Tag Archives: Runic Games

Friday Bullet Points about Acquisitions on Christmas Eve

At this point it is probably too late to worry about whether you’ve been naughty or nice in 2021, but there is still some time left before the fat man flies to touch on a few items I wanted to bring up but which didn’t seem worth a full post.

  • Daybreak and Magic the Gathering Online

The news hit yesterday that Daybreak, now always highlighted as a fully owned subsidiary of Enad Global 7, though with the Daybreak boss in as CEO you might ask who really owns who at this point, made a deal with Wizards of the Coast (owned by Hasbro now) to take over publishing and operational duties for Magic: The Gathering Online, the virtual version of the classic collectible card game.  The deal also includes the right to “develop” the title.

Magic the Gathering Online

Daybreak has had experience in the past with collectible card games, though those have all since been shut down.  According to the coverage at Massively OP, the deal means that the development team responsible for the title will become a studio under the Daybreak banner, as opposed to being folded into one of the current studios.

  • Crowfall Finds a New Home

In a classic “hide the message” move, it came out last Friday after the US markets had closed (the press release hit my inbox at 4:20pm Pacific time, so dude!) that Crowfall, a crowdfunded MMO that actually went live earlier this year, making it an exception to the rule for MMOs choosing that financing route, was to be acquired by Monumental, the studio which runs Mythgard.

Is this even still their logo?

Despite the after hours on a Friday press release, the news seemed promising for the title. While the Crowfall team ran a successful Kickstarter campaign back in 2015, bringing in more than $1.7 million, and managed to launch earlier this year, the game appeared to be struggling to find an audience.

According to coverage over at Massively OP, Monumental will be providing resources to improve the game and keep it going, as the title seemed to be foundering after its launch.

  • Perfect World Entertainment embraced by Embracer Group

Also in for an end of the year acquisition… companies are out doing their holiday shopping before the end of the fiscal year I guess… was Perfect World Entertainment, which had itself acquired Cryptic Studios (which created Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, and Champions Online, but which is probably best known for the late City of Heroes) and Runic Games (which did the Torchlight series, Hob, and Mythos) over the years.

Just down the street from EA HQ, though Cryptic is less than 2 miles from my house

The buyer is the Embracer Group, which also acquired Gearbox earlier this year.  PWE will be slotted in as part of Gearbox in the organization.

Since Embracer is publicly held, they had to do a report on the acquisition, which included fresh new details about some of the titles.  Not as in depth as what we got about Daybreak when EG7 acquired them last December, but still some data points including lifetime revenue and total player counts.

I suspect that format was chosen to give the titles the best possible look financially.  Star Trek Online, for example, was reported as having made $240 million over its life so far, with 4 million players trying the title.  That means the nearly 12 year old title has made about $20 million a year, but I imagine a good chunk of that was early on and includes box sales.  No word on what it, or any of the other PWE titles have been pulling in recently.  That the price was $125 million in cash and equity, less than half of what Daybreak sold for a year ago, one might infer that PWE titles would rank closer to the lower end of the Daybreak titles in gross revenue, and maybe even less in net profit due to some of them being licensed properties.

Too Late for Torchlight II?

Back to the wars of 2012, when Diablo III, Torchlight II, and Path of Exile were vying for the mantle of heir to the mighty Diablo II.

Each game, in my opinion, managed to score well on very specific fronts.  What individuals found most important about the Diablo II legacy dictated which game they preferred.  If you wanted a dark, gritty atmosphere, Path of Exile was the winner.  If you wanted the continuation of the Diablo story line along with the Blizzard logo and all of its attendant polish, you had Diablo III.  And if you wanted something lighter on its feet that supported offline play and modding, there was Torchlight II.

Each did the “click things to death” thing well enough, you just needed to choose what toppings you wanted on your Action RPG sundae.  None were, however, quite as good as Diablo II was back in the day, though that is more likely a context of the times than any fault of the newer games.

That is, was, and probably will remain my synopsis of the way things played out.  You can argue about the details, but we ended up with three good but different attempts to remake what was great about Diablo II.  In the end however, as interested as I was in all three games, I have other things I would rather play these days.  It just isn’t 1999 anymore.

PoElogoThe games have not stood still though.  Or, at least two of them have not.  Path of Exile has continued to refine its game and has released new content.  There have been some rough spots for the game, with the always online aspect making for some annoying latency issues, but the developers carry on.

DiabloIIIBlizzard, slow but persistent, finally cleaned up their auction house and itemization issues in Diablo III, launched console versions of the game, and then came out with an expansion, all of which seem to have gone over quite well.  I enjoyed the revamped version of the original game, and friends I know who went with the expansion really liked it as well.

Torchlight2LogoAnd then there is Torchlight II.

In the last year before it went live, there was all sorts of wild talk about what Runic games would do after they launched Torchlight II.  There had been talk of the game being a stepping stone to a Torchlight MMO.  Also possible seemed to be official mods, user mods being picked up and sold as DLC with some sort of profit sharing, expansions to the game itself, and all of the usual sorts of rumors and nonsense that seem to catch fire from the spark of optimistic interpretations and wishful thinking when parsing every word the company and its devs utter in public or private.

And there was going to be a Macintosh OS version of the game available shortly after launch.  Based on that alone I bought a copy of Torchlight II for my daughter, who has to play her games on an iMac.

After the initial flurry of the Torchlight II launch though, the tone from Runic games changed.  The tone from the company seemed to indicate that they were burnt out after the big push to get the game out the door.  I’ve been there, once having gone through a five month crunch time stretch of 12 to 16 hour days seven days a week, when only our copy of NBA Jam kept us sane at times, after which the team was pretty much dead for months.

Runic was tired of the whole Torchlight thing.  There would be no MMO.  There would be no further Torchlight games.  There would be no expansions.  And due to some problems, it seemed unlikely that there would be any Macintosh OS version of the game.

I don’t miss the $20 so much as the opportunity to play the game with my daughter.

Some founders left the company after about a year to work on a new game (the premise of which sounds vaguely familiar), while Runic Games itself fell into an SOE-like silent mode, coming up for air only to note when the game was on sale at Steam for the most part.  And with Runic’s corporate masters complaining about US operations being a drag on earnings, the future for a studio with apparently nothing in play seems a bit grim.

And so it goes.

Of the three games, Torchlight II ended up being the one I played the least.  Play time is the only real measure of my preferences.  I often SAY I intend to play this or that, but what I actually play is the reflection of the deep truth.  You can my choice that how you like, but I guess in the end I wanted polish and story most, atmosphere second, and offline play and mods third.  Though, as noted above, none of the games became long term staples and I haven’t bothered to reinstall any of them since the great Thanksgiving computer blow out.

