Updated Tue, May 12, 2009 by Ralsu
Ten Ton Hammer's Danny "Ralsu" Gourley was a big fan of Mythos, and no one was sadder than he when Flagship Studios failed and 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 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 referencing Mythos by question #618, but let’s just get it out of the way right now. Tell us how Torchlight is similar to Mythos. How is it different?
Comparisons to Mythos will be unavoidable.
Travis Baldree: Torchlight 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 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 with Mythos - 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 make Torchlight 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. 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?
Travis Baldree: 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?
John Dunbar: The most appealing aspect of the game really depends on the player. Torchlight has an interesting setting and a story that runs through the game, but players who aren’t 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 that’s how you like to play. Personally, I really like getting to new areas that feel different from where I’ve 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 you’re 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. It’s a group effort, and I think it’s something we’re pretty good at.
The art in Mythos was stylized. Torchlight takes things a step further.
The art in the two screens of Torchlight revealed thus far depicts super deformed characters and monsters in a world that looks hand-drawn. It is instantly recognizable to fans of FATE and Mythos. Critics of the art in Mythos said it was too cartoony or resembled 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?
Jason Beck: I really wouldn’t characterize it as such. Super-deformed, as the term is most commonly used, isn’t what we’re doing. It’s 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 “Dragon’s Lair meets the Incredibles.” We have stylized characters for certain, but they’re more in line with proportional designs you see in 2D animation. Our environments are shooting for a hand-painted, almost watercolor-like appearance. We’re 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 aren’t inheriting any art this time.
We defined some very clear objectives for Torchlight. We wanted to run on virtually any system. We also didn’t want to go head to head against Diablo 3 and attempt to beat them at their art style; it’s not right for our game anyways. We’re also shooting for a broader audience, one that draws in people who don’t normally play these types of games, but also isn’t off-putting to established fans of ARPGs. Torchlight’s look hopefully hits all of our main objectives and it’s 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.