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Torment Tides of Numenera: what does one life matter?

Monday, 11 March 2013 08:49 GMT By Dave Cook

Torment: Tides of Numenera is the spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment. VG247′s Dave Cook speaks with inXile Entertainment about its highly ambitious RPG revival.

Tides of Numenera

Developed by Wasteland 2 studio inXile Entertainment, Torment: Tides of Numenera is the spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment, one of the most critically-acclaimed RPGs in history.

The game hit Kickstarter last week and at the time of writing it has made $2,352,662 with 26 days still left to go. It is on track to smash crowd-funding records.

Torment’s world is based on that of Monte Cook’s pen and paper RPG Numenera, which was also successfully funded on Kickstarter.

inXile’s official Torment site can be found here. There you can find more gameplay details and art.

inXile’s Torment: Tides of Numenera Kickstarter campaign went live last Tuesday. I wrote a news story announcing the funding drive here. Within two hours it had already amassed $390,361 of its $900,000 goal. By 48 hours it had made $2,077,770.

People clearly want to see this game made. While the numbers validate inXile’s project, this enthusiasm places great pressure on the studio.

I decided to speak with project director Kevin Saunders and creative lead Colin McComb to better understand how they plan on meeting such high expectation.

First, McComb wanted to make clear that the project wouldn’t exist without Kickstarter, the blessing of Obsidian’s Chris Avellone and the support of gamers, “Chris and I have talked over the years about wanting to do this, and it started last year after the success of our Wasteland 2 Kickstarter.

“We said, ‘You know what? We could use Kickstarter to make a new Torment’, because publishers were not interested in it.

“Other developers might have been interested in it, but it was not – at the time – a hugely best-selling game, so people chose to take their dollars and invest them elsewhere. We thought that because crowd-funding was available, maybe this is something people would actually like to get involved in.”

Once the base concept was in place, Avellone and McComb approached Wizards of the Coast and asked them what it would take to get the Planescape license. They didn’t get very far, but with Avellone’s blessing inXile decided to take an in-house approach instead.

McComb approached his long-time friend and legendary table-top RPG designer Monte Cook, and asked if the studio could adapt his Kickstarter funded pen-and-paper game Numenera. Naturally, he agreed and Torment: Tides of Numenera was born.

Like Cook’s tabletop RPG, inXile’s game is set billions of years in a future, spanning multiple dimensions and realities. It’s a world where ancient ruins hold forgotten technological marvels. In typical fantasy RPGs, ruins would play home to demons or skeletons, here they are guarded by rogue AI and unexplained anomalies.

As epic as it is, everything you see, hear and do in the game is bound by a single question, “What does one life matter?” I asked McComb to explain the relevance of the question, and to give me some insight into how it would play into the plot.

“The main question in Planescape: Torment was ‘What could change the nature of a man?’ That got people really thinking, so we said ‘You know, we should do something similar’, in that we want people to have a game experience that will unfold and be engaging, but we wanted to approach that from a different perspective.

“Using Numenara, we can say ‘What does one life matter?’ You are a person who will be seeking their own answers, but you are surrounded by evidence of people who have done incredible things for the world, incredible things with the universe, and incredible things with reality.

“All of this evidence suggests that these people thought their lives really mattered. So, stacked up against people who could master time, gravity or electro-magnetism, or who could change the very shape of the world, what does your life matter?”

It’s a deep and meaningful angle, one that seems foreign in an industry where you – the star – are commonly the most important person in a game’s world. Here you will be largely irrelevant in a universe that has seen countless civilizations collapse into obscurity. It’s what you do with your fleeting life that matters most.

Torment’s plot is just one of several key areas that inXile identified as important to the game’s DNA. In keeping with Cook’s broad table-top vision, the Numenera setting had to be unique and imaginative, while moral choice had to play a pivotal role in both story and character progression.

