WC: Do you have any plans to patch extra stuff into the game to update it as we wait for the MMO? More pets, character customization, stuff like that?
Travis: We'll do a first patch, fixing bugs and balance and squeezing in things that people asked for. It's a maintenance patch to solve issues with hardware that we've seen people run into.
Max: There are plans on a couple of levels. Once the level editor is out, we hope the modding community will make a lot of things for our game that people will share amongst themselves. Fansites have already set up clearinghouses in preparation. My guess is that some of our in-house guys will sneak in mods alongside everyon eels.
Also, as we make the MMO, we'll be making compatible assets that we might trickle down and throw to people in the singleplayer game - new weapons, new monster models, that sort of thing.
WC: How will the MMO work? Will it be just "Torchlight, except with a persistent world and more dungeons"? Will you be able to take your Torchlight character into it?
Travis: Multiplayer will be a fully separate product; you won't be carrying things between them. We weren't actually planning on using the singleplayer classes in the MMO at all - we didn't want people to feel like they were playing something they'd already played.
There will be large persistent outdoor regions and fixed dungeons, but we'll also have the randomized dungeons that you see in Torchlight. Like in Torchlight, you'll be able to buy a map and it'll create your own personalized and randomized dungeon for a group. But we'll have PVP, auction houses - all the stuff from a functional MMO.
John: Combat will be as close to the singleplayer as we can make it. You'll fight lots of monsters, it'll be fast-paced, and you'll clear tons of dungeons. Click-click-click loot.
Travis: Right. We want it to be as closed to the singleplayer as possible, only with your friends in a persistent world.
WC: Earlier this week, a column went up on The Escapist about building a fanbase before launching an MMO. Was it your intent to build a pre-existing fanbase for the upcoming online game, or was that just a happy coincidence?
Travis: Yes, it was part of the intent. There were two parts to that, actually. We had a small fanbase that had been anticipating Mythos, we liked them and wanted to stick with them. So we felt that retaining them and getting their feedback was important. We wanted to start with a small success and then build on it instead of just swinging for the bleachers right away.
John: It was part of our justification, of course, but we had more reasons than just that. We wanted to do the singleplayer anyway. We like that people can mod it - there's lots of stuff you can do in a singleplayer game that you can't make in an MMO.
Jason Beck: From a creative standpoint, it's nice to have small problems to figure out and solve instead of trying to create this vast history and world right out of the gate. It was a nice, different thing, working with smaller chunks inside a smaller game. Creatively, I'm glad to have some things out the door and set in stone for once!
WC: Do you think having a pre-existing fanbase to set yourself apart will be enough to help you stand out in an oversaturated free-to-play market?
Max: I think the success of an MMO is based on whether it's a fun game to play and hang out in. Item sales mean that people can play more games, because people don't want to have too many forced subscriptions on their credit cards. But the tricky problem for us, is you need to design an item game that supports item sales without devaluing loot collection. But any of the models work as long as you have a quality product and implement it well.
Jason: I think the main thing that will separate our MMO from the rest is the playstyle. It's snappy RPG action that I don't think is represented anywhere right now in the F2P space.
WC: Torchlight has incredibly scalable graphics - do you think that designing games to run on low-end systems like Torchlight or WoW is better? Are games with high hardware requirements like Crysis pigeonholing themselves?
Travis: I think we do think that. It was a conscious decision with Torchlight - we didn't want to just squeeze our potential playerbase down to only the people who have modern hardware.
Max: The low-end helps us, because this gameplay style really rests on it being a smooth and snappy game that doesn't use all the bells and whistles. It has to be a game that runs well on peoples' machines - it has to run and play smoothly or it just doesn't work. Beyond that, when we come out with the MMO, we're looking at the whole global market, and that makes low-end machines much more important.
Travis: When the MMO comes out, I want you to be able to sit in a coffee shop and play it on your netbook. You shouldn't have to sit at home chained to your desktop to hop online - I want people to be able to play it anywhere on any machine for short bursts of time.