PC Gamer has published an excellent three-page history of Torchlight and the visionaries behind the successful little action RPG, from their start at Condor Incorporated developing Diablo to the painful loss of Mythos that ultimately led to Torchlight's development.
(I guess it started back in 1993,) says Runic Games' CEO, Max Schaefer. (Rather than get real jobs and be responsible people, my brother Erich, David Brevik and I decided to start a game company. We were called Condor Incorporated. We cut our teeth on Gameboy and Game Gear games, and ended up doing a Sega Genesis game called the Justice League Task Force. It was a Street Fighter-style game with Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman. The publisher had another company entirely make the Super Nintendo version, but didn't put us in touch with them. We met them at one of the big game conventions and, of course, we had an instant rivalry but they were really nice guys and we became friendly. They turned out to be the group that started Blizzard, although they had the horrible name of Silicon And Synapse at the time. Anyway, when we were looking for the next thing to do, we decided we wanted to make a PC game because we didn't know which console was going to be the next big thing and didn't want to bet on it. So we wandered round the shows with our pitch packets looking for someone to give us money. The Blizzard guys were one of the few that gave us the time of day. They signed us to make Diablo. And off we went. Then, half way through making it they acquired us and we became Blizzard North.)
(I don't want to throw anyone under the bus,) says Max Schaefer. (But there were a lot of logistical things that went wrong with Hellgate: London. For example, our primary PC publisher ran into some trouble. MMOs take a considerable amount of operations. You have to be able to take people's money, you have to do customer support, run servers that was supposed to be done by other people, and yet half way through the project it was announced that they weren't going to be able to fulfil that, and so we had to figure out how to do it ourselves. We didn't really have any money for it, we had to hire up quickly and it stretched our management thin. It was just one more thing that made it too much to do in the budget and the time we had available.)
(By the end of Mythos's development we really knew what we wanted to be doing,) says Baldree. (We'd bumped into most of the walls we were going to bump into, faced most of the pitfalls. We had a pretty good idea of what would make a successful MMO action-RPG. In starting Runic, one of the big lessons from Flagship was not to attempt more than you can safely complete. So right from the beginning we talked about having an intermediate step: we'd do a singleplayer first, get our feet under us.)
(There were advantages to starting over, although it was painful,) says Erich Schaefer. (All Mythos's technology started with Hellgate and it wasn't really appropriate. The graphics engine was designed with Hellgate's over-the-shoulder perspective in mind. Even though it took a little time to ramp up with Torchlight, we could make stuff that was more appropriate for us. Better performance is one obvious result.)