Ten Ton Hammer's Danny "Ralsu" Gourley was a big fan of
and no one was sadder than he when Flagship Studios failed and style="font-style: italic;">Mythos disappeared
while in development. Now that a lot of the former Flagship staff has
teamed up with other industry professionals to form Runic Games, Ralsu
has been keeping a close eye on their project, which is called href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/67656" target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Torchlight.
Ralsu immediately set out to run some questions by the minds
responsible for the game. He caught up with Travis Baldree, Jason Beck,
and John Dunbar. These gentlemen we kind enough to field queries about
design decisions, the choice of Perfect World as a publisher, future
goals, and more.
I promise to stop
by question #618, but lets just get it out of the
way right now. Tell us how Torchlight
is similar to Mythos.
How is it
to Mythos will be unavoidable.
is still about fast, action-RPG gameplay - but in many ways we think
it's a big improvement over Mythos,
at least so far. We've taken the exaggerated look of style="font-style: italic;">Mythos much
further, we've made combat and skills more satisfying, the environments
are more interesting and interactive, and have a much better sense of
scale. Our end goal with the MMO is still the same as it was
- but of course, we'd like to improve on it in every way.
We've chosen to look at Mythos
as a very extensive preproduction period that will hopefully serve to
a much better game.
One unique thing Runic Games
is doing is building a single player game first and then following that
with the MMO based on the same world. style="font-style: italic;">Torchlight is the
single player game. But it will have an online multiplayer mode, right?
And how will it serve to help the development of the MMO?
style="font-style: italic;">The single player
won't actually have a multiplayer mode - that's basically being
reserved for the MMO. We're building the single player title on a very
short timeline, and will be releasing it this year. It will
be extremely moddable however, and we'll be releasing our inhouse
toolset. As far as serving to aid in the MMO development, the
core gameplay, tool suite, randomized dungeons, AI, and in many cases
assets will transition in some form to the MMO. Simply
polishing and releasing the title (and the tools) will ensure that
we're building the MMO on a good, solid foundation, and should help
immensely. The MMO will also be set in the same world, so
story and lore should also transition well.
Every solid action RPG
drives players forward with a compulsion to get that next piece of loot
or to kill that last unique monster in a dungeon. Every once in a
while, we get a strong plot in those games, too. What will be the most
appealing aspect of Torchlight?
The most appealing aspect of the game really depends on the
has an interesting setting and a story that runs through the game, but
players who arent interested in that sort of thing will be able to
skip through it. There are lots of really cool items, and
rare drops that you could spend extra time looking for if thats how
you like to play. Personally, I really like getting to new
areas that feel different from where Ive been before and seeing what
kind of monsters live there.
Hopefully everyone will like the combat and skill
system. We focus a lot on the feel of moment to moment
gameplay. Hitting monsters has to feel really satisfying,
because youre going to be doing it a lot. To get that
feeling the animations, particles, sounds, balance, and combat system
all need to be just right. Its a group effort, and I think
its something were pretty good at.
style="font-style: italic;">The art
in Mythos was stylized. Torchlight takes things a
The art in the two screens
revealed thus far depicts super deformed characters and monsters in a
world that looks hand-drawn. It is instantly recognizable to fans of style="font-style: italic;">FATE and style="font-style: italic;">Mythos. Critics of
the art in Mythos
said it was too cartoony or resembled style="font-style: italic;">World of Warcraft
too much. It seems Torchlight
goes even further with the stylization. What are the benefits of this
art style? What are the challenges?
style="font-weight: bold;">Jason Beck:
style="font-weight: normal;"> I really wouldnt characterize
it as such. Super-deformed, as the term is most commonly used, isnt
what were doing. Its generally an easier conversation to
compare things to known entities, so I will offer this one up to better
define our look. Torchlight
is a little bit Dragons
Lair meets the Incredibles.
We have stylized characters for certain, but theyre more in line with
proportional designs you see in 2D animation. Our environments are
shooting for a hand-painted, almost watercolor-like
appearance. Were trying to define our own look and have
drawn some inspiration from the classic animation techniques. The great
thing with Torchlight
is we can avoid some of those comparisons having an entirely clean
slate to work from We arent inheriting any art this time.
style="font-weight: normal;">We defined some very clear
objectives for Torchlight.
We wanted to run on virtually any system. We also didnt want
to go head to head against Diablo
3 and attempt to beat them at their art style; its not
right for our game anyways. Were also shooting for a broader
audience, one that draws in people who dont normally play these types
of games, but also isnt off-putting to established fans of ARPGs. style="font-style: italic;">Torchlights look
hopefully hits all of our main objectives and its a style that comes
pretty naturally to the team. The primary challenge is toeing that line
between a look that appeals to both the established ARPG players and an
entirely new audience for this type of game.
