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Updated Our Journal #63: A Look Back on Development

kickstarter2017-01-31 17:32:05

tl;dr: Colin talks about Torment's development and the future; Monte Cook's novella now available; new Torment media

Hello Exiles,

Colin here. It's crazy to think that it's just about a month from Torment's release date. To start, we wanted to give you a taste of some of the game's quests in this interactive trailer. Hosted by, well, me, there's some early game side-quest spoilers, but it'll give you a taste of what the game has to offer if you haven't already jumped into the early access version.

 You'll want to watch this on a desktop and have annotations turned on for the most interactivity!

A Look Back on Development

As our release date nears, we decided to look back on the game's development, to talk about where we are, how far we've come, and how we move forward from here.

When we set out to make Torment: Tides of Numenera, our vision was to make a thematic successor to Planescape: Torment. We’d explore a new setting, and use a new core question to explore a similar vein of philosophical thought. I am proud to say that the response from you, our backers, has been incredibly positive. I’ve told this story before, but it bears repeating: when Brian asked me to be the creative lead for Torment, I had to take some time to think about it, and I almost turned down the opportunity. I knew what Planescape: Torment meant to people, after all. For people to say that we have succeeded in creating a tonal and thematic successor is… well, it’s overwhelming, and I – WE – are grateful for the opportunity.

As with any creative work, game development is an iterative and uncertain process. When we over-funded at a higher level than we could ever have expected, that led to an increase in scope and size of the game accordingly. We went from one major city hub to two. We added new companions, more locations such as the Ascension, the Castoff's Labyrinth, new cults like the Dendra O'hur, and more. We added Meres to the game, whole text-based mini-stories that themselves have their own reactivity and many branching paths, and even more surprises to find. We have an expanded soundtrack that's longer than Planescape: Torment's by a decent margin, and a universe rich enough to fill multiple novellas.

During the Kickstarter, we had to move fast. We had to make decisions and add content on the fly. The problem is, as with any plan, some of those decisions looked great on paper but didn’t survive contact with reality. Building a game is not a straight line from start to finish. It’s not as simple as creating a design document, implementing it, and shipping it. It’s an endlessly iterative process, one where ideas must be thought up, discussed, prototyped, iterated on again, and tested in game. The cycle repeats frequently. Sometimes, these ideas don’t work out the way you intended or just don’t feel like they fit properly in the theme of the game. A lesson we've taken away since the Kickstarter campaign is to avoid being too specific in detailing early designs, locations, and characters – it's fun and exciting at the time for us and you, but...

Well, what can change the nature of a game? This is one (non-canonical) answer: Creating it. For instance, the story we launched with, while still being true to the vision of the game, has undergone at least seven major revisions.

Some of our players and community members recently pointed out that they noticed that some features had changed from what we initially detailed. The one that has come up the most is the companion roster. The early access version doesn't feature the companion list we initially had our sights on. This is true: for the release version, there will be six. While we laid the groundwork for more, while building the game we realized that we had to make a tradeoff between companions with depth, or a larger amount. We chose to focus on the added richness and personality that you expect with a smaller group. The game’s scope increased considerably over what we originally set out to build, and we underestimated the amount of time and iteration it would take to make our companions as reactive and branching as they needed to be.

We didn't want these characters to end up with storylines that felt incomplete. We didn’t want to force them into the late game. Focusing on a smaller number gave us the opportunity to add more banter, more voice-over, and deeper storylines and outcomes for them.

Crafting is another stretch goal feature that we did some initial design on, but that work did not mesh well with the rest of the game's systems. Rather than adding an element that felt tacked-on (and worse, out of place for Torment), we repurposed those resources. We added more cyphers and artifacts to the game. We also added some other, more story-based elements to further flesh out equipment and items. That helped the items fit with the structure and style of the emerging game.

Some of you have been asking about the Oasis, an area we talked about during the campaign as our second major city. Though we fully intended that the Oasis would be our second city, story changes, plus our growing fascination with the Bloom, turned that location into our second major hub instead. In fact, the Bloom and surrounding areas are much larger than we originally discussed building for the Oasis. This didn't adversely affect the length of the game – we’re still delivering a second major hub, and the Oasis will still appear in a smaller form. We feel this was the right move for the game creatively. It meant we could focus on a setting that felt darker and more distinctly Torment, and it improved the pacing immeasurably.

Changes like these happen in the development of any game. Speaking for inXile, I can tell you that we always undertake them to deliver you a better experience. To do anything else would be doing you a disservice.

