Showing posts with label Torment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Torment. Show all posts

Giveaway winners and the future

The Izanami's Choice signed giveaway is over, and our two winners have been selected. Congratulations to Jeanna M. and Jackie! I've e-mailed the winners and will send out your copies as soon as I can.

For the rest of you, I know. I'm sad, too. I wish I had signed copies for everybody! But you can still buy your own copy at any of these fine places: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | Broken Eye Books. I can't sign them for you, but maybe some day. Yeah... some day.

So what's up next? Several things:

1) Torment. We're pushing toward our release (early Q1, 2017), so expect to hear more about that as we get closer.

2) I'm working on my own stuff (specifically, I'm plotting the project listed as "Secret Fantasy Project" on the Works in Progress page).

3) I hope to write more in the world of Izanami's Choice, but that's not up to me yet. (In a way, it's kind of up to you. BUY MY BOOK!)

4) I'm obsessively watching my Amazon sales rank, because I heard you're not really an author until you do that.

5) I'm coming up with the next No Thank You, Evil! campaign for my kids.

6) I'm trying to finish Stranger Things before somebody spoils it for me. I mean spoils it more.

All of which means I'm... still doing more than one human should be capable of in 24 hours. Yeah, I don't know how it works either (most of the time it doesn't, I think).

As always, watch this space (or this one, or this one) for what I'm doing, whether any future giveaways surface, or whatever the latest ridiculous thing my kids' said is. And stick with the newsletter to make sure you don't miss any new fiction I have coming out.

Torment Beta is going live

As you read this, either the Torment Beta is live or it will be very soon. A few thousand of our backers (everyone who pledged for it) will get to play the opening and first major location in the game I've been working on for over three years.

Better than that, the Beta will go public on Steam Early Access next week. Anyone -- even you -- can see what I've been working on, and why I haven't talked much about writing (or anything really), for so long.

Am I excited? You bet. I love creating, and I hate not being able to show people what I'm creating. It's about time.

Am I scared? Not as much as you might think. I was scared before the Alpha Systems Tests went out, because Torment is not a typical RPG, and I wasn't sure what people would think of it. But the Alpha backers got it. They read thousands of words, made tough decisions, and they got it.

The Beta has its rough edges that I'm sure we'll get comments on, but the stuff that really makes it Torment -- the art, the writing, the characters, the choices -- that's the stuff I'm least worried about. It's all in there. A lot of the remaining work is prettying up the package.

So, yeah, if you want to see what I've been working on all this time, check out the Steam Early Access release next week. Or, if you can't wait -- or you're not sure whether epic reading, tough choices, and dying Earth fantasy is your thing -- then watch this video, where my boss Brian Fargo and colleague George Ziets play through the first hour of the Beta. Enjoy.


Accomplished this year; expect to accomplish next year

My head has been deep in Torment for so long that I feel like I haven't done anything else this year. Turns out I have!
  • The public got to see part of that game I'm working on.
  • I got two new short stories published: "The Patch Man" and "Curiosity."
  • I officially met the requirements to be an active member of SFWA (not that I've joined yet, but I can!).
  • I read 11 books. (That's not a good reading year for me, but a couple of those books were part of James Clavell's enormous Asian Saga, and I also critiqued a couple of novels).
  • I went to PAX, had breakfast with Pat Rothfuss, and even spoke to people.
  • I wrote a novella.
  • I have a new novel on sub.
  • And in my personal life: our blind daughter started school, we finally made progress in getting our paperless child an ID card, I fell in love with Star Wars again, and the teen-formerly-known-as-Sullen is no longer sullen -- she even laughs at my jokes again!
What's coming in 2016?
  • The public will get to see the rest of the game I'm working on, and we'll find out whether the last three years were worth it. (Hahaha! I'm just kidding. I haven't had to worry about income for three whole years! What do I care if you like the game or not?)
  • (Still kidding. Please like the game.)
  • You'll probably get to read that novella I wrote.
  • I may finally discover a way to consistently write novels as well as design computer games for a living. Either that or time travel. We'll see!
Also, for your edification, here are a couple of things I loved in 2015 that I want you to love to. I'm deliberately trying to focus on things you might not have heard of.