So the news that showed up last night indicating that Runic games would at last be releasing the Macintosh OS version of Torchlight II on February 2nd got something of a bemused look from me.

Steam only I guess?

Steam only I guess?

It is too late for me to care much.  My daughter is a couple years older, is interested in different things now, and doesn’t even have Steam installed on her system anymore.  The time has passed at our house.  Runic has a cute little video up making fun of the delay, but they have otherwise been so quiet that I wonder who will notice.  I am sure it will sell a few more copies of the game, and the Macintosh world is used to there being a delay on some game launches, but I wonder if this was more of a contractually obligated action as opposed to a push to sell more units.

Is this the last hurrah for Runic Games, or do they really something else for us?

Small Items for a Cold Friday in March

It is even a bit chilly here in Silicon Valley.  I put on a jacket last night.  And there has been some rain this week, breaking up the run of warm and sunny days we have been experiencing of late.  Not enough to end the drought, but enough to keep the lawn watered.

It is Friday and I have a bunch of little, half-started posts and other tidbits that I am going to roll up into a single entry.

It Is Just Landmark

SOE, in a good move, decided that their Minecraft-like building game, with a promise of things like science fiction areas, wasn’t Norrathian enough to be considered an EverQuest title.  So it is now just Landmark.

LandmarkChange

This is not only how I have been referring to the game for a while now, but something that was part of my 2014 predictions.  Go me.

Now SOE just has to do something about the whole EverQuest Next name, something I brought up in another Friday post.  That is a cute name for development, but not so good as a shipping title.  Unless it is also going to be EverQuest Last, the name could become an albatross around their neck at some point.  Fortunately, we now have precedent for a name change.

Thank you Landmark! 

The Gamification of Texting

A friend sent this link to the Android version a keyboard addon for mobile devices.  As you master the Fleksy keyboard and its various functions and features, you will earn achievements!

Apple product owners may get a chance to join in as well,  as Fleksy is updating the iOS version for achievements as well.  To use the Fleksy keyboard, your app must be “Fleksy enabled.”

How Old is Your Hardware?

Pasduil wants to know.  He’s taking a survey.  You can find it here.

Bully Bullied by Bullies?

Erotica 1, the pilot behind the EVE Online controversy du jour, the Bonus Round recording (I could not recommend that you follow that link), has chosen to withdraw his name from the Council of Stellar Management elections scheduled for next month.  In his statement, after opening with a paragraph that included the line, “Some people just can’t be reasonable…”, he complained about Goons and “white knight carebear moral highground people” and threats to his physical safety (but no reference to this), then said he was withdrawing because his passport had expired.

This is where we all shout, “Didn’t want that seat on the CSM anyway!”

That CSM Election

It is coming up.  Should you care.

Candy Crush IPO

King, maker of the game everbody loves to hate, Candy Crush Saga, and one-time trademark troll, went public this week.  According to some, the IPO failed.  It failed because the opening price… the price King got for its shares… was $22.50, but afterwards the price dropped down to around $19.

In a way, this seems like a perfectly fitting IPO for the company.  King got the maximum value they could for their stock, filling company coffers, the founders and early investors who were in for a tiny fraction the IPO price still got their big cash-out opportunity, and the people and institutions who jumped on the stock at the IPO price got told they could sell now if they wanted to buy a $3 per share unlock or they could wait until whenever the price went up again.

A Farewell to Runic Games?

I was already wondering what was going to become of Runic Games.  We haven’t heard much from them, except about what they are not going to do.  They are not going to make a Torchlight MMO.  They are not going to work on anything new for Torchlight II.  They are not going to have a Mac OS version of Torchlight II.

So when two key founders leave to form a new studio, one might not seem rash wondering aloud if Runic Games is not going to be shipping anything else ever again.

Did burnout from Torchlight II kill the company, or was it Perfect World Entertainment buying in that did it?

Musing on Torchlight II’s Real Potential…

I wrote a post a while back comparing the game play, and other items important to me in a Diablo style game, between Diablo III, which had just launched a couple of days before, and Torchlight II, which happened to be having a beta weekend at the same time.

It was a post of opportunity, as I had played neither game before that week and so I was able to have a fresh look at the pair of them, side by side.

And the conclusion to my post was that, for game play, Diablo III and Torchlight II were close enough that what really separated them was a matter of details.  Those details were minor to some and major to others, but they were not worlds apart.  I said I would be playing both games.

The prime criticism I received about that post was that I did not spend much time on the always online aspect of Diablo III.

The thing is, to my mind, and in my experience, always online is a subordinate issue when it comes to the big picture.

Yes, it is a deal killer for some people.  But the history of online gaming shows that will put up with a lot of crap for good game play.  Day one EverQuest is a good example.  The first year of World of Warcraft is a good example.  And the post-release period of most versions of Civilization are prime examples of people putting up with often horrible technical and environmental issues to get to game play they desire.  The auto-save every turn function in Civ II and beyond was put in because the original Civ crashed so damn often it was practically heart breaking.

Game play trumps absolutely.

Very annoying, but you kept retrying

Players have proven time and again that we will put up with horrible technical issues and oppressive DRM for good game play.  So the negative aspects of always online (lag, downtime) were comparable in my eyes to things people have put up with in the past, while the positive aspect (really easy to play with your friends) seemed a plus.  My opinion, naturally, but I suspect that people who liked the game play would agree.  Unless they died to lag in hardcore mode.

On the flip side of the “always online” issue, one thing I mentioned in that post (along with a couple of other posts) and on which NOBODY commented, was the sentiment that I sure hope Blizzard has some sort of follow up plan for content, game modes, or something, because while I liked what they delivered on day one, there wasn’t enough there to keep me interested in the long term.

My big question is what will Blizzard do with the game they have created?  Eventually it will be played out for most people.  Will it get expansions or new game modes or new games on the same platform?

Yeah, that.

Well, we got the answer to that.  The quote has popped up in a lot of places.

“We recognize that the item hunt is just not enough for a long-term sustainable end-game. There are still tons of people playing every day and week, and playing a lot, but eventually they’re going to run out of stuff to do (if they haven’t already). Killing enemies and finding items is a lot of fun, and we think we have a lot of the systems surrounding that right, or at least on the right path with a few corrections and tweaks. But honestly Diablo III is not World of Warcraft. We aren’t going to be able to pump out tons of new systems and content every couple months. There needs to be something else that keeps people engaged, and we know it’s not there right now..”

That appears to be the tragic flaw which is likely to turn Diablo III into a “flavor of the month” in play time relative to the long term popularity of Diablo II.  “Always online” is small compared to that.

