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Mercenary's menu TORN

Developer: Black Isle Studio
Publisher: Interplay
Official site: http://torn.blackisle.com
Release:2001
23.03.01 24.03.01 31.03.01 04.04.01 07.04.01
08.04.01 13.04.01 19.04.01 23.04.01 30.04.01
17.05.01 19.05.01      

(19.05.2001)

My AG colleague and comrade, Tolstiy, provided us with some fresh info on TORN from Interplay. It's a wad of screenshots you can find here. There are (as always) a lot of brand-new ones, never published before.



(17.05.2001)

The official TORN site is updated with Tim Donley (TORN lead artist) diary message. Most pleasant thing in this diary is the set of new art for TORN. Check our gallery - you can find it there.



(30.04.2001)

New update at TORN official web-site: there are some new perk descriptions and one "Medieval Pip-Boy" picture. As usual, you can find the picture in our TORN section.

(23.04.2001)

The official TORN site is updated with two new sections - Magic spheres description and FAQ. You can find these sections here and here. I especially like the magic sphere logos.



(19.04.2001)

PC.IGN has published the interview with David Maldonado. From the very beginning, the author is confessing there are very few issues left undiscussed with the game creators. Then, as if by chance, proceeds with same old issues many time discussed at official TORN forum. You can find this big interview here. I wouldn't retell it... Is it really necessary? ;) The developers, though, confirmed they still have some undisclosed tasty things - they won't discuss them to keep slight curtain of secrecy over the project. The TORN itself is to be presented at forthcoming E3.

(13.04.2001)

TORN files section are supplemented with first official desktop theme. Highly recommended for preview!



(08.04.2001)

Mr. Kenneth S. Rosman has posted a very interesting message about the possible TORN demo on the official forum:

We are in fact making a demo for TORN. In fact we are starting work on the demo now to make sure we have plenty 'o time to make sure it is portraying TORN correctly and that is FUN!

As for the date you can expect to have it in your hot little hand, well that isn't quite determined yet. We will definitely keep you informed.

And here are some other very interesting tidbits:

Q: When you're talking to npc's, can they begin a conversation with your party members?
A: We intend to carry that over from Torment, yes.
Q: Can you ride a horse?
A: No, there are currently no plans for mounts (sequel! sequel!).
Q: Or can we own a boat/house?
A: We currently intend to have a home that the protagonist can acquire, along with the ability to "upgrade" the place with things like various hirelings, a forge, a laboratory, kennels, and more.
Q: What is your opinion concerning powerful items/weapons?
A: They are ludicrously fun, and if they noisily splatter enemies in large enough numbers, may well cause me to writhe about on the floor in paroxysms o' feet-stampin' maniacal laughter. But enough about me.
Q: Are they going to be scattered around like in BG or harder to find?
A: Hrm... harder, perhaps? It's currently difficult to say; it's play testing that will eventually determine final swag distribution. Plans currently run along the lines of: imagine items ranked on a 1-10 scale... by game's end a player that's gone straight through will have eights, one who's poked his or her nose about in a fair number of side quests will have nines, and those nutters that bang on games 'til they've uncovered each and every Easter Egg will get the tens.

(07.04.2001)

Today we have for you about 20 sketches from the TORN - upcoming a la Fallout next BIS project. And I strongly advice you pay a visit to the official TORN site.



(04.04.2001)

Most tasty news. We have recently created a TORN section; now it's time to talk with the game developers. Our first interview is with Lead Designer of the game, David Maldonado. I would highly recommend you to check our interview section!

(31.03.2001)

Today is TORN day. We have opened new section for this Black Isle Studio game. If you yet in a rate, that it for game then I shall slightly open secret. It's, basically, RPG game with strong combat system (the last interesting for us most of all) and strong character development system based on Fallout SPECIAL system. Today we have opened screenshots gallery (we have for you a bunch or very interesting concept-art), files section (here you can find three AVI files showing three characters), section with the description of some TORN skills, perks and traits. And also we have opened World Map section and news section! Especially I advise to pay attention to a news section. We have posted some really major infobits from the developers.