House of Ivy and Sorrow. A young adult fantasy from Natalie Whipple about witches. I have always loved Natalie's worldbuilding, and I love unique takes on witches. House of Ivy and Sorrow delivers both.




Primordia. A graphic adventure in the classic style of the Sierra *Quest games, with a heavy dose of influence from Planescape: Torment. It's an insanely cool world in which humans are gone and only intelligent -- and surprisingly sympathetic -- robots remain. Written and designed by Tides of Numenera's own Mark Yohalem. If you liked Planescape or Space Quest, you should definitely check this out.


Frostborn. A middle-grade, Norse-influenced fantasy novel from Lou Anders. If Banner Saga were a book about a boy and a half-giantess, this is what it would feel like. My boys loved it. I loved it. I need to get my hands on the sequel for them.




Shovel Knight. A crowd-funded side-scroller in which you play a knight whose primary weapon is his shovel. It's way more fun than that sounds. Shovel Knight is Mega Man and Ducktales and every platformer I've ever loved.


Tales of Monkey Island. If you know Monkey Island, then odds are you've heard of this one, but I only just played it this year. I love it almost as much as the Curse of Monkey Island (being my favorite of the series). My only real problem with it is that there will probably never be a sequel.





What did you love in 2015?


Writing Status

Those of you who saw my post about my super ridiculous September may want to know how I made out. Here are where things stand on all things writing and a few other things.

I'm on schedule for Torment. At least I should be. I'm pretty happy with what I've gotten done, anyway!

I wrote a novella. Specifically, I drafted and revised the novella known as "Post-Edo Bladerunner" on the Works in Progress page. It is out of my hands for now. With luck, this will be a thing you can read in the near future. We'll see.

There may be another story for you to read soon. Specifically, this one, but that is also out of my hands. I'll let you know.

Air Pirates is no longer on submission. For those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time, I know this is really sad news. Though honestly it's been nearly four years since I got my agent; Air Pirates has not been on submission for that entire time, but it has been for a lot of it. I'm sure most of you already figured out it wasn't happening.

We got a lot of great feedback on Air Pirates, and at least one editor wants to see more of my stuff (an editor I really, really, really, really, really want to work with). But a lot of people expressed that -- while they loved the world and the characters and the story -- the category and genre of the thing was kind of hard to pin down, which means it would be kind of hard for them to sell.

Air Pirates is not dead. I love that world way too much. There is a major revision in its future (maybe even a rewrite?), but we'll see. What happens to Air Pirates depends on various career things that are out of my control over the next several months. Speaking of which...

Post-Apoc Ninjas is on submission. This novel has had its own bumpy ride, but I have learned a lot of things from the Air Pirates feedback and other soul-crushing critiques, and so I've revised the crap out of it. The result is something my agent loves (and if preliminary feedback on the Post-Edo novella is an indication, the critiques may also have leveled me up as a writer). Now that thing my agent loves is Out There.

Don't get excited yet, though. Publishing is slow, Tricia and I are cautious, and, well... you know what happened with Air Pirates. The point is I'm still writing and things are still moving.

The Thai government is happy with us. Or at least they're leaving our home alone, which in bureaucracy terms is the same thing.

No children died while my wife was gone. Though there was a fractured bone incident, but that wasn't my fault, and I handled the crap out of it.

Though it was a close thing.

Was there anything else you wanted to know?


Fix All The Things!

I know some of you want to hear what my time at PAX was like. I intend to write that post, but you'll have to wait a little longer. I have a crapload of work to do, including but not limited to:
  • Write Torment conversations
  • Design Torment conversations for others to write
  • Review Torment conversations others have written
  • Fix a number of problems created by the most recent round of Torment cuts
  • Finish a novella by October
  • Write a newsletter by October
  • Give the Thai government a bunch of documents they asked for while I was in the US (timing, man, seriously)
  • Fix everything that broke around the house while I was gone
  • Parent several children...
  • ...while my wife takes her own trip to the US
So my already ridiculously over-tasked life got turned to 11 for a few weeks. I will tell you about PAX, but not yet (fair warning: I fail at pictures).