Their key game play driver is flawed and they have no options in the pipe.  Content comes slowly to WoW and this, as they say, isn’t WoW, which sounds like they’ve got nothing.

The first part, the item hunt, as has been well discussed in many other places, Blizzard themselves killed with the auction house.

Even I noticed early on that every drop I saw was usable by characters of much lower level than my own.  So to get equipment at my level, I have to buy it from the auction house.  Drops lost most of their value except as items for alts or fodder for the auction house to finance other purchases.

Chasing loot is dead.  The only point in comparing stats between what just dropped and what I am wearing is to see if drops are closing in my equipped gear, in which case it is a sign that I need to hit the auction house again.

I didn’t start out with that in mind.  I told myself I wasn’t going to use the auction house.  Then, when I started getting frustrated at the low level requirements of the weapons that were dropping, I went there to get a weapon upgrade.  That was easy.  The one piece of equipment I always try to keep current is my weapon, operating on the theory that if my enemy is dead, the rest of my equipment is irrelevant.

But as the gap between my own level and the level requirements for equipment drops grew larger, I started going to the auction house “just to see” what was available.  Uber leet stuff was outrageously expensive, of course.  But items that were a serious upgrade over what I was currently wearing seemed pretty cheap.  Fair to middling gear close to your own level is cost effective, readily available, and usually a huge upgrade over the drops you see.  The auction house won.

So, for me, there is basically the story and group play keeping the game going.

I really like the story.  But the story doesn’t change with subsequent plays.  I can vouch for that.  (Though the need for AH bought equipment goes up.)  And I picked the most amusing companion, the soundrel, for my first run through, so swapping out for the enchantress then the templar in the second run actually made the whole story less enjoyable.

Meanwhile, group play requires me to actually log into the game.  Since my return from vacation, the war in Delve has been my main focus, so I haven’t actually logged in.  We’ll see what happens this weekend, but for the moment Diablo III is looking like a pretty weak entry in the “Games I Play” section on the side bar.

So what does this have to do with Torchlight II?

Well, to start with, TL2 has no auction house.  So, in theory at least, the “item hunt” game is more viable.  That remains to be seen, the itemization in Torchlight was kind of quirky… 1h and 2h weapons seemed to have the same DPS at points, so why would you go 2h if you can dual wield… something I also saw in the TL2 beta… but at least they haven’t shot the whole thing in the head the way Blizzard has.

But, probably more importantly, TL2 has support for mods, so users can create more content for the game.  More content is the gaping hole in Blizzard’s plan, and likely the only thing that can save them.

So Torchlight II is poised to wipe the floor with Diablo III, right?

Not so fast there, sport.

First, I am not sure what winning and losing even means in the context of these games beyond day one sales.  For once, we are not talking about subscription numbers.  The money comes in when people buy the box and that is about it.

And Blizzard has sold a lot of boxes, in part just because they are Blizzard.  Success leads to success, and not only did Blizzard set some sort of record moving boxes in the first 24 hours, a lot of those boxes were going for close to $60, which is about three times the list price Runic is charging for Torchlight II.

Torchlight II will likely not set such records.  The company is not that well known outside of core gamers.  My wife knows who Blizzard is, but I am pretty sure that Runic Games would just get a blank look.  And they do not have the budget yet to make themselves well known.  TL2 could change that for them, but they won’t be going into this deal with that name recognition.

Furthermore, TL2 is going out in a limited sales channel.  You can, to my knowledge, buy it online through Perfect World Entertainment or via Steam.  That is it.  And while digital sales may very well be the future… and digital is clearly the right fit for Runic with its “keep it lean” philosophy… boxes on shelves, even if those boxes are on shelves in an Amazon warehouse, still make up a big part of the sales channel.

So it seems that, at least in the short term, Diablo III will eclipse Torchlight II in sales.

“So what?” I hear a voice in my head say, “TL2 is providing the tools to keep it viable long after we’ve stopped playing D3!”

Runic seems poised to pick up the slack in the one area that Blizzard has admitted failure, additional content.  More content gives you more reasons to play the game.  And there are two potential avenues for this.

Runic can actually sells us more content.  This might even be in their plan, post-launch DLC adventures or what not.  But I have not seen anything to indicate that this will come to pass.  And since they seem to have plans for a game beyond Torchlight II, a Torchlight MMO or some such, it seems more likely that we will see a replay of Torchlight.

With Torchlight we got a game, we got some patches, we got some ports to other platforms, and eventually we got a box on the shelf.  What we did not get was an ounce more content.  This was fine because they were clearly headed off to do Torchlight II, which sounded more like the game we wanted in the first place.

Maybe it won’t be that way this time around.  Maybe the Runic team won’t rush off to the next project.  We shall see.

But if they do, that still leaves mods.

Mods.  I am even going to link to a definition of mods, just because it has some good examples.

A well done mod is a thing of beauty, something that can transcend the framework of the original game.  A good mod can make people buy your game.  About a decade back I bought Battlefield 1942 specifically to play the Desert Combat mod.  I installed the game, installed the mod, and then never went back and played the original.  The mods for it were far more appealing.

The problem is that, for every great mod, for every Counter-Strike or Defense of the Ancients, there is a huge pile of… well… crap to sort through.  It is the eternal issue of user created content, the signal to noise ratio is always very bad.  How many variations of the Lost Temple map have people made for StarCraft that really added nothing beyond more resources or maybe better defensive positions so people can turtle relative to the number of truly new and well thought out maps?

And that is compounded by the fact that finding out a mod even exists is a crap shoot as well.  I am past the age where I will go out and hunt down mods on various gaming sites any more.  Mods pretty much have to come and find me.  I am also past the days of the epic install to get a mod to work.  Desert Combat required a whole series of steps, installs, patches, and mods layed down on mods, all done in the right order with the right versions that I am not sure I would have gotten the thing running had not someone in the gaming clan I was in made up a document with all the steps written out in detail with links to the appropriate software.  And people in the forums still screwed up that install.

For me, I need something like what Steam has cooked up.  Their Steam Workshop for Civilization is the level of mod organization and management that is required to make mods more than the domain of the serious hardcore fan.  Since Steam is one of their channels, I hope they will get Valve to put up that sort of interface for them.

So there is a potential there.  I will be interested to see how it plays out, and disappointed if mods fade into a quiet background, as with so many other games.

What do you think?  Blizzard is clearly going to win the money achievement with their sales.  Will Runic be able to make their mark on the content front?

Diablo III vs. Torchlight II – A Matter of Details

[Note to Massively readers: The “no-holds-barred Thunderdome deathmatch” was cancelled, the honeybadger called in sick.  We’re having a tea party instead.  If you are looking for a post complaining about Diablo III requiring you to be online to play, go read this.]