About the End of the game:

We can't discuss the ending in detail, largely because things take quite a turn from the beginning of the game and I don't even want to *hint* at what happens. However, I can say that we do intend to (1) have an ending where the player is presented with a number of immediate choices in finishing the game and will receive different endings dependent upon those choices, (2) have events throughout the course of the game affect the world at game's end (most likely presented via scrolling text, a la Fallout), and (3) allow the PC to continue wandering around the game world (with everything mentioned in #2 having taken place, of course). We'd also like the player to be able to take his or her character into the next game in the TORN series. If by "main theme" one means "does it underlie most of what's going on in the world at the deepest level," then yes. If one means "will the concept of 'Order vs. Chaos' dominate the world," then no. It's the cause, but not the result. It's probably more important (in terms of world-affecting) that there are three opposed sets of "divine" beings constantly meddling with the affairs of the mortal races and the physical world, rather than whether it's Order vs. Chaos, Evil vs. Good, Sharks vs. Jets, or whatever.

About the alignments:

As for "alignment:" we're using Fallout's Karma system. We also intend to track things like whether or not the PC's honest, a liar, selfish or giving, cruel or compassionate, and so on. Somewhat similar to D&D's alignment system, I suppose, but with slightly more depth and "fine-tuning" allowed.

World map:

We've currently got a 2D World Map in the works... we sort of dig the whole "getting your Indiana Jones on" feeling when sidling across it. It fits the setting nicely.

{3d world map} But it's a sweet idea! I bet the next Fallout game could sure use a cool holographic 3D map thing.

How will time be measured and when will we start the game?

I don't have an exact date for you. Apologies! It'll be a day on the Agathian calendar, though, and not a "Day Zero/One." Or is that not what you meant? If you just mean keeping track of how long you've been playing in "game time," I suppose that would start at zero.

Will Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou" be one of the songs in the game?

Yes, as sung by the Garnian Kadar Ogre Tabernacle Choir. We recommend that listeners remain no less than forty meters from the singers as the bass waves have been known to burst eardrums at close range. Seriously though, no. But you knew that already, didn't you?

About night and darkness:

Regarding night and darkness - I'm of the mindset that the *character* should be penalized for bopping about in the dark when he or she can't see, not the *player.* Current plans are for a sort of "TV sitcom darkness" where the player can certainly tell that it's dark but can still see everything just fine. Characters, however, will suffer any appropriate penalties.

About small animals on earlier screenshots:

All I'll say for now is that I absolutely, positively, unequivocally LOATHE having to fight "mundane" rats, bats, snakes, and other tiny critters that real heroes (and heroines, if one is unwilling to apply "hero" to both genders) should never have to trifle with. For those curious, the bats in that old screenshot were built for ambience - there will be no actual bat-fighting in Torn, unless the bat in question is some sort of enormous, venom spewing, razor-fanged, fire-breathing scorpion-tailed hell-bat the size of a 1979 Chevrolet Caprice Classic.

About blood and gore in the game:

Torn will likely be a bit darker, more "mature," or however one would like to refer to it than most (if not all) other high fantasy CRPG settings. It's got the complexity and morale ambiguity (and resulting plots and characters) that Fallout and Torment ran with. If you're just referring to blood and violence, however, it's as far as we can push it and get still get our Teen rating. I think that one of the few things more satisfying than incinerating foes in a roaring column of sorcerers flame is watching a few of them stumble about afterwards, screaming madly as they attempt to extinguish themselves before expiring in smoldering heaps.

Can you do a gore patch if the censors limit you too much?

Possibly. Parental controls won't hack it, though, if there's anyone thinking that: if the gore is in it's in, as far as the rating wackiness is concerned. But no worries, we'll do our very best to satisfy the bloodthirsty among you. Perhaps Ken Rosman, TORN's executive producer - a man who feels that Soldier of Fortune is *just barely violent enough* ("...but, you still can't strangle them with their own intestines as their steaming entrails loop out of their bodies...") - will be our Champion of Violence, always on the lookout for ways to sneak grotesque death sequences in one way or another. Keep in mind that it's often possible to be intensely "violent" or disturbing without being too graphic, which we may get away with on occasion. For example, take Soul Edge's Taki sticking a knife into the opponent's neck - it looks horrifying, but there's nary a drop o' blood. Anyhow, that's enough of me blathering on about that for now...

