inXile’s Colin McComb On Torment: Tides of Numenera, Deep RPGs
This requirement of a pre-generated character doesn’t mean player-choice is removed. Having this choice and the resulting reactivity was one of the team’s earliest stretch goals. From a gameplay systems perspective, players will have many choices regarding how their character evolves, and though the game’s reactivity means that the selection of hair color, body type and other appearance-based attributes won’t be provided, players will be allowed to create both male and female characters. The primary difference is that players will choose a specific individual to role-play.
“We’ll have some reactivity based around the character’s sex (for instance, you may be able to join a secret society of female assassins),” McComb says. “[A]nd there will be isolated communities that may have different reactions based on males or females possessing certain types of powers or items. The Ninth World (the setting in which Numenera is based) is a far different place societally speaking, though, so seeing outright sexism–at least in the form we know it–will be a deep exception, rather than the rule.”
“Numenera is about abandonment, about the unknown, about finding cool things and discovering awesome secrets; it draws from a more futuristic vision, and generally doesn’t approach the issue of soul and mortality.”
“Planescape is about belief, spirit, and will,” McComb says. “Numenera is about exploring, understanding, and developing knowledge. Or as (Numenera creator) Monte [Cook] said, “Planescape is about what you believe. Numenera is about what you do.” Planescape dealt with the nature of faith, with souls and spirits, and with mythology in its many forms. Numenera is about abandonment, about the unknown, about finding cool things and discovering awesome secrets; it draws from a more futuristic vision, and generally doesn’t approach the issue of soul and mortality. They both share the sense of awe and wonder and the idea that there’s something bigger and cooler around us if we just take the time to learn how to see it.”
McComb explains that the Ninth World has been abandoned by countless civilizations with power far beyond imagination that their detritus litters the world. The people of this setting are explorers—finding answers for themselves about the world around them as it exists, rather than trying to imagine what it might be.
He says that even though the world has its share of religions and philosophies, and though people are concerned about the afterlife, these questions remain unanswered and perhaps unanswerable. Due to this sense of uncertainty, the people of the Ninth World prefer to engross themselves in action, trying to make a difference in the world they know instead of dwelling on the unknown. They have a real concern for the consequences of their actions.
“This dovetails nicely into the primary theme of our game: legacy, or, ‘What does one life matter?’ That is a theme that will echo throughout Torment, though probably not stated so nakedly,” explains McComb.
Planescape: Torment’s interactivity was also provided by its companion characters, who both served to flesh out the setting and provide the player with a foil for their actions—or beliefs, in the case of the aforementioned game.
“They will play a similar role in this game, with extended storylines the player can pursue if he or she wants to. They can provide valuable backstory for the player, and will be a huge help in various tasks throughout the game. They might hold clues to the PC’s history (but I’m not saying which way just yet). They’ll have some autonomy as well — though you’ll control them fully in combat, if you do something that goes against their internal code, they’ll leave you. If you abandon them someplace, you might be able to find them again someplace else… or maybe not. We intend for them to be as deep and reactive as the rest of the game.”
It goes without saying that Torment: Tides of Numenera is a highly ambitious game, and one that—like its predecessor—may offer depth that many other games cannot. McComb is aware of the legacy he’s working with in Torment. Like its predecessor, it is a promise for a role-playing game to be more than the sum of its parts—a literary experience, as much as a game.
“I don’t know that I can speak to what other teams don’t have, but I’m more than happy to talk about what we’re focused on: We’re aiming to create a game with literary depth, fantastic reactivity, mature themes, strong replayability, and choice and consequence that matter. We’ve got a setting unlike most of what’s available in RPGs these days and an exceptional writing team. I think what we have is a particular vision that will be truly evocative of a new world, a fantastically strange and different experience.”
Given the team he’s assembled, I, at least, am confident they’ll pull it off.