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Discussing the Torchlight MMO

Carolyn Koh Posted:
Interviews 0

Torchlight is a single-player Action-RPG game and the first offering of indie studio Runic Games founded by Max Schaefer and Travis Baldree. Do those guys sound familiar? Only if you played Mythos and Hellgate: London or knew about Blizzard North. Both were part of (now closed) Flagship Studios. These are the gentlemen with Diablo/Diablo II / Fate Action-RPG and Hellgate: London / Mythos MMOGs under their belt. Within months of Flagship Studios going down, we received news of Runic Games opening and a new Fate-like, Diablo-esque Action-RPG in the works with plans for taking it to MMOG.

Torchlight looked and played well in demos at conventions. It was easy to get into, with a simple interface, good sound and music, and good looking. Released on October 27th, it has received acclaim from many critics and I was curious to know how a game like Torchlight would be developed into an MMOG.

Runic Games President and Torchlight Lead Designer Travis Baldree, Art Director Jason Beck and Zombie Pyrotechnician (no kidding) John Dunbar, a Producer type talked about their plans, their aspirations and their hopes for what we dubbed “Torchlight, the MMO” over the conference table.

“We hope to create a game that plays like Torchlight single-player in an MMO environment,” said Travis.

“Quick gameplay and highly soloable,” tossed in John.

“But with party support skills,” added Jason.

Soon, it was evident that all three were on the same page as they continued to speak of their plans, often ending each others sentences, adding to what each described.

There will of course be more classes. More customization, an expanded “wardrobing” system. Party support skills will be AE more likely than single target.

“We want to preserve the gameplay style. The look and feel of the Torchlight world,” said Jason,

“And we’re keeping the pets,” added Travis. A nod to Fate, revealed by Travis, a feature that not many knew about. In Fate, you could actually teach your pet spells by feeding them the spells. It would randomly use them and then forget them. In Torchlight, your pet can be taught two spells which it uses at random. It also has inventory space, picks up your treasures and takes a jaunt to town to sell them for you.

“Will it do that in the MMO?”

“Maaaaybe…” Travis responded, reminding me that although there are plans, ideas and aspirations, none are carved in stone.

“I’ll make sure it still can summon zombie skeletons!” quipped John.

“With fireballs?”

“With fireballs,” he agreed with a grin.

Torchlight is short on backstory and long on game-play. The town of Torchlight is like a wild-west border town and a precious magical material, Ember has been found in the mines and so it goes, giving you a reason to go into the mines to fight monsters, pick up precious Ember and other kewl lewt that just happens to drop off the monsters that live in there, never mind where that spider kept the honking big sword.

There will be PvP in “Torchlight, The MMO” and they hope recreate the “wild-west” PvP feel in Mythos as well as the Karma system. It will be fast enough so as not to be intimidating. Half hour fights aren’t planned. Quick, accessible, duels and team based PvP features are planned, and Region based territorial control hoped for.

“Competitive PvE too,” said John, “would be nice. Dungeon diving contests. Most points, most loot, that sort of thing.”

The world will be a mix of persistent elements and instanced elements. The open world, the towns and some of the dungeons will be shared, others will be instanced. Runic has a system to generate random dungeons and quests by putting different pieces together. Just like Diablo did with random maps and Torchlight currently does with random dungeons. It’s a feature that keeps the game fresh as you enter what’s seemingly the same dungeon again and again. Apart from the overarching storyline quests, random quests will also be available. Visiting NPC A standing in front of the mouth of the cave will yield a “Kill X number of Y monsters and bring me the head/toe/hand of boss Z for XP, gold and random reward.”

We talked about character development, including Crafting which will be skill-tree based. The team drew on the best of Mythos and what they would bring into “Torchlight, The MMO” from it. One of them was the idea of skill sub-sets; the ability to improve sub-sets of a skill. Another was the achievement system – the idea of equipable perks which gave stat boots.

“The plan really, is to take Torchlight as it is, get it to multi-player and balance for PvP as soon as possible,” said Travis. “From there, we expand the world, add new classes, get it to an Alpha state, start testing and iterate from there.”

“Not just a generic fantasy world, but our own version, our own style,” said Jason who liked that fact that the look and art style of Torchlight could not be simply categorized. “We’ve made a much richer world than a generic fantasy land. Yes, we have heard it called a fantasy/steampunk/pixar mash-up.” With a pinch of luck, it will soon be called the Torchlight style.

Launch of the MMO is still about two years off and at this time, their first patch for Torchlight the single player game is coming up. Player modding tools are about to be released and it’s full-steam ahead for the MMO. Torchlight is available via download only. At a price-point of $19.95, it has been a “I’ll try it” among my gaming buddies and a couple of programmer friends are already drooling at the prospect of the Modding tools. As for me, I played Diablo II and am loving my doggie pet Phydeaux in Torchlight. There are no plans at this time to bring a multi-player aspect to the current Torchlight game, but who knows what developments will come in the future as Runic preps the game for the MMO?


Carolyn Koh

Carolyn Koh / Carolyn Koh has been writing for MMORPG.com since 2004 and about the MMO genre since 1999. These days she plays mobile RTS games more, but MMOs will always remain near and dear to her heart.