About Action Points:

A character must wait a certain amount of time between actions (called Recovery Time) based upon what percentage of their total AP their last action cost them (this is sort of a gross simplification, but it'll do for now). In other words, a character with six AP making three-AP attacks and a character with ten AP making five-AP attacks would both attack at the same rate, as they're both expending 50% of their AP with each action. Basically, it's the turn-based AP system, but with everything occurring simultaneously and without any "slop" (i.e. left over AP at a turn's end).

About turn-based play:

There are no plans for turn-based play. Also, unlike Fallout Tactics, Torn is "true" real-time and not continuous turn-based…

About pause in game:

Players will be able to pause the game whenever they like, a la the Infinity Engine. However, those who pause too often in a multiplayer game will likely earn the enmity of friends and possibly the Trait "Pause Whore." The host can turn client pausing off, of course.

Pause and give orders... but remember, the player directly controls only the protagonist - the Companions are semi-autonomous, a la Fallout - so there likely won't be much of a need for pausing and ordering.

Even the "golem" thingy is also semiautonomous?

Yes. Just as with a party leader and Companions, a golem's master tells it how to behave (defend me, smash the enemy, stay here, etc.) and the golem obeys to the best of its ability. Golems, however, won't ever pick up gold and hide it from you or run away when the going gets tough. "Pets," mundane or fantastic, will be semi-autonomous too.

Race specifics and Mana Points:

The "yes" was a bit vague in reply to this one, so I'll elaborate: There is a single universal skill set for all races - even ogres can *try* and sneak about, after all. However, there *are* some Perks and Traits (and often resulting Special Attacks, Defenses, and Abilities) that are race-specific. These are not arbitrary, however, and generally have to do with the unique character of that race.

For examples, we intend ogres to have a variety of toughness- or combat-related quasi-mystical abilities, such as the ability to turn Mana Points (normally used for spells) into Hit Points (note: just a theoretical example!).

Why? Well, ogres' minds and auras are structured so that they have difficulty consciously directing the flow of mana (and thus casting spells). However, mana still builds up and moves through them. This mana can become agitated or activated when an ogre enters a heightened emotional state, such as during the wildly fun (for an ogre) process of bashing heads - probably while making love, too, but we won't go there. In any case, when an ogre needs to "get his tough on" or hit something harder than she could ever normally hit it, something just *happens* - it's like adrenalin kicking in for humans, but backed up by magic. It's almost like subconscious spell-casting... and that's why such abilities would be ogre-only.

Modified SPECIAL:

We've actually modified the SPECIAL system a bit for TORN, although I'm not entirely sure how much of this we can talk about at the moment. Don't get caught up entirely with how it was presented in Fallout and Fallout 2 as we've messed around with some things in order to fit the gameplay and style we're aiming for in TORN.

Magic and psionics:


In Torn, magic and psionics are, for the most part, the same thing - I won't go into great detail here, but suffice to say that it's true. The idea of psionics is thus more a way of thinking about the use of mana to influence reality than something entirely separate from magic.

About cut scenes:

In-engine 3D. We're also avoiding proper "cut scenes" (in which the player looses control of the game) as much as possible in favor of scripted events, a la Half-Life. For example, if someone agrees to unlock a door for the PC, instead of freezing the game (so that the player gets to watch the NPC sidle over the door and unlock it), the NPC will just do it. The player can interrupt the NPC, talk to him, walk off, or whatever. Does it present problems for us to deal with? Yes. But it more fun/less tiresome for the player? Heck yeah. True cut scenes will likely be relegated to showing "meanwhiles" - i.e. some sequence somewhere that the PC isn't. For example, "meanwhile, in Big Evil Tower, Big Evil God demands an increase in blood sacrifices."

About 3D camera:

Currently, the player is able to rotate the camera around the character as well as zoom in and out. This may be done with keyboard as well as the mouse (hold RMB; left and right rotates, up and down zooms, mouse wheel also zooms).

We're experimenting with whether the camera will remain locked on the character or if it may be scrolled about. We're also experimenting with a "follow mode," an optional setting that allows the player to set the camera to always look in whatever direction the PC is facing, meaning that he or she wouldn't have to worry about rotating the camera.

