EGX 2016: Interview with Colin McComb, the Mind Behind Torment: Tides of Numenera

The lead dev behind this upcoming Planescape successor reveals his inspirations and the influential power of Blue Oyster Cult.

While I was at EGX 2016 at the NEC in Birmingham, UK, I got the opportunity to speak to Colin McComb, one of the minds behind the long-awaited RPG game Torment: Tides of Numenera. This upcoming game is the spiritual successor to the award-winning Planescape: Torment that released way back in 1999. Currently in development by inXile Entertainment, Tides of Numenera was crowdfunded on Kickstarter and reached its funding goal after just six hours of the campaign starting!

It went on to set the record for the highest-funded video game on the Kickstarter platform, with over $4 million pledged. Now, the campaign is currently at over $5 million (as shown on the official website). The game's release date has been pushed back due to development issues, but it is nearly ready for release, and there are swathes of fans excited to see it.

I sat down to have a chat to Colin about the game and the meaning behind the game's tagline: 'What does one life matter?'

ESpalding: Hello Colin. Many thanks for talking with to me today. Could you start with introducing Torment: Tides of Numenera to the GameSkinny readers?

Colin McComb: "Sure. What we are is a single player, story driven, science fiction RPG set on Earth, billions of years in the future. We are trying to create a thematic successor to Planescape Torment which asks what can change the nature of a man, and we are trying to explore the question "What does one life matter?". So, questions of legacy, loss, abandonment and mystery."

ES: That's an interesting area to look into. Where does the "what does one life matter" question come from? Is it drawn from personal experiences?

CM: "A little bit, yeah. Now that I am older than I was when I was working on Planescape: Torment, I wanted to explore a little bit more the nature of mortality and about the marks we leave on life.

As one gets older, the question of your impending death becomes more pressing, I guess, and you need to figure out what this life is for, but there's also other questions too. What does it matter if I kill Joe [Colin's RP Rep] here? Does his life matter? Its a question of the emphasis. What does ONE life matter?

If I give my life so that I can save everyone here from a terrorist attack or something, or if I am willing to sacrifice a child to save the World, for instance. What does one life matter? There's so many different ways to ask and answer the question that we felt it was open ended enough to give us enough latitude to create a strong game."

ES: Ok. So that's pretty deep. I suppose it is quite an open ended question. I would be lying if I said that I haven't had thoughts along those lines.

On to the game itself, it's written by Monte Cook?

CM - "No. The Numenera campaign setting is written by Monte Cook but the actual game is written by...well we had a whole bunch of writers. We wound up with a core team of about 4 or 5 but we started off with about 10. So the core is me, Gavin Jurgens-Fyhrie, Adam Heine, George Ziets, Mark Yohalem, Nathan Long. That's the people who were extensively involved."

ES: So, how did you end up picking up Cook's Numenera setting?

CM - "Monte and I have been friends for more than 2 decades now. We worked together at TSR. We worked a lot on the Planescape campaign setting after Zeb Cook wrote it and then left for his computer game stuff. Monte and I picked up the mantle. So we kept in touch over the years and he invited me to be an alpha play tester for the Numenera campaign setting. I had a lot of fun playing that and then when Brian Fargo asked me if I would be interested in writing a new Torment game I was like "I've got just the setting!". It was just the perfect conflicts of timing."

ES: Who do think it is going to appeal to the most? Will it be the fans of Planescape: Torment or have you been trying to direct it at a new audience?

CM: "Our primary goal was to make a game our backers would find entertaining. We took it to Kickstarter and about 80,000 people said "this is the game we want". So because they were the ones who funded us and believed in us from the start -- as opposed to going out and getting, like, EA to sign us or something -- we are making the game for them.

People who are excited about the revival of infinity style engine games or people who were fans of Planescape: Torment or people who wanted to be fans of Planescape: Torment but weren't around when it first came out. We're basically hoping that just about anybody will pick it up, but it is primarily for our backers."

ES: What has been your favorite aspect of working on the game?

CM: "I would say working with the team. I have had such a good time with all these guys. They are extraordinarily creative, professional and giving. Nobody on the team has an ego. Everyone just wants to make this the best possible thing we can make it. I have had an incredible education watching George Zeits do his area design, for instance. Adam and I have been working on this from the very start. Gavin and I have laughed every day over IM. Having the opportunity to build this story from the beginning and shape it all the way through. There are so many good things about this...it is really hard to say."

ES: And in the same vein, what is the favorite aspect of the game itself?

CM: "Probably the Castoffs' Labyrinth. Its a shared psychic mindspace essentially constructed in your mind and it's where you go when you die if you haven't died altogether. You are essentially exploring it and then rebuilding aspects of yourself based on what you find there. I've always been really into that kind of thing. That was a lot of fun. I think my interest in this was shaped extensively by Blue Oyster Cults song "Veteran of the Psychic Wars".

ES: Oh nice! I love Blue Oyster Cult myself!

CM - There is a whole area in the game based on that song. It is called the Fifth Eye.

ES: That sounds really interesting! I look forward to exploring that area!

I'd like to thank Colin for taking the time to chat with me about his upcoming game. For more info about it, you can check out our experience with Tides of Numenera at PAX West earlier this year. I look forward to seeing more about Torment: Tides of Numenera -- and especially getting to play it when it finally releases.

Torment: Tides of Numenera is currently on Steam Early Access and is expected to be enter general release at some point in Q1 of 2017. Make sure you check back with us to find out the latest news as the game gets closer to launch!

Published Oct. 13th 2016
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