One of the best things about PAX this year was getting the first chance to play Torchlight, a game that (for me at least) came out of nowhere. Intrigued by my experiences with the game
I pleaded at the virtual gates of Runic for a chance to learn more about the game and here's the result of my insessint pleading and nagging.
Can you introduce yourself, talk about your role on the project? How did you get into game development and what's one thing that you love about the industry?
I'm Erich Schaefer, co-founder of Runic Games and Designer on Torchlight. I got into the game business long ago, mostly by accident. One thing I really love about the industry is the fast-paced creativity; watching crazy ideas take shape over night and then becoming something thousands of players get to experience.
This is Wonder Russell, Minister of Culture – I fell into this industry in a stroke of brilliant serendipity, and I love the work hard play hard ethic!
And I’m Jason Beck, the Art Director at Runic. I went the traditional art route until I discovered that I loved making game art more so than other disciplines. The industry is great for us artist types because where else can you create monsters for a living and also brush up on your insomnia skills?
Torchlight was kind of under wraps until it's big appearance at PAX this year. Was that intentional and could you talk about why you went that route rather than the slow burn over a period of time that a lot of games use? How long has the game been in development?
It would be great to say that was part of a marketing strategy to bowl people over, but if you came by our 10 x 20 booth you’d probably see it was a matter of funds. Basically every bit of startup capital we had when Runic Games incorporated went into the game, and not into any advertising. It was and is our fervent hope that the game speaks for itself – because it is fun to play, accessible, familiar, and addictive, people would fall in love with it and tell their friends. We really rely on word of mouth.
As far as the slow burn, we just didn’t have the time nor budget. We were on a countdown from day one, which demanded a super fast turnaround. Torchlight has been in development a mere 11 months. So in a sense, it did come “out of nowhere” as far as traditional development times are concerned. Runic Games is an indie developer and abides by the rules of survival of the fittest.
For those who have been living under a rock can you give us the gist of the plot of the game?
Torchlight is the name of a boomtown that sprung up over an Ember mine; Ember is magical ore that aids in creation of magic weapons and spells, but also has a corrupting influence. Because this mine is so rich in Ember, the corruption is spreading like a virus within the mine and even out into the town itself. As one of three hero classes, your journey into Torchlight takes you deep into the mine, seeking the source of Ember, which leads you through many ruined civilizations who all tried to harness the ore, only to be consumed and lost by the corruption.
What that means for the player is a deep dungeon-crawler with randomized levels and unique tilesets of previous civilizations, ranging from forgotten, jungle-like temples to Dwarven ruins – sort of like Journey to the Center of the Earth –and of course each level overrun with distinctive loot piñatas in need of a good bashing.
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