This article is intended to be an archive of the development of [WIKI]Torchlight[/WIKI].

Before Runic

Two game lineages lead to [WIKI]Runic Games[/WIKI]:
  • Five key members of [WIKI]Blizzard North[/WIKI] who were responsible for [WIKI]Diablo[/WIKI] (1996) and [WIKI]Diablo II[/WIKI] (2000) joined Runic. With one or two exceptions, they were also involved with [WIKI]Flagship Studios[/WIKI] (2003-2008).
  • Five people who worked on [WIKI]Fate[/WIKI] (2005), including its Lead Designer/Programmer [WIKI]Travis Baldree[/WIKI] are a part of Runic, after having worked on [WIKI]Mythos[/WIKI].

Additional people (in fact pretty much all of the people) who worked on [WIKI]Mythos[/WIKI] subsequently joined Runic.


See main article: [WIKI]Mythos[/WIKI]

It is impossible to tell the story of Runic Games and Torchlight without covering what brought all of us here: a little network test that grew up into a game called Mythos.
The action RPG MMO Mythos developed though a series of closed alpha and beta tests during 2007-2008, accumulating an enthusiastic fanbase and supporters among the gaming press. The game was approaching open beta in the summer of 2008. However, Flagship Studios suffered financial disaster and was forced to shut down. The Mythos intellectual property and resources fell into the hands of Flagship's former financial partner [WIKI]HanbitSoft[/WIKI].

In hindsight, the developers have expressed that the loss of Mythos -- while painful -- opened the path to a new, superior game:
We put a lot of love into ''Mythos'', so of course it was sad to lose it so close to completion. It really sucked to have to start over, but after a few months of work it became clear that ''Torchlight'' was going to be a better game, and that made us feel a whole lot better about things. These days, we're just excited about the current project, and we view ''Mythos'' as an elaborate test run for what we're making now.
Wonder Russell, interview
Formation of Runic Games

[Image]Runiclogo.png|left|Runic Games logo[/image]
Following the dissolution of Flagship and the shutdown of Mythos in July 2008, the Runic Games team began planning to reunite on a new project. Runic Games was founded by Travis Baldree, Max Schaefer, Erich Schaefer, and Peter Hu on August 11, 2008. Link Later in August, Travis and Max began promoting the new company in interviews with various gaming news sites. Link At that time Travis reported that all 14 members of the Flagship Seattle team who worked on Mythos had also signed on. Link Runic's [ official website] came online with a brief message.

Early development (2008)

[image]Image003.jpg|thumb|right|''Delvers'' pitch art[/image]
The buzz created by Mythos had created a number of opportunities for the new company, "ranging from creating a similar style game with some well-known IP, to total acquisition." Unlike Mythos, this time the team had time for pre-production, during which they worked through a number of game and art design ideas. One early idea was a "very casual" game given the tentative title [WIKI]Delvers.[/WIKI] (Source: Jason Beck, "From the Ashes of Mythos: The Art of Torchlight.")

Art style

[image]Destroyer model.jpg|thumb|right|[WIKI]Destroyer[/WIKI] character model[/image]
Runic has described the game's art style as "Dragon's Lair meets The Incredibles." Link In the article "From the Ashes of Mythos: The Art of Torchlight" Jason Beck describes the process by which the game's look developed through several iterations. The characters are created using "a combination of simplified shapes with inked line work, and comic book-style gradient coloring." The geometry of objects and characters is intended to be bold and "chunky."

This art style was chosen to evoke a sense of a fun fantasy game world, not a dark and gritty one. Torchlight's look was influenced by the Diablo III art controversy in a small way:
Gameplay similarities aside, the art controversy surrounding the announcement of D3[Diablo 3] was somewhat fascinating to me and, in a small way, contributed towards Torchlight's look. My reaction to the first screenshots was that Blizzard had created a beautiful, living painting. To me, it was absolutely gorgeous, and a style that I would have loved to have pursued.

But knowing the direction Blizzard went with the game helped inform our decision to go in a different direction. We didn't want the inevitable comparisons, so in a way... it helped us define which artistic choices were now off limits.

It's thought that full production of Torchlight began in November 2008. In December the Runic Games website displayed a holiday message and a list of the current staff members, which had grown in number compared to the original Flagship team.

