Torchlight and Hob (opens in new tab) developer Runic Games is sadly no more after its publisher Perfect World shut it down last week (opens in new tab). Following the news, one of the studio's founders, Travis Baldree, has spoken to Kotaku (opens in new tab) about the early days of the company, and there's a couple of noteworthy insights. The most interesting for me is that before Perfect World decided to publish Torchlight (opens in new tab) (which is a brilliant action-RPG, by the way), Microsoft came very close to snapping the title up.
Runic had "extensive meetings" with Microsoft and even went through company vetting to gear up for the arrival of the game. But Microsoft changed its mind at the last minute, instead asking Baldree and co to work on a game in the Fable series.
"We pitched Torchlight to Microsoft and had extensive meetings, a company vetting, and it all seemed to be going so well. To our shock, at the end of the arduous process, they decided they’d rather have us make a Fable game for them. We declined. Right before Torchlight shipped, a Microsoft rep came up to me at our first PAX and cried 'Why didn’t you come to us to publish this?'"
Baldree also revealed that Runic almost became a part of Turbine, the developer of Lord of the Rings Online, where it would have made a "hobbit-themed title". And it also nearly became a part of Plants vs Zombies developer PopCap, "to the extent that we had a get-to-know-you party with PopCap folks".
"This was in 2008, and then the economy cratered, and on the day we thought we were heading to PopCap’s offices to handshake the deal with [co-founder] John Vechey and [former CEO] Dave Roberts, it died instead. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little moist-eyed that afternoon."
If you liked Torchlight then check in on Andy's review of Hob (opens in new tab), Runic Games' last hurrah.