However, you can hear me at my panel, wherein I and several awesome designers talk about what makes a classic RPG. There is no video recording, but the audio is here:

Classic RPGs Panel at PAX

Hey, all! If you're going to PAX Prime next month, I'll be on a panel there.

The panel is "CLASSIC RPGs FOREVER!" (yes, in all caps, apparently), and it'll be on Sunday, August 30th at 11 AM in the Sasquatch Theater.

We'll be talking about resurrecting subgenres of classic RPGs that were once thought dead. I'll be joining veteran game developers Annie Mitsoda, Josh Sawyer, Mitch Gitelman, and Swen Vincke, with Penny Arcade's Jeff Kalles moderating.

I'm super excited and super terrified. This will be the first time I've ever been on a panel (or even seen a panel, or gone to PAX, or gone to any convention of any kind). It'll be awesome to talk games with a bunch of developers I admire, but yeah, combine a thousand unknowns with enormous crowds with nigh-clinical introversion and you get something that's even scarier than what I already do all day.

But hey, I'll manage. I always do.

So if you're going to be at PAX, let me know! It's possible I might be able to do something about that information without crawling under my bed in terror.*

* That's a joke. My bed is a mattress on the floor. I can't crawl under there without straining something.**

** Unless I crawl under the bed at my hotel. Hm, there's an idea....

Q: Which is harder, game writing with a team or solo-writing novels?

I actually got this question on Twitter, but I thought it deserved more than 140 characters. Although if you're into the tl/dr version then here you go.

So which is harder? Writing a game or a novel? Writing solo or on a team?

Game vs. Novel
First, you should know that I've never written for a non-Torment game, and Torment has lots (and lots and lots) of words. It's entirely possible there are games for which writing is a piece of cake. I wouldn't know what that's like.

What's difficult about game writing is the lack of control. In a novel, the characters do exactly what I tell them to (my characters do, anyway). But in a game, the player can do anything he wants (within the rules of the game). So a character I intended to be major might die before he gets a single line, and the writing has to handle both options equally well. So a dialogue that would be 150 words in a novel becomes an enormous branching, interlocking tree.

Novel writing has its own challenges, of course. For one thing, it's more than just dialogue. A lot more. A Torment game has more descriptive prose than most, but it still doesn't come close to what you need in a novel. The novelist has to let the reader into the protagonist's head, to feel what she's feeling. In a game, that's done for you -- the player's already in their own head -- but in a novel, that connection is a lot of work.

(As an example of how much work... By far, the biggest critique note on my Ninjas novel was, "Not enough description and emotion." It took me two months to revise that critique away, increasing the size of the novel by more than ten percent -- 10,000 new words almost exclusively adding description and emotion!)

Solo vs. Team
The best part of working on a team is that I don't have to write all the words. Torment has several writers working part- and full-time, so most mornings I wake up to finished conversations that I never wrote. It's like having an infestation of word fairies!

The hard part of working on a team is trying to agree on everything. We have strict conventions and pipelines to get everything to an equivalent level of quality with minimum fuss. When I'm in a writing role, I need to follow those conventions and get the approval of (usually) at least two other leads.

Even in my role as a lead, there are sometimes disagreements on how we should handle certain things -- anything from what the jargon of a town should be to the voice of a player companion to whether we should use one dash or two in place of an em-dash. Fortunately, we have a pretty great team, with a high level of professionalism and a low ego average, so even difficult decisions are rarely Difficult.

And really, the decision-making as a team is a lot of the fun. When I'm writing a novel, I have to make my own decisions, second guess myself, and be my harshest critic. My novel has no awesome story meetings with people I enjoy and respect (it's just me). And it is really, really hard to be objective about anything you make yourself.