Ongoing development (2009)

Game Developers Conference

The first known appearance of Torchlight in public was at the Game Developers Conference in March 2009. While no photographs or videos were allowed, at least two members of the community got to try out the game and reported their impressions:
Eaiin's impressions
Taylor Balbi's impression @ Runic Insider

[image]Screenshot002.jpg|thumb|right|One of the first two screenshots[/image]
On April 22, 2009 the first two screenshots were released to the public. One was sent to each of the Runic fansites: this site(Runic Games Fansite) and Runic Insider. The Runic Games Fansite put together an in-depth analysis of the first two screenshots.(Screenshot analysis)


On April 22, 2009, Runic officially announced their partnership with [WIKI]Perfect World[/WIKI] to publish the MMO.

E3 2009

A demo was on display at E3 2009, where named Torchlight as its "PC RPG of Show." (RPGFan awards)
Ten Ton Hammer video from E3 video interview with Travis and Max

Official sites

In June 2009, the official Runic forums opened, and in early August 2009, the official website came online at


The next public showing of the game was at Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) on September 4-6. Runic set up a booth that was actually pre-visualized in-game. (PAX booth design)

At this time, the game's release date of October 27, 2009 and its price were officially announced. (Release announcement)

Also shown at the PAX booth was a new [wiki=trailers]trailer[/wiki] and the pilot episode of [WIKI]Devs[/WIKI].

The demo playable at PAX was said to be almost complete in terms of features.
Compilation of links to Torchlight media coverage from PAX

September to October

Leading up to the game's launch, Runic released a series of [WIKI]trailers[/WIKI] and developer diary videos.

October 27, 2009

Torchlight is launched through a variety of online distribution services.

After launch

In early November 2009, patch 1.12 was released. See [WIKI]Patch History[/WIKI] for more details.

Brock Jones released a video (best viewed in high definition) of a Codeswarm animation -- a visual representation of changes in the game's code over the course of its development.


[image]Torchlight_boxes.jpg|thumb|right|Opening Torchlight boxes at the Runic offices[/image]

In early 2010, Runic began focusing on pre-production for the [WIKI]Torchlight MMO[/WIKI].

January 05, 2010

On this date, Encore, Inc. distributed the retail version of Torchlight which included an exclusive ferret pet that can be added via modding as of patch 1.15.

April 09, 2010

JoWooD Entertainment distributed the European retail version of Torchlight.

May 12, 2010

The Mac OS X port of Torchlight is distributed through Steam. With steam's release on the Mac platform, their Steamplay feature allows users with the PC Steam Version to own the Mac OS X version as well with no added cost. As a bonus to users that purchased it from Runic Games directly or Perfect World before May 19, 2010, their activation codes were activated as unlock codes for Steam. Essentially they received a free version of Mac Torchlight, but in effect, they also received a free PC version.

On this same day Runic Games revealed that they had sold 500,000 copies of Torchlight.

May 17, 2010

Shortly after the announcement of 500,000 copies sold and the release of the Mac OS X port, [WIKI=Perfect World]Perfect World Entertainment[/WIKI] released a Financial Report revealing that they had made a "strategic investment" in Runic Games. Below are key sections of the Investment Announcement:

As a part of our growth strategy, we continuously monitor the market for acquisition opportunities that will generate synergies with our core business. I am excited to announce some recent developments on this front. We recently made a strategic investment to acquire a majority stake in Runic Games, Inc. ("Runic Games"), a top-tier game development studio based in the U.S., to further strengthen our R&D capabilities. By collaborating more closely with Runic's professional team, we seek to combine their creativity and expertise in game development with our deep understanding of the online game market to create global titles.
Investment in Runic Games, Inc.

In May 2010, the Company acquired a majority stake in Runic Games, a specialized developer of PC-based entertainment software in the U.S., at the consideration of approximately US$8.4 million. Runic Games has a team of experienced developers, including leads on "Diablo," "Diablo II," "Diablo II: Lord of Destruction," "Fate," "Hellgate: London" and "Mythos." Runic Games has developed and released a single-player action-RPG "Torchlight," and is currently developing the MMORPG version of "Torchlight." This strategic investment will allow the Company to further enhance its strong R&D capabilities, and leverage Runic Games' creative and professional development team to create global titles through enhanced control and a closer collaboration.
The announcement created quite a stir within the community, resulting in nearly 80 pages worth of discussion. Before push could become shove developer Volbard, chimed in to ease the tension:

Don't worry too much about this business stuff, it's not going to have much impact on the games we make.

