Torchlight, currently only available for digital download, has revealed the release date for a boxed version of the game. As Max Schaefer told me last week, it’s coming soon to a Wal-Mart near you. Tuesday, January 5, 2010 is the scheduled release date, tucked firmly into the coveted “too late for Xmas” time frame. That seems crazy to me; the game’s been finished since last month! They can’t print up some boxes and ship them two weeks sooner to be on shelves during the biggest shopping period of the year? Perhaps they’re emulating Diablo 1, which was also released in early January… but not on purpose!

    In other TL release news, there are definite plans for a Mac version, also due next year, though no exact date is yet available. The TL team said all along that they hoped to do a Mac version (and foreign translations) and would if the demand were there.

    Elsewhere, there’s a surprisingly readable article about Torchlight in the Madison Wisconsin Star. It’s not an in-depth game feature, but any write up that dares to analogize Torchlight to The Incredibles, poised to suck the air out of Diablo 3‘s sails the same way The Incredibles advance-killed the disappointing Fantastic Four movie, gets a plus vote from me. Check it out.

    In other Torchlight news, PC Games.de has posted the (English) transcript of their recent interview with Runic Games CEO Max Schaefer. Click through for a couple of quotes and some discussion of game design philosophy.

    pcgames.de: Do you know what the people at Blizzard think about your baby?
    Max Schaefer: “Nothing officially but we got good feedback at E3 and PAX from some
    Blizzard employees, and of course we look forward to playing D3. We have very good feelings towards Blizzard, and wish them all the success in the world (not that they need our wishes!)”

    pcgames.de: Some people are criticizing that there are not enough innovations in the game. That you copied too much from Diablo & co. Defend yourself!
    Max Schaefer: “Haha! We plead guilty to trying to perfect a style of game we’ve worked on since the early 90’s. Since we have two of the founders of Blizzard North, five people who worked on the series, the creator of Fate, and the whole team that worked on Mythos, it only makes sense to make an ARPG as our first title under the Runic Games banner.”

    pcgames.de: Another issue: There are not enough character classes in the game. Are you planning on implementing or 4^th or 5^th class? Via DLC?
    Max Schaefer: “We are confident that our modding community will be able to use our TorchEd tools to create new classes, new skills, and new balance to suit anyone’s needs. We meant to design a tight, clean title that has polish and performance rather than build a sprawling, feature-laden RPG that would take years to develop. The MMO will have more classes, more customizable characters, and more total content, so there should be plenty for Torchlight gamers to look forward to.”

    It’s an interesting approach that Runic Games took to most aspects of Torchlight. They kept the design fast, clean, and neat, and gave players all the tools needed to expand. It’s like semi-open source gaming, with the base product containing enough for fans to feel that the discounted $20 price is worth it, and so many tools included that mod makers can do as much or more work than the original team did. Most players will never write their own mods, but lots will download them, and over time, as the mods get bigger and better, their popularity will only grow. You’ve got to think that Runic Games will be looking at the best work to get ideas for the MMO, and quite possibly looking to hire some of the best mod makers to work on the full project.

    This is clearly not the approach Blizzard takes to gaming. It certainly wasn’t the approach the Schaefers took when they were designing D1 and D2, or Hellgate: London. They were forced to try this approach by economic necessity; they didn’t have the financial backing to spend 4 years toiling over Torchlight, but that doesn’t mean they might not have tried it out anyway. It seems to be working so far, for them, and plenty of Diablo players are trying and enjoying Torchlight, but what do you guys think of the strategy?

    How many of you have not played Torchlight and aren’t interested? Why not? For those who have, do you wish it was a more Blizzard-like game, with much more content, more polish, multiplayer, etc, even though that would have meant waiting another year+ for the release?

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