It was an easy joke to make; I made it when Torchlight II was announced earlier this month, but now Runic Games’ CEO DiabloWikiMax Schaefer is taking it at least semi-seriously. Could Torchlight III be released before Diablo III? Admittedly, the Torchlight games are much smaller in scope than Diablo III, but here’s what he said to Joystiq. (Thanks to Ward for the news tip.)

    Runic Games CEO Max Schaefer respectfully believes that a third Torchlight game could be out before Blizzard’s Diablo 3—a joke we’d made when the second Torchlight was recently announced. The executive tells us that the efficient size of the Runic team, which has a corporate goal to never grow above 40, would have the ability to get out another significantly upgraded sequel before Blizzard’s behemoth arrived. Torchlight and its sequel have both had brisk development cycles lasting less than a year.

    Schaefer told us, “[Blizzard has] an impossible task. Blizzard can not get away with doing a Torchlight 1. If they put out a single player game, an RPG that’s kinda stripped down for $20, people would say, ‘What the hell happened to Blizzard?’ They don’t have that luxury. Everything has to be super epic. More epic than anything that’s come before, more epic than World of Warcraft. They have to do that. It puts them in a really tough spot, I don’t envy them. It has to be perfect.”

    Given his deadpan delivery on the subject, we wanted to make sure he was serious about Torchlight’s third installment beating the Blizzard behemoth to market, “I really think we will, I’m not joking about it. I’ll be the first to buy Diablo 3, I’m a huge fan. I just know what it’s like over there.”

    Some dates: D3 was announced on June 28, 2008. Torchlight was announced ten months later, on April 25, 2009. TL1 shipped six months later, on October 27, 2009. TL2 was announced on August 5, 2010. They’re projecting a release date of spring-2011, which would be considerably less than a year after TL1. If they follow the same breakneck pace with TL3 it would be announced sometime in mid-2011, with a release date late that year, or in early 2012.

    That’s later than most of the fan predictions of Diablo III’s release date, but that doesn’t mean much, given how many of us picked release dates that have already passed!

    The real irony is that Diablo III got started at Blizzard North way back in 2000, and ran until 2005, when Blizzard North closed and the project was rebooted at Blizzard Irvine. Max left Blizz North in 2003, along with a lot of others, and started up Flagship Studios later that year. So since 2003, his companies released Hellgate:London, nearly finished Mythos, lost Flagship, moved on to create Runic Games in 2008, and released TL1 in 2009. If TL3 does beat D3 to release, Max will have founded 2 companies, worked on 5 games, and released 4 of them, all before the project he was working on back in 2003 ever gets to market. “When it’s done,” indeed!

    You may also like

    More in Ex-Blizzard