Which do I like better? I like them both. A LOT. Honestly, if I had to choose only one of them, I'd probably rebel and just keep trying to do everything.

Oh wait, that's what I'm doing.

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Got a question? Ask me anything.



Q: A couple of TTON details vs. Pillars of Eternity

Alessandro Gambino has two questions today:
a couple of questions that arose directly from my playthrough of Pillars of Eternity.

First question:  As far I remember, in Torment we will have separate inventory screens for each character, won't we? And if so, any hope you guys are reconsidering this part of the GUI?

I'm not sure where I might have mentioned separate inventory screens. If I did, it was either very early in design or else a mistake. Our inventory design is based on Pillars of Eternity's -- partially because we had just gotten their codebase at that time (so we could see how they were doing things) and partially because a single inventory screen for the entire party is just a good idea.

Additionally, as you mentioned in the full text of your question, Alessandro, TTON's weapon sets will be representative, so a single weapon can be used in multiple weapon sets. See this update for more info on that.

My second question: in a another KS update you wrote (quote): "For us, a “puzzle” isn’t an attempt to divine the will of the designer, but rather an obstacle with multiple solutions involving various Difficult Tasks and their applicable Effort and skills".

Does this mean that Torment won't have any puzzle/problem with not-so-obvious solution? Which is to say: Will the puzzle-solving elements of the original game be dropped in favor of the effort management of the new one (please don't do that. If you are not 100% convinced, I can send you my boxed copies of all Quest for Glory games, as a reminder of how you can have puzzles that feel like real puzzles even if they can be solved in multiple ways according to your character skills :D)?

I can see how your concern might arise from my quote. Rest assured that PST is our primary example in terms of how conversations are designed. "Puzzles" in TTON will take many forms. Simple ones might require one of a couple of Difficult Tasks, but many more will require you to talk to people and pay attention to your surroundings (or at the very least, they will be made much easier by doing so).

What we won't do is, for example, require the player to decipher an elaborate and unique sequence of actions to collect an item they don't even know they need. We also don't want the player to get stuck because they missed some foozle or failed the wrong Task. We are trying to emulate a tabletop RPG session more than a graphic adventure, and that means doing the best we can to anticipate what things players will want to try, and implementing what might happen for each one.

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Got a question? Ask me anything.


Q: Will Torment use Unity 5?

Mark asks:
Is Torment going to be / has Torment been developed with Unity 5 in mind?

It turns out this was a more complicated question than one would think. We're planning to move to Unity 5, but we weren't sure about that for a long time (and even now, there's still a fair amount of work to do before the move is official).

Further details from our illustrious wizard/programmer, Steve Dobos:

We started work on Torment before Unity 5’s full feature set was announced.  By the time Unity 5 became a known quantity, we had already done much work on the engine for Unity 4.  So the benefit of a move to Unity 5 will be limited for Torment.  The primary justification for a move to Unity 5 is the new Mecanim system.  We’ve put much effort in to the animation of our characters, and the Mecanim upgrades will help organize our complex animation trees. 

Unfortunately, all of the cool Deferred Shading tech they released in Unity 5 doesn’t function with an orthographic camera, which Torment uses. So while we're doing some interesting things graphically, largely thanks to the Pillars of Eternity technology, Torment won't really benefit from Unity's graphical enhancements. Sadness.

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Got a question? Ask me anything.


Q: How do we know who wrote what?

Haran asks:
About writing credits in games - in most big games, you can't know which part of dialogue\text was written by whom, just that there is a "lead writer" and other writers. Is there a secret way industry people like you guys use to know this? And for Torment, will you list somewhere who wrote what?

The "secret way" is we ask people what they were responsible for. The answer we get back is rarely simple.

The thing is that most big games are a team effort. Although one person might initially be in charge of an area or a character, by the end of the project so many people have had their fingers in everything that it's often difficult to say who wrote what.

The best we can do (which is what you often see in interviews and the like) are things like: "Well Joe did the high level design on Sagus Cliffs," "Luke was primarily in charge of the Oasis," or "Kate wrote most of the characters in the third act of the game." That's about as specific as we can get.