In fact, Cook will become an involved member of inXile’s team once work on his Numenera RPG cools. It’s clear that McComb’s team has great love and respect for the world of Torment and its fans. However, this dedication shines brightest when we start talking about the game’s moral ‘Tides’ system. It’s utterly mind-boggling.

It’s not just an adaptation of D&D’s ‘law’ and ‘chaos’ mechanics, or even a simple question of wrong versus right. It’s a complex system with many layers, each bearing a profound impact on your character’s combat skills, NPC dialogue and plot progression.

“When looking at the Tides we looked at what things motivate people,” said Saunders, “what the results of their actions are, and what the concept of a legacy is. We realised that weren’t really words in English that were quite right for the concepts we were imagining.

“We decided to extract the Tides into colours that would represent various facets of complex forces at work in our world. Unlike an alignment system in D&D – where you have good or evil – the Tides are not directly in competition with each other.

“In a way they’re competing for your attention in that we’re tracking you favour them, and that will have effects on both gameplay directly, and on how people will respond to you. We don’t want to describe to the player what the answer to the question is. We don’t have the answer to ‘What does one life matter?’

McComb added, “Part of the reason we colour-coded these choices is that they don’t have exact analogues in the English language. Something like the gold tide will be similar to empathy, charity or sacrifice, but at the same time if we called it an ‘Empathy Tide’, people would attach all of their pre-conceived notions about what empathy is to that.”

The Tides system completely challenges the pre-conceived notion some gamers may have about morality systems. This is no longer a binary mechanic. It’s not a question of ticking boxes or selecting pre-set options with very clear consequences. It has the potential to give new, uncharted depth to the RPG genre.

Not only that, but these actions define what kind of a person you are in combat. But inXile hasn’t stopped there, because combat will be completely unavoidable in most, if not all instances, allowing players to overcome issues with words instead of weapons. The scope is incredible.

McComb explained how plot and combat may be linked in the final game, “There will be aspects from the creative side that influence the gamplay. One example of this is what we did for Mask of the Betrayer, with you being the Spirit Eater, and having powers that had effects on combat that changed depending on what you did outside of combat.

“We want to have a focus on the quality of combat encounters over quantity, so this isn’t going to be an action RPG where you slay mobs of minions and get lots of treasure. The combat will be relevant to what’s going on.”

Whether this combat system relies on phase-based turns, a ‘pause’ system or a third mechanic, the decision will rest with the gamers. InXile is allowing its Kickstarter backers to vote on what form Torment’s battle mechanic will take. It’s a refreshingly diplomatic answer to a difficult question.

I closed our chat by asking McComb and Saunders if they felt more confident in taking Torment to Kickstarter, given its past success with Wasteland 2. Bear in mind that I asked them this before the game went on to break $1 million in less than 24 hours, so their response is somewhat surprising.

“Yes,” Saunders replied. “But at the same time the climate for Kickstarter has changed dramatically. Torment will have a lot more detail in terms of what the game will be, than the Wasteland 2 Kickstarter had when it launched. But the targets are higher too.

“One thing we won’t have that people may wish we had is footage where we can say, ‘Here’s some gameplay’. That would have shown what we are capable of and our ability to realise the vision that we’ve show to backers. For Torment, that’s not where we’re at in the process.”

It’s odd to hear my recording of Saunders express such uncertainty, now that the game is on track to break Kickstarter records. Luckily, thousands of gamers have given inXile their backing, and placed great trust in the studio to deliver an experience that will match, and perhaps surpass Planescape: Torment’s shining legacy.

It’s the game many people thought would never happen, but once again – thanks to the power of crowd-funded democracy – something wonderful has happened.

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8 Comments

  1. hives

    Shadowrun Returns. Wasteland 2. Project Eternity. New Torment.

    *tears of joy*

    Thanks, Kickstarter.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Dave Cook

    @1 +1

    It’s a good time for indie development and pet projects that’s for sure.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. hives

    Yeah. And I really do not care about some concerns many have with crowd-funding. Because without it, we wouldn’t have this game (and, of course, not RPG games like Star Citizen etc).

