Meet the skills: Psyche

In a previous blog post, Lead Designer Robert Kurvitz introduced the Intellect skills, which allow you carve up the world every which way, and assemble new and wondrous things from the pieces. Now I’ll talk about the six Psyche skills — Volition, Inland Empire, Empathy, Authority, Suggestion, and Esprit de Corps.

Generally speaking, these six unstable dudes will make you into a more sensitive person. This is both good and bad. Of all our four Attributes, Psyche is the most schizophrenic. You will be a magnetic personality able to pick up on other people’s feelings, a powerhouse of imagination and charisma. But this will also make you a greater burden on yourself.



Volition is the foundational skill for Psyche, as Logic is for Intellect. However, while Logic may sometimes succumb to the temptation of intellectual arrogance, Volition is more consistent in getting you out of trouble. It’s your inner good guy.

Volition is all about having a moral compass and the willpower to resist temptations — from the sweet smell of liquor to unsavory urges. Yes, you can bear the profound tragedy of human existence, Volition tells you. No, you do not need to take a swig from that bottle of vodka to help you do it.

And when your ego is being inflated by self-congratulation and flattery (say Logic and Authority are having a big old party in your attic, egging each other on), Volition intervenes to cut you down to size before you do something abominably stupid because you’re feeling almighty. Volition is the party pooper.

It’s also the skill associated with your Morale — one of the two life bars in the game, along with Health. It represents your will to finish the investigation, redeem yourself in the eyes of others. Run out of Morale and you’ll give up in a series of excruciating “I don’t wanna be a cop any more scenes” where your friends get exceedingly tired of talking you back from the ledge.



Inland Empire is your unfiltered emotions, dreams, and forebodings. Basically, Inland Empire has a lot of interesting (read: wrong) ideas about the world. It lets you know when there might be something mysterious or spooky going on. Why would you want to be just a regular old cop when you could be a para-natural detective, groping your way through invisible dimensions of reality? it asks you. (Inland Empire is, after all, the Lynchian skill.)

Inland Empire can also offer helpful hints via gut reactions – though you can never be sure when and to what extent to trust its enigmatic messages.

Of all the skills in the game, Inland Empire has been one of the wildest to write, since it also represents your uncontrollable imagination. When Conceptualization under Intellect is an art critic, Inland Empire is an unwitting creator. It turns inanimate objects animate and lets you have conversations with your gun, the corpse of the deceased – maybe even one of your items of clothing. The information it provides may prove right… in retrospect.



Empathy is your ability to pick up on subtle cues that indicate that something is happening beneath the surface of other characters. Not that they’re lying to you, exactly — Drama (under Intellect) is your go-to for picking up on lies. Rather, Empathy lets you know when there’s more to the story than meets the eye. Perhaps a hidden sadness that a good detective should be able to coax out of the people he’s questioning. Or hidden resentment toward the detective himself.

Have too little of Empathy and you turn into an ungainly beast who is unable to read basic social circumstances and may or may not be forced to become a virulent… well, let’s just say, you may not have as much control over some of your politics as you’d like. Empathy is not all honesty and feelings, it’s also a basic social survival skill that makes you come off as caring and emotionally intelligent. (Even if you’re not!)



Authority is the skill that likes to fly into a rage when it feels like you and your profession aren’t being RESPECTED. It constantly urges you to reassert your dominance over those around you. Was there a hint of sarcasm in that elderly scientist’s “It’s a pleasure to meet you, officer?” Demand that he change his tone, or else!

Every so often, Authority also supplies useful information. For example, it can help you understand the power dynamics of a group of thugs, or let you know how far you can push someone before they push back. But, to be honest, it’s mostly about displays of self-assertion, which are quite important in police work.

Authority is perhaps the craziest skill to have little of. Yell at teenagers, start crying while you’re angry, verbally abuse your partner to no avail. Threaten to arrest people, then back off. If you constantly fail at asserting yourself as a police officer, you run the risk of becoming the fabled Meltdown Cop.



Suggestion is the skill of manipulators and charmers. Need to talk someone into something or out of something? Suggestion will hint at the right approach to take.

In contrast to baton-flailing Authority, Suggestion is all about soft power — why threaten someone when you can make them believe their interests are aligned with yours instead? You’ve just gotta find the right words, man.

Suggestion also lets you know when someone is trying to charm you, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s just an innocent flirtation – but how can you be sure?

Suggestion is also what people in Brittain call a slimey-limey. It’s oleaginous, even when it succeeds. And when it fails… oh boy. If you thought failing at Authority was bad, try failing at Suggestion, Casanova Cop. Aka Copponova. Aka Romeo Returns Alone.



