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Runic's Beck: Diablo III Art Controversy Influenced Torchlight

The lighter, cartoony art of Runic Games' Torchlight was influenced in part by the controversy surrounding Diablo III's style, says the studio's Jason Beck: "we didn't want the inevitable comparisons."
What happens when developers lose control of a nearly-finished game just before it's about to launch? After forming a new studio, Runic Games, many of the developers behind Mythos transitioned to Torchlight. Now, in a new Gamasutra feature, art director Jason Beck explores the decisions, steps, and key design elements that have shaped the look of a title striving for big retail production values -- on an aggressive schedule and modest budget. As the prior project, Mythos, was described by its creators as being "very much in the Diablo mold," comparisons between Torchlight and the gameplay of the classic Blizzard title are unavoidable: Any fan of ARPGs is aware that Diablo III was announced and is in production. All of us here are fans of the genre, and are very excited to have a new Diablo game to play. We've also already heard comments that Torchlight is trying to "take on" D3 as direct competition -- or even that Torchlight is a "cartoony version of D3". But both assertions are incorrect, writes Jason Beck -- the team knows full well Diablo III is coming soon, and plans to be "on a different train track when it comes roaring by." Although there is common ground with the gameplay, the team aims to produce a single-player title as a " launchpad to a free-to-play, hack-and-slash MMO." But the controversy around Diablo III's art style actually did help shape 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. You can now read the full feature at Gamasutra, which provides a candid look at the issues surrounding Torchlight's development.

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