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!