Runic Games had a Torchlight II beta event this past weekend.  A beta event during the first weekend after Diablo III launched.  Crazy, right?

Maybe, and maybe not.

Certainly there is a lot of anti-Blizzard ire in the air after the rocky launch day made error 37 the banner around which those angry about the always “connected nature” of Diablo III could rally.  Torchlight II, as detailed in this comparo chart, offers up online, LAN, and offline modes of play.  The latter seemed pretty attractive last week.

While I had seen updates from Runic about the beta, I was not planning to join in on it.  You know… first weekend of Diablo III and all that.  But they sent me a key for the event, and the download was pretty painless at 750 MB… versus 7GB for Diablo III… which is a little over an hour of file transfer with my internet connection.

The download went while we ate dinner, and when the time finally came, I was able to sit down and launch into Torchlight II.

I logged in (the beta is online mode only, so just like D3), made a character (berserker, the melee class), picked my pet (wolf), got into the game, and spent about 10 minutes running around.

At that point I was a bit dismayed with the graphical style so logged off and went off and played Diablo III for the next three hours.  And D3 was glorious.  I got through most of Act II, played with another friend for a while, and had a great time.

In the light of the next morning though, I felt that I had, perhaps, given Torchlight short shrift.  So I went back and played it for a couple of hours, just to be sure I got it.  And it was a good thing I did, as Torchlight II really has much to recommend it.

The key difference between the two games is what each team decided was important to continue the legacy of Diablo II.

After the break, a long discussion of how they differ, which I attempted to organize.  I did not do a very good job.

Begin wall of text.

Atmosphere

I’ve harped on this topic a couple of times, and how important it is to the Diablo franchise.  And if I was disappointed that Diablo III did not live up to the standard of gloom and shadow set by its predecessors, where light sources were important things, and where casting a fire spell actually lit up the room, then Torchlight II falls further behind in that department.

While Diablo III dungeons appear to lit by indirect lighting, the level of detail that went into the art, and the amount terrain that breaks, explodes, or just falls apart when you battle over it make up for the lighting choice for the most part.

And then there is the blood…

Torchlight II dungeons also suffer from the same interior design lighting choices.  They seem a bit brighter at times, but not annoyingly so.  The prime difference between the two games when it comes to dungeon atmosphere is more a matter of the budget dollars than anything else.  Blizzard had the money to make exquisitely details interiors, and that money paid off.

A well lit dungeon

Outside of dungeons though, Blizzard keeps up its atmosphere ambitions.  The game feels gloomy and oppressive when it suits.  And the epic battle on the ramparts at the start of Act III is amazing.  Torchlight II, on the other hand, is more modest on the surface world.  It can be gloomy… but sometimes it is bright and sunny and the grass is green and the flowers are blooming and it might be “Happy Elves go on a Picnic” that you are playing… at least until the bad guys show up.

But that just goes with the art style choice that the team at Runic Games has adopted, which clearly owes more to Team Fortress 2 than Diablo II.

Story

The Diablo series is a story.  The story was pretty simple in the first game.  It became an integral part of game play in the second, as you were guided through four acts, each with their own story quest line.

How story gets handled this time around clearly separates the two games.

For Blizzard, story is all consuming.  The whole game takes story up several notches from Diablo II.  There are more cut scenes, more references to back story, more quests, more stages per quest, and much more dialog.  You are never left to go wander around for a couple of zones worth of content looking for some location or item as you were in Diablo II.  You are always reminded that you have a task to accomplish, even as you pick up those side events, loot every corpse, break every barrel, and so on.  And it is so well tailored and immersive that it really works well for me in a way that MMO quests do not.

And the story also cements the relationship with the series.  I raised an eyebrow about having to visit pretty much every location from Diablo II again.  But it is a continuation of a story, and that story takes place in a world already defined.  I can see how running off to some new location might not help with the bond Blizzard is attempting to create.

Torchlight II… at least as far as I played into it… seems to take a bit of a step back from the Diablo II level of integration with story.  They are not quite at the original Torchlight, where the town seemed to be a parody of an MMO quest hub at times.  But you end up with a few quests at a time, which may or may not be related and which may or may not have anything to do with the over-arching story.  While Blizzard limits and controls any distraction from story, Torchlight II keeps a much looser grip on your tale.  It isn’t a sandbox by any stretch of the imagination, and if you want to play the game through, you’re going to have to take up the story and your character will have to act out their pre-ordained  part.  But story isn’t as all consuming.

Whether one or the other is better is a matter of taste.  I am enjoying Diablo III‘s focus on story, but the light feel of Torchlight II has its benefits too.

Characters and Skills

Both games have finally decided that you can be either sex for a given class.  A victory for all of us I think.  I could never play my Diablo II Amazon in multi-player.

Diablo III has five classes, Torchlight II has four.  Each has the requisite melee, ranged weapons, and caster class covered as barbarian/berserker, demon hunter/outlander, and wizard/ember mage.  The other classes do not really overlap.  The engineer in Torchlight II is sort of steampunk melee, while the monk in Diablo III gives you martial arts melee and group healing.  And Diablo III’s witch doctor seems to be geared towards those who delight in throwing jars of spiders at people.

Aside from the spiders, the classes are reasonably on par.  The barbarian and the berserker are especially similar, but how far wrong can you go with a crazy melee class?

The path between the two games diverge when it comes to how you develop your classes.

Torchlight II is clearly in the old school Diablo II camp.  You get talent points to spend on talent trees, there are three trees per class, and the items on these trees unlock or enhance your skills.  Likewise, with every level you get points you can apply to your stats, and there are stats that are clearly better for any given class.  And you will run into gear drops that are stat constrained; e.g. You must be this strong to wield the Coyote Sword of Obliteration.

Diablo III went down a new path.  You do not spend points on talents or stats.  Stats go up as you level.  And as you level up you also unlock abilities.  Abilities are sorted by type, and are abilities of the same type are mutually exclusive, you can choose only one.  In the end you can have six abilities active, one from each grouping.  You also unlock runes for each skill which gives that skill an additional effect.  So for my my main melee attack, I chose the skill that hits up to three bad guys in front of me, then added the rune that makes anything I kill with that attack explode (!!!) like a bomb, damaging those around the victim.

For somebody like me, who dislikes the classic talent tree (I always choose badly early on), the Diablo III system is a thing of beauty.  You have to make choices… hard choices… as you can only have six skills active, and each can only have one its runes selected.  But you are not locked into any given skill.  You can open up your character window and change things up at will.