But our focus on the game led to a different disservice. Namely, our lack of communication. We have always been major proponents of openness during development, but we did not communicate these changes earlier, and we should have done so sooner. For this, you have the entire team’s sincerest apologies. Going forward both with Torment and our future games, we hope to increase our efforts in making sure that you know the status and future plans for inXile’s projects.

So, you might be asking, what’s up after Torment releases next month? Fortunately, we're in the era of internet connections and ongoing post-release support. We still have plenty of ideas for Torment! We'll be thinking about ways we can restore some of the remaining ideas that work in the game. Of course, as our backers who helped make the game happen, any of these updates – such as DLCs and expansions – will be yours free of charge. This goes for both Kickstarter backers and those who backed through our website.

Italian Localization

One other topic: the Italian localization. When we set out to create Torment, our planned size was significantly smaller. Torment in its final form grew to a much bigger, deeper RPG, and has over 1.2 million words. When we chose our planned localizations for the game, that word count and expanded scope for the game didn't exist yet. Unfortunately, it turns out that localization a game script of such a magnitude to a good standard of quality is extremely costly.

With Wasteland 2, we could turn to many of our backers, who volunteered their time and talent to help build the game's localization. With Torment, we wanted to pursue professional localization efforts. Unfortunately, during this process, we made the difficult decision to drop support for Italian - both our backer numbers and the sales of our prior RPGs in Italy meant it was unlikely we'd be able to field the very high costs.

We’re looking into ways to bring you Italian in a post-release capacity, such as community translations. The producers will keep you informed on that if we have any news on that. Regardless, we understand that some of our Italian fans backed the game hoping to play that version. If you are an Italian backer and unable to play the game in English, and you would like a pledge refund, please contact us at our customer support page.

Monte Cook's Novella

As we mentioned above, we have seven novellas being created for Torment, many of them stretch goals. With the game so close to release, it's only fitting that Monte Cook's novella is now ready for you to enjoy. Titled Palimpsest, this one does not fall in the initial "From the Depths" series, but still ties into the game lore and themes. Here's the summary from Monte himself:

Varden works with the numenera, the strange relics left over from the world's prior civilizations. Always seeking new finds, Varden has recently found something quite extraordinary that he calls the Arthenac. This discovery is the source of incredible energies, enough to power a whole city. Even though he can't stay at the discovery site, he knows that he can't just leave the Arthenac unprotected. So he quickly assembles an automaton from some parts that he's gathered to watch over it.

It doesn't take long for the automaton to show that she's far more than he suspected, however-she's intelligent, and has free will. Varden names her Palimpsest. Over the years, Varden visits his "daughter" Palim from time to time, each time discovering that she's grown in personality and understanding. Meanwhile, Palim gains a far greater awareness of the Arthenac and its true nature.

Varden's early efforts to learn more about the Arthenac and what he can do with it trigger events that impact both he and Palim later in their lives. The story that unfolds over decades leads to a confrontation with a power-hungry castoff of the Changing God and the ties that bind parent and child-creator and creation-together no matter how much time has passed.

If your reward level included Monte's novella, you can find it on your Rewards page – just click your "Downloads" button.

Media & Press

In the lead-up to release there's also been a huge number of new videos, previews, and more hitting the web. We wanted to share a taste of these with you.

First, we have another trailer, this one focusing on our combat and character systems. You can see it below.

Next, I was able to meet with Angry Joe and show off the game. You can see the full half-hour stream of the Bloom, but keep in mind that there are some later-game area spoilers here.

Above, I alluded to the reception of the game being positive, and that's also been echoed in our experiences with the press. We recently held events both in North America as well as Europe, and we got a chance to share the game. Virtually all of them came away with good impressions, whether that was Eurogamer, PC World, IGN, PC Gamer, Polygon, or the many more than what I'm able to list here.

And finally, if you're in London on the weekend of 18-19 February, we'll have Torment: Tides of Numenera playable at the PC Gamer Weekender in Olympia. You can read more in our release here, or read more about the PC Gamer Weekender here.

Shout-Outs

There are a few more cool things happening we wanted to share with you as well. First, the theatrical cut of Numenera: Strand short film is now available for free.

Brought to you by Monte Cook Games and Valdes/Eriksdotter, Numenera: Strand is a captivating introduction to the Numenera universe, so we highly recommend you take a look if you haven't yet seen it.

We'd also like to take a moment to mention Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, by Obsidian Entertainment, whose crowdfunding campaign just launched on Fig. As many of you are well aware, Torment is built on some of the technology behind the first Pillars of Eternity, and so shares some common DNA with it. We're looking forward to it quite a bit, as it looks like it's shaping up to be yet another rich, engrossing CRPG.

Colin McComb,
Creative Lead