Max Schaefer and Travis Baldree Interview


Another interview has popped up with the ex-Flagship North guys who just founded Runic Games, and it’s a fascinating read. They talk about the (unsuccessful) scramble to find more funding for Flagship, what the company’s doing now on its last legs, their plans for Runic Games, the market for “AAA casual” titles, growing acceptance of RMT in Western RPGs, and much more. Best of all for our needs, they Diablo 3 as well. A couple of quotes:

GameCyte: Is there pressure to move in the same direction, and go for that bold, colorful style, or do you perhaps think that there might be an unserved market for dark action-RPG titles like the ones zealous Photoshop enthusiasts were making ?screenshots? of?

MS: I?m loving this controversy, by the way. The same thing happened when we were making Diablo and Diablo II ? there was a lot of criticism that it was just too gray and too dark, and that people wanted brighter colors. You?re damned if you do and damned if you don?t with these sorts of games. I think that the team that?s making the game should set the tone of the game, and shouldn?t try to make it something that someone else did? really, they have to create their own vision for the game, and be true to that vision.

Now, I love the really super-gritty, super-dark look of the original Diablos, but I also like what I?ve seen of Diablo III so far. I think both can be wonderful games. What we were doing with Mythos was even more bright and colorful than what Diablo III is shaping up to be, just because we were aiming at a little bit different market; it was going to be a global game, and in Asia they?re very much into the brighter colors and lighter atmosphere. I think also, since Mythos was a social game, something that you?re going to be spending a lot of time not playing, it?s something that you probably want a little bit more inviting atmosphere for.

TB: It also allows us a little more latitude in item sales; if people want to be heavily customizing their characters, there?s someone who always wants to walk around carrying a fish in a floppy hat.

MS: In Diablo I we had naked corpses stuck on stakes and it was really kind of gruesome? not where you?d want to meet your girlfriend and get married.

GameCyte: I?m curious what kind of cues you might be taking from Blizzard on your next titles. Bill Roper once said Mythos was the most genuine Diablo title; but as Blizzard North becomes further fragmented, will you be able to make that kind of claim again?

TB: I think we?re kind of moving toward making a slightly different kind of title at this point. Diablo III is coming down the tracks, and I?d rather be on the tracks alongside them rather than directly in front of them when they come rolling through. What we really started to do with Mythos was make it more of a social action-MMO, where there was a shared overworld where people spent a lot of time interacting, and I think it?s important for the free-to-play microtransaction market for people to be able to spend time interacting face to face in larger groups, rather than ?I only see you in the lobby and then I?m off with my party for the remainder of the time.?

TB: We still want the random, fast play experience that we had, but it?s important for us to differentiate ourselves from Diablo III and Sacred 2 as they come down the line by having that sort of shared community feel to the game. Auction houses, crafting, more traditional MMO trapping within the context of a game that?s much faster paced and doesn?t require the same sort of time commitment.

MS: Diablo III is not shaping up to be an MMO at all; Diablo III is in the vein of extending what Diablo II did. What we?re doing is taking the Diablo-style action and moving it into the MMO space, and not into the casual games space. The missions are different, and we?re really excited about Diablo III. We can?t wait for it to come out, just so we can play it, and we have nothing but respect for the Blizzard guys. They?re incredibly talented, and I know that Diablo III?s going to be a top-notch game. But, fortunately for us, we?re going in a slightly different direction.

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