Esprit De Corps is your “meanwhile, back at the ranch” skill. It’s distinct from all the other skills in Metric in that it supplies the player with information that is beyond the scope of the protagonist’s present experience. Not in a para-natural way – rather, as literature. Esprit de Corps produces flash-sideways mini novellas of your cop friends, doing their cop stuff while you do yours.

Thus it draws parallels between your travails and those of your fellow officers all throughout Revachol. Esprit de Corps represents your connection to the RCM – Revachol Citizen’s Militia – the police force you’re a part of. And, more specifically, your Station – Precinct 41.

Esprit de Corps also looks in on your partner, Kim Kitsuragi, when he happens to be away. Thus, this system allows us to show what your party member is doing when he’s not in the party.

Take this skill if you like postmodern trickery. It’s a luxury skill, of course. But we see great potential for it in future titles. Esprit de Corps tells you: it’s not all about you. There are other stories happening parallel to yours. There’s a constellation of cops out there, solving cases, giving up and picking themselves up again…

That’s the gang this time around. Max out on Psyche in character creation, and these skills will argue, fight, and play tug-of-war with one another, attempting to make you follow this or that irrational impulse. It’ll be a blast, but make sure to buckle up!

A high Psyche goes well with most builds. Combine it with high Fysique for an absolute raving mad man. Or high Intellect for a mental bastion. Or high Motorics for one cool cat and charismatic leader.

Till next time!



This is the weekly croquis gathering featuring our very own art director Aleksander Rostov in the spotlight on the right. What started as a super small gathering of people graphite and hops kind has turned into a surprisingly popular gathering with different weekly themes. If you’re ever in Tallinn alone and cold (you will be very cold) drop on by!

Croquis drawing is quick and sketchy drawing of a live model. Croquis drawings are usually made in a few minutes, after which the model changes pose or leaves and another croquis is drawn.


The Guts of the Game

An insightful interview into No Truce with the Furies brought to you by Diving through thoughts and processes of our Concept artist Kaspar Tamsalu and our Lead designer Robert Kurvitz.

Hello Kaspar (Kaspar Tamsalu, Concept Artist and 3d-modeler), Robert (Robert Kurvitz, Lead Designer), and all other members of ZA/UM! Firstly I’d like to confess that I’ve become a huge fan of No Truce With The Furies! It is impossible to not be infected by your enthusiasm! I cannot wait for it to come out. 


1. The thing we currently know the least about your game even after all the previews is its setting. Could you please tell us more about it? Have you come up with the name yet? Will the player receive more information about the world outside of the Revachol or the game will be centered exclusively in this town?


The setting is called Elysium [it was also namedropped in one of the previous interviews] and we’ve known this for quite a while – since 2002 when Neil Blomkamp tried to fuck it up. I kind of – since this is an idea when I was 16 or 17 and we came up with it with some friend – I consider it my birthright to call it Elysium. Whatever Neil Blomkamp or whichever of the 82 fantasy licences want to do with the name of the Greek underworld for poets and heroes.

The game will be centered exclusively not only in this town, but in a very small and somewhat insignificant suburb of it called Martinaise. It sort of mirrors the position in life of our protagonist – who’s kind of stuck in this… end of the drainpipe… or in that washed out little harbor town. In roleplaying terms it this kind of late-game standalone village type of place. There will be a lot of talking about the rest of the world and a lot of learning about the rest of the world. When you start thinking about it almost 80% of Planescape: Torment took place in Sigil although it was supposed to take place in all of the fantasy places ever made.

2. Let me confess once more – I’ve fallen in love with your role-playing system! For many years I was let down by combat-oriented systems with non-combat checks being passed by plain number-based difficulty levels. And here comes your Metric! Crafted for “using arguments, employing logic, original thinking, empathy” and destined to make the non-combat shine like it should’ve always had in cRPGs. How hard was it to develop and what was your main inspiration for it?


The main inspiration have been the decades of – as you called them – passive gate-based skill checks and all the possibilities that would allow us to do it in more exciting ways so that it would resemble more the tactical choices you usually make in combat in RPGs which have always been handled very lavishly. So I guess it’s the turn-based combat systems in cRPGs and also 4X games. For example our Thought Cabinet is inspired by 4X strategy games.

Basically the setting and story dictate that you cannot go around simply shooting people because you’re a cop. And this puts heavy emphasis on non-combat interactions, although you do get to shoot some people in some situations.


3. It’s awesome that high scores in your stats would also have downsides that sometimes would make roleplaying even more interesting, not just turn you into a boring demi-god like most role-playing systems handle this. High Intellect making you “overly confident – a cocksure intellectual“ or high Physique making you “lose your shit over small things” is a beautifully designed concepts. What is your favorite type of character to roleplay using your own system?


