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The Sarmatian Protopope

his desires inscrutable but surely base

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Torment: Tides of Numenera
So, I love games. One of the upcoming ones I'm really excited about is: Torment: Tides of Numenera (currently in Kickstarter form, as you can see).

They just.. they did SO many things brilliantly, with their kickstarter, with their design, with communicating with the fans. Here's why I think it'll be awesome:

* Planescape! Well, so unfortunately, this is not a Planescape title. BUT. As you can probably tell by the "Torment" part of the name, this is largely the same team that did the brilliant Planescape: Torment game for PC. Not only that, but Colin McComb (the Creative Lead for 'Tides) and Monte Cook were two of the creators of the original Planescape setting!

* Monte Cook is amazing. He was part of the original Planescape setting creative team (he did a lot of other stuff besides, for Iron Crown, Rolemaster, TSR etc). He was the lead designer for D&D 3rd edition. Created the Dark Matter setting for Alternity. But after he left TSR/Wizards of the Coast, he started publishing his own campaign settings and RPG materials. Ptolus was a vivid and atmospheric campaign setting, very reminiscent of Planescape. (I also liked how he implemented essentially a CSA for RPGs model, where you paid him a subscription, and he sent you modules / rpg stuff in the mail). After Ptolus, he went on to create the Numenera campaign setting, which is going to be the IP/setting behind this game.

* Colin McComb is also pretty amazing. So not only was he part of the Planescape team (Planes of Law, Planes of Conflict, Hellbound, Well of Worlds, etc, etc), he also created the Birthright Campaign Setting for TSR, and did some Ravenloft stuff as well. He also worked on Fallout 2, and also Planescape: Torment the videogame.

* Numenera, the setting itself, looks to be very intriguing. I missed Monte's kickstarter for it, though you can currently pre-order it through its website. But it basically looks to be a posthuman Planescape - heavily philosophical and stylish, with echoes of Iain M. Banks and Gene Wolfe. Can't wait to play it, tabletop-wise.

* Their Kickstarter itself, the publicity behind it, the design of the reward tiers, and the constant project updates they send in the mail, is astonishingly well designed.

* I like their YouTube video series (start with Tales of Torment: Episode 1), where Colin and other writers and designers talk about each particular element of the game, their design process, the setting, and so on.

* I liked their IAmA on Reddit (in fact, it sounds like the game has its own Torment sub-reddit), and the Risking their Careers article on PA.

Anyhow, thought I'd share, in case any Planescape fans out there haven't heard of either the videogame, or Numenera the tabletop setting.

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Oh, this IS exciting! Thanks for the heads-up!

Perhaps it's just me thinking this, but...

Isn't there something lost ... an aspect of mystery and of an open mind ... when the creators of an interactive fiction talk so openly, and take such open public feedback, about their creative process?

Two of my favorite parts of the gaming experience are the surprise of an unexpected element - a scene, a place, an item, an homage - and the feeling of entering a world with unknown limits. Aren't those both seriously handicapped by this process?

If Trent Reznor had hopped online and explained, in great detail, exactly where he got the idea for each lyric and each sample, and handed out lo-res "work-in-progress" mixdowns and taken suggestions and votes from fans on where they wanted the mix to go, I imagine the eventual album would have sounded like forgettable crap, and I would feel LESS personal connection to the music, not more.

Couldn't it be said that the kickstarter process is, itself, the entertainment? Or at least a huge part of it? And doesn't that process change the nature of what is successful in the medium? Kind of like the way that touchscreens and one-dollar stand-in-line games like Angry Birds sucked all the oxygen out of the PC and console RPG scene? Are people going to expect a suggestion box and a tip jar bolted onto every project? Doesn't anyone just read a book any more? Why don't these kids get off my lawn??

The question of - does reading a (game) developer's diary or videos lessen the aspect of mystery - is an interesting one. I'm not sure, one way or another, I gotta think about it.

It does come down to personal preference, however. If reading/watching the "making of" kind of material lessens your enjoyment, then definitely don't do it! :)
I think for me, being a hobbyist game developer, I like that sort of thing, I like to watch the sausage get made. It helps me feel closer to the game/sausage, to know that it came from this particular little piggie named Hubert, and which particular hoofs and cuts of meat went into it.

The one thing I EMPHATICALLY disagree on, however, is the statement "Kind of like the way that touchscreens and one-dollar stand-in-line games like Angry Birds sucked all the oxygen out of the PC and console RPG scene".

Why do you think that's the case? (Having just returned from PAX East and spent two days gazing at new and upcoming games, and in general keeping a close eye to the games that are coming out) I feel that the PC and Console scene, far from having the oxygen sucked out of it, is experiencing a golden age / a giddy renaissance.

There's more games than ever, and more _different_ kind of games, better games, more innovative games than ever. If you like Triple-A mainstream titles, the industry certainly provides them aplenty, and they're pretty amazing. But more importantly, the indie game scene, fueled by easy deployment platforms like Steam, Xbox Live (and the Wii and PS3 equivalents), and yes, iOS and Android, is blossoming.

The gaming market is not a zero-sum games. The success of Angry Birds and such has tapped a completely different market than that of hardcore first-person shooters, or retro pixellated RPGs, or space shooters, or strategy games, etc, etc.

So I'm curious why this perception on your part?

Now as far as Kickstarter, you're thinking of it in the wrong way.

It's not merely entertainment. It's a new funding model, one that enables _precisely_ the kind of innovation (in the PC and console scenes) that you decry is missing.

Kickstarters (for competent game companies of small and medium size) is brilliant in the same way that Community Supported Agriculture is brilliant. A farmer needs money in the winter, to hire workers, buy equipment and fuel, buy seeds, etc. But the produce will be ready to sell in the summer and fall. By selling subscriptions or pre-sales up front, farmers get funding when they need it most, and the consumers get a more personal and involved relationship with their food supplier.

Take a look at the first video on this article: http://penny-arcade.com/report/article/the-two-men-who-believed-in-and-risked-their-careers-for-a-new-torment-titl (where the inXile guy satirizes a meeting with a typical game publisher), to see what I mean.
Through Kickstarter, game developers lessen their risk. They get funding and pre-orders up front from the consumers themselves, instead of having to pitch to game publishers (who have an immense pressure to their shareholders to fund only "sure thing" projects -- essentially remakes or sequels of boring flagship games). Not only that, but they're able to make precisely the kind of small to medium (by sales) titles that wouldn't get funded at all, but have a blending of the indie game developer's innovation but also the high production value of a large dev team.

Lastly, Kickstarter allows for game developers to do all sorts of "premium" editions of the game that are not possible through regular channels. People can pay more and get all sorts of perks -- cloth maps, beautifully printed manuals, game tie-in novels, treasure chests, and also things like beta access to help test the game, and their own name in the game credits.

So anyways. Kickstarter == fucking awesome. Don't think of it as a tip jar. Think of it as CSAs + personal involvement with the game that's not possible through any other channels.

Edited at 2013-04-01 09:24 pm (UTC)

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Oh interesting!

What were the mechanics like?

I would probably like Monte Cook mo' betta if my introduction to his setting design wasn't Arcana Evolved, which is kind of abysmal.

Hahaha oh nooo! :)

That's exactly the wrong introduction to his work! ;)

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