Post E3 2011: An Interview on Torchlight II with Runic Games CEO Max Schaefer

In the wake of E3 2011, we were aching to learn more about the upcoming Torchlight II. And luckily for us, Runic Games CEO Max Schaefer was willing to take some time out of his day to answer a few of our questions. Read on for some great insight into a game that we’re looking forward to seeing later this year. Hello. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule for the interview. Let’s start with the basics. How many character classes will be offered? What are their specialties?

Runic Games CEO Max Schaefer: Torchlight II will feature 4 new character classes. So far we’ve announced the Outlander, a ranged hybrid character, the Railman, a heavy tank-like class, and the Berserker, a fast toe-to-toe melee character. Our 4th character will be revealed soon!

LH: Torchlight offered players three distinct classes, yet none of them are returning (as playable characters). What was the thinking behind that decision?

MS: Correct, the original 3 from Torchlight I will only be returning as NPC’s to move the story forward. In Torchlight II you get to pick gender and other features like hair style, so we had to remake the characters from scratch regardless. Since we’re making a whole new game, we thought players would also like to play new characters, ones designed with multiplayer in mind.

LH: The original game grew through world of mouth. Despite its success, many PC gamers missed the boat. How difficult will it be for them to step into the sequel. Will the plots from the
two games commingle or does Torchlight II offer a standalone story?

MS: As far as the learning curve goes, it is important to us both for Torchlight I and Torchlight II that the game be easy to pick up and play – accessible, quick to grasp, so you spend more time playing and less time learning how to play. The challenge should come from the monsters and quests, not learning the interface.

While the plots do commingle in that Torchlight II picks up not long after the end of Torchlight I, people who have never played Torchlight I will have no problems jumping in. It’s not a direct continuation, and we introduce everything you need to know.

LH: Are the dungeons truly randomly generated or does their layout have a pattern that can be memorized if you enter the same dungeon enough?

MS: The dungeons are randomly laid out based on large chunks that are stitched together. Within these chunks there are other layers of randomization, so in a given “room”, there may or may not be a secret lever or a healing shrine. On top of that the monsters are generated with a separate randomization scheme, as well as the loot. So while you may recognize a given room from playing before, what’s in the room and what you’ll find will be different.

LH: How has the introduction of multilayer affected core gameplay? What incentive is there for players to band together?

MS: The largest incentive for players to band together is simply that they enjoy sharing their experience with friends. It’s something they have been very vocal about wanting, by the way, both customers and reviewers.

As far as skill sets though, some experiences in the game are going to be better handled with groups. There’s strength in numbers. Other times, a monster might be particularly resistant to your type of attack, so you’d want a friend there for an alternative. But it won’t be the case where you are forced to play together if you don’t want to. The game is soloable.

LH: How many players can be in a party?

MS: We haven’t set a limit yet. Right now it’s up to 8. It will depend on how it feels – that may be too many if everyone is in the same room setting off spells.

LH: Can you successfully run dungeons with different class set-ups, not just the standard tank, dps, healer roles?

MS: Absolutely. Players are able to sort of pace themselves by replaying areas too, so if you’re a bit weak at any point, you can work yourself up before continuing to tougher areas. Also, at lower difficulty levels, there is a lot more flexibility.

LH: Will players be able to fight each other in duels or special arena-style locations?

MS: It’s not our emphasis, but we will probably figure out a way for you to duel your friend. It’s always fun to see who’s tougher, but really Torchlight II is a co-op game.

LH: What lessons have you learned while making Torchlight that the second game will benefit from? Any major technological leaps between the two games?

MS: Many lessons actually came from the Xbox version of Torchlight, to be honest. Thanks to the streamlining required by the controls, we came up with improved versions of the UI, and some specific attacks. The biggest leap from Torchlight I to Torchlight II is that we are allowed the time to really develop our vision. We’re lucky to get the opportunity to bring gamers the world, the gameplay, and the characters that are the most exciting to us personally, without the fear of “we have to ship tomorrow or we’ll cease to exist.”

LH: Will mod tools be part of the core experience of the multilayer portion of the game?

MS: We will be releasing the mod tools again, and players will be able to mod Torchlight II and play with others who have those same mods installed.

LH: With the inevitable release of Diablo 3, do you feel that Torchlight II is unique enough to stand on its own and not be put in the shadow of one of Blizzard’s flagship titles? Is DLC planned?

MS: Torchlight II is going to appeal to Diablo fans (we are included in that group.) But we’re different enough with story, art style, and price point that we know gamers who liked Torchlight will absolutely love Torchlight II, and that’s what we’re focusing on. Obviously we can’t compete head to head with Diablo 3, but fortunately we don’t think we are. There’s room in this genre for the both of us.

No DLC is planned for now – we’d rather include it in the game! ;)

LH: How is the MMO version of Torchlight tied to Torchlight II and the franchise as a whole?

MS: An MMO would take place in the world of Torchlight, but beyond that is pure speculation at this point. We are literally only thinking about Torchlight II right now.

LH: The game is currently slated for release in July. Is Runic Games looking to do a beta ahead of release?

MS: We actually have never set a release date – it doesn’t exist! Yet! But we are getting closer and we will release this year for sure. As for a beta, we may do some internal testing but a larger public beta is not planned.

LH: Thanks for your time. We can’t wait to get our hands on it.

MS: Thanks! We’ll get it to you as soon as we can.


  1. Blasphemy I suppose, but I’m looking forward to this game much more than Diablo 3. I’ll be buying Torchlight 2 at release.

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