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Travis Baldree Interview

Carolyn Koh Posted:
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Travis Baldree, the president of Runic Games and lead designer of Torchlight and Torchlight II was on hand at PAX to talk about their upcoming Torchlight II game, not just a multiplayer version of their award winning Torchlight but a full sequel with multiplayer support. Travis is no new comer to the gaming industry, having been responsible for the Diablo-esque like game Fate and having experience in MMOs with Flagship Studios’ Hellgate London and Mythos. For Torchlight II, Travis has created a game that is soloable and yet plays well in a multi-player setting with the game scaling for number of players and their proximity to each other.

At PAX, they showed two of the four planned classes, the Railman and the Outlander. All four will be different from the three classes in Torchlight. “It’s a different game,” said Travis, “And we want to make that distinction. This time, we’ll have outdoor zones, large land masses with dynamic content, day and night cycles and interactive environment.”

Torchlight II will support four to eight players, which is to say that one of you will host the game and your friends will join in, with the software supporting peer-to-peer, as well as LAN play and creates a lobby where players can join the game.

“It’s drop-in, drop-out co-op gaming,” said Travis, showing how portals pop up in town and players access any open portal to join others in which ever area they are in. “Characters will also have abilities that help the group.”

“Proximity of players is what scales the game,” Travis explained, “just having many players on the map won’t spawn so many enemies they overwhelm you. However, when two players are adventuring side by side, the mobs that spawn will be tougher and more numerous.”

To get around the loot fairness issue, loot will drop only for you. Your friend will not see the same loot drops. “No reason to make friends fight over loot,” quipped Travis. Like the original Torchlight, (and Diablo) the maps are randomly generated so the game remains fresh and replayable. Players will see improvements in the game as the devs have learned from the first and responded to player requests and wish lists. Pets remain in the game and continue to support you, sell your stuff for you, learn spells and level with you. Apart from the dog and the cat, we saw the ferret pet which was a giveaway with the retail version of Torchlight, but other pet possibilities were not revealed.

“We definitely will have more pets to choose from and they will also be more distinct, with different traits,” said Travis, “the dog and cat will be different for example, not just an art difference.”

Side quests will be more dynamic with NPCs spawning with the randomized maps which provide you different types of quests and rewards. It’s all part of putting pieces of the puzzle together and an NPC outside dungeon A may have X numbers of quests, each which have a variety to pieces to put together. So visiting the NPC from day to day will yield different quests as he could ask for different numbers of things that drop from different mobs each time, or may have a different quest than the escort quest you encountered the first time you entered the dungeon.

“We’ve improved the UI greatly. It’s modular and very customizable,” said Travis, “The multiplayer version of Torchlight is all new content based on the same story world.”

Content in Torchlight II includes lobby guild support and PvP as well. Plans are in for an arena as well as consensual PvP or duels. A new level editor will also be released with Torchlight II and players can expect the same varied content of secret rooms, levers, set pieces, shrines, non-monster encounters, moving bridges, traps, pitfalls, chasms and more as we now have outdoor areas and environmental effects of rain and fog. Zombies and skeletons may spawn only at night, for example and you may have to wait for the right time to go on that quest to clear out the haunted mansion.

Torchlight II will be a significantly larger game with more content and also character customization, not just set characters to play with. Will it then also be a digital download from Steam with a $19.95 price tag? Travis wasn’t able to share that information as yet, but the plan is for it to be close to the same price point. Torchlight II will be available for PC and MAC. This development is a progression and Runic Studios have talked about their path towards a fully fledged Torchlight MMO. First the single player game, now the multiplayer game and next, the MMO. Soon, we hope.


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.