Torchlight II Q&A
Interview By: WoLf | Posted: 26/08/2010
We talk with JD Wiker, Lead Writer for Torchlight II, about the game and a few other things.
1. Hi there, first of all can you introduce yourself and explain a little about your role within Runic games?
Hi, Darren. I'm JD Wiker—and, no, I don't use punctuation in my first name; it's just a little quirk of mine. I come from a background in the tabletop RPG industry: I worked on the Star Wars RPG for Wizards of the Coast, and, in my spare time, I'm president of a d20 design studio called The Game Mechanics. Up until late 2009, I was also a writer for Warhammer Online, at Mythic Entertainment.
As for Runic Games, I'm currently the lead writer here at Runic Games, meaning that I generate the majority of the storyline, the quests, the backstory, the dialogue, the names of weapons and armor ... if it uses text or punctuation, I probably have a hand in it somewhere.
2. What are the features of Torchlight 2 that are going to really set it apart from its predecessor and other games of this kind?
Obviously, the big answer is the multiplayer mode—but what I can better speak to is the story. The original Torchlight's story was deliberately vague; it mostly served as a framework to explain all the different environments of the Torchlight mines.
Torchlight 2 is going to explore a slightly larger piece of the world—its "cradle of civilization," as it were. That means exploring the backstories of the world's oldest races—the dwarves, the Estherians, and the Zeraphi (and their Ezrohir cousins)—as well as telling the story of what the characters from Torchlight have been doing since their triumph over Ordrak, and introducing the closest thing to "gods" in the world: the elemental Guardians. It will also answer some questions about Ember, that oh-so-dangerous mineral, including why people keep using it when it has such terrible side-effects.
3. We’re told that Torchlight 2 is going to be a co-operative experience, how many players can we expect to adventure with and is there going to be an additional cost or is it free to play?
I don't think we've set a limit so far. As for the logistics of the multiplayer experience, the plan is that you'll pay once for the game, and that's it.
4. Can you tell us more about the Torchlight 2 engine, graphically Torchlight had a very unique look and feel...will 2 build on that?
The art director, Jason Beck, and his team have put together some really fine graphic elements that build on the original game, without just rehashing it. In fact, I recently had a long conversation with Jason about how important the look and feel of those elements are to us both, and how we want to see stuff in Torchlight 2—and, eventually, in the MMO—that play off the original game's look and feel, while at the same time improving on it.
5. Can you tell us anything about any of the cool weapons, spells or items that we might find in Torchlight 2?
That's actually a lot of what I've been working on lately. For example, folks who've played the demo at Gamescom (and, soon, PAX) will have already seen the cool new throwing weapon of the Outlander in action, and the massive, massive "tool/weapons" of the Railman. We're also going back over the item lists and coming up with new weapons and armor, including some fun "uniques" that I hope will bring a smile to the faces of the players—things like the "Shield of Dreams," or the "Necromagnum," or "Spear-Bot 2300."
6. Are there going to be any new classes for the game, what’s your own personal favourite class?
I've mentioned the Outlander and the Railman already—and we've got more in the works. I just can't tell you about those yet.
Of what I've tested so far, though, I really like the Outlander. There's just something kind of viscerally appealing about firing rifles at bear-men and skeletons ...
7. What kind of story writing will go into Torchlight 2...is it story-lite or something a little meatier?
Oh, it's a lot meatier—but, then, I would say that, wouldn't I?
There's going to be a main storyline that takes the players on a tour of some of the more exotic areas of the continent of Vilderan—the "new world" from the human perspective; it's actually the home of the world's oldest races, and where the mining town of Torchlight is located. They'll visit the last enclave of the Estherians—the mystical race whose magical traditions have been taught to humans, like Syl from the original game—and be introduced to the Guardians ... and find out why they're important to the world.