No one likes a flaky camera. I think we all have played games where something important was blocked from camera view- or the camera clipped through some geometry and half the world disappears. It is definitely something we would like to try to minimize. Adventuring in a 3D environment is tricky. Just know it is definitely on our minds, and we will do our best ;)

Regarding schedules:

Will NPC's realize that it's day or night and behave or speak accordingly? Yes! Will there be occasional special encounters that only occur during one or the other (e.g., and I warn you this is a stupid example, a ghost in a cemetery that the player could speak with)? Yes! Will shops ever close, temples ever seal their doors, and important NPC's you need to talk with to finish a quest ever go away because of the time of day? Nope!

We've found that the people that find schedules a terrible inconvenience (rather than "neat") greatly outnumber those that enjoy the extra nugget of realism that schedules bring to a world. This includes "hardcore" as well as "casual" gamers, if one likes to toss those terms about. That, rather than the personal opinion of any team member, is what prompted our decision on the matter… in the end we're making a game, and want to simulate a world only as far as "fun" goes. Most players don't seem to want to wait for King Scruffylumps to wake up so that they can tell him they've slain the dragon and collect their swag, then wait a couple more hours for the shops to open so that they can blow it all on more monster-stomping' gear. As such, we're trying to use night and day in a way that adds to the fun of the game rather than increases player frustration.

RPG aspect in TORN:

Wow, I could go on for hours about this one - I'm excited about the role-playing aspect of TORN and how we're trying to push the envelope a bit further with it - but man, I shouldn't even be in here now (too much work to do!)... so I'll try and bust out a quickie. Yes, we'll have romances. Not all revolve around coitus, and coitus need not be blatantly discussed if it *does* occur, so no worries about the Big Evil Rating affecting them.

I also like the idea of close friendships, which I don't see too much in these games. For example, two friends who'd die for one another (as opposed to a single fanatically loyal lackey and his or her "boss," the PC). That'd be a cool Companion.

Companions will be somewhat semi-autonomous as in Fallout - we intend to make it so that the player can modify Companion behavior in combat by speaking to them during and beforehand (be aggressive in battle, stay beside me, etc.).

We intend that Companions will have distinct personalities and intriguing back stories, and that there will always be the ability to do at least one "something" with that character aside from get whatever quest that he or she might have for you. This runs along the lines of Torment, where Dak'kon could teach you spells, you could unlock Nordom's potential, and so on. Romance would be once such "something."

Uh, what else... oh, could the player kill a romance. Yes, he or she just rejects the instigator, or stops pursuing if he or she initiated it. And of course there's always The Dump dialog option. Lastly, we all like the idea of Companions that slowly grow and change over time spent with the PC, and intend to implement such - the gaining (or slow loss) of trust or respect (which opens up new dialog options, etc.), events that take place in the game that affect a Companion's personality (e.g. death of her sibling turns her morose), and so on.

Female characters in TORN:

Well, while it is true that the majority of the team developing TORN is male, I think you'll probably be pleased with the characterization of women within the game (as well as men). I don't think there's any desire within the designers here to present forth shallow stereotypes and cliches that are indicative of how our industry often portrays characters. Obviously there's a give and take that goes on, not just with us, but with many forms of entertainment... people are engaging in these games to escape, and most of them don't want to escape into something that, at least aesthetically, isn't attractive to them. So, on the surface, while women within our games like the prostitutes in the Brothel of Torment appear to fit the bill of everything detractors would immediately scowl at, if you talk to them and really dive into the written word, I think you'll find our approach to be far more complimentary and representative of both sexes than the vast majority of games out there.

Scripting system:

This is a difficult one to see around because while we were able to do a lot of generic scripting within Icewind Dale and Heart of Winter because of the nature of the games, there were a lot of creatures and npcs within Torment that require special case situations, and that will undoubtedly be the case here as well. While we have certainly managed to refine things to where we'll be reusing script and being more efficient (and the addition of Chad, who's a scripting madman), it's safe to say that we'll require more resources and time for this process than was needed for our last two internal releases.

