Kevin Saunders and Adam Heine talk to Iron Tower Studios in an indepth interview on the writing and design of Torment: Tides of Numenera.5. You mentioned that the Numenera’s PnP system is too open-ended for a computer game, while adding that “Torment’s systems will likely have more complexity than the PnP rules do.” Can you elaborate? What makes a good skill system?Kevin: Part of Monte’s vision with Numenera is for the narrative to be a focus of the game. To that end, its rules are streamlined – relative to some other PnP games – so that the pace doesn’t get bogged down. (After reading Numenera’s character creation rules, Chris Avellone commented: “Liberating, like someone used the Jaws of Life to crack open character design.”) In a cRPG, we still have to consider how the complexity affects the game for the player (in both good and bad ways), but from an execution perspective, from the GM’s perspective, complexity doesn’t slow down the gameplay or get in the way of the narrative. So we can take things quite a bit further without many of the negatives kicking in. (That said, I don’t believe in complexity for complexity’s sake – what’s important is the overall experience for the player and what you’re trying to achieve.)One thing I’d like to accomplish through the player’s skill choices in Torment is to give them ways to modify the gameplay to better suit their preferred play style. A hypothetical example might be an encumbrance system. (I can’t comment at this time whether or not Torment will have one.) Some players enjoy the tradeoffs and realism that encumbrance can provide, while others find it tedious and frustrating. In a game with an encumbrance system you could have a skill that (perhaps among other effects) largely mitigates the impact of encumbrance. Then players who really hate that aspect have a way to disable it (and might gain genuine gameplay benefits as well), but at the cost of some other capability. This is an example of reducing player frustration, but even better is when a skill can enhance gameplay that the player enjoys. Combat skills that provide new tactical options are an obvious example, but there are non-combat possibilities as well.There are other uses for skills as well. Those that give a flat bonus are the least interesting because they don’t demand anything more from the player. But, you know, it’s very time-consuming to come up with enough really creative skills and systems to provide as much meaningful character customization as we’d like to have. It’s not about coming up with the ideas – it’s about then figuring out what that really means in terms of the gameplay (and making it fun) and then injecting it into enough of the content such that it’s a satisfying choice for the player. We’ve all played games with some character customization options that we later realized weren’t well balanced. It’s a lot easier to achieve balance with a combination of more “boring” skills and creative ones that truly affect the gameplay.And not only can it take a lot of effort to devise these abilities and ensure they’re sufficiently propagated throughout the content, but even if you achieve this, you have this extra strain from the RPG system on the rest of the game. Whether at a conscious level or not, your area designers are molding their designs around these requirements. Maybe you find that an area of the game that you envisioned as an interior now needs to be adjusted to be an exterior area because you have a Wilderness Survival skill (Torment probably won’t have one, by the way) that hasn’t received enough love. So now you’ve altered your creative view of the game slightly. Of course there are many other factors involved – maybe with how your game is built, there are different artist skill sets required for interiors versus exteriors and your best guy is an interior guy, so you favor those. Or maybe you’re determined to have a day/night cycle with visible impact, but it’s time-consuming to get it to look right so you want to have very few exteriors so that you have the time to polish them all. There’s myriad considerations that you’re at least subconsciously weighing in your decisions and so if you’ve got skills in the mix, too, there’s just one more facet that influences decision – you lose some of the game’s focus.Of course, it’s also possible for these factors to be synergistic, to support each other and improve focus and the overall game quality. This is, of course, what we aim for, but it’s impossible to get everything right on a finite budget. So we make decisions, sometimes accepting compromises, that we feel will maximize the overall quality of the game. (And having a strong vision can make it much easier to see which compromises are acceptable and which factors are too important to cut. Initially, the vision isn’t static, but evolves as you delve deeper into the game’s design and implementation.)So. Skills. I think you want Skills to provide the player with interesting choices at both the strategic level (i.e., “what skill should I pick?”) and the tactical level (i.e., “given my character, what action should I take right now?”). I also think you want at least enough complexity in the Skills such that, to the extent that they aren’t perfectly balanced, the imbalances become a matter of personal preference, or at least debate. And you want them to complement the rest of the game’s design.
I’m so excited for this game!
A List of “Men’s Rights” Issues That Feminism Is Already Working On
Feminists do not want you to lose custody of your children. The assumption that women are naturally better caregivers is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not like commercials in which bumbling dads mess up the laundry and competent wives have to bustle in and fix it. The assumption that women are naturally better housekeepers is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to have to make alimony payments. Alimony is set up to combat the fact that women have been historically expected to prioritize domestic duties over professional goals, thus minimizing their earning potential if their “traditional” marriages end. The assumption that wives should make babies instead of money is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want anyone to get raped in prison. Permissiveness and jokes about prison rape are part of rape culture, which is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want anyone to be falsely accused of rape. False rape accusations discredit rape victims, which reinforces rape culture, which is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to be lonely and we do not hate “nice guys.” The idea that certain people are inherently more valuable than other people because of superficial physical attributes is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to have to pay for dinner. We want the opportunity to achieve financial success on par with men in any field we choose (and are qualified for), and the fact that we currently don’t is part of patriarchy. The idea that men should coddle and provide for women, and/or purchase their affections in romantic contexts, is condescending and damaging and part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to be maimed or killed in industrial accidents, or toil in coal mines while we do cushy secretarial work and various yarn-themed activities. The fact that women have long been shut out of dangerous industrial jobs (by men, by the way) is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to commit suicide. Any pressures and expectations that lower the quality of life of either gender are part of patriarchy. The fact that depression is characterized as an effeminate weakness, making men less likely to seek treatment, is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to be viewed with suspicion when you take your child to the park (men frequently insist that this is a serious issue, so I will take them at their word). The assumption that men are insatiable sexual animals, combined with the idea that it’s unnatural for men to care for children, is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want you to be drafted and then die in a war while we stay home and iron stuff. The idea that women are too weak to fight or too delicate to function in a military setting is part of patriarchy.
Feminists do not want women to escape prosecution on legitimate domestic violence charges, nor do we want men to be ridiculed for being raped or abused. The idea that women are naturally gentle and compliant and that victimhood is inherently feminine is part of patriarchy.
Feminists hate patriarchy. We do not hate you.
If you really care about those issues as passionately as you say you do, you should be thanking feminists, because feminism is a social movement actively dedicated to dismantling every single one of them. The fact that you blame feminists—your allies—for problems against which they have been struggling for decades suggests that supporting men isn’t nearly as important to you as resenting women. We care about your problems a lot. Could you try caring about ours?