We could maybe list those vagueries in the credits, but even that might be disingenuous. For example, right now George Ziets is in charge of the Bloom and has written a couple of the conversations. But Colin has written most of them. I've written a few, as has Thomas Beekers and a couple of our other writers. Some of the conversations have been gone over many times by multiple people. I've thoroughly reviewed (and sometimes revised) all of them, and George plans to do the same.

So who wrote what? I could maybe tell you right now, but I'd have to break it down node by node in many cases.

By the end of the project? All I'll be able to tell you is, "Well, George did the high level design on the Bloom...."

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Got a question? Ask me anything.


Q&A: Can you rest anywhere in Torment?

Alessandro from Torment's Italian fan blog says:
You've talked extensively about Effort in many occasions by now, but there's still a piece of the puzzle missing, at least to me. How do you intend to limit rest in the Torment?

I mean, managing Effort is an interesting gameplay mechanic. but only because Effort is a limited resource. If players are able to rest whenever they want, the whole thing explodes.

Now, I know that during Cryses time is a factor, so resting will be either limited or impossible, but what about the "normal gameplay"? Will Players be able to rest freely in exploration mode?

Not usually.

Background: I explained the Numenera concept of Effort, and how we're adapting it for Torment, in our latest update here. Short version: Effort is a limited resource used to make difficult tasks easier. This resource can be replenished with healing or rest.

Alessandro, you are absolutely right (as are others I've seen around the internets who have expressed a similar concern): if healing is freely and easily attainable -- as it would be with a "rest anywhere" mechanic -- then Effort becomes meaningless. You could just use it all up on a task, rest to replenish, then use it all again on the next task.

So obviously the player will not be able to rest anywhere they want for free. You'll have quick rests you can use anywhere, but those are limited and they won't restore all your Stat Pools. Eventually your party will need to sleep. To do that, you'll have to find a place that will let you sleep for a price you can afford. Every Zone will have such a place, of course, but you won't be able to rest wherever and whenever.

Can you just head back to the rest spot in between tasks? Sometimes, sure. Other times you won't be able to get back so easily. Sometimes you'll need to do a few tasks in a row to accomplish something. And sometimes sleeping (which makes time pass) will have other consequences as well.

So sleeping will usually come with a cost. That cost might be trivial or it might be quite high. It will depend on what you want to do, where you are in the game, and what's more important to you at the time.

Torment Novella Fan Art

In case you missed it, I got my first for-real fan art the other day for the Torment novella. From Michael Malkin, this is "Ama, seeker of the Golden Tide."


I like the golden light shining in from the left. That's a nice touch. Thanks, Michael!

Q: Game quality on a variety of systems?

Taking advantage of asking me anything, Steve says:
If one writes a book, the reader gets exactly what the writer put across. Doesn't matter what format they read it in - it's basically the same experience.

But with video games, everyone’s machines are different, from ancient to cutting edge. With all the variables of OS, RAM, video cards, and everything else thrown in as well. Which have changed since you began the project and will have changed again by the time it comes out.

So my question is, how do you design a product that will have the best quality when played on such a wide spectrum of equipment? Is there some kind of statistical system requirement formula for reaching the greatest number of gamers? Or do you just go for the best game you can design, and hope people’s computers will catch up to it in time?

Note that this is uniquely a PC problem. Console games also benefit in that if a game works on one XBox, it works on all of them the same (basically).

So it's certainly a trick. Although we do try to keep things optimized as we go, we're generally more focused on getting the game working first, and then getting it working fast.

Most of our developer boxes are semi-high end for this reason. If the developer's build of the game starts slowing down on a computer, it's usually easier to upgrade the computer than to slow down development while we figure out how to optimize whatever's slowing things down.

Though some optimizations do occur as development goes along. If we toss ten NPCs into a scene, and everybody's machines slow down, that's something we need to figure out (especially if we know we're going to need more than ten NPCs in our scenes!).

That only talks around your question though. To answer it more directly:

Step #1: Get the game playable. Period.