Right now, our scripting language for TORN is very C-like. While not a full-fledged programming language and somewhat comprehendible to people with even limited programming background, it still requires a handle on programming logic. While the Infinity scripting language was much easier for the layman to understand, it was somewhat limiting in what we could accomplish with the npcs and creatures throughout the game without hackyhackahack. The TORN scripting system allows us a lot more functionality, but at the same time makes the process a bit more lower level (but not so much that we need full-fledged code monkies to work within it). It's really too much to ask designers to learn and do on top of their already monstrous task lists (I think Dave would spontaneously combust if we put another task on him at the moment), especially as many of them aren't really programmers by trade.

I think the bottom line with all of this is that until we develop a front end system that allows designers to do everything they want to do by designating that behavior in a relatively simple manner (i.e. no programming), we'll need the scripting process. As the games we want to develop tend to be living, dynamic, reactive worlds, I don't foresee this process changing in the near future (unless one of the other teams has a secret weapon they're cooking up that I'm unaware of!)

Like I said, one of the nice things this time around is that Chad has a remarkably good grasp on the scripting system, and is very enthusiastic about working with Jim (our programmer responsible for the beast) on refining it so that it works more efficiently and allows us greater functionality. As we get closer to completing TORN we'll undoubtedly need more people who can help out on the scripting process, but this won't be a problem at all. We'll have plenty of resources to pull from throughout the year from within our division (I say as all of them read this and immediately say "Yeah, uh-huh. RIGHT!")

Multilanguage system:

There are currently plans (they're just plans right now, though) for implementing such... knowing the language of the person you're speaking to can help partially alleviate any race-based charisma penalty that might exist, etc. One has to keep in mind that the "common language" so prevalent in CRPG's is generally a point of convenience for the player, not stupidity or forgetfulness on the part of game designers...

About items:

Currently, items have Condition Points (CP), which are pretty much Hit Points for items. Each time an item is used in a manner that may damage it, there is a chance it will lose CP. An item breaks when it has zero CP. When something does break, it just sits in one's inventory, "unequippable," until repaired to some degree.

The higher one's Artisan skill, the greater percentage of maximum CP that a character may restore without using a shop or alchemical magic. There's never any reduction in maximum CP or permanent item damage for shoddy repairs... there's just a bigger chance that the item will break in a coming fight because it has less than its maximum CP.

About weapon:

I wanted to put in a shoulder-mounted weapon, essentially a large wooden barrel that that fires rabid monkeys - possibly armed with maracas - but then they took all my drugs away. Those bastards!

Regarding bolas - you know, I suppose there's no technical reason why a weapon couldn't be set up to have a chance of temporarily holding or incapacitating man-sized targets. But I'm not promising anything, so let's have no angry cries of "where's my damned bola, you fibbing rotters" on release day!

Weapon damage system changes:

We're shooting for making the various weapons have different uses, and less "this weapon bad, this weapon good." Some weapons are good because they don't have high Strength or Agility requirements to wield properly. Other differences between weapons are looking to include bonuses and penalties to damage, critical hit chance, critical hit potency, damage range (e.g. 1-10 vs. 6-10), back-stabbing, blackjacking (KO'ing foes from behind), defense (e.g. long or parrying weapons can increase AC), offense (e.g. some weapons are easier to strike with - like chain weapons - or harder), speed (AP cost of attacking), range (both melee and missile), and so on.

Special attacks:

We've added a new level of strategy to TORN's combat with a system of Special Attacks, Defenses, and Abilities... we want combatants to be able to stun foes, blind them, strike them unconscious, knock them down, send them hurtling backwards, hinder their movement or ability to attack, and more. We'd also like them to be able to counterattack, dodge and parry attacks, attack more fiercely when hurt badly, use dirty tricks, suck up some of the Mana Points used in offensive spells cast at them, sneak in extra blows, shoot two arrows at once, and much MUCH more. This system takes the place of targeted attacks, is more conducive to real-time play, and allows for more customization/individualization of characters and fighting styles. We're confident that it'll add a mess o' fun to combat and please even the most die-hard targeted-attack fans, as it actually gives them more to play with if they so choose. I could go on about the system for hours, but probably shouldn't be talking about it in detail just yet...

