s design.
In the Q&A forum, Alex asked an excellent question that we’re now at a design stage where we can answer (as always, keep in mind that all design decisions are subject to change and your own feedback until we ship the game).
When talking about inventory, it’s probably easier to start with a common foundation and tell you what we’re changing from there. So here’s an inventory you’re all familiar with:
Now even though that’s an inventory interface up there, note that we’re just talking about the elements of the inventory. The interface layout itself has yet to be designed.
So PST’s inventory had the following:
1. Equipped slots around the character (8-10 of them)
2. Quick slots for items you need right away
3. Ammunition slots
4. Weapon slots so you can switch between a few different weapons easily
5. A pack with slots for up to 20 different items
6. A weight limit (based on Strength) that determined how much you could carry
First, the Equipped Slots. Torment will have slots for the things you’d expect, plus a few more: Armor, Helmet, Gloves, Boots, Cloak, Rings, Belt, etc. PLUS Alteration Slots and up to three Untethered Slots. Alteration Slots are for things like tattoos, piercings, implants, etc. Like the tattoos in PST, party members will be able to purchase alterations, and the Last Castoff can even collect special ones that reflect your choices in the game. Whether some of these alterations are permanent is still TBD.
Untethered Slots are for equippable items that don’t need to be held or carried—for example, a stone that floats around the wearer’s head or a prehensile tail that grafts to her body. Most characters will have at least one Untethered Slot, but some (particularly those who train in the Concentration Skill) will be capable of handling two or even three such items.
Quick Slots are for cyphers and other items that you want easy access to. Outside of a Crisis, these slots are just for convenience, and you can swap things in and out of them without penalty. During a Crisis, you can use items in your Quick Slots quickly, but moving something from your pack into a Quick Slot will cost extra time. Additionally, some special items or abilities may give you another Quick Slot to use.
Weapon Slots in Torment will use the concept of weapon sets. You can designate up to four weapon sets and can switch between them easily. You can, of course, change what’s in each weapon set at any time, but doing so during a Crisis will take valuable time.
Our weapon sets are representative; you’re not physically moving weapons from your bag into your hand, rather you’re defining four different—possibly overlapping—configurations of your weapons. For example, let’s say that you’ve picked up an Energy Buckler that you want to use as your main shield. Normally, you’d equip the shield and melee weapon, but when a situation called for your Stingcharge (a one-handed ranged weapon), you’d either have to (a) switch to a weapon set without the shield, (b) use another (lesser) shield for the Stingcharge’s weapon set, or (c) waste Crisis time moving the Energy Buckler into the same set as the Stingcharge.
With representative Weapon Sets, you can define Weapon Set 1 to be your Disruption Blade and Energy Buckler, and you can still use the Energy Buckler in Weapon Set 2 (defined as Stingcharge plus Buckler). So you don’t lose time and you don’t have to carry around multiple shields.
Finally (and to answer Alex’s question at last), we come to the Pack. Will it have ample space or will it be limited?
Your pack will be limited by encumbrance only—not by the number of items. The pack will look a lot like PST: a large number of slots where item icons will be displayed. The major difference is that when those slots are filled up, you’ll automatically get another “page” of inventory slots. You can even manually add pages to your party members’ inventory and use those new pages as an organizational tool, if you like. But you’ll never be required to make pages—we want to make your inventory a useful tool, not a chore.
"But if quantity’s not a limitation," you say, "that means my glaive can carry, like, a hundred ultra-light synthsteel breastplates?! That’s ridiculous."
You’re absolutely right, but note that inventory’s limitation is not “weight” but “encumbrance,” which we’re using as a measure of unwieldiness. Encumbrance in Torment mostly means weight, but some items will have a higher or lower encumbrance measure because of their size (or, to be more precise, their density). For example, an ultra-light synthsteel breastplate might not weigh much, but it would have a significant encumbrance because it’s so unwieldy. Conversely, a bar of gold weighs quite a lot, but because it’s such a small object, its encumbrance would be less than a larger object of the same weight. In other words, encumbrance measures both the weight and the size (or unwieldiness) of items to determine the limit of what you can carry.
In theory, this means most characters still will not need more than one page of items, unless they’re carrying a lot of stuff. (That’s my segue into discussing loot.)
Inventory and Loot are interdependent, and one of our primary goals across both systems is to ensure that your decisions about what you will and will not carry are interesting ones. Specifically, the average player should be able to carry all the stuff she needs and still loot a single area without having to worry about her carry limit (though you might still run afoul of the cypher limit, which is a topic for another discussion).