Random Game Mechanics

As with characters skills, Torchlight II saw fit to leave a lot of the Diablo II mechanics alone.  So you have health potions, scrolls of identify, scrolls of town portal, vendors, and the whole lot, all in the Diablo II vein.  Spells are different… but they work the same way they did in Torchlight.

In the end, it is a lot like Diablo II, down to the red and blue health and mana balls, now moved out to the edge of your peripheral vision just like in Diablo II.

And Torchlight II seems kind of obsessed with levels, in a very MMO-like way.  Quests, zones, mobs, all have levels visible. which are sometimes brought vigorously to your attention.

Are you leveled up enough for that zone?

Diablo III has done away with the scrolls, having made town portal a skill and identify something you apparently do by staring really hard at an item for a few seconds. (Which makes a sort of sense… it is a friggin’ axe, how tough could that be to decipher?)  Vendors are the same, though aside from the occasional ones you run into in the wild, they almost never have anything for sale that you need.  I am always wearing better gear and I have yet to run out of health potions.

And then there is the auction house.  The gold driven one.  It took me a bit to figure out what would drive this in a game that rains loot on you in every battle.  There are a few factors, but the one that I think makes the big difference is that all of the yellow gear that drops… that is the good stuff… shows up usable by a character many levels below yours.  In the his mid-20s, my barbarian is getting yellow drops usable by level 14 characters.  They are showing up almost too late to be useful for him, since he is getting blue drops as good or better.

But those yellow drops make a great gift for a lower level alt!  And hey, if you want to pick up a meaningful piece of equipment for your main, the auction house has plenty of similar items at your level.

As for the RMT driven auction house, which isn’t open as of yet… a couple of people will likely do well out of it… or will tell you they are doing well in order to sell you a guide so you’ll know how to do well.  I think the most likely buyer will be somebody seeking the in-game currency, since Blizzard fixed the gold glut that was in Diablo II.

In Diablo II, by the end of the second act you probably had more gold than you could carry.  There was nothing to spend it on really.

In Diablo III you have the auction house, expansions for your shared stash, and leveling up your crafting NPCs.  The glut is gone.  Now I have more things to spend gold on than I have gold.  And that feeling, the need for gold, will drive people to spend real money.  The so a new generation of gold farmers, now working legally, will arise.

Finally, just to finish a comparison started above, Diablo III seems to go out of its way to NOT look like it as obsessed with levels as an MMO.  Zones, monsters, quests… none of these things display levels.  But they all have levels, Blizzard is just hiding them.  I thought they might be scaling things, but the word on the street is that levels are still the in thing.

Companions

Both games have branched off from Diablo II when it comes to companions.

Runic Games added a pet companion in Torchlight, where you could choose if you were a cat or a dog person.  This has been expanded with Torchlight II.  You now have more choices, including an adorable ferret pet that my daughter loves.

It has little goggles!

Aside from different skins however, it is the same as the Torchlight pet.  It assists you in battle.  You can teach it spells, which is pretty cool.  And you can load your pet up with drops and send it back to town to sell… though, of course, then you are standing around in the dungeon without your companion for 30 seconds to a couple of minutes.

Diablo III has curtailed the Diablo II companion vendor and has given you three companions, the scoundrel, the Templar, and the sorceress.

Hanging with the companions…

You meet each as you progress through the story.  Each has three skills that you can choose as they level up, and there are some clear match ups.  The Templar is a tank with some healing, the sorceress is a caster that has a healing choice, and the scoundrel is a ranged DPS rogue.

So for my barbarian, the clear choice of companion is the sorceress… or maybe the Templar to get healing.

But I always group with the scoundrel.

Why?

Because the companions have personalities… as does your own character.  You do not get to choose who your character is, you play the personality of the class you choose.

The barbarian is dour and fatalistic.  He is on a quest, he is going to slay evil, and he fully expects to die in the process.  He is the unsmiling Arnold Schwartzenegger character, all muscles and determination.

Meanwhile, I have nicknamed the scoundrel “Ford Prefect.”  He wants to loot some gold, make time with girls, and get in out of the cold.  He comments on the trail of dead bodies in our wake and moans about the state of dungeons, but when push comes to shove he is there with me, a few steps back, shooting up the bad guys with his crossbow, shouting “That’s how we do it in Kingsport!” at then end of a fight now and again.

The interplay between the barbarian and the scoundrel is endlessly amusing to me.  They have some regular repartee along with scripts that go with certain events.  The only downside is that when you join up with a friend, you companion goes away.  I am pushing ahead with my barbarian solo for now in part to see how their relationship unfolds.

Yes, the whole thing is scripted , and not exactly written at the James Joyce level, but it is fun.  And I wonder how the other companions react at similar events… and how they interact with the other character classes of each sex.  Too many possible variations!

Game Modes

Blizzard made a drastic choice with Diablo III by making it always online.  Straw Fellow has a good write up on this, so I will try not to belabor the point.  I will just say that it is a classic “less is more” choice.  Blizzard decided that Diablo III was a multiplayer game, and that playing with friends was the key feature.  So they made playing together as easy as possible by forcing everybody to be online.  And my own time spent with the game over the weekend showed that it seems to work.  I spent a lot of time playing with friends primarily because it was so easy.  There was no need to coordinate; you see your friend, you jump on in.

Runic Games, on the other hand, wants Torchlight II available for all of the Diablo II play styles.  So you can play offline.  You can setup a game over the internet privately.  Or you can log into their own version of Battle.net and play in their public space.

The catch is that all this flexibility will keep “playing with friends” from ever being as easy as Diablo III has made it.

But Torchlight II has some additional things to throw into the pot.  For one, you can set the difficulty mode of your game to any setting without having played through the lower settings.  If you want to start off in hard mode, go right ahead.  With Diablo III… which outside of bosses seems kind of soft in the initial difficulty setting… I am not sure I will want to play through the whole game twice just to get to hard mode.

And the other key item is that Torchlight II will let you have up to 8 players in your game, versus 4 in Diablo III.  For those of us with a regular group of 5 or 6 people, this will be a boon.

Other Random Items

Diablo III has achievements, and making achievements feel worthwhile is something that Blizzard does well.  You get them for the usual things, and the special events you expect, but they also throw in a good number or cool random ones.  At one point I had a quest to free villagers who had been caged up in their town.  I only needed to free 8, but after I finished I noticed that there were more and I could still free them.  So I did.  And there was an achievement for freeing all of the prisoners.  It almost solves the sixth slave issue.

Torchlight II, in addition to normal experience also has fame… sort of notoriety ala LOTRO… as did Torchlight.  You get that for slaying bosses and other special monsters.  And I would tell you what fame was for… but I totally forgot.