    It’s just funny… Because there is just no single triple-A game coming that I’m more excited about than about these oldschool cRPGs. Weird, but nowadays they just feel like something new in comparison to new releases from big publishers :P

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Mineral4r7s

    @3 and I am pretty sure they will actually have some depth to them.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. hives

    Oh yeah, I mean, I pretty confident about that. I really like what I’ve seen in Wasteland 2 video or Shadowrun Returns gameplay. So far all I’ve seen seems really nice.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. PC_PlayBoy

    Planescape: Torment was the best RPG ever made. It put all that Jap crap (FF, etc) to shame.

    We’ll looking forward to this….

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Krono

    Really interested with this game and the direction it is going. Often times those different qualities in the diagram don’t oppose each other and often happen at the same time.

    One question could be- is the game not to live the “best” life possible, and what is the “best” life possible? Is it the same for everyone, slightly different, etc?

    Obviously, for a game most will be drawn to the glory and grandeur, but who knows what is truly satisfying.

    Can’t wait though..

    #7 2 years ago
  8. YoungZer0

    “All of this evidence suggests that these people thought their lives really mattered. So, stacked up against people who could master time, gravity or electro-magnetism, or who could change the very shape of the world, what does your life matter?”

    That just sounds FUCKING BRILLIANT. I Love it!

    The Tides System sounds also intriguing, I love the composition. I think if given the chance I’d probalby follow either Gold or Indigo. God, I’m so freaking happy about all of this.

    “But inXile hasn’t stopped there, because combat will be completely unavoidable in most, if not all instances, allowing players to overcome issues with words instead of weapons.”

    Wait, am I tired or does this sentence contradict itself? I guess you meant that combat is completely avoidable? Which is good, we don’t get that in modern RPG’s anymore. Remember I convinced the Endboss in Lionheart to simply give up.

    “One example of this is what we did for Mask of the Betrayer, with you being the Spirit Eater, and having powers that had effects on combat that changed depending on what you did outside of combat.”

    I guess I have to play Mask of the Betrayer now. Is it really that good?

    Anyway, this was a fantastic interview, Dave. Keep up the good work.

    I’m hyped now. The only problem I think I’ll have is the isometric perspective. The world is worth exploring, worth seeing up close and I think the perspective is limiting it. But fuck that. It’s a Torment game. Too bad they couldn’t get the Planescape license though. :/

    #8 2 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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    We have 10 download codes for new indie puzzler Pneuma: Breath of Life for Xbox One to give away. The be in with a chance of winning a code, just enter your details below and we’ll pull the winners from the hat on Monday March 2nd, after 2pm GMT. Pneuma: Breath of Life is a […]

  • Life is Strange Episode 2 delayed

    Life is Strange Episode 2 won’t make its expected release date. The first Life is Strange episode released on January 30, and we had expected the second to follow on March 13. Square Enix has since confirmed to Destructoid that the next chapter won’t make its release date. There’s been no word of the new […]

  • Mortal Kombat X: which character will be revealed tomorrow?

    Mortal Kombat X director Ed Boon is teasing a new character reveal. During today’s Mortal Kombat X livestream, NetherRealm said that a new character would be revealed “very soon”. Boon followed up with this teasing tweet suggesting the reveal will occur tomorrow: Very soon? As in tomorrow? :/ — Ed Boon (@noobde) February 26, 2015 […]

  • Halo played by Twitch is an exercise in great patience

    TwitchPlaysHalo is ridiculous. Halo: Combat Evolved is the latest game to be sucked into the “TwitchPlays” phenomenon, and the results are somewhat painful to spectate. If you’re not familiar with the setup, which debuted with TwitchPlaysPokemon, the game accepts commands from the channels’ chat stream. Although it doesn’t have the strategic RPG elements of Pokemon, […]

