Interview with Runic Games
Erich Schaefer, Brock Jones, and Wonder Russell answer our questions about Torchlight for 360 (achievements!), Torchlight 2 (new pet!), and what to do with PC gaming doomsayers.
CS: For anyone that hasn’t heard the news - Torchlight is coming to Xbox 360. How long has that been in the works and when will it hit?
RG: We’ve been working on the new game since Fall of 2010, and are very happy that it will be launching on Wednesday, March 9th 2011.
CS: What about Torchlight makes it a good game for a move to console?
RG: Xbox doesn’t have a game like Torchlight; the Action-RPG market is really underserved. Tons of fans told us they wished they could just play Torchlight on the couch instead of curled over their PC, and we agreed. The fast paced combat and the fact that it’s save-anywhere are just two reasons Torchlight is really well suited for the console.
CS: Can you tell me about what the process of getting the game on the console was like?
RG: Technically, it was a big process of figuring out how to translate the gameplay from a mouse and keyboard to a controller. We had theoretical plans for how that would work that seemed great on paper, but when we began implementation, there were many elements that just didn’t feel right. We iterated a lot on new theories for things like attack skills, skill trees, and UI to feel cohesive and like they had a natural flow.
CS: How much was done outside Runic Games, and what sort of things did you have control over?
RG: Runic had control over the whole project. We worked in part with a contractor, World Domination Industries who also helped on our Mac port, but the entire project, start to finish, is a Runic project.
CS: What will PC gamers who also want to play the game on their 360 notice that’s different?
RG: Gamers will notice a difference in UI, in skill trees, in potion stacking, and especially a difference in combat. One of the best examples are the Vanquisher’s ranged attacks. Depending on how you automap the skills, traps will be thrown either at a fixed range or a range determined by how long you hold down the button. There were also changes to AoE attacks. And, there are three new armor sets for each character and a new pet.
CS: How did the process of Torchlight on 360 affect the development of Torchlight II?
RG: We learned a lot of lessons in making Torchlight for Xbox that are being implemented into Torchlight II, so it was a great process for us internally. Some of those things are the skill trees, UI, and combat, that we found just worked better, simpler, and were more intuitive. A lot of engine optimizations also carried over. Torchlight II has multiplayer and updated graphics, but we hope it will run at least as well as the first Torchlight.
Also, Xbox system specs made us focus even more on efficiency, and we’re implementing a lot of that in Torchlight II. Specifically, better memory management and loading optimizations.
CS: What can you tell PS3 gamers wondering if they’ll get a shot?
RG: Right now, we have an exclusive publishing agreement with Microsoft.
CS: What are some of the Achievements in the 360 version?
RG: There are 12 achievements, with a total of 200 points, which is the maximum for an XBLA/downloadable game. Achievements include defeating a few of our bosses, successfully enchanting an item 5 times, and transforming your pet.
CS: Any plans for DLC?
RG: We have no current plans for DLC – the best ideas we have from now on will go into Torchlight II.
CS: How are plans for the MMO progressing?
RG: The plans are still there but are just that: plans. Right now, we’re focused 100% on Torchlight II.
CS: Has the possible 2011 release of Diablo III impacted any of your plans for Torchlight II?
RG: Nah. Not much we can do except make the best game we can. And, we’re looking forward to playing it, eventually!
CS: Can you talk some about the pets in Torchlight II? Any additional abilities and options?
RG: The new pet in the Xbox LIVE version is called the Chakawary; it’s a sort of a cassowary + frilled lizard hybrid. It pretty much has the same abilities as all the others: combat, inventory, spell-learning. We have some cool new ideas, but nothing implemented yet.
CS: Torchlight 2 multiplayer online - have you settled on a how many players?
RG: Not yet – we’re still shooting for between 4-8.
CS: About how long will the Torchlight II campaign be?
RG: We’ll have to see what makes the final cut, but it looks like it's shaping up to be about twice Torchlight's, which we estimate at 8 to 10 hours!
CS: Anything on PvP?
RG: Yep, we’ll have some form of PvP. But we’re all adults here so it will be….how do I put this? Consensual.
CS: You’ve revealed the Railman class, a tank-engineer combo, and the Outlander, a magician suited to ranged combat. What about the other two character classes?
RG: We’ll be revealing them. Eventually.
CS: What do you think of the “PC gaming is dead” doomsayers?
RG: Nonsense. They haven’t played Torchlight, I guess!
CS: You guys follow a different model - can you talk a bit about what led you to create a comparatively modest game at a lower price point than most?
RG: We know we wanted to be a small team. People work better and just have more fun when they're more than a small cog in a giant machine. Our small size means that we have to stay realistic about the scope of the games we make. We leverage things like randomized levels and loot to let us make great games with a small team. Furthermore, we don't have vast cash reserves to fund development, so we have to work fast or we won't be able to pay the rent. We set our price at a point where we hope that the value is obvious to our customers and will make it easy for them to recommend it to their friends.
We consciously made a 'modest' game as our first project, and from the very beginning we intended to charge a fair price for it. We want to deliver high value for the buck. This decision was supported by external factors like piracy prevention - why steal it when it's only $10 on Steam? - and our increased revenue share model with electronic distribution.
CS: What games distract the Runic Games team?
RG: Minecraft – that was a huge timesuck for us! Such a great game. It isn’t uncommon for us to “call in sick” the day a big game releases – we’re gamers, after all!
CS: And finally, still planning an April-May release for Torchlight II?
RG: We don’t have a launch date yet. We haven’t set one yet but we’re getting closer. Probably not Spring, though. Maybe Summer, but since it’s still in development, we’ll see. We're on a good pace.
Thanks again to Brock, Erich and Wonder!
P.S.Sometime soon we will be giving away codes for Torchlight on 360!