About Torment's Crisis System

Two related questions from the AMA desk today.

Baudolino05 (aka Alessandro, from our wonderful fan-run Italian tumblr) asks:
What can you tell me about the quest design in T:ToN? I mean: only part of the quests will be handle through Crises, right? As for the remaining part, can we expect complex/interrelated quest-lines? Will they feature puzzle-solving/exploration elements like in the original Torment? No combat at all, right?

Along similar lines, Surface Rfl says:
One additional question more about Crises themselves, since you mention their apparent duration as one reason why saving in TB would be possibly, or most likely, allowed.

Im wondering about their general structure.

Does your answer mean that all of a Crises will be done in TB mode and so be all combat related?  I thought there will be other things to do inside Crises. And usually, for things other then combat, we go back to normal real time gameplay in games like these.

Torment's Crisis system (which we introduced in ridiculous detail here) might best be thought of as our "more than combat" system. Or better yet, think of it as a tabletop encounter, where combat is certainly one way to handle things, but where players have many, many more options available to them as well.

Yes, Crises are all turn-based. But no, they are not necessarily all combat. We use the Crisis system whenever there's some kind of time-based pressure the player must deal with. For example, it would be a Crisis to sneak out of a prison or to try and rescue people from a rampaging horror. In the first case, the pressure comes from the guards who are patrolling or responding to alarms. In the second, of course, it's the horror itself that provides the pressure. In both cases, while combat is a possibility, it's not the ideal solution to the problem.

So the "other things" you can do depend on the individual Crises themselves. You might be repairing (or disabling) ancient devices, persuading people that you're on their side, creating distractions to temporarily stop the horror, etc. We wouldn't be able to do this kind of thing well in a massive dungeon crawl game, but since we're focusing on quality over quantity -- on a dozen or so handcrafted scenarios, woven tightly with the narrative and environment -- we can afford to make each one really interesting.

As for quests, certainly there will be some that result in a Crisis, but just like PST there will be many quests (maybe most quests) that you can solve with just conversation and exploration. We're excited about the Crisis system, but this is still a Torment game, after all, and that means that conversation and narrative are king.


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Great Artists Steal

Thomas Hennessey says:
I've always figured the best way to be a good writer is to be a great reader first. Is the same true of game design? Have you come across a game that made you think, woah that's cool, I gotta use that somehow.

I think that's absolutely true, of game design, of writing, of any kind of art.

Because you have to know what's out there. More than anything else, people enjoy novelty. You can't be novel if you don't know what others have already done.

(I guess if you're not selling anything -- you're just making "art for art's sake" -- this is less important. But personally, I don't even understand what the heck "art's sake" is. I make art because I want people to enjoy it (and if they pay me on top of that, enabling me to make more art, well awesome).)

Because consuming and copying art is how you learn to be a better artist. This sounds contradictory to the first, but it's a secret I learned much later than I wish I had: IT IS OKAY TO COPY GREAT ART.

Because this is how you learn. Because there's nothing truly original anyway. And because what makes something original is not that you thought of something nobody's ever thought of before (you didn't), but it's how you execute that idea with your own personal spin and style.

(Note that it's not okay to copy great art exactly and then claim it's your own. That's plagiarism. That's not what I'm talking about.)

I'm talking about copying things you love, figuring out how they work, mixing them with other things and with your own style to create something that's new, something that's yours. It's a secret because we are told that copying others is not creative, but the truth is that -- unless you're ridiculously lucky -- you can't make something good if you don't know what good is.

(To answer the last question, I have most certainly seen things in games that make me want to include them. All the time, in fact. Here's a recent example.)


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What is the numenera?

From the AMA pile, Surface rfl says:

In a recent interview, among lots of superb stuff (great companions concepts! can we call the ball of goo... Ballte? Goolte? no? ..damn...), - ive noticed this line:

- "Magic" in Numenera is performed by tapping into the ubiquitous numenera around you--even in the air and the dirt--and using it to reshape the world. -

I know thats most likely a convenient background lore explanation explanation and i dont expect "magic" to be realistically explained, but im curious when it comes to the setting... what exactly does this "ubiquitous numenera" mean?
Did you refer to various technological remnants of previous epochs like cyphers, artifacts and other actual numenera that the player will find, or maybe some kind of more microscopic nano machines saturation... or is it something else?
Im asking because so far ive gotten use to thinking about numenera as small objects basically, and any still functioning or malfunctioning rogue nano machines as something exactly specified, like the Iron Wind, for example.


Yes to all of the above.

So a brief recap for those unfamiliar: the setting of Numenera and Torment is Earth one billion years in the future, known as the Ninth World. A billion years is as far removed from us as we are removed from being single-celled organisms. In those epochs, a number of great civilizations have risen and then disappeared into obscurity, each one orders of magnitude more advanced than all but the wackiest science fiction could even imagine.

The people of the Ninth World, however, are at approximately medieval technology levels, but they live among the debris and leftovers of a billion years of civilizations. Of course there are no books or other degradable things still lying around, but there are massive monuments made of metals nobody recognizes, giant crystals floating in the sky, mutated descendants of bioengineered creatures, automated military constructs following orders that don't make sense anymore, and other weirder things that have withstood time.

The Ninth Worlders don't understand how to make any of this stuff, but they know enough to cobble together useful artifacts from what they find.

To (finally) get to the question, "this stuff" is the numenera, but it doesn't just mean sci-fi devices you find lying around (you actually don't find sci-fi devices lying around much, but have to cobble your own). It also means the invisible forces still in the air. It means the datasphere that some civilization built around the planet -- the one that can be accessed if you know what you're doing (not that you'll understand what you find) and beams the occasional strange vision (known as glimmers) into people's heads at random. It means the creatures that look like they stepped out of a horror film. It means the dirt itself, which has been worked, refined, manufactured, or grown and then ground back into soil by time.

Although we do frequently use "numenera" to refer to the items and devices you will find in Torment, it really is ubiquitous and can be used by the clever or knowledgeable in infinite ways.


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