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Interview with Chris Avellone at Scripts & Scribes
Interview - posted by Infinitron on Fri 26 September 2014, 19:53:37Tags: Chris Avellone; Obsidian Entertainment; Torment: Tides of Numenera; Wasteland 2
Here's an interesting new interview with Chris Avellone, over at a writing-focused website called Scripts & Scribes. As you might expect, much of the interview consists of general information about MCA's career and his work as a narrative designer, but there are also a few juicy tidbits about the development of both Wasteland 2 and Torment: Tides of Numenera. Furthermore, Chris also reveals that Obsidian has two unannounced projects in the works. Here are the relevant quotes.
On his current activities at Obsidian:
For example, in the past month, I was doing core writing work on one of our internal projects, now I’m illustrating cartoon Kickstarter backer rewards, and also doing creative lead duties on another of our unannounced internal projects scripting lore and world sourcebook material. It’s a lot to juggle, and it hasn’t left a lot of time for much else – although it’s one interesting aspect of our studio that the owners themselves don’t hesitate to pitch in to help with a product’s success, whether interface, optimization, writing installers, setting up the website and backer portals, or even doing what I am usually enlisted to do: design, usually narrative.
- Providing what templates and design formats I could for area design and reactivity.
- Writing the vision document for the game (which we shared with the public) incorporating all the design pillars that Fargo and inXile wanted the game to embrace. This was pretty terrifying since I wasn’t sure how it would be received.
- Pitching in on the story design meetings.
- Organizing a small area design team (Team Tony) composed of a former programmer I worked with, Anthony Davis (and now work with again at Obsidian), and a former co-designer, Tony Evans, who I worked with on Knights of the Old Republic II, NWN2, NWN2: Mask of the Betrayer, and more… including Torment: Tides of Numenera (which I’ll go into more depth about below) to help develop the southern ruins of Los Angeles.
- Designing the maps, quests, monsters, and encounters for several locations (and sometimes variations of the same location depending on reactivity): Highpool, Agricultural Center, Seal Beach, and an additional area. To give credit where credit was due, the actual dialogue for the first two areas were done by two designers: Nathan Long (who I am also working with on Torment: Tides of Numenera) and Patrick McLean – I was responsible for doing a great deal of what I did in Fallout 2, which was to design isometric areas, quests, etc. Nathan did dialogue for the Ag Center, and Patrick did Highpool.
- Also, writing a WL2 novel as well. Phew.
So there was a lot to do, but for the chance to work on one of my favorite franchises of all time? Totally worth it.
It draws a number of things – the game makes the examination of themes through character interaction and narrative one of its pillars (which is rare in a title), there is a cast of companions with at least the same level of depth and complexity as the original, and we have a deep, no-holds-barred story like the original that you can sink your hands into. The development team also consists of a number of the key people from the original – Creative Lead Colin McComb, and programmer Adam Heine as the Lead Designer (Adam writes better than me, btw, so he basically does everything better than me), and Aaron Meyers, who did environment art for the original Torment.
In addition, developers from Obsidian who developed Mask of the Betrayer (commonly held as a fantasy RPG with the same depth as Torment) are present on the team as well: Tony Evans, George Ziets, and Kevin Saunders and more. They understand the heart of the license, and they know how to make it even better.
That said, Torment: Tides of Numenera differs in significant ways – combat is much improved, there is a non-judgmental alignment and development system (called “the Tides,” colored variations of psychic physics the player can mold and be molded by) and the context of the world, while sharing some hallmarks with Planescape in terms of richness, is notably different in that it takes place in the Numenera pen-and-paper game world, a world that’s built on the technological wreckage of nine worlds. This mess of technological ruin forms the principal of magic, exploration and areas in the game… with the guiding premise being that technology, when it reaches certain heights, becomes indistinguishable from magic.
[...] Torment: Tides of Numenera got much of its lore start by having five of the designers each writing a novella set in the world of Numenera. These lore pieces factor into the game’s area design, in some respects acting as narrative lore pieces for designers to build on in when doing level design. The first area, the Bloom, has ample evidence of this – it draws from one of the first Torment: TON novellas by Mur Lafferty for much of its foundation, which allows readers to see key insights that other players may be unaware of.
In terms of other outlets, Numenera itself is already a setting that was developed for pen-and-paper games by Monte Cook, and it was leveraged for the Torment: TON game much in the same way the original Torment game leveraged Dungeons and Dragons’ Planescape license. So in essence, both iterations of Torment were born from pen-and-paper gaming… from there, prose works are part of that process, and there has been discussion concerning other media aspects (graphic novels, for example).
Time will tell, but for now, the focus is on making a great title.