Step #2: Figure out what configuration of machine, level, and graphics quality things start to slow down.

Step #3: Figure out what's causing the slowdown and fix those spots. For example, if 10 NPCs is slowing down a scene, is it slowing the scene down because there are too many polygons? Too many light sources and lighting calculations? Too many shadows? Transparency? These things can be fixed globally to improve the game on all systems (for example by creating NPC models with fewer polygons).

Step #4: Identify features that can be scaled based on the user's system specs. For example, maybe there are three levels of NPC models: high, medium, and low. And each level has a different polygon count. These features then go into Game Options for the user to adjust the graphics to the quality/speed balance they are willing to put up with.

Then we run the game on various systems to determine our recommend system specs (which can run the game with all options turned up and no slow down) and our minimum system specs. Large developers have QA departments to do this for them. A small-to-midsize developer like inXile can do some QA, but also benefits hugely from public alpha and beta testing. The more folks we have banging at the game, the better the final product will be.

Of course we aim for the lowest system specs we can, so that as many people as possible can play the game. But there's always a certain threshold at which the work required to optimize the game cannot be justified by the number of customers we gain with those optimizations.

On Torment, we benefit from using Obsidian's technology for Pillars of Eternity, which lets us create high quality backgrounds without requiring more power from the system. That doesn't mean everything can be at a higher quality (NPCs and light sources still require a fair amount of processing power), but it gives us a lot more leeway than if we were making the game entirely in 3D.

Sorry for the hugely long answer, but I'm glad you asked the question. Among other things, this is why we can never give a straight answer when people ask us what our target system specs are going to be. The answer is invariably, "As low as we can make them."

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Got a question? Ask me anything.


Q&A: Gold Novella available anywhere else?

Bester says:
Sigh... Are you planning on selling "From the Depths" on any site at all, separately from other guys?

Not at this time.

So first, the Gold novella was written as a work-for-hire, which means all the rights to it belong to inXile and not to me. So "I" (Adam) will not be selling the novella anywhere because contractually I cannot.

"We" (inXile) do not currently have any plans to sell the Gold novella -- nor the other novellas in the From the Depths compilation -- in any way beyond how you can get them now. That doesn't mean we won't sell them on Amazon or something after Torment ships, it just means there are currently no plans to.

I will say that $15 for seven novellas is a pretty good deal, especially with some of the authors involved. If you're at all interested in Torment or in Numenera, I'd say (biased though I am) that it's well worth it.

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Got a question? Ask me anything.


From the Depths: Gold now available

As part of the Kickstarter campaign for Torment, we offered a series of give novellas called From the Depths. The novella I wrote (the Gold one, with super secret hidden title Gate to the Abyss) has been published and is available now.

This marks the second time I've been published (for anything greater than 25 words, that is). Still no novel, but I'm working my way up there! And look: I have two fans!

The enemy of your enemy can still kill you.

After the destruction of Shuenha, Luthiya and the other survivors take refuge in a dessicated land of churning volcanoes and eternal night—the ruins of Ossiphagan. They endure, but barely. So everyday they search the ruins, hoping to find some powerful artifact that will avenge them against the bloodthirsty Tabaht.

Luthiya discovers the fire wights, an ancient race both beautiful and powerful. She's afraid of them, but when the wights scare off a Tabaht scouting party, the other refugees believe they've found their redemption. But are the wights all they seem? Can they be reasoned with or are they bloodthirsty animals?

More importantly, are they working alone?

If you pledged for a reward level that includes the novellas, you can log into our website and download the novella right now.

At this moment, pledging towards Torment is the only way to get the novella. If you'd like to do that, you can pledge toward any of the reward levels that include the novella compilation (the cheapest being just the novella compilation at $15.00). You can do that on the Torment website as well.


Torment Game Modes?

