Updated our Journal (27): Extra Effort
Posted: December 20th, 2013, 4:55 pm
Update 27 talks about skills, effort, exploration, story revisions, and Adam's promotion.
I wanted to speak a bit about how Torment is progressing. The last round of major story revisions has been completed (more on that below) and we’ve resumed fleshing out and designing specific areas. Artist Aaron Meyers (who was also an artist on Planescape: Torment) has been making great progress on an environment prototype, proving out our art pipelines and helping us assess how the density of our design content will feel in the game. We don’t have any new art to share yet, but expect us to have something for you to see before winter’s end.
For a while now, some of you have been asking when we’d be transitioning from preproduction to production. With Wasteland 2’s recent early beta release, you may be aware that the inXile team will be spending more time on that game to get it done right—one of the fundamental benefits of Kickstarter is that we have the direction from our backers to emphasize quality over punctuality. This decision impacts Torment because most of the production team (e.g., programmers, artists, animators, etc.) will be moving onto Torment later than originally expected, which means we’ll be in preproduction for a longer period of time.
Believe it or not, this is the best situation from the perspective of Torment. When you’re in production with a large team, trying to incorporate any new idea can result in a lot of wasted work and confusion. (An “idea” in this sense could be many different things: an improvement to how conversation data is authored that enables a new type of dialogue reactivity, a new technique for handling shadow-casting lights in environments, a major change to an existing companion that improves the overall party dynamics, etc.) So when considering the new idea, you either accept this negative impact or discard the idea.
With a small preproduction team, the negative impacts have a smaller effect and the values of the ideas are more about the benefits they provide. Fewer people also means fewer miscommunications and greater flexibility both to experiment and to iterate. The closer you can get to your final design and technology before you are creating content at a rapid pace, the better the final result will be. So extra preproduction time is very beneficial, as long as you that time includes prototyping in-engine and iterating on the design instead of expanding the game’s scope.
We approached our preproduction aware that we might begin production later. On a traditionally funded project, you can ultimately be forced to make some decisions that you know are bad for the overall project to meet a specific schedule, but because we are free from external milestones, we can flexibly adapt, keeping our focus on the overall quality of the final game. It can be challenging to think that far ahead, but it’s even more challenging if you have rigid short-term goals binding you.
It’s true that if you just extend preproduction without any making any other changes to your plans, you’ll go over budget and over schedule. But the productivity improvements you gain through a longer preproduction period make up for the added cost of having a small team in preproduction for longer. (This is one reason, for example, that expansion packs are much cheaper to make than full titles – the development cycle for the original title is effectively part of the expansion’s preproduction.)
We’ll let you know if we ever determine that Torment’s release will be delayed beyond the first half of 2015. Thus far, our extended preproduction has been a very good thing and at this time I don’t anticipate it will push us out of that release date window.