Diablo III takes crap screen shots.  The compression is set really high… hey, another feature LOTRO shares… and so the fine detail looks much worse in screen shots than in the game. (And the damn cursor is in all the screen shots… see the companions shot above.)  But Torchlight II doesn’t take screen shots at all… at least not yet.  So I had to get Fraps out… which takes great screen shots since I can control the quality, so I should probably run that with Diablo III as well.

Neither has what I consider the definitive MMO feature, which is the ability to turn off the UI.  So they are not MMOs.  Hah!

Actually Playing

Same for both games.

Click on shit until it dies.

Press a button for a health potion.

Press another button for a spell or something.

But mostly just keep clicking, just keep clicking.

It is the simplicity of combat and the non-stop slaughter as your hero… and in both games you are clearly not just another feeb fresh off the turnip wagon, not another noob in the starter zone, but a full fledged hero… tears through the bad guys that sells the genre.

If anything, both games step up the pace of action over Diablo II, and that is a beautiful thing.

What Do I Recommend?

I will be playing both.

Diablo III continues the franchise story, a story in which I was already emotionally invested.  Not playing the game never even occurred to me.  That it turned out to be a great game that adds to the genre is simply a bonus.  Anybody saying that Diablo III brought nothing new to the table clearly isn’t playing the same game I am… and I would bet that most aren’t playing the game at all, but just complaining from the sidelines.

My big question is what will Blizzard do with the game they have created?  Eventually it will be played out for most people.  Will it get expansions or new game modes or new games on the same platform?  Time will tell. [9/20 Update: time says that Blizz dropped the ball here.]

Torchlight II is light and awesome and the game I will play with my daughter. (Diablo III is a bit too grim for a 10 year old I think.)  While not endowed with Blizzard’s art budget, it is still a superior example of the click action genre.  And with a $20 price tag, I have no doubt the instance group will give it a try.

And, being open for mods, it will likely find new life as time goes along as a platform for people to do their own stories.

But either way, I think I am pretty lucky to have both games available to play this year.

This will definitely cut into my MMO time.

Reviewing My 2010 Predictions

Oh yeah, I made a bunch of crazy predictions back in January, didn’t I?

For some reason last year I changed my predictions format from a set of paragraph long generalizations to a series of one line, very specific (well, mostly) guesses at the future.  I think I was pressed for time and the humor muse had not bothered to visit.  Plus it was always hard to score those paragraphs, especially since I seemed to insist on points. (I have accounting in my background, I must quantify everything!)

Now, of course, we’re here at the end of the year and I have discovered the flaw in my plan; I need to go figure out whatinthehell I got right or wrong.  And there are like a bunch of them, some of which I have not bothered to pay attention to and others about which I really didn’t give a damn in the first place but was trying to get to a 200 point total for some maniacal round-number reason.

Anyway, what’s done is done.  Next year I think I am going to go back to big predictions and a pass/fail model.  Or something.

I started on this Thanksgiving weekend and, because of apathy, I haven’t found all the answers yet.  Fortunately, other people have started posting their prediction results, so I can crib from that a bit.  Plus I’ll make you, the reader, correct my mistakes.  How about that?

So let’s see how good that cold medication was last December.  What did I predict?

Predictions for Blizzard in 2010! (5 points each)

  • StarCraft II – Will ship second quarter 2010 – Missed by 27 days, 0 points
  • Cataclysm – Will ship fourth quarter 2010 – A pretty safe guess, 5 points
  • Cataclysm – Will beat WotLK’s 24 hour sales record – Yes indeed.  I do wonder how much digital pre-orders helped.  5 points
  • Diablo III – Will not ship in 2010 – Another safe one, in my opinion, 5 points
  • New MMO – An announcement at BlizzCon with the usual Blizzard mystery build-up – Nothing at BlizzCon, 0 Points

15 out of 25 points

Big Miss – RealID and Battle.net focus?  I’m not sure those were that big in the end.

Sony Online Entertainment predictions! (5 points each)

  • Planetside – Dead by December – Still alive… barely… but I always thought that The Agency had to come online before it went. 0 points
  • Norrath – Official details about the next Norrath based MMORPG some time in 2010 – We artist conceptions and some vague information, so I’m claiming 3 out of 5 points
  • Norrath – The next Norrath based MMORPG won’t be called EverQuest III – Do we have that in writing? No? 0 points
    EverQuest II – All digital distribution after the February expansion – I don’t see Destiny of Velious listed at Amazon.com, so I’m taking this as a yes. – 5 points.
  • EverQuest – The next round of server consolidation will happen, and it will be a good thing – And so it was.  I should have predicted it for EQII as well. – 5 points
  • The Agency – Won’t ship in 2010 – Saying The Agency won’t ship is like betting against the Cubs, and no, the Facebook game does not count – 5 points
  • PlayStation 3 – SOE still won’t have a PS3 MMO title by the end of 2010 – The put Free Realms on the Mac, but no PS3 support yet.  They’ve been talking about stuff on the PS3 since E3 in 2008 at least… go listen to VW Podcast #125… and still nothing.  You guys at SOE work for the PlayStation people now, right? – 5 points

23 out of 30 points

Big Miss – A free to play version of EQII

What will EA do? (5 Points each)

SWTOR – Not in 2010, no no no. – Another safe bet – 5 points

WAR – Won’t die in 2010, but won’t magically spring back to life either.  It will just trudge on with enough resources to keep it going and improve it slightly, but not enough to change anything dramatically. – Vague enough for 5 points

10 out of 10 points

Big miss – Umm… Lord of Ultima?  Was there a UO expansion or something?

Turbine predictions (5 points each)

  • LOTRO – Next expansion, announced in 2010, will be the Riders of Rohan! – Isengard, not Rohan – 0 points
  • LOTRO – Riders of Rohan will feature real mounted combat – 0 points
  • DDO – Continued success under the free to play banner with a push into some overland content – vaguely fulfilled – 1 point
  • New – We’ll hear about Turbine’s next project in 2010. – Not so much – 0 points

1 out of 20 points

Big Miss – LOTRO going free to play

CCP Predictions (5 points each)

  • Station ambulation – Still just a myth in 2010 – Again, like betting against the Cubs – 5 points
  • Dust 514 – Not for 2010 – What was that? – 5 points
  • EVE – Two Content Releases, don’t we always get two a year? – Well, we got 1.1 expansions – 2 points
  • EVE – Tech III ships will finally become common enough that you might actually see one now and again. – I have one and, while flying it, have ended up at a jump gate with another, is that common enough? – 5 points

17 out of 20 points

Big Miss – What was the big CCP story this year?

