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Even Development Is An Epic Saga In Torment: Tides of Numenera
The Kickstarter for the highly anticipated RPG Torment: Tides of Numenera made history when it became the fastest Kickstarter to earn a million dollars. It did so in just 24 hours, breaking its goal of raising $900,000.
“You’ve got to be freaking kidding me!! We just funded in six hours!?!?!” Brian Fargo, founder of inXile, wrote in his first update. He followed with a scrawled message of obsequious gratitude, and promised more updates soon to come.
And come they did. Later that day, inXile posted the second of what would be 21 in-depth updates that spanned the fundraising process and beyond, chronicling the expansive augmentation to Tides of Numenera allowed by this unprecedented support. Their updates, which they called ‘journals,’ transformed the Kickstarter’s requisite message board into a heartfelt saga of Torment’s conceptual evolution, indulging fans with content. Each update was followed by hundreds of comments from backers, providing support or debate on newly introduced concepts.
As the total funded continued to rise, inXile released stretch goals detailing planned improvements. They brought on board illustrious fantasy author Pat Rothfuss, added tons of additional content like a female PC, and had a plethora of physical rewards commissioned such as novellas, maps, and game artwork. And perpetually, the team at inXile conveyed their gratitude.
“Without you there would be no Torment,” was the title of the sixteenth update on April 5, the last day of fundraising. Brian Fargo went on to rhapsodize about the “groundbreaking new model of connecting creators with the players” that crowdfunding allows. “With this great crowdfunding success comes great responsibility and we could not take it more seriously,” he said.
In its 30-day time limit, the project raised over $4.1 million dollars from more than 74,000 backers. And the team at inXile was given a much more daunting task than they first imagined, with the expectation of 74,000 direct supporters weighing on their backs.
So where did this overwhelming influx of support come from?
Planescape: Torment was a 1999 cRPG that reigns at the top of many gamers’ “best ever” lists. What set it apart from other RPGs was the extent to which the player felt their choices mattered. Characters could join your party or not, and like you or not, based on your interactions with them. You could talk your way out of boss fights, and even convince the final boss to kill himself. Tides of Numenera is the ‘spiritual successor’ to Planescape: Torment, and has some of the same people working on it. Project Director Kevin Saunders explains the original game in an interview with Iron Tower:
“PST caught the player off guard. It presented situations we weren’t used to encountering, forced players to think more than they were used to. It brought companion complexity and depth to a new level and was a strong example of the possibilities for reactivity.”
The rich narrative, complex plotlines, and variable outcomes left players with a feeling that is captured in the title of the Tides of Numenera launch party (an invite to which is given to backers of $10,000 or more): One Life Matters.
One Life Matters
The team at inXile has reiterated over and over the importance of player choice in the game for Tides of Numenera, and the myriad ways the game can be played through different choices. “What does one life matter? Does it matter at all? What legacy do we leave and how does that affect those around us?” creative lead Colin Mccomb poses in an update. He further explains in an interview with VG24/7:
“It’s a deep and meaningful angle, one that seems foreign in an industry where you – the star – are commonly the most important person in a game’s world. Here you will be largely irrelevant in a universe that has seen countless civilizations collapse into obscurity. It’s what you do with your fleeting life that matters most.”
Putting Story First
The team at inXile are cutting no corners in crafting a storyline for Tides of Numenera that will support its deeper themes of legacy, abandonment, and mystery, by including writers Pat Rothfuss, Mur Lafferty, George Ziets, and Chris Avellone. “We are starting with the assumption that our players want to read and think,” Project Director Kevin Saunders told Rock Paper Shotgun in an intriguing Q&A on progress, death, and putting story first. “The audience that’s playing these games is going to be older than the norm,” said studio head Brian Fargo. This could also help explain the success of the Kickstarter, in that most fans of Tides of Numenera probably have established careers.
Over the few months since their project was funded, the team at inXile has released videocasts, interviews, and artwork, to convey the level of depth promised by Tides of Numenera. The planned release date announced during the fundraising campaign was set to December 2014, but was later postponed several months due to the need to implement the numerous achieved stretch goals. Though the studio’s other project, Wasteland 2 has taken the spotlight recently, Torment: Tides of Numenera promises to be a moving and thought-provoking experience.