Right now I really like the high Physique and pretty high Intelligence dude. He’s basically this intellectual and physical powerhouse. He really comes off intelligent in a very high-concept philosophical way, but also in a physical way if you can imagine a person who is physically intelligent. Well, without having played it, it could be hard to imagine and even as a writer I hadn’t written characters like this, but basically I discovered this while working with our role playing system; this kind of person who really perceives the world through his physical being and then makes sense of it through their intellectual strengths. This way their intelligence becomes sort of threatening and powerful. I also really like the super high Physique characters like the classical berserker type. For example Half Light is a skill that basically governs your fight or flight response. So this character can start doing classical intimidation-style stuff but at the same time this skill also makes him afraid of things. He senses fear in a kind of primal way. Sometimes even words or intellectual concepts can scare him if senses subterfuge or something ominous going on. It’s a very interesting interplay between two roleplaying archetypes that for me have usually been separate. And then when you look at the fact that we have four stats that are like Intelligence and Physique and the skills that correspond to them then you’ll find that you can have quite a lot of interesting combinations to work with and for the player to discover.


4.1 Another concept that I find genius in No Truce! is your skills talking to you. I mean, everyone can relate to these moments when your subconsciousness tells you to shut up or when your inner-hater fuels our ego and provokes to keep arguing about some nonsense. How did you come up with this idea?


Thank you! We really find that it is genius too.

I quite happened on this while writing… Well, there’s this thing in literature. It´s called the parenthesis. Basically: “Something-something-something,” she said with a smug face. Or: He yells at you while fiddling with his radio or whatever. These are little additions after speech. So we started to try and make these parenthesis depend on what kind of character the player has. That was our first idea for passive skills. Then we discovered that the information you put in as parenthesis can be very-very rich in all kinds of characters and the little jokes you can do with them. And the skills that can speak to you as passives in this parenthetical way – pretty much every skill can talk to you like that. So it kind of grew out of that. At first we weren’t sure it’s going to work out like that, but when we put pen to paper the skills started having conversations with each other and we took it from there as we went along.

Some of these skills have a unique character of their own. For example Drama is a kind of Lovecraftian thespian who constantly wants you to lie to people. Drama is the skill that governs both artistic performance and lying. Or let’s take Encyclopedia which is a rather useless knows-too-many-facts-from-Wikipedia type personality that comes up and “helps” you by giving you random tidbits of encyclopedic knowledge to show off even when it actually has nothing to do with the situation at hand. This can be a pretty nifty way to present the player with interesting lore.


4.2 How do you think players will rate this innovation?


It works very well, there’s no doubt about it. It’s one of the highlights that everyone always mentions when they play the [Metric] system. I’m also very satisfied with how the “tutorial” handles it. It just happens, basically, and these skills just present themselves and it’s come off in a natural way. It’s something that’s potentially existed in role playing games since the beginning. That’s because it’s a second person narrative. So when you say “You, you’re there. You’re doing this or that”. In literature second person narrative is not used. It’s usually a first person “I was there” or third person. You know, “Jack is there”. When you start telling a really ambitious narrative like “You…” then it just suddenly springs into being and it is logical that the skills would address you that way.

5. Dialogues that we’ve seen on screenshots and your Dev Blogs definitely prove that you’ve got a great sense of humour. What are you favorite comedy shows and/or movies? I’m guessing, Monty Python is certainly among them?


Oh yeah. And a very nice question by the way. People who do humor professionally usually have benchmarks and they look at it in quite a technical way. Humor is a science and a craft unlike others that do not make you erupt in spasms as you’re coming up with them. So there are definitely some solid influences there, but I think Monty Python is already a generation ahead of ours. Not only for me, but for other key members of the writing team like Argo Tuulik our starting point would have to be the british sketch series Big Train from 2002. It’s not super known, but who came from it… the guy who writes Star Wars now, who plays the technician there… Anyway. It spawned some pretty famous comedians. I’d say it was a kind of montypythonesque show that made Monty Python humor also very mean and existential and even more absurd. So I think Big Train humor was this kind of… It was the most advanced humor before internet humor came along. And internet humor is this kind of crowdsourced really nihilistic dark version of humor. Personally I’m more influenced by British sketch shows and especially Big Train, yeah.


6. Aren’t you afraid that your game will have censorship difficulties in some countries because of its ease in dealing with such themes as racism, fascism? I’m sure it would rarely pose a problem but for example in Russia it could cause you a trouble in finding a (potential) publisher who’d be afraid of possible government intrusions.


