The fantastical minds at Runic Games that brought us Torchlight return with Torchlight II. This action role-playing game is one to look out for as it carries its legacy in this bigger sequel that offers a lot. In this interview, HonestDragon talks to CEO Max Schaefer about the development and core features of Torchlight II. They also talk about the future for Runic Games' other projects and plans. Check out this game for Indie Month and get absorbed into the expansive world of Torchlight II. Don't forget about the panda!
HONESTDRAGON: When Runic Games was developing this sequel, were there any immediate challenges facing its development? For example, plot ideas or adding certain features?
MAX: Obviously the biggest challenge was implementing a multiplayer mode, with internet and LAN play, with centralized matchmaking. Aside from that, creating an overworld outside of the dungeons was both a great opportunity and relief for our artists, but also a whole new design challenge. It has to appear vast, without being tedious or confusing. It has to give you the feeling of a real space in multiple terrain types, but still offer strong pacing and narrative. The layouts had to be randomized and still fit together properly. It has to give you the feeling of exploring without devolving into trying to figure out where you are. And it has to get you to your destination before the player becomes bored or annoyed. So there was a lot more iteration than expected.
HONESTDRAGON: I just want to say that Torchlight II looks amazing. For its development, did the team create environments from scratch on the engine or was some of it drawn out first?
MAX: Thank you! We do a good bit of concepting before we start making layouts, and the general ideas are discussed and decided beforehand. But a lot of the design work is iterative, so it takes place after the first roughed-in areas are built. I think for a game like Torchlight, your assumptions in development are always being challenged by the reality of the play-throughs. So you have to budget in time for lots and lots of iteration.
HONESTDRAGON: The character classes are vastly different compared to the previous classes in Torchlight. Did the team know what classes they wanted to add in the sequel? Were there any classes scrapped from earlier days of crafting the different classes?
MAX: Our character classes follow a pretty basic foundation, but evolve over the course of development. For characters, we use a theory that an old colleague termed "familiar novelty". Meaning we want to make characters that are all new, but whose characteristics are familiar to players seeing them for the first time. In other words, even though you've never played an "Engineer" before, just by looking at the character, you can get a sense for how he fights and what his skills are. Of course, as we go, we scrap a lot of skills and add new ones, but it should all follow the formula and the nature of the character.
HONESTDRAGON: The Alchemist goes from hero (Torchlight) to villain (Torchlight II) in this world. Was The Alchemist the first to be considered the central antagonist?
MAX: When we made the first Torchlight, it was never in our minds to turn a hero into the villain in the sequel. We didn't even know what the sequel would be like yet. But once we decided to make TL2, it seemed like a natural decision. I think the Alchemist was an obvious choice, since he had just a little bit of mischief and ambition that the other characters didn't.
HONESTDRAGON: The return of pets came in a big way. Tripling the size of available pets from Torchlight, did the team have any other pets they wanted to add or was there a designated quota for pets?
MAX: Everyone loves the pets. Haha! We ended up with a lot more pets than we initially intended, because we kept coming up with new ideas. I think people's favorite was the little Papillon dog. It's modeled on our office mascot, Falcor, who is a very real dog who comes to the office every day. If you see the actual dog, it's remarkable how accurate the game version is, both in looks and mannerisms. Kudos to our animator, Matt Lefferts, and to Wonder Russell for having a delightful dog.
HONESTDRAGON: Does Runic Games plan on developing any new games in the future?
MAX: Of course! We're doing so right now. Most of us have been making ARPG's like Torchlight for a long time. Some of us for VERY long. So we're changing it up this time and going with a whole new genre. I can't say much about it yet, but I will say here for the first time that we're designing the game from the get-go with controller input. I've already said too much. :)
HONESTDRAGON: Any future plans for the Torchlight series?
MAX: Yes. We love Torchlight, and have a lot of great ideas on new directions for the series. We still don't want to make a traditional MMO, but we'll infuse some new flavor into Torchlight's ARPG roots.
HONESTDRAGON: Can fans expect to see Runic Games at any conferences coming up?
MAX: One of our favorite things is showing off what we have at game conferences. Not only do we learn a lot about our games at conferences, but we get to communicate directly with our community. Apart from the PR and media attention, we feel like our development improves by showing our game in public. However, we have to have a proper, playable version of the game, so that limits when and where we show. We'll see how our development progresses, but chances are we'll be at some show in the next 12 months.
HONESTDRAGON: Anything you want to say to Torchlight fans out there?
MAX: Our fans are the best. Our whole community is positive, supportive, knowledgeable about our games, and they really make all the work worthwhile. So our message to them, is one of gratitude, and we want them to know we're working hard on the next big thing from Runic Games, and can't wait to let them in on it. They helped us a lot during the Torchlight development, and we look forward to doing the same with our new game.
Day 20 | Runic Games