It seems to be the season for ex-Blizzard North developer interviews, as a new one with Max Schaefer has just popped up on IRBGamers. (Thanks to ThomasJ for the tip.) It’s mostly about Torchlight, since this is part of their promotional swing to pump up the XBLA release of TL1. (Coming March 9 for 1200 points, and this is my last post about it. If Runic wants any more plugs they can give me a Schaefer to interview about D3 @ BlizNorth, or buy an ad.) Max also talks about TL2 and his past gaming work, as revealed in the following quote:
IRB: Now, you?ve worked on games such as Diablo, Diablo 2: Lord of Destruction, and Hellgate: London, what makes Torchlight unique and different from those games?
Max Schaefer: Prior to Runic Games and making Torchlight, it seems that every project we were making from, basically, the mid-nineties [to now], got bigger and bigger and more elaborate. And, like you said I worked on the ?Diablos? at Blizzard [Entertainment], and was even working on Diablo 3 for a little while. These were enormous projects with big budgets [that] took forever to make and I think the difference now is that we figured out how to do this a lot more efficiently, a lot quicker, and what that lets us do is get more ideas into games and get them out faster to people and get them out at a better price. So, from a game makers perspective it?s a lot more satisfying because you get to just do more and do it faster. And for the players, we get them stuff without having to wait five years or whatever to get it. So, yeah, we?ve kind of taken a ?low-tech, get it done? approach to it and that?s been the biggest difference, really.
Later in the interview Max admits that the work they did on the console version of Torchlight caused some delays to their development of Torchlight 2, though they’re still projecting “this summer” for a release date. I admired his candor on that, even though I’m interested in TL2 and have a a zero percent chance of every playing TL1 on an Xbox. This sort of thing is why it’s usually so much easier to root for a small studio where the head guys communicate with the fans. Bigger companies have PR departments to say whatever they need to say for their corporate profits, and truth or reality are seldom allowed to intrude into the mix.
My favorite example of such came from Blizzard’s PR machine back in August 2005, and it’s documented (along with everything else) on the massive Diablo 3 History article. When Blizzard North shut down they issued a press release that said, “Blizzard does not believe that these changes will cause significant delays on any of its projects in development.” You have to almost admire the ability to bald faced it like that; making such a statement as 4-5 years of work on Diablo III was being deleted and they were planning to reboot the project virtually from scratch.
At its most fundamental level, PR is the ability to piss on people and make them believe it’s raining, and being shameless enough to pull it off is a job skill, of sorts. It’s nice to see, in this interview, that Max doesn’t choose to possess it.