TL;DR: status update, new screenshot, George on backer NPCs, forum badge
Chris here. Our team is continuing to work hard on getting the Beta Test ready to deliver to you. Torment is in that exciting stage where things are coming together rapidly, and it's been amazing over the last few months to see so many elements of the game take shape. We want to continue cleaning up some rough edges so that you can have the best experience possible. For that reason, we are planning to release the Torment Beta Test early next year so we can deliver a more polished and complete Beta Test.
We know that you have been waiting for this, and we want to get the game to you as soon as we can, but we felt that the Beta version we could bring you would be that much better with a little more time in development. We appreciate your patience.
We were quite happy with the release of the Alpha Systems Test, in that it allowed us to collect useful feedback on even the smallest elements of the game. We want the Beta Test to be a continuation of that level of collaboration with our community, while also being a great first hands-on impression for Torment. And this is going to be a legitimate hands-on. While the Alpha Systems Tests could be finished in around 20 minutes, the upcoming Beta release will contain over 10 hours of gameplay on a normal playthrough.
While we're working on that, we wanted to share some more info on the game and give you a sneak peek at some of the things you might see in the Beta...
The Order of Truth
We've given you a few glimpses of Sagus Cliffs before. Sagus Cliffs fills a similar role to the Hive in Planescape: Torment, serving as a central city hub in the eary stages and allowing for lots of exploration and deep world-building.
Now, we'd like to share a closer look at the Order of Truth, one of the factions in Sagus Cliffs. Below is a glimpse of their headquarters.
From George Ziets:
The Order of Truth is dedicated to the study of numenera – artifacts of long-dead civilizations that inhabited Earth millions of years ago. Its adherents, known as Aeon Priests, have established enclaves throughout much of the known world. In the city of Sagus Cliffs, far from the lands where the Order arose, the Aeon Priests are few, and not all of them share the high principles of their distant brethren.
Fortunately for them, Sagus Cliffs sits atop a massive trove of numenera, layer upon layer of ancient cities and long-forgotten technologies, waiting to be unearthed. The local headquarters of the Order is inside an ancient starship, abandoned countless millennia in the past and locked in the accumulated sediments of the ages.
Ziets here. As backers of our Kickstarter campaign, you probably know that certain pledge levels unlocked the ability to design content for our game – an item (or item description), a monument, or an NPC. In this update, I'm going to talk about the NPCs that were created by our backers... and how we integrated them into our world.
So what does it mean to create a backer NPC for TTON? If you pledged at the backer NPC level, we asked you to provide a name and description for your character, as well as a preference as to where your NPC should appear in the game (e.g., Sagus Cliffs, the Bloom) and what role they should fill (e.g., merchant, cultist, traveler). As TTON has some rather dark moments, we also asked whether you'd mind if we did terrible things to your NPC. Some of our backers provided that basic information and nothing more, while others took advantage of our "Additional Notes" section to tell us about their characters' backstory, motivations, or the reasons their character was important to them. By the time we hit the submission deadline, we'd received about 55 backer NPCs.
Incorporating 55 backer-created NPCs into the game was a challenge, especially because we set high standards for ourselves. It was important to us that backer NPCs feel indistinguishable from other NPCs in the game and be integrated seamlessly into our quest and exploration content. (The quality of NPC submissions was high, which helped a lot. Backers clearly put a great deal of effort into making their NPCs feel creative, weird, and "Tormenty," so most of them fit easily into our setting.)
As I designed Sagus Cliffs, I kept a list of the backer NPCs for that zone close at hand. When I devised a quest and needed characters to fill important roles, I took a look at the list. Sometimes I wouldn't find any backer NPCs that would suit my needs, but often I did.