Being acquired by Perfect World has been part of our plan since before we started Runic; not as a certainty but as a very strong probability. Game development is too expensive for us to undertake without a strong partner, and PW has been good enough to fund us while giving us free rein to design and develop. We're still cruising along on our next project, with no real design input from PW at all.

Really, the big thing to take away from this is that Runic gets to keep making games without worry about going out of business for several years at least. In an unstable industry like ours, that's pretty sweet!
Later, [WIKI]Max Schaefer[/WIKI] himself explained the situation in more detail:

Hey, I thought I'd weigh in on this.

This development is the culmination of a long and well-planned partnership with Perfect World. We selected Perfect World among other partners, including major US Publishers, because they are exactly the right partner for Runic Games going into the future. As we move into developing multi-player games with more sophisticated communities, business models, and for a global market, it is vitally important for a company like us to forge a strong partnership with a publisher that is experienced and successful in operating large-scale PC games, managing communities, and basically handling all the crazy logistics that we are not experts in. From their perspective, we bring a fresh game design sensibility, and a western take on game design as they globalize their business. Most importantly, the guys at Perfect World are gamers and good people - we've been working with them for a long time now, and we feel our talents and goals mesh perfectly. So we're very happy at Runic Games to make this all official. This will do nothing but help our game development, and allow us to focus on what it is we do best.

Max Schaefer
CEO, Runic Games
Max Schaefer, Official Forum Post
A New Era Begins

Torchlight II

The Era of [WIKI]Torchlight II[/WIKI] begins
The Teaser Image

On July 27th, 2010 Runic Games posted up a blacked out image in a directory titled "08042010"; early on the image revealed a pillar with an icey background through a window shaped like a continent. Speculation of a Major announcement on August 04, 2010 began. Many believed the shape of the window to be a continent which led to many expecting the image to be an MMO announcement. Every weekday expanded the window to show reveal more of the image. An MMO announcement was expected until a Torchlight Logo became visible leading everyone to shift speculation to a Sequel.

The Announcement

On August 4th, 2010, out of nowhere [WIKI]Torchlight II[/WIKI] became official with a release set in Spring 2011. Along with the announcement was an exclusive interview between PCgamer and Runic Games' co-founders, the President and CEO, Travis Baldree and Max Schaefer respectively. As well as, an exclusive first artwork

The Surprise

While the unveiling of Torchlight II was huge, what swept the fanbase off their feet was the announcement that Torchlight II would have Co-op Multi-player.

The Debut Trailer

On August 18th, 2010, Runic Games released a First Look Trailer of Torchlight II showcasing 3 characters playing a multi-player game with what appears to be 1 railman and 2 outlanders. While showcasing a first look at Torchlight II, Runic later revealed that the footage is outdated compared to the Gamescom version. The trailer was released in Multiple languages for the event in Germany.

Gamesauce Presentation

On August 20th, 2010, Runic Games' President Travis Baldree did a presentation about the Creation and Survival of Runic Games. Covering the business aspect of running a development studio, and revealing the costs.

Gamescom 2010

Runic Games was given the PEGI 16+ Black Curtain at the event which covers the booth because of mature content. However, there was still plenty of coverage. It was here the Railman's Unique Charge Mechanic was revealed.

Players in Europe were able to get a hands on experience of Torchlight II, the overall first impression of Torchlight II was positive.

PAX Prime 2010

A week after Gamescom Runic Games exhibited at PAX.

Stepping on New Ground

Up until January 06, 2011, Torchlight on the consoles has only been speculations and hopes, but on that day Microsoft announced that Torchlight would be part of the House Party Lineup that starts Mid-February. Torchlight on consoles will be exclusive to the Xbox Live Arcade, and there are no plans to release Torchlight on any other console. Torchlight marks the console debut for Runic Games, and hopes for Torchlight II on consoles are high, both in the fanbase and the team. Depending on how well Torchlight XBLA does, Torchlight II may or may not see the light of day on consoles.