Runic Games (5 points each)

  • An inexpensive expansion will be released for Torchlight to keep funding going for Runic’s MMO – Nope – 0 points
  • Runic will give us some concrete details about said MMO – Nope – 0 points
  • That MMO won’t ship in 2010 – Well, they didn’t announce it, so 0 points
  • But said details will make some pundit say, “Wow, that’s what Dungeon Runners should have done.” – 0 points

0 out of 20 points.  I thought they would move faster than they are.

Big Miss – Multiplayer Torchlight, sort of the interim step between the first game and the MMO.

NCSoft (5 points each)

  • Aion – Going to seem like a replay of Lineage II, popular in Asia, less so in the west.  Still, it will have enough customers to keep going.  Given how readily NCSoft shuts things down, that will be saying something. – Um, I can’t even answer that – 0 points
  • GuildWars 2 – Not for 2010 – 5 points
  • PlayStation 3 – NCSoft still won’t have a PS3 MMO title by the end of 2010 – I guess I can let that old SCEA/NCSoft agreement die now – 5 points

10 out of 15 points

Other Titles (5 points each)

  • Darkfall – Will continue walking the tightrope between hardcore PvP focus and giving players something to do when they aren’t actively engaged in battle.  Slow growth with at most a single server added to the game for 2010. – Sounds vaguely right, but SynCaine will correct me – 5 points
  • Star Trek Online – Won’t disappoint Trek fans, but we’re all co-dependent on the franchise after years of reckless treatment by the studio.  We’ll all still be there after the first 30 days playing with our pre-order bonus items.  The rest of you people though… – I stopped playing, so there is a big claim I missed – 0 points
  • Hero’s Journey – It was best of show at E3 in 2005, but it will still be a no-show in 2010. – Like betting against the Twins – 5 points (Amusingly, Simutronics now has a somewhat whiny entry in their Hero Engine FAQ about Hero’s Journey, saying that the work for it is all in the Hero Engine so stop bugging them about it already.  Anyway, Star Wars: The Old Republic will be the eventual showcase for their work, pretty much the make or break I’d guess.)

10 out of 15 points

MMO Industry

The following people will have new companies and new projects announced in 2010 (2 point each):

  • Mark Jacobs – No word here – 0 points
  • Richard Garriott – Some awful Facebook thing – 2 points
  • Bill Roper – Still at Cryptic doing… something – 0 points
  • Brian Green – Umm… The Fae’s Wyrd was a project, right?  – 2 points
  • Scott Hartsman – Rift, about which so many are talking of late – 2 points

6 out of 10 points

One of the following companies will announce their first/next project, and it won’t be an MMO (5 points):

  • Aventurine – no announcement
  • Carbine Studios – no announcement
  • Red5 Studios – Firefall – it is an online, co-op shooter, so not really a traditional MMO –   5 points
  • Simutronics – no announcement
  • Turbine – No announcement

5 points

One of the following people will move to Canada (5 points):

  • Scott Jennings
  • Mark Jacobs
  • Brian Green
  • Scott Hartsman
  • Richard Bartle
  • Alan Crosby
  • David Reid

Isn’t there some Canadian sovereign territory at Disneyland?  No?  0 points

Spurious Logic Random neurons firing for the following guesses.

Most subscription MMOs that sell vanity items like pets or appearance gear will sell custom mounts by the end of 2010.  WoW and EQ2 will be the benchmark. (5 points) – erm… can’t really say yes to that – 0 points

“Yahtzee” Croshaw will review exactly ONE muh-more-puh-gah on Zero Punctuation during 2010, and it will be Star Trek Online.  He won’t like it (duh) but the Trekkie humor will be too much for him to resist doing a review. (5 points) – Nope, 0 points

We will find out that the following people will be appearing or doing voice work in the Warcraft movie (IMDB  shows no actors as of this date – 1 point each):

  • Jack Black
  • William Shatner
  • Keanu Reeves
  • Ben Stein
  • James Earl Jones
  • John Ratzenberger
  • Bruce Campbell
  • Sarah Silverman
  • David Spade
  • Lucy Lawless

Nothing – No cast announcements yet.  IMDB puts it as a possible 2013 release – 0 points

0 out of 20 points

Total Points

My first pass, hand-waving total is 97 out of 200 points.

Not bad for my mix of obvious slam-dunks and way off the reservation guesses I suppose.

Now, I will look to comments for corrections and will post an updated score once people point out that I was really wrong about those 97 points and that my total should be much lower.

So correct me already.

Meanwhile, I’m working on a less intensive set of predictions for next year.

Cryptic Calls My Forgotten Realms Bluff

If you didn’t like the IP idea in my last post, why not just go with Forgotten Realms?

Is Forgotten Realms good for everybody?

(Quiet you Dragonlance weenies!)

As noted over at Massively, Cryptic announced their next project, Neverwinter.

Neverwinter

This is what Cryptic has to say about the game so far:

About Neverwinter

100 years have passed since the Spellplague consumed the world of Faerûn. Neverwinter, a once majestic city of magic and adventure upon the mighty Sea of Swords, is still being rebuilt from near total ruination. Even as new wonders of stone and iron rivaling ancient works are being raised by the hands of man, dwarf and elf, dark powers beyond reckoning vie for control of the land…

This is a world that promises death for the meek, glory for the bold and danger for all. This is the world of Neverwinter.

Neverwinter Nights Reborn

Continue the critically acclaimed adventure! The #1 best-selling Neverwinter Nights series of PC RPGs returns with an epic Dungeons & Dragons storyline, next-generation graphics, a persistent world, and accessible content creation tools.

Immersive, Imaginative

Enter a world ravaged by the Spellplague. Wrest victory from the claws of darkness and battle the greatest of civilization’s enemies in and around Neverwinter, a storied and ancient city upon Faerûn’s Sea of Swords.

Challenging, Complex, Classic

Epic gameplay and action rooted firmly in the best traditions of the RPG genre await those heroes courageous enough to brave the Spellplague and all that it has ravaged.

Build a Fantasy

Easy-to-grasp adventure creation tools empower users. Bring compelling quests to life and build challenging levels! Share creations with the entire world in-game. Become a part of the existing Dungeons & Dragons universe… Then build a new one.

Play Together or Die Alone

Encounter dangerous foes and perilous environments. Work with others, strategically, to overcome nightmares, demons, monsters, and beasts of legend.

World Without End

Neverwinter features co-operative multiplayer in an ever-evolving, persistent world where Dungeons & Dragons adventurers quest alongside thousands of other warriors, rogues, wizards and faithful avengers.

New D&D, Beloved D&D

Neverwinter is a true Dungeons & Dragons experience based on the acclaimed 4th Edition rules — a first of its kind!

