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What You Didn't Know About Torchlight

Game development often lasts for years. In that stretch of time, studios have their fair share of ups and downs. From humorous game bugs to stress-relieving antics, Game Informer peers behind the curtain of game development. In this entry of Tidbits, developers from Runic Games share stories from the creation of action/RPG Torchlight.

Matt Uelmen, Composer:
• The two toughest things about Torchlight development for me were physical. In February, a plane trip to Seattle and a couple of trips over the grapevine (the drive through the mountains to get from the greater LA area to the central valley) combined with a brutal month-long cold meant the worst inner-ear congestion I've had in my life. For the worst few days, my hearing was maybe 30-40%, with the higher half of the frequency range almost totally gone. Not a fun situation for audio work.
 
• The other one, in September, was totally self-inflicted - I grew out my fingernails to an absurd length due to my planned recording of a bunch of finger-picked guitar tracks. Besides feeling like Howard Hughes, this was an interesting combination with my other job, which was caring for a 4-month old infant. Having baby poop regularly wedged a full quarter-inch into your cuticle utterly beyond retrieval wasn't fun, but I did it - for the kids.


above: The Runic games team hard at work 

Travis Baldree, President/Project Lead:
• There were many arguments over whether we should add floating numbers to the game. For several joke builds, every time your character took a step, the word *step* would appear and float upward - sword swings generated a *swing* - the screen was totally swamped in floating text.
 
• Early, early builds of the game included a model we purchased from TurboSquid to represent the main character. He looked remarkably like Jesus, so early builds involved slaying small skeletons as the son of God.

John Dunbar, Zombie Pyrotechnician:
• The bard was initially just an irritating man, but we found that he actually seemed less ridiculous as a robot.
 
• We never added a horse to the game.  It appeared in town one day, perhaps as a manifestation of its own will.
 
• Adam wore a Scribblenauts hat throughout the entire second half of development.
 
Matt Lefferts, Animator:
• I remember a time when a particular piece of helmet armor for the alchemist was in the game, and if you picked it up off the ground it was fine, but if you ever dropped it back on the ground, it spawned an entire version of the alchemist and just stood there like a statue. For a moment I was excited because it was almost like playing with someone else, but it quickly faded into fear that the system might have become self aware…
 
• And for a time you could also equip the Destro’s armor on the Alch, and it would either warp the Alch’s body into some twisted flesh golem, or it made him look like a little kid in Dad’s armor.
 
• I know of at least one [Easter egg] place that has yet to be discovered, where the level designers left a short but friendly message…
 
• The bathrooms on our floor are awful.  At least the men’s is.  It’s small and often smells of, like…. Try to imagine a tuna fish sandwich soaked in a jar of orange juice, and left in the sun for a week, and then someone convinces you that smelling it is a good idea.  It’s not human… it’s really not. (note: this has led to far more in-office rants than you would believe!)
 
Jason Beck, Art Director:
• Most of the guys in the office made a pact to grow “Old Timey” mustaches starting from the time we were looking for a distribution partners, to actually getting a deal in place. At least one guy had to shave his off pretty early due to looking like a criminal, but about 8 guys hung in there. Adam kept his and even started buying mustache wax to curl the ends up! Wives and girlfriends, in general, really hated this phase. Walking down the streets of Seattle with 8-10 fiercely olde-timey mustachioed guys talking loudly about game stuff got some stares, though.

Wonder Russell, Minister of Culture:
• As the only girl at Runic Games, I got mistaken for a booth babe over and over at PAX. I was wearing jeans, a blouse and my exhibitor badge the first time I was asked for a picture. Hot, I know. I was so confused and asked the guy, “Do you actually think I’m wearing a costume right now?” He looked embarrassed, I felt bad, and we took the picture in front of the Torchlight sign. After that, it was kind of a kick. *** straight, who wants a picture with Wonder?! That’s what I thought!

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