Perfect World has released the first dev diary for Torchlight Frontiers, which introduces its new developer Echtra Games and provides some more information about how the game’s MMO format will work.
Echtra games was founded two years ago by Max Schaefer, who previously founded Runic Entertainment and headed both Torchlight and its sequel. Prior to that, he worked at Blizzard on the first two Diablo games.
In the video, Schaefer explains that he founded Echtra after Runic finished working on Torchlight II, and decided to go in a new direction, eventually resulting in the underrated 3D platformer Hob, poor sales of which resulted in the closure of the studio.
“We felt like there was a lot more to do with the Torchlight universe,” he says.
After providing a tour of Echtra’s new studio, the video goes on to provide more detail about Torchlight Frontiers, which has attracted some scepticism due to it being described as a Torchlight MMO. Schaefer emphasises that although Torchlight Frontiers does take place in a shared world, it’s not going to adopt the mechanics of a typical MMO.
“This is a true Torchlight game,” Schaefer says. “So it’s gonna have very similar controls to the original Torchlight's. It’s gonna be very visceral combat, very good feel and weighty swings to your weapons. People who played Torchlight will be able to sit down and play it immediately.” The difference with Frontiers is this core Torchlight experience will be contained inside a larger, multiplayer game that Echtra plan to grow and evolve over time.
Schaefer ended the video by saying we’ll see Torchlight Frontiers in actions “very soon”, but it sounds like Echtra are taking as much inspiration from the likes of Destiny as they are more traditional MMOs like WoW. Torchlight II worked fine as a cooperative game, so if Frontiers retains the feel and general structure of Torchlight as Schaefer claims, I see no reason why this couldn’t work.