Oh, there are other “bad” isms that our game goes deeply into. Some nice isms too. First of all, we don’t animate anything naughty in this game. We have an absolutely ridiculously small amount of violence animated compared to what video games usually do. I think in a way we’re making the kind of game that you could show to your literature teacher to defend games as a medium from accusations of senselessly crossing borders for juvenile kicks and laughs. But in a way we’re also doing a pretty transgressive game. I guess honestly – we’ll find out when the game releases and we’ll see what people react to. I mean, I’m not really worried about censorship because of.. Well. The way Steam works right now. Let’s hope that it stays that way [spits over his shoulder three times – ptoo-ptoo-ptoo]. I’m more worried about what the players are going to do in certain cultures. Especially the Americans who can get more touchy about some things. We’re adamant about demanding the right to speak about these things in any way that gets us writers through the night. We have these hundreds of thousands of lines of text that need to be written!


7. Are you guys planning to open pre-orders for No Truce! and/or use the Steam Early Access? If yes, then when can we expect these?


I don’t think our game is a good game to be experienced in Early Access. I think it should be taken in in one fell swoop. We wouldn’t want to spoil it for the players. But what we will probably do is have some of the dialogues up on the Web in HTML form. As interactable clickables. Basically we’ll let you go through a dialogue with a certain character type to show off our writing chops. People don’t tend to believe that you could have good writing. That’s because… Honestly, writing in games is just so terrible usually that you can’t really blame them either. So – right now I don’t think we’ll be doing a demo.


8. What are your post-release plans? Well, other than lots of booze and party all-night! Add more content, DLCs or just polishing the game as it is, till it’s perfect?


Yeah. Personally I’m a monk and a teetotaller. I’ll be doing lots of bug crushing and getting a lot of flak for broken quest logic and stuff. And then I’ll fix those. One of the things I love most about video games is that they are not finished like a book or a piece of music is finished. You can keep making them better and they actually do get better. They get bigger and they get better. Pillars is an example. Fallout: New Vegas is a good example. You can use DLC as this truly creative kind of outlet that basically lets you tune your game into the masterpiece that you’ve always wanted it to be. But maybe you didn’t have the time or resources to do it in the main cycle of production. Allah be willing enough people will buy the game so we can do one DLC for it so we can realise some zanier, wilder, more off the beaten path kinds of ideas that we’ve had to cut to keep No Truce With the Furies in focus. So! Please-please-please buy the game so that I can make it into an even better game. But you know, that said, the core experience will be one that satisfies me even if there will be no DLC.


9. Seeing how much love you’ve put into this game and its setting, I can imagine that you’re planning to make more projects in a beautiful world of No Truce!, am I right?


Oh yes, of course. If there’s even a small chance to do it… I had a conversation with one of

the writers who said that he is willing to do this one and even another one even if he has to do it back in Mustamäe [housing district in Tallinn] from the basement of his mom’s commie block building. I concur completely. I will also be bunking there in that very basement if it comes to that. Yeah, we definitely want to do more stuff in this setting.

Also as an end-note for the name we touched upon in the beginning – Elysium. To explain why I sort of demand the right to call the world something so grandiose and in a way mythical. It is that I truly believe I’m playing the long game with this one. For some science fiction writers it may seem like a used name or a too obvious name for a setting. I’m sure that a hundred years from now having this world called Elysium is definitely the right way to go. Also, Elysium is a term of endearment for the world itself. In our world the world is just “the world” or “the universe” or something technical. But this world, being such a compressed and beautiful and precarious thing on the verge of an irreversible collapse, is so dear to its residents that I like to think they’d feel the need to sometimes call it Elysium to show their appreciation for the beauty of it. No amount of Neil Blomkamp films or Planescape planes are going to take that away from me.


10. Anything you want to address to our Russian readers and potential future fans of your game?


I personally consider myself a child of the Soviet Union. I was born in the SU and that’s what’s on my birth certificate. I’ve always felt I’m part of this large geopolitical formation that I’m – not in a modern nationalist sense, but in a larger geopolitical sense – part of this whatever insane messianism that this Slavic civilization sometimes goes into. It is one that I share. In my ambitions I’d like to see myself in line with the Brothers Strugatsky or the Russian futurists of the beginning of the XX century. And for that many reasons it is especially important to me that I get to communicate with intelligent Russian people who hopefully get to play this game. To cross this kind of divide that was left by the collapse of the Soviet Union so that through the English language (and through localization which we hope to do in Russian) we would sort of belong in the same cultural sphere, which I think we do, really. Whenever I go to the States I adopt a thick Russian oligarch accent, because it feels like a natural thing for me to do.

The translation of my book “The Sacred and Terrible Air” into Russian is around 80 per cent done (the English translation is finished). I can’t read Russian myself so I cannot vouch that it’ll read as well as it does in Estonian, but the bits that I’ve managed to look at – they sound very interesting. Some of the words, like mototrakt – that’s for motorcycle. I really think the translator is a good one.