  • Gold Amiibo sold out, selling at five times RRP on auction sites

    Gold Mario Amiibo are expected to sell for pretty astounding profits on eBay and other auction sites. The Walmart-exclusive Gold Mario Amiibo is already completely sold out. Plenty of people managed to snaffle them to resell, though. There are now dozens of listings on eBay and other auction sites. One of the average asking prices […]

  • Canadian new game prices jump to $75

    Canadian gamers are in for an unpleasant price hike. As spotted by HardcoreGamer, the local Canadian branches of Amazon and EB Games have raised the prices of upcoming games to CAD$75. The CAD$5 increasing comes within a year of prices hitting the CAD$70 point. CAD$75 (£38/€53) currently exchanges for $60, the standard US pricing. The […]

  • New Xenoblade Chronicles X footage shows weather, day-night cycle

    The latest Xenoblade Chronicles X footage shows off a gloriously beautiful world. Xenoblade Chronicles X is Monolith Soft’s first solo Wii U game, and the developer is clearly enjoying being able to build a big open world with all the features we’ve come to expect. Missed the whole Xenoblade thing? Chronicles X is a sort […]

  • Dead Rising: Watchtower teaser talks up the benefits of Zombrex

    Live-action Dead Rising movie Watchtower is almost upon us. Dead Rising: Watchtower will release on Crackle on March 27, and via other digital distributors thereafter. Enjoy the short teaser below, courtesy of IGN.

  • We Happy Few debut hits you upside the face with a frying pan

    Contrast developer Compulsion Games has revealed its next project – the delightfully creepy-looking We Happy Few. We Happy Few is set in “a drug-fuelled, retrofuturistic city in an alternative 1960s England” where “a plucky bunch of moderately terrible people trying to escape from a lifetime of cheerful denial”. Players are tasked with blending in with […]

  • Slender: The Arrival creeping onto PS4, Xbox One in March

    Slender: The Arrival sold like hotcakes on PC and last-gen consoles, so why not terrify yourself on PS4 and Xbox One, too? Slender: The Arrival will release on PS4 on March 24 and on Xbox One on March 25, developer Blue Isle Studios has announced, for $10. No word on that Wii U version, though. […]

  • GOG weekend sale celebrates German debut

    DRM-free games vendor GOG is celebrating its German-language launch with a tasty sale. The sale offers discounts over 25 “German favourites”. Highlights inclue 97% off Deponia, and less steep but still tasty savings on Memoria and Blackguards 1 and 2. The sale will run through March 3, and you do not have to be, speak, […]

  • Humble Weekly Bundle goes back to Japan

    The latest Humble Weekly Bundle is called Made in Japan, and I’m sure you can guess the theme. Pay what you want for Cherry Tree High Complete Pack (PC; Steam or DRM free), Fairy Bloom Freesia (PC; Steam or DRM free) and Influent + Language Pack (Linux, Mac, PC; Steam or DRM free). Pay more […]

  • Capcom “looking into” solutions to Resident Evil: Revelations PC co-op issue

    Resident Evil: Revelations 2 fans should sit tight for a bit, as Capcom is working on some sort of solution to the co-op issue. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 doesn’t have local co-op on PC and fans are pretty mad about that, as it was advertised ahead of release as a key feature. Although Capcom has […]

  • The games industry is disruption, says Assassin’s Creed producer

    Former Assassin’s Creed producer Jade Raymond has characterised the games industry as one long series of upsets. The games industry changes all the time, and that’s one of its best qualities, Raymond said. The ex-Ubisoft leader told Polygon that the reason seh got into games in the first place was because it “is this undefined […]

  • GTA 5 made $31 million in digital revenue in January

    GTA 5 is the highest-grossing title at the moment in terms of digital revenue, and the PSN is absolutely minting it. Digital games industry analyst Superdata has extended its scope to include console games, which means we suddenly have access to a whole bunch of data we’ve only been able to guess at, or extrapolate […]