The carry limit will matter when you need to decide what to sell and what to keep. It may also matter if you’re hoarding things, but in Torment, you won’t be carting 100 mundane short swords back and forth just to make a few extra shins (verisimilitude is important, but we’re not sure it’s that important). Loot should always be interesting and usable. There are a few kinds of loot you can find, in order from least to most special, they are:
1. Mundane Items: Anything Ninth Worlders can easily make or find (anything from swords and lockpicks to glowglobes, synth armor, and sprayflesh (the Ninth World equivalent of a healing potion)).
2. Oddities: Pieces of the numenera that are strange, but rarely useful: a silver ball that perpetually drips perfume, a synth mug that keeps whatever you put in it warm, or a button that, when pressed, sends you back exactly 1 second in the past.
3. Cyphers: One-shot, highly useful pieces of the numenera (you’ll find a lot of these).
4. Artifacts: Like cyphers, but they can be reused and can often be cobbled together with other things to make new devices. These also include the components and power sources used in the crafting system.
Loot drops—whether from a dead NPC, a locked chest, or something else entirely—will be pseudo-randomly generated (though not purely random, and major, unique items will almost always be intentionally placed). Each of the above loot types has a weighted chance of appearing in a given drop based on a few things: how far you are in the game; what type of loot drop it is (more on that in a second); whether the drop is Poor, Average, or Rich; and other customizations from the area designer. The result will be balanced loot drops that feel right for the area or NPCs that dropped them, while keeping new playthroughs interesting with new or different items each time.
There are also two different types of loot drops. Unlike most fantasy settings, Numenera’s magic items (oddities, cyphers, and artifacts) aren’t usually lying around in a treasure trove. They might be, but Numenera is about discovery, and often the player is actually scavenging and cobbling these things together himself. In Torment, we abstract that with two kinds of drops: Ninth World Loot Drops and Scavenged Loot Drops.
Ninth World Loot Drops are the stuff that’s just lying around for the player to pick up. It might be from an NPC’s pack, locked in a chest, or bought from a merchant. The key criteria here is that someone in the Ninth World must have left it there.
Scavenged Drops, on the other hand, are loot directly from the prior worlds, untouched by any Ninth Worlder. They might be parts you find in an old machine, or items scavenged from a pile of rubble that’s millennia old. You won’t find short swords and steel greaves in a scavenged drop. You’ll always find the good stuff.
But the good stuff isn’t just sitting there waiting for you to use it. An explorer wouldn’t find a gravity-nullifying suspensor belt just lying around in an old machine. Rather he’d grab an electromagnetic thingamabob that, when hooked to another doohicky, somehow nullifies gravity. Then he’d attach that to a piece of metal or leather—something that can serve as a belt—and voila: suspensor belt. The way we handle that in Tormentis to make scavenging a Difficult Task (specifically, an Intellect-based task for which certain Lore skills apply).
It’s not a very difficult task—basic scavenging tasks will succeed 75% of the time, and a character who’s trained in Lore, or who uses a little Effort, will succeed at basic scavenging tasks pretty much all the time. But there will be those rare, difficult scavenging tasks that require specialization, or a lot of Effort, and the player can decide (after seeing the item in the looting interface) whether it’s worth the risk or not.
The resulting whole will be choices that matter, as well as the sense of mystery and discovery that make Numenera special.
In the News
It’s been a fairly quiet time for us as we stay focused on preproduction and avoid the bright lights. In months past, Colin and I talked to Paste, which led to an article-style interview last month that covers a lot of the familiar basics for Torment’s design process and crowdfunded history.
There have been two recent spotlights on Mark Morgan’s career, one from PC Gamer, one from Game Informer. Neither focuses solely on his work for Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera, but they both give great insights into his career and methods.
Broken Age Launches
Two years ago, the potential for crowdfunding to support video game development reached new heights as Double Fine launched a Kickstarter campaign for the point-and-click adventure game now known as Broken Age. With over 95,000 backers (including some of you!), it raised more than $3.6M for development. Today’s an exciting day as Broken Age launches on Steam for Windows, Mac, and Linux. (Act 1 is available right nowfor $25, with Act 2 being free to Act 1 owners when it’s released later this year.)
Broken Age is Tim Schafer’s first adventure game since the acclaimed Grim Fandango came out 16 years ago. The game’s compelling cast of characters is voiced by veterans including Jennifer Hale, who was the voice of Fall-From-Grace in PST. Act 1 has been receiving strong reviews and point-and-click adventure fans should check it out.
Our thanks to Double Fine for leading the charge into this new world of crowdfunding that made Torment even possible. Congratulations on Broken Age!
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