From the AMA pile, Arumaxx89 says:
As you said, you want neither to encourage nor prohibit save scumming.
So I want to ask you a question: "Will there be different game modes in T:ToN?" (like, for instance, trial of iron in pillars of eternity or ironmode in XCOM)

We haven't finalized our game modes yet by any means, but we are tentatively planning some sort of ironman/permadeath mode. Of course "permadeath" doesn't mean as much to a tough-to-kill castoff of the Changing God, but it would mean something for your companions.

And it would mean your choices and failures were irreversible. By itself, I guess this wouldn't be too bad in Torment, where we are trying to make failure states worth continuing through anyway. But even though most things won't kill the Last Castoff, he's not immortal. There are things that can happen in the Ninth World that can wipe out even a castoff, and some of those things are hunting you...

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Got a question? Ask me anything.


Numenera Creatures: Burden or Opportunity?

JJL asks:
So I lately got Numenera corerulebook and bestiary and read them through, fascinating stuff, but It makes me wonder about the video game.

I mean, Numenera seems to be really hard setting to make stuff for since like, one of things book states is that all animals from modern world are extinct so if someone talks about scorpion, it might not be scorpion in same way we today understand what that word means. That and the fact that bestiary is weiiiiird(in cool way) makes me wonder how that affects the game design

I mean, when you are doing normal fantasy game setting, you can just include vampires and skeletons and whatever without thinking about it too deeply, but in numenera straight up magic doesn't even exist, everything is caused by really advanced science and bestiary doesn't contain any monsters from traditional fantasy setting. Heck, book even recommends against using words like dragon or griffon or such to describe creatures. So yeah, does that make job much harder for you guys or do you guys consider it more of opportunity to do interesting things? 
(I'm assuming you guys aren't ignoring the setting described by rulebook completely xP I mean, for all I know, if you guys want to include undead and straight up dragons, you guys will do that)

We're professional world-builders working on a brand that intentionally steers away from normal fantasy at every opportunity. So yeah: huge, HUGE opportunity. This is why we chose the setting in the first place.

(And yes, there will probably be zero vampires, skeletons, or dragons. We do have one creature called a wight,* but it's not what you think.)

* See the novella compilation in Update #7.

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Got a question? Ask me anything.



Wait, wait, wait: One BILLION Years?

AstroBull has a question about the Numenera setting:
I have a question about the TTON time scale. In a previous AMA response, you mention "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." This brings up questions regarding biological evolution. As far as I am aware, many/most characters in TTON will be recognizably human, though I'm sure with changes both genetic and technological in origin. Still, it would take quite the suspension of disbelief for me to believe that Homo sapiens as we know it would exist in this future, rather than some potentially un-recognizable descendent.

Couldn't the premise of ages of civilizations with vastly advanced tech followed by a dark age work for, say, 20 million years? Will there be some explanation as to why humans still exist in the unfathomable distant future?

You are absolutely right. In one billion years, humans and everything else will have evolved, the continents will have come back together and split apart again, and none of it will matter because the sun will have expanded to the point where life on Earth will be impossible.

Assuming nobody does anything about it.

That's the thing, though. In those billion years, at least eight ultra-powerful civilizations have arisen (or arrived) and then disappeared, each one advanced to incredible power far (FAR FAR) beyond what we are currently capable of. And each one messed with the Earth in substantial ways.

At least one of them had mastered planetary engineering and stellar lifting. At least one could fiddle with the laws of physics the way we play with Legos. At least one explored parallel universes and alternate dimensions. And more than one wasn't human.

So why are there humans at all, or anything even remotely close? The Ninth Worlders don't know the answer to that. Their recorded history only goes back about 900 years, before which humans lived in barbaric tribes and isolated farming villages. No one knows how long it's been since the previous civilization disappeared, nor where Ninth Worlders came from. They have a sense that Earth was once theirs, and then it wasn't, and now it is again, but they have no idea how this could be.

Will there be some explanation for you, the player? Not in Torment, and maybe not in Numenera at all. It's not critical to Torment's story, but more than that, it's part of the mystery of the setting. And mystery is critical to making this setting work.

As for why a billion, instead of some other large-but-sufficient number, Monte Cook has a better answer than I could give.

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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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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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