They'll also get to visit the crumbling, mostly-abandoned city of Zeryphesh, the home of the immortal Zeraphi, who gave up their flesh for a kind of immortality—eternity encased in alchemical armor. They're having problems with their old enemies, the Ezrohir, and the players get to participate in that conflict.
We're also planning on exploring the ruins of dwarven civilization, and finding out exactly why they abandoned that mine under the village of Torchlight. And we're also brainstorming about an extra-special, completely exotic zone for a final confrontation with the forces of evil—something we're all very excited about. (I really, really hope we don't have to cut it from the final product ...)
8. Are we going to see cut-scenes in the game?
It's kind of hard to tell a story without them—particularly when so many gamers skip over quest text and NPC dialogue. Nothing wrong with that: I'm all in favor of catering to every type of gamer's play style, whenever possible.
9. How important do you think modding is to a particular game, especially one like Torchlight 2 where a level editor would allow players to make their own challenging content for each other?
Modding is absolutely brilliant. I think that any sort of "creative-commons"-style license encourages creative people to push the boundaries of what is possible—and there are a lot of really great games out there that wouldn't have been possible if some other company hadn't allowed the general public to create mods.
10. What are some of the biggest influences would you say, for a game like Torchlight 2, in terms of theme/setting and so on?
Some of the developers describe the Torchlight setting is "Dragon's Lair meets The Incredibles." I think that's pretty much on the money. Torchlight 2 continues on in that vein, but there's an element of Terry Pratchett's Discworld in there, along with a fair amount of, hm, maybe not "steampunk," per se, but perhaps "dieselpunk" or "clockpunk?"
Maybe we need a new term to describe the Torchlight theme and setting? How about "dungeonpunk?" Define it as a world esthetic in which the heroes are adventurers who live in a violent world, where they effect change by themselves practicing violence—particularly upon monsters, and frequently in underground settings?
11. Lastly, since this is a short Q&A – sell our readers on the game, the virtual floor is yours, go nuts and pimp Runic and anything regarding Torchlight 2 you’d like!
Torchlight 2 doesn't really need me to sell it, though. Really, if you liked Torchlight, but wanted to play alongside your friends (or strangers you met online), you'll want Torchlight 2. If you liked Torchlight, but wanted more variety of zones, you'll want Torchlight 2. If you liked Torchlight, but wanted more varied challenges—such as puzzles—you'll want Torchlight 2. If you liked Torchlight, but wanted more story, you'll want Torchlight 2.
Seriously, I come from a background in game design: twelve years of designing in the industry itself, and thirty years before that of playing games—everything from Monopoly to Dungeons & Dragons. I've been playing video games since Radio Shack released their Pong "console." Earlier than that, if you count arcade games. I pay particular attention to what makes games fun—and I recognize that it's something different for different people.
For some, Torchlight 2 is going to be about bashing monsters on the head and picking up the loot, and that's great. That's the core mechanic. But for others, it's going to be about exploring the world, and it's my goal to make that a worthwhile pursuit for those players. Some are going to want to get complete sets of armor, and I want those pieces of armor to have some cool stories behind them. And when players really want to chat with the NPCs of the Torchlight world, I want the NPCs to have something interesting to say—perhaps even occasionally something significant to the overall story.
12. Ok I lied...last question and not involving Torchlight 2: Who is cooler, Boba Fett or Darth Vader?
Vader. Yes, he's a bit of a whiner, but at least he's not trigger-happy. I mean, look at Boba Fett. Every time something happens, he whips out his blaster and starts waving it around. He's a danger to himself and others. And he stands around trying to look menacing all the time, when he's wearing half a million credits of store-bought "tough guy" gear! What a poser!
Now Vader, Vader's the kind of guy who you could sit down with and have a beer, maybe show each other snapshots of your wife and kids, go bowling ... As long as you don't bring up politics or religion, I'll bet he'd be pretty cool to hang out with.
We'd like to thank JD Wiker for taking the time to answer our questions, and look out for more on Torchlight II from Games Xtreme in the future.