  • Destiny: Inferno playlists debut next week

    Destiny PvP will shake things up next week with a new way to slaughter your mates in the Crucible. Destiny is already a skilled PvP game, but the new Inferno playlists will turn things up a notch with a focus on “basic gunplay”. The first of these, Inferno Control, kicks off on March 3 and […]

  • First-person camera coming to Guild Wars 2 next month

    ArenNet has announced its adding nonrestrictive first-person view to Guild Wars 2. Here’s what top expect come March 10: First-person Camera: Zooming in all the way will allow players to experience a first-person view. First-person mode is available while standing in place, walking, running, jumping, playing PvP and just about anything else. There aren’t any […]

  • Shadowrun Online signs on with Nordic

    Shadowrun Online has been given a nice little boost thanks to a distribution deal with Nordic Games. Shadowrun Online is a new team tactical RPG from Cliffhanger Productions. Although it’s already available through Steam Early Access, Nordic has agreed to distribute the finished version, which is due on Linux, Mac and PC in the second […]

  • Final Fantasy 15 is 60% finished, game world ten times the size of demo

    Final Fantasy 15 is 60% finished, according to director Hajime Tabata. Speaking with IGN, Tabata said development will kick into high gear once the Episode Duscae demo is released. “It’s about 60% now. People may look at that and say ‘well, you’ve only done five more percent!’ [since 55% in September] but it’s actually a […]

  • Destiny: you don’t need to visit the tower to access your vault

    Destiny players, you asked for it and Bungie has delivered it: you can now swap items in and out of the vault using the companion app. “Destiny needs more vault space” you cry – and yes, this is true. But while we all struggle with the limitations imposed on us by Bungie, we face all […]

  • Mortal Kombat X will contain over 100 Brutalities

    During the Mortal Kombat X stream today, NetherRealm Studios revealed Brutalities are back for the game, and stated there will be over 100 to pull off. You won’t gain any extra experience for being overly cruel with your painful moves, but you will at least get to laugh at some and “cringe” at others, according […]

  • Numenera: Strand is a film based on the game up on Kickstarter

    Numenera, the 2012 Kickstarter success and foundation for Torment: Tides of Numenera, could become a film if the Kickstarter for the movie is successful. With five days left, Monte Cook Games and Swedish film company Valdes/Eriksdotter needs £22,542 to reach its goal. Titled Numenera: Strand, it tells the tale of a drifter who “roams a […]

  • Gran Turismo 6 update adds MINI Clubman Vision, more

    A Mini Cooper has invaded Gran Turismo 6 via a new update. The Mid-Field Raceway track has also been added, and its a new and improved version of the original track from previous Gran Turismos. The new B-Spec Mode feature has also been added which allows the AI driver to race on your behalf. Additional […]

  • Nintendo is bringing New 3DS Xl and some playable titles to PAX East

    Nintendo is bringing New 3DS Xl and Splatoon with it to PAX East next month. The E3 2014 build of the game lets eight players transform into squids in a race for “splattered-paint dominance.” Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. will also be playable and featured in stage presentations at the Nintendo booth. Upcoming or newly released Nintendo […]

  • Battlefield Hardline Premium information seems to have slipped out early

    Battlefield Hardline Premium perks have apparently leaked a bit early, according to a post on Reddit. Over on the Hardline subreddit is an image which was take at a GameStop location, noting two week early access to content additional Battlepacks and more. Here’s the rundown: Four expansions Two weeks early access 12 additional Battlepacks Exclusive […]

  • Final Fantasy: Record Keeper arrives in the US this spring

    Final Fantasy: Record Keeper will be released in the US on iOS and Android this spring, DeNA and Square Enix today. The mobile titles allows players to “relive favorite moments” across all Final Fantasy installments and build a team of classic characters from across the entire franchise. If you sign up for email updates, you […]