For example, early in the game, one way of solving a quest results in an optional combat with a rather powerful creature. Players can try to defeat the creature alone, but that will be extremely challenging, so an alternative is to find a few NPC allies in town who'd be up for a fight... and convince them to help. I'd originally planned to create these NPCs myself, but I then found three excellent backer NPCs to fill the roles instead. One of these potential recruits is Aidan Sitabo, a mysterious martial artist, capable of moving at speeds that defy human capability. Players can convince this man to assist them in their fight against the creature. They can also attempt to match their abilities against his and discover the secret of how he gained his abilities. His dialogue (written by Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie) is pretty entertaining, and even if players don't choose to ask for his help, they can still gain interesting insights and rewards by talking to him.
Other times, when I was designing a particularly weird place, I'd look through the list of backer NPCs for characters who fit the general tone of the location, and I'd add them as one-off characters. Such characters provide some interesting dialogue, usually a reward or two that can be gained by uncovering their secrets, and sometimes a significant (or horrific) choice the player can make. In the Fifth Eye, a tavern that draws powerful psychics and interdimensional travelers like a lodestone, one example of a backer NPC is Almas the Soul Keeper, the last survivor of an interdimensional race who carries the souls of his entire species in his mind.
In a few cases, a backer NPC's story lent itself so well to a quest that I ended up designing a side quest around them. This was a boon to the overall design, as most scenes can always profit from an extra quest or two. For example, one backer sent us an NPC called Omahdon, an enigmatic traveler with considerable knowledge of the numenera who is on a search for his missing "one true love." This seemed an obvious seed for a quest, so I placed him in the Caravanserai district of Sagus Cliffs, and linked his quest to another important NPC in that scene. I was also able to connect his story to the Valley of Dead Heroes, and to use his quest to augment some of the other content in Caravanserai.
These backer NPCs – and all the rest of them – should feel like a natural part of the game, and we hope that you don't even notice a difference between them and the NPCs that we've created ourselves. I think they've enriched our world, and I hope you enjoy them.
Backer Forum Badge
We always love to give back to our backers and fans who make this all possible, and today we'd like to highlight a new bonus reward that everyone who backed Torment can get. Now, all backers who get the game with their pledge also receive an exclusive Torment backer forum badge for use on our message boards.
To get your forum badge, please log in with your Torment backer account, then visit the Rewards page and click the "Badge" button that appears on the bottom-right corner of your reward selection. If you need more detailed instructions, you can check here. Of course, if you haven't signed up for a forum account yet, now's a great time to do so, as we're always looking for interesting feedback and input from you.
We also have some big company-related news to announce. For over a decade, we have operated out of Newport Beach, CA. Now, we are pleased to announce our first expansion – we are opening a brand-new sister studio in New Orleans! You can read more about it in this Bard's Tale IV update, as well as in this recent Fortune article which has a few comments from Brian, and discusses some of our plans for the studio going forward. This is an exciting step forward for us as a company. While some of the team is moving to New Orleans, Torment will remain in full production in the Newport Beach office, just as it always has, though it will benefit from some of the NOLA team's work, such as in-house QA and playtesting.
You may be wondering why we chose New Orleans, and there are several great reasons. By going to NOLA, we are receiving benefits from the Louisiana state government, and we also lower our operating costs so that we can add additional months of production to our games. Meanwhile, we are also helping to grow the local games and tech industry and leveraging the top east coast talent that we have been missing out on up until now. In the end, this will make for bigger and better games and let us deliver more titles for you to enjoy in the long run. We consider this the next step in our journey and are thankful for you helping to make it happen.
In other news, our very own Design Lead Adam Heine has a short story in a new Cthulhu sci-fi anthology called Tomorrow's Cthulhu. Read his thoughts on this here, and consider preordering here.
To save the best for last, RPGNuke has an interview with Torment associate producer & designer Thomas Beekers, talking about his winding path into and through the game industry. It could eventually be turned into a short story (or a Lifetime original movie), but for the time being, you can read about Mr. Beekers' journey as a brief interview.
Happy holidays and we will see you in the new year,