What do you guys think about the PC as a market these days? It's a perennial topic of discussion and perhaps concern for some.
TB: If you look at numbers for something like Call of Duty 4 PC versus Call of Duty 4 Xbox 360, it's a disparity, which is hard not to be concerned about. The NPD is not that great, but if you're talking about download sales, I think it's obvious there's still a big market out there.
There's sure a ton of World of Warcraft players. There are obviously a lot of casual games being sold as well, which a lot of people don't really think about much when they think about the PC marketplace, although I think there are more and more.
MS: I think the mainstream PC market has been hurt lately by people investing too much money into too elaborate projects that are too speculative and too risky. That's made publishers now super gun-shy to really do anything in the mainstream PC market.
You see the big things like WoW having success and the casual games having success. People have got to kind of come in the middle again and make reasonable projects with reasonable budgets with reasonable amounts of time to give the public something to buy. These are all driven by hits and driven by people wanting to buy games. It's not that the PC market has gone away; it's just that the good games that are reasonable hits have gone away.
TB: Popcap is doing really well. [laughs]
I completely agree about that middle tier. I've always felt that was the golden spot on the PC, whereas console has always made sense with the huge tentpole releases. PC traditionally did quite well in the middle.
TB: The costs were not so insane that people were unwilling to take risks, and you got a lot more variety. And it didn't take so long for everything to come out.
MS: People have spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to make WoW killers, and that's just a losing proposition.
You've also said, essentially, you don't want to be perceived as an intended Diablo killer, which has driven some of your art choices.
TB: Well, we had some early experience with that. Fate was an ultra, ultra casual look. You played as basically a child throughout the game. With Torchlight, we really want to fork to both sides of Diablo, while doing something that's totally single-player. People who just want to play multiplayer Diablo don't have to be threatened at all by our game. [laughs] It's 20 bucks. And then on the other side, it's a free to play MMO.
MS: We're going around.
TB: The river needs to go around that rock. I like having a slightly more lighthearted style. Honestly, it's easier to produce, too, especially for a team of our size with the kind of budget that we're working with. We can afford to make something like this; it technologically serves our ends because it's a little lower-fi. It differentiates us from Diablo, and it differentiates us visually just generally. It's been a lot of fun. It's a fun style to work in.
Max, you were one of the founders of Condor, which became Blizzard North as it was developing the original Diablo, then you worked on Diablo II as well. What's it like now working on something like this, as Diablo is being promoted as well?
MS: It's very strange looking across convention halls and seeing Diablo III in the corner. I'm not going to lie. [laughs] We still love the guys over at Blizzard. We can't wait for Diablo III to come out. It's a beautiful game. But it's a little weird, yeah.
At the same time, we are doing different things. We have different aims and different goals. And it's fun. We feel like even with Diablo III and Torchlight, the action RPG genre is still underrepresented, so there's plenty of room for several players in this place.
TB: People obviously aren't looking at WoW and saying, "I'm not going to make an MMO at all." [laughs]
How did you end up with the name "Torchlight"? It's a very strong name. It conjures up a lot of imagery right off the bat. The reason I ask is because I think there are very few game names that aren't terrible.
MS: [laughs] First, thank you. I love you for saying that, because naming a game is incredibly difficult. We went through hundreds and hundreds of name possibilities, with arguments in the office. It went on for months basically.
TB: We had a big voting system, and then we got down to the last four results, and we didn't use any of them.
MS: We kind of just pulled Torchlight out of the air.
TB: Basically, Max and I were sitting in the office with the final results, and we were like, "What about Torchlight?" We said, "Yes, we'll agree on that." We disagreed on everything else, but agreed on that.
MS: It's cool, because it's a little adventurous-sounding, and it's a little bit romantic-sounding. It sat well with both Travis and me when we were sitting in that room, and so that was it.