  • Battlefield Hardline now available for pre-order, pre-download on Xbox One

    Battlefield Hardline is now available for pre-order and pre-download on Xbox One. You can pre-order it now from the Xbox Store and once you have paid for it, you can start your pre-download. Battlefield Hardline releases on March 17, and will be made available to pre-downloaders come 12.01am EDT. Check pricing and availability for your […]

  • Dying Light interactive video allows you switch between day and night

    A new video for Dying Light has been released, which allows you to hit the Z key to change between day and night. Titles Life and Death in the Quarantine Zone, the interactive story video showcases how the game changes between day and night. Daytime and nighttime are shown side-by-side but the z key allows […]

  • Havoc DLC for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare out on PS3, PS4; PC delayed

    The Havoc DLC for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is now available for PlayStation 3 and PS4. Havoc contains the four multiplayer maps Core, Drift, Sideshow, and Urban along with the AE4 directed energy assault rifle, its custom variant, and the Exo Zombies cooperative mode. You can purchase the DLC separately or pick up the […]

  • Here’s a teaser for Resident Evil Revelations 2: Episode 2

    A teaser video for the second episode of Resident Evil Revelations 2 is available, so if you’ve yet to play the first episode, you may want to skip this. Resident Evil Revelations 2′s first episode is out now. Thanks, GamesHQMedia.

  • North American eShop update is full of Donkey Kong games

    Nintendo has updated the North American end of the eShop with Titan Attacks, Donkey Kong Land, Donkey Kong Country and more. eShop on 3DS Ironfall Invasion Titan Attacks! Donkey Kong Land – Virtual Console Donkey Kong Land 2 – Virtual Console Donkey Kong Land 3 – Virtual Console Luv Me Buddies Wonderland Around the World […]

  • Venture into the Valley of the Yetis next week in Far Cry 4

    The next batch of Far Cry 4 DLC, Valley of the Yetis, releases in March and Ajay Ghale will be tasked with surviving violent cultists and the mythical Yeti. Apparently the cult is looking for a secret hidden in the valley, and Ajay has discovered their motives. The DLC features co-op with a friend taking […]

  • The Butcher’s AK/CAR Mod Pack out for Payday 2, has dino masks

    The 19th DLC pack for Payday 2 title The Butcher’s AK/CAR Mod Pack is available on Steam from today. The pack will run you $4.99/€4.99 and features: 11 new weapon modifications for the AK rifles in the game 11 new weapon modifications for the CAR rifles in the game Four new masks together with their […]

  • Battle Chasers slated for PC, consoles; comic picks up where 2001 storyline left off

    Darksiders creator Joe Madureira and Vigil co-founder Ryan Stefanelli have confirmed a Battle Chasers game and a new comic are in the works at their new studio Airship Syndicate. Speaking to Polygon, Madureira and Stefanelli wouldn’t provide details on the the game, but did divulge it will be an adventure RPG with player-controlled Battle Chasers […]

  • Shovel Knight, Hotline Miami 2 discounted for Sony’s annual Spring Fever Sale

    Sony is hosting its annual Spring Fever Sale which runs for eight weeks and features a new title each week. The sale starts next week on March 3 with the launch of Helldivers. Here’s just a few items included in the sale: HELLDIVERS (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March 3 Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number (PS4/PS3/PS Vita) March […]

  • The gold Super Mario amiibo is a Walmart exclusive

    The Super Mario Gold amiibo which surfaced via a CPSIA certificate earlier this month will be a Walmart-exclusive, Nintendo has announced. The gold-colored Mario amiibo will be released the same day as the Mario Party 10 game for Wii U and will run you $12,96 at 3,000 participating Walmart stores in the US. Along with […]

  • Here’s an overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD

    As new gameplay overview trailer for Final Fantasy Type-0 HD, culled from the Active Time Report, stream has been sent over by Square Enix. The video provides a look at the history and environments of the Kingdom of Orience; the 14 memebers of Class Zero; the battle system with customizable magic spells; and the ability […]