About spells:

We've opted to go for a set/finite list of spells for a variety of reasons. We hope to make each individual spell impressively cool, and don't have the time to do such in a system where all sorts of effects could be paired/mixed with one another (resulting in a HUGE spell list). The other option -more "generic" spell effects that could blend on the fly didn't appeal to us. And, of course, those spells in the GDC thing are *completely* placeholder.

We *do* have combination spells of sort, in that if a caster knows spell X and spell Y, he or she will be able to cast spell Z. This happens especially often with "cross-over" between magic types, e.g. a character highly skilled with Alchemy and Chaos magic who knows fire and earth attack spells could cast a fire + earth = magma-type attack spell. This magma spell would be a totally new spell, and not a mere "mix" of the fire and earth spells.

Character specialization:

Perks will allow characters to specialize in various sorts of magic, whether a realm (Order, Chaos, Alchemy, Summoning) or an element (Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Time)... Sorcerer, Evoker, Pyromancer, Chronomancer, etc.

The effect varies on the degree of specialization... decreased casting cost, increased level of effect (i.e. the spell's effect is determined as if it were cast at a higher skill level than the caster's), innate resistance to that sort of magic (and eventually, weakness to its opposing magic) and so on. Generally, though, the idea is that the character simply becomes "better" with the relevant sort of spell (TORN's spells are "flexible" enough to allow this).

Magic skills:

The magic skills are "lore" skills in that they don't provide specific spell knowledge but represent the character's skill with and knowledge of that sort of magic - e.g. for Alchemy, it's partly represented by the character's degree of control over the metaphysical fibers that bind the five elements into reality.

The spells themselves have prerequisites, the most common ones being skill- and statistic-based. In other words, a stupendously powerful elemental attack spell would likely require both a high Chaos Magic skill and Intelligence, and at least decent Perception in order to learn and cast.

Random special encounters:

We'll definitely work as many random, special encounter, and hard to find neat things as we possibly can within the game, although it's probably a safe bet that they'll be more in the context of our setting and game than the sheer ("hey, how about a parody on that whale that they blew up?! yeaaaa!") anything goes nature of the bits in Fallout 2.

This is something that we as designers have to be careful about. You can get carried away with including situations and features within a game that a limited amount of people are actually going to see/enjoy, and end up sacrificing the main bits.

A good example of this, from my own design, was Carceri in Torment. Even though in comparison to real feature creep and design madness situations that have existed within other titles (both with Black Isle and other CRPGS), the time we spent on it was relatively short, there's still a lot in that area that took us a considerable amount of time at the end of the project that a vast majority of players don't actually see/notice (anyone see the second execution scene?) It's our intent and hope that we'll be so efficient with implementing the core elements and features of our game that we'll have plenty of time to sprinkle the rest of the game with cool encounters and secret bits that don't necessarily make or break the game (just give it that classic "oooh look what I found!" RPG feels).

(30.03.2001)

RPG Vault made another large interview with Torn developers (new RPG project with Fallout character development system). This time the topics of discussion are inventory and magic. Well, the most interesting thing here is magic. Right now the game is at the most initial development stage so it is too early to expect the details. Generally, there will be about 25 spells available for learning by any characters with no relation to player's type (i.e. class). No limits except experience levels, no perks. read the rest of interview here.

I would recommend you to visit official Torn site. New sections added there (with fantasy version of S.P.E.C.I.A.L. description, some Torn world information and other miscellaneous cool stuff).

(24.03.2001)

Here are some new screenshots from new upcoming Torn, Interplay/BIS RPG based on Fallout S.P.E.C.IA.L. system:



(23.03.2001)

Yesterday Black Isle Studio has announced one of their new projects, Torn. This game uses Fallout system, but in real time mode. Together with project announce, the official project site has awakened. As developers said, Torn is the game where they are trying to implement all the best ideas collected by BIS for a long years. Fallout contributes its character development system, and there will be same stats, perks and special skills. But the game world is of fantasy kind, so there will be magical abilities added. Torn will have at least 6 races. The game is planned as huge world where you can research something, travel, and simply spend your life... Of course, multiplayer will be supported. All this is to be based on 3d LightTech 3.0 engine. Thanks God, 3/4 view will remain in the game. I should also say the game is being developed by the creators of Planescape and IceWind Dale, so high interest to the project is guaranteed. Here come some first screenshots:

 
 




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