In mid-December, GamesBeat confirmed that a followup to the popular 1999 Dungeons & Dragons video game Planescape: Torment is happening. Now, we’re finally starting to get some more details about the new title.
Designer Brian Fargo, who ran publisher Interplay Entertainment in the days of Planescape: Torment, spoke with PC gaming site Rock Paper Shotgun about the future of Torment.
Fargo revealed that the designers have set the game in Numenera, which is a new fantasy setting wholly separate from Dungeons & Dragons. Wizard of the Coast still owns the Planescape campaign setting, and the D&D publisher denied its use for the new Torment game (despite doing nothing with it since shuttering the product line in 1998).
Numenera is the new Planescape
Numenera is a new fantasy setting from Monte Cook. He was a designer and writer on the original Planescape: Torment and helped design the campaign setting. The creator introduced Numenera on Kickstarter, where backers contributed over $500,000 to the pen-and-paper role-playing game. Cook only set a $20,000 goal.
“The more we explored the Numenera setting, the clearer it became that it’s a natural fit for a Torment game,” Fargo told RPS. “And it isn’t too surprising that Numenera’s aesthetics work well for Torment given that Monte was a key designer for the Planescape setting.”
Cook designed the Numenera game in a way that prioritizes storytelling over gameplay mechanics. This is important for a Torment game, since gamers hold it in such high regard for its narrative.
“Numenera is very exotic and rich,but is a flexible universe that empowers and supports [game masters],” said Fargo. “As Torment desires certain locations or features, we’ll be able to do what we need to while fully respecting the setting.”
Monte will also contribute to a writing team that already includes Planescape: Torment writer Colin McComb.
What makes this a Torment game?
Fargo also spoke to what he believes makes a Torment game a Torment game, given that they are creating a pseudo-sequel without the setting of the original or any of its characters.
“We’re envisioning Torment as a thematic franchise with certain themes that can expand over different settings and stories,” said Fargo. “We will focus on the same things that made people appreciate Planescape: Torment so much: overturning role-playing game tropes; a fantastic, unconventional setting; memorable companions; deep thematic exploration of the human condition; heavy reactivity [to choices]; an intensely personal — rather than epic — story.”
That is something that writer McComb touched on when he spoke with GamesBeat. We asked him about what’s important for a Torment story:
“[Finding] a question that will resonate with the players and a theme that we can explore with a cast of reactive characters,” said McComb. “Creating memorable villains and companions and deep dialogue, and exploring the question: Does one life matter? And how [does it matter]?”
Fargo, Monte, and McComb have all separately found success on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter. They are likely headed back to draw from that well for Torment.
“There are obvious advantages to Kickstarter for both developers and backer,” said Fargo. “We get our games funded without dealing with a crazy publisher and the backer gets a game for much less than what the finished product would cost nonbackers. But beyond that, the benefit of crowdfunding is that it provides feedback and accountability to the people who are actually going to play the game. It validates the concept and helps us prioritize the sensibilities of the project. We are not forced to compromise for the thought of how the “mass market” might react. It’s a wonderfully pure process and one that hinges on trust.”
Right now, this team has a lot of trust, but they all have fully funded Kickstarter projects that they still haven’t released. Fans might begin to voice concerns if another project ask for money before these developers release their previously announced products.
GamesBeat 2014 — VentureBeat’s sixth annual event on disruption in the video game market — is coming up on Sept 15-16 in San Francisco. Purchase one of the first 50 tickets and save $400!