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Max Schaefer @ CGMonthly, plus Torchlight’s Console Controls

Posted 15 Mar 2011 by

C&G Monthly has posted a new interview with Diablo creator DiabloWikiMax Schaefer. It’s a nice interview; they talk about the formation of Runic Games and how they found success in targeting Torchlight to a market in between casual games and AAA titles, how they’ve learned to work much smarter and more efficiently than they did in the old days of unlimited time/budgets, their plans for massive modding support in TL2, and the big changes they had to make designing TL2 for multiplayer support. Thanks to fmulder for the tip, and here’s a quote:

Question: I hate to make the comparison but back in October 2009 when you released Torchlight for the first time, Diablo III was this monster somewhere off in the distance but with every passing day it?s becoming more and more of a reality. Now with Torchlight 2 being a very similar game potentially coming out in the same year, what sort of trepidation do you face going in to this David and Goliath sort of battle?

Max Schaefer: Well um? There?s a few things happening here. First of all it?s been the threat over our heads since the very beginning, what happens when Diablo III comes out. I think first we?re all going to go out and buy it and play it a whole bunch, slowing down whatever it is we?re doing. But, once we?ve done that I think we?ll just get back on to doing our thing.

I think there?s going to be some key distinctions between the products; we?re moddable and they?re not, our game doesn?t require high-end graphics while theirs is aiming a little higher in complexity, we?ll be cheaper. But, who knows?

We?re kind of blessed by working in a genre where there?s only one source of real competition. We could be working on another game that has multiple genre competitors released every month. The fact that there?s only one big 500-pound gorilla is kind of good.

While we’re on the subject of Torchlight, the console version was released last week, and the reviews have been very good. They’ve got a huge collection of them on the official TL site, and I skimmed through a dozen to see what they said about the console version of the controls work. For obvious reasons.

Early reports about the TL1 console port talked about how they’d entirely redone the control system to work with a joystick instead of a mouse. What do the reviewers think? Here are a few quotes:

Lucky for Blizzard, Runic Games seems to have done all the investigation for them, as the XBLA version of “Torchlight” clearly proves that a top-down, loot-heavy, hack-and-slash RPG can work wonders on consoles.—Mtv MP Blog

Torchlight on the Xbox 360 now has you moving with the left stick and using the X button for your basic attacks. Apart from that you have the LB shoulder button for health potions, RB shoulder button for mana potions, and you can map your skills/abilities onto the RT, LT, Y, and B buttons. It?s a simple, intuitive system that works extremely well at bringing a very keyboard/mouse centric genre to a console.—PixelJumpers

It uses a single main attack button and you can also map skills to the other buttons. It’s also possible to have more than one skill set that you can switch between. Force feedback is also included for certain attacks and conditions such as low health or to help with fishing. The combat is slightly faster than on the PC version and some of this is down to improved animations.—EntertainmentFocus

Speaking of the menus, everything is tabbed and controlled by using RB or LB along with your joystick. After you get the hang of flipping through them and equipping gear, you?ll grow to love what Runic Games has done with the menu system. Each item will tell you if it?s an upgrade over another, indicated by a green or red arrow, and gemming is as easy as picking a gem and then the item you want it to go into. It?s marvelous when a developer takes the time to port a game correctly and put in the effort to make the UI smart and the game run smoothly on a different set of hardware. —EvilAvatar

Blizzard’s said nothing about how their console version of Diablo III might be controlled, but as Torchlight has shown, this type of game can be done with a gamepad. Especially given the dumbed down simplified seven hotkey skill system of Diablo III. Will Blizzard go that route? Or might they have grander, Kotick-esque designs, and be planning on a peripheral of some sort, requiring players to buy some sort of mouse/mini-keyboard combo that can be plugged into the console, thus enabling full, PC-style controls from the comfort of your couch?