Gamasutra has posted a new interview with Torchlight CEO (and D1/D2 creator) Max Schaefer, and it’s got some good stuff. Max mentions Diablo III, but only to say that everyone at Runic Games is really looking forward to playing it when it’s finally released. What I found more interesting in the interview were Max’s comments on the recently-announced Torchlight Xbox version.
Last month, when word came that an Xbox360 version of Torchlight was well underway, the info about how they’d had to completely rework the controls and interface were the best details. Max talked more about that process with Gamasutra, and it’s nice insight into what the Diablo III devs must be wrestling with as they work on their own console version plans. Here’s the quote, and you should read the whole piece, since there’s other good stuff and it’s only a single page.
“You don’t realize how much interface is in your game until you have to go and reinvent it,” he says. “It took us a little bit by surprise… once we started digging into it, we realized how completely we had to go through it.”
“It’s a challenge getting this kind of game… over to the consoles,” Schaefer admits. The team wasn’t entirely without examples—they took inspiration from Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, for one—but “[sources are] few and far-between. That was the biggest challenge for us; technically it wasn’t that hard to get it to run.”
But a console version of Torchlight was something the Runic team wanted to do for a long time, Schaefer says. “A lot of us have always wished we had the opportunity to put the time into making a good console version,” he says. “We’ve wanted forever… to be able to play Torchlight or Diablo kinds of games on the couch.”
“Everyone has pretty well thought-out theories of how you would do it, but until you dig in, you don’t really know,” says Schaefer. But it helps to look at it like any other challenge: “A lot of iteration,” he explains. “Try something out; if it works, use that theory for other things, and then keep redoing it until it feels right.”
Schaefer says he feels confident that the Runic team has got it right: “We can’t wait to see what people think—but at the same time, we’re a little nervous. But it feels right when we play it. There are guys in the office that prefer to play it on Xbox now, and that’s what makes me think we’re onto something.”
When we talked about this last month, various commenters stressed that the biggest difference between console and PC controls for a was the lack of a cursor. Controlling a little pointer that you then click on just doesn’t work with a joystick, so the interface has to be completely redone to eliminate the cursor. You move your character like driving a spaceship; they move or shoot in whatever direction you point the joystick, and similar changes are necessary for manipulating items in the inventory, changing your equipment on the paper doll, adding skill points, etc.
Like Max said, it’s a lot more work than it seems at first glance, and it will be interesting to see how people react to it when the Xbox version is released in a few months. And it will be interesting to see how Blizzard approaches this issue with their Diablo III console plans.
Here’s Max’s quote on Diablo III, just to be complete.
And although rarely does Torchlight come up in conversation without someone eventually mentioning the looming giant of upcoming Diablo III soon after, Schaefer says that a thriving audience for this style of game is healthful for all: “A lot of people say, ‘what are you going to do when D3 comes out,’ but I only see it as a good thing,” he says.
“We kind of can’t wait for D3 to come out. It’ll delay whatever we’re working on for at least a month when it does! But at the same time we’ve just got to be doing what we’re doing,” he adds.
I wish the interview were presented in full transcript form, rather than this “Schafer said,” style. A write up is probably more accessible for casual readers, but I’d rather see Max’s full quotes.