Runic Games showed off Torchlight 2 at E3 last week, and the Cynical Brit talked to Max Schaefer for twenty minutes, and it’s an excellent conversation. Max shares his thoughts about Diablo III, says what he likes best about D3 (surprised me with his answer), reveals what he’d have done differently if he were (still) the lead designer of D3, talks about how TL2 handles difficulty with more options and player control than D3 does, says where he thinks the ARPG genre can go or expand in the future, and more.

    There’s plenty of interview about Torchlight 2 as well, of course. Max says they’ve been polishing furiously for the past months, making changes based on TL2 beta feedback, and that it’s gone very well. They’ve made dozens of minor and a few larger changes, and the one I liked the most was a change to skills. TL2 has skill points, but rather than all the points just adding +3% damage or the like, they now have “skill tiers” which sound a bit like D3’s skill runes (Though it’s actually just the return of a system they had in Mythos, which evolved into Torchlight I.). At X number of points the skills add a whole new additional function, so there’s much more reason to add more points than just D2/TL1-style incremental improvements. Sadly, there’s still no TL2 release date, but Max said they’re aiming for late-July/early-August.

    I typed up a rough transcript of the most interesting Diablo 3-related stuff, and here’s the start of that. Click through for the rest of the transcript, and the video to listen to the full interview. Thanks to Chris for the news tip.

    Cynical Brit: How did Diablo III affect Torchlight 2 and Runic Games? Did Diablo III do anything for your development cycle or game mechanics?
    Max Schaefer: Nothing really in the mechanics or our approach to the game. We have been playing Diablo III a lot so that’s caused some minor delays, but it’s all good. We think overall that Diablo III’s effect is very positive, since it’s bringing so much more attention to the ARPG genre. They’ve brougth millions of new fans into the genre, they can run TV commercials on ESPN and other things we don’t have the budget for, and all thsoe new fans find out about Torchlight 2 sort of through osmosis. It’s good for us, and good for the genre, and we welcome D3’s presence.

    CB: If you were the lead developer of Diablo III is there one change you’d make? Other than including LAN function, of course. Game mechanics, aesthetic, etc?
    Max: The aesthetic is great. The art is beautiful. I wouldn’t change anything there. As for the mechanics, there are little details here and there. I prefer making specific builds and being able to assign my own stat points and skill points. I’m not a crazy min/maxer, and I like to make weird builds, so I’d like more individuality in the character development.

    Other things I would change… hmm… well, I’d put the crosses and pentagrams back in. I disagree with that change. Those were part of the game and the game world for a reason. But that’s a minor complaint since the art is great and I really enjoy playing Diablo III. I’m glad they made it so I didn’t have to, and I think it’s impossible to meet the weight of expectations after ten years of build up and waiting. I don’t want to seem critical though, since I think they’ve done a great job and they deserve all their success.

    CB: What do you like most about Diablo III?
    Max: Everything is polished and slick, and the artwork is awesome. Sometimes while I’m playing I’ll just pause and look at the river. I like how they told the story, though. It’s interesting and I’m compelled to listen to it and I like how it’s related. The method they used to tell it is nicely-done, and it doesn’t feel tacked on. I will admit that in previous incarnations of Diablo the story was completely tacked on after the game was complete, and it felt that way. I think Diablo III did a great job integrating the story into the mechanics.

    CB: What’s next in the ARPG genre? It feels like the genre is fairly limited with only a few ways to develop.
    Max: I wouldn’t agree with that. I think it can be done very different than what we’ve seen so far. I think it’s wide open for different settings, such as science fiction. It doesn’t have to just be fantasy. I think there are ways open for new business models, like what they’re doing with Path of Exile. I think someone will do at least a pseudo-MMO in this style. If not full virtual world at least big hub towns with hundreds of people in them, and lots of instancing of dungeons. There’s lots of room yet to grow for the genre.

    There were a few other D3 mentions in terms of TL2’s release date, general industry issues, their future plans at Runic, how they’ll fix “their own version of Error 37” and more. Watch the full interview, or at least listen, since it’s got a lot of good stuff.

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