I wrote for a long while
a game that has a dedicated mod community that feels it receives little
support from the developers. In an interview with href="http://www.runicinsider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=74"
target="_blank">Runic Games Insider, you noted
will highly modifiable and that it will deliver some robust modding
tools. You later pledged to support the mod community. Exactly how
will Runic Games support its modding community? Will players be able to
create custom UIs and downloadable content? How hard will that be? Will
advanced modders be able to provide feedback to the development team
for improvements or fixes to the user interface?
style="font-weight: bold;">John Dunbar:
style="font-weight: normal;">We like to keep close ties with
our community. Its pretty easy to get a hold of us on
forums, and Im sure well be having a ton of discussions about
modding. If youre an advanced modder and involved in the
community, well know who you are. The tools we will release
are the same ones we use to make the game, so any improvements we make
for the community will help us out as well. Therere already
pretty awesome though, Greg has done a fantastic job creating them and
adding new features that make our lives a lot easier.
style="font-weight: normal;">Since your question focused on
UI modding, youre probably thinking about the MMO, and I cant really
tell you what sort of modding it will support. Right now when
I think of mods, I have the single player game in mind.
Modding is one of the coolest things about single player games, and I
cant wait to see what people come up with. I hope to see new
monsters, new dungeons, new quests, everything. Maybe someone
will replace all the monsters with laser space bugs. As far
as difficulty, it varies depending on what you want to do. If
you want to make a whole new monster with new art, then you will need
to know how to model and animate. If you can do that, then
adding it to the game will be easy. Changing item or monster
stats is super easy, making particle effects or levels will probably
require you to read a tutorial.
crawling is more fun with big bosses.
You have mentioned a
persistent, evolving pet as one of the gameplay elements youd like to
see in Torchlight
or other Runic Games titles. How do you envision a
pet evolving in a way that keeps it as fresh as getting access to new
pets at different levels?
style="font-style: italic;">Apart from the fact
that you will be able to transform your pet into other creatures using
a mechanic similar to the one in FATE,
we've talked a lot about having abilities that are equippable on your
pets via a collar. This is stil in flux right now, so I don't
want to commit to too many lofty goals just yet, but we definitely want
your pet to gain new abilities as you play, keeping them interesting to
In Taylor Balbis
target="_blank">account of playing style="font-style: italic;">Torchlight
at the 2009 Game Developers Conference, he mentions secret doors in
dungeons. Can players expect a lot of Easter eggs like that? Will there
be a secret Zardon level or something?
Dunbar: I wouldnt call secret doors an easter
egg, theyre just part of the dungeons and there will be lots of them.
There are also levers that make bridges extend, release monsters, and
do that sort of thing. Its a lot more interactivity than weve ever
had in dungeons before, and it makes them a lot more interesting.
If theres a secret level, well probably have to do it
without Zardon. For sad. We can only hope to find a
different ridiculous, un-usable monster to idolize this time around.
The word on the web is that
inventory will be one item to one space rather that the older style="font-style: italic;">Tetris-style
system. Why did you make this choice, how many slots will players be
able to fill, and can pets really carry items for us, too?
has a hit with Dungeon Runners. Surely the market has room for one more action RPG.
Primarily it's a question of simplicity. style="font-style: italic;">Mythos actually had
single-slot items for a while, early in development. Eventually, we
went to the Tetris
system because we were unhappy with how the single-slot icons looked -
they were small and hard to pick out, and inventory management caused a
lot of eyestrain. In Torchlight
the icons are generally much larger, and we're pleased with how the
gear looks in icon form, so we don't really miss it. At
present, for standard gear, the player has 15 slots [and[ your pet has
an additional 15. You also have separate areas for quest and
fishing-related items (15 each), so that they don't clutter the primary
inventory. This is all subject to change, however.
A lot of great publishers
put our quality titles ever year. Tell us why Perfect World is the
right publisher for Torchlight.
style="font-weight: bold;">Travis Baldree:
style="font-weight: normal;">Perfect World is both a
publisher and a developer. They know what it takes to make a successful
MMO in the business model we were attempting, have completed successful
launches in the US, and are fantastic to work with. Even
though single player games aren't really considered for development in
China, they were gracious enough to give us the time to release a
single player title first - we really couldn't ask for a better
partner. In the end, Perfect World was the right publisher
for us because of that - because they're our partner as well as a
publisher, and they generously give of their resources and expertise to
help us make a better game. They've really been a pleasure to
Since Perfect World is known
for free-to-play games in the West, does that mean the style="font-style: italic;">Torchlight MMO will
work on a micro-transaction system as well? Will there be a retail box
for either the RPG or the MMO?
Yes. The Torchlight
MMO will have a micro-transaction system similar to what we were
attempting with Mythos.
With Perfect World, we really have an opportunity to achieve what we
set out to do with Mythos,
which is extremely lucky for us. I'm not sure yet whether
we'll have a retail box for the MMO, but we intend to do so for the
single player game.
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