With a successful Kickstarter campaign already under its belt, inXile Entertainment recently secured itself publishing support from Techland – the developer turned publisher whose Dying Light game garnered it serious acclaim last year. And with Torment: Tides of Numenera due out in early 2017, both inXile Entertainment and Techland Publishing have their work cut out to ensure that their spiritual successor lives up to the legacy of critically lauded Planescape: Torment.
Even though inXile Entertainment doesn’t own the rights to Planescape: Torment, the developer has still managed to secure development contributions from a number of notable individuals that were involved with the 1999 game – from designer Chris Avellone to soundtrack composer Mark Morgan. And whilst Plansescape: Torment came out on PC, Mac and Linux only, Torment: Tides of Numenera is looking to increase its portfolio of platforms by releasing on both home computers (PC, Mac, Linux), and consoles (XBox One and PlayStation 4). And in order to discuss this, I spoke to Chris Keenan (Vice President of Development, inXile Entertainment) and got to ask him as to how his development studio is looking to make Torment: Tides of Numenera more console-centric. Enjoy!
Is Torment: Tides of Numenera a sequel to Planescape: Torment?
We call it a thematic successor. It doesn’t take place in the same Planescape universe, as the original game. It does carry a lot of the same themes though. The storyline is a deep, thematic, compelling story. Planescape: Torment is a very philosophical game. We wanted to tell that personal journey. So the tag line of the game is what does one life matter? And it is about your journey, your legacy, and what you leave behind in the world. As well, a lot of the general game mechanics are extremely similar to Planescape: Torment.
One example is how we handle death in the game. In the original, you would be able to die, and that wasn’t the end of your journey necessarily. It kind of opened up additional content. We also have the same in this game. In the beginning, in the first crisist which you fight – which is essentially a turn-based combat – you’ll be able to go through the combat. We’ve actually tuned it to be a little harder than you would in a normal tutorial. And when you go through the combat, if you die there, you’re actually moved to a completely new location where you wake up and now you have a different branch to that story than if you actually went through it the first time and finished that combat.
Planescape: Torment was a game that was quite big in a lot of ways. I know that you’ve stated that Torment: Tides of Numenera has a lot of the same gameplay conventions and mechanics that are utilized in Planescape: Torment. But have you tried to incorporate modern gameplay mechanics where possible?
Yeah, of course. I think the main thing for us was that we tried to stay true to the feeling of the original. So of course we kept a lot of those similar themes and mechanics throughout the game. As far as modernising it, if you go back and you play a lot of those older games, sometimes they’re a little rough. They’re not extremely accessible. A lot of that is due to…
They’re quite clunky actually…
Yeah, a little clunky. A lot of that is due to UI and inputs. So with this one, of course, we’re using modern conventions with all the UI. We did bring it to console, and that’s a big design challenge, being that this game has been focused on PC, Mac, Linux for the better part of the last three years. So to put it on a console, what we did is we decided that in no way were we going to make any concessions and dumb down our UI for the middle ground. It certainly cost us more money, but what we did is we built two separate UIs, one for controller based and one for keyboard and mouse. So if you’re on your PC and you want to play with the controller, you can actually plug in a Steam controller or an XBox controller and use that other UI on your PC version.
Console players expect modernised gameplay mechanics. At the same time, console players don’t necessarily play PC-oriented titles. What challenges have you had, taking into account both of those two audience demands, that Torment: Tides of Numenera would be a title that would be financially feasible in the console market – where it wouldn’t necessarily be a waste of you and your publisher’s time?
Sure. To answer that, go back to our previous game that we did before this. It was Wasteland 2. And it’s a very similar game, isometric top-down, lots of words, lots of reactive content, all about choice and consequence, and turn-based battles as well. So when we finished Wasteland 2, we decided that we wanted to see if this was viable to put on console. So we started doing some prototypes of controls to make sure that before we actually committed to it, we felt we had something that was interesting. We studied games like… There were a lot of great games that started off PC-centric and then moved over, games like X-COM. Diablo comes to mind as a recent one. So we studied those games and tried to implement the best feel and UI that we could. And it actually worked really well. So Wasteland: Director’s Cut came out on consoles. And we took a step back and went, “Okay, is this something that…?” There are not a lot of games like it. You’re right. “So is that because there’s potentially an opportunity in the market? Or is that because games of this type don’t work?” And we were very happy with the sales on Wasteland. So once we figured that out, we decided that we would go ahead and give it a shot for Torment. And we took all the lessons that we learned in Wasteland and built upon those to make Torment also have a console version.
Torment: Tides of Numenera is going to have multiple endings. And the $4 million that you generated via Kickstarter is great. Techland is also helping you to publish the game, so that means an extra influx of resources – mostly money, really. But even with that taken into account, and with all the multiple endings that you’ve got planned, have you had any difficulty in implementing them as part of a cohesive and convincing storyline? And if so, given the project’s ambitious nature, has there been anything that you’ve basically had to leave on the chopping board?
I think any time you’re looking at a game this large… I mean the game does have a million words in it. There was a good deal of stuff that we wrote and decided that for one reason or another, it wasn’t quite right for the game. Thematically, it didn’t fit. It was potentially an area that didn’t make sense with the other zones. So we kept what we felt was the strongest core of the game, and that does include a ton of different endings. Even in the first minute of the game, you can have the Game Over screen if you’re not properly paying attention and learning what the text is telling you. So there’s a huge amount of unique endings in the game. I’m not sure of the exact number, but we feel that we’re okay with the players having some Game Over screens here and there throughout. Also, death is handled in a way that it’s not the end of your journey in a lot of instances. It actually unlocks and opens up new content. Sometimes you actually have to die to continue part of the main story as well.
Is there a “best” ending?
Is there a best ending? I guess it depends on what you think is the best ending. It is a personal journey, and it does ask a lot of questions. And we allow you to kind of use different elements of people’s personality, whether it’s pride or angst or fear. So how you play your character in the game is going to define what you want to do within it.
Any future DLC planned?
There is no DLC that we have planned. That was something that we pitched early on to our backers. We told them, “We want to give you a complete experience. We aren’t going to sell armour or anything like that.” So it is a full game.