A Legend Arises

Unprecedented character customization as only Cryptic can deliver. Imagine a hero, make a hero, become a hero.

Neverwinter is based on the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons rule set and set around the Forgotten Realms location of  Neverwinter.

This is pretty much what I have been asking for.

I was just commenting on a post the other day regarding DDO and how Eberron doesn’t thrill me, but Forgotten Realms… now there is an IP!

We’ll see how the D&D 4th edition rule set gets translated… that is always a leap of faith… but it couldn’t end up that bad, right?

And now, here we are.

Certainly, there are aspects to this concept that interest me.

  • Forgotten Realms

My favorite D&D campaign setting ever!

He’s the man for Forgotten Realms fiction… but doesn’t he work with Curt Schilling?  How do you explain that one to the head man?

  • Cryptic Studios

If nothing else, I want to see the fantasy RPG version of their character creator.  That should practically be a stand alone game in and of itself.  And if they’ve learned other lessons, so much the better.

  • Content Creation Tools

Yes, there is the 90% crap rule, but if they can figure out how to promote the good stuff so we can find it, this could be worthwhile.

  • Did I say Forgotten Realms already?

Oh yeah, still excited about that!

  • Not an MMORPG

Interesting.

Jack saysI wouldn’t say MMORPG at all — Neverwinter is a cooperative RPG.”

So where will Neverwinter stand then in the grand scheme of things?  And how does “not an MMORPG” fit in with their statement under “World Without End” I quoted above?

Is this just positioning, a “Neverwinter is not WoW” message?

Will it be “not an MMO” the way Guild Wars and Dungeons & Dragons Online are “not” MMOs, lacking as they do the shared, persistent world?

Will it be a step closer to the Dragon Age segment of the fantasy gaming world?

Or will it fall closer to Diablo III and Torchlight II?

And how will we be paying for this game, whatever it ends up being?

I will certainly want to keep an eye on this new game.  We’ll see if my calls for a real Forgotten Realms MMO were a bluff or not.  And, if nothing else, I always like to see how the game that ships lines up with the first press release.

Meanwhile, the last time I was in Neverwinter, it looked like this:

Neverwinter Map – TorilMUD

Not exactly impressive, but that was the way things were back in the day when I played TorilMUD regularly, and I enjoyed it immensely at the time.

Torchlight II – Look Out Diablo III

Runic Games, who put out last year’s excellent light dungeon romp, Torchlight (which sold more than half a million copies and which you can now buy in a box on the shelf at Fry’s) has got something new lined up for us.

Torchlight II

Torchlight II is slated for Spring 2011 and it will address some of the “I want” features that many of us asked for.

Key game features listed on the Torchlight II site:

  • Multi-player – Play with your friends over a local area network, or over the Internet. A free matchmaking peer-to-peer service lets you make new friends for exciting co-op play.
  • Customizable Characters – Players create and customize a character from one of four classes available and choose an animal companion. Through cosmetic, class, and gender choices, skill path decisions, and the treasures they acquire, each character can be custom-tailored to each player’s needs.
  • Moddability – Torchlight II will release with an updated version of TorchEd, the Torchlight editor. Players have the option to create their own mods, adding even more content to the world. You and your friends can download the same mod and play together!
  • New User Interface – Torchlight II boasts an entirely new, improved user interface, designed to be easier than ever for new players to pick up and play. Thanks to this intuitive interface, players have immediate access to a rich and varied world, with little experience necessary.
  • Overworld Areas – Torchlight II has large randomized overworld areas to explore with weather, time of day cycles, and random events that provide players with even more content to experience.
  • Random Dungeons – Delve into randomly generated dungeons within the game at any time for extra experience and rare loot. Dungeons in Torchlight II have even more branching paths to explore with friends filled with random events, rewards and dangers.
  • Retirement System – Once characters are sufficiently leveled up, they can “retire” and bestow specific benefits and perks onto new characters.
  • Pets – Players choose a pet to accompany them. Pets level up along with the player, and help in battle, learn spells, carry items, and perform a variety of support services.
  • Fishing – Fishing returns in the sequel! Players can take a break from the high-energy pace of adventuring to relax by one of the many fishing holes and see what they can catch. Fish have unique benefits for the player and pet, while a number of other rewards can also be discovered.

Clearly, multi-player Co-op play is the huge item on the list.  That, for me, was the big missing piece from Torchlight.

And then there is the promised date.  If Runic can make Spring 2011 I am sure they will beat Diablo III to market by a wide margin.

Of course, the team at Runic Games was largely responsible for the Diablo series, so it is no wonder they might be lighter on their feet when creating another game in that genre.

Diablo! I mean Torchlight!

Diablo ships today!

erm…

I mean Torchlight ships today!

Or whatever the electronic distribution equivalent term is, since they don’t appear to be shipping physical boxes.

Torchlight!  It was done by those guys who did Diablo!

I mean Mythos!

Wait, Mythos was done by some people who did Diablo.

And the same guy did that did the music for Diablo did the music for Torchlight!

But you get my point, which is that whenever we speak of Torchlight, we must also mention Diablo.

Diablo! Diablo! Diablo!

And in my view of the world, comparing it to Diablo, and bringing up the connections with Diablo, is saying something good about the game.

But I really liked Diablo.

And Torchlight does appear to have that Diablo feel to it, at least in the screen shots I have seen.

Torchlight

Screen shot from the Torchlight web site

It has been a PC game drought for me this year.  The only new title I purchased so far in 2009 has been Peggle.  (Yay for being totally behind the curve on that one!)

So Torchlight, with all its Diablo connections, may be my second PC game purchase this year.

If they will let me purchase it.  It is being sold through Perfect World, a Chinese MMO company with some ports in the US (Jade Dynasty, Ether Saga and Perfect World), and they seem to have an issue with my billing information.

They sent me an email telling me that they were sending me another email regarding a billing issue.

I never received that second email which had a key link I need to follow in order to solve this problem.  Or so they said in the first email.

I did, however, receive a third email (which was right in the spam folder that I was watching just in case the second email showed up there) which told me that since I did not respond to the second email (which I am going to guess had some time limit associated with it) my transaction was being canceled and my money refunded.

They took my money, had a problem with it, and are now sending it back.

So Torchlight may not end up being my second PC game purchase this year.

And this billing snafu certainly does not bode well for me looking into the Torchlight MMO franchise that the team at Runic Games, the Diablo pedigreed developers of Torchlight, is talking about.

It does, however, give the publisher’s name, Perfect World, something of an ironic twist for the moment.

Anyway, I’ll see about trying to buy the game again this weekend.  Perhaps they are suffering from the first day rush.

In the mean time, I’ll just watch the game play video over at Game Bunny.

Diablo!