Flame extinguished for Torchlight devs.
Perfect World Entertainment have made the decision to wind up operations at Runic Games, creators of the popular Torchlight series of action RPGs. Runic was based in Seattle, and first appeared on the scene in 2008, when its co-founders Travis Baldree, Max Schaefer and Erich Schaefer started the studio with a roll of 16 developers. 2009 saw the release of their debut title, Torchlight, a hack-and-slash fantasy RPG for the PC, which was later released on Xbox 360 Live Arcade.
Torchlight sold over 2 million copies and scored 83/100 on Metacritic, and prompted a sequel, Torchlight 2, which included multiplayer and increased modding support and sold nearly 3 million. Perfect World acquired the studio in 2010, and Baldree and Erich Schaefer left the company in 2014 to pursue other projects, but Runic continued under new head Marsh Lefler.
Lefler presided over a change in genres which led to the release in September 2017 of Hob, an open-world adventure game where the player wakes up on an unfamiliar planet which they explore, solving puzzles, battling enemies, and repairing the ruined cityscape with the help of an upgradeable mechanical arm. The game, which has been compared to the Zelda series and carries a score of 77/100 on Metacritic, has been praised by many reviewers for its effective storytelling despite the complete absence of dialogue, and its attractive and immersive audio and visuals.
Travis Baldree reacted to the news by tweeting a series of memories of his time at Runic, where he talks about the ups and downs of the six years he spent with the company, as well as revealing some interesting trivia. In a statement published on the Runic website, Marsh Lefler said: “Our focus is on our family here, and helping them find a new place to call home.” He went on to confirm that Torchlight community and multiplayer servers will remain open, and called his time at Runic: “An amazing experience,” before concluding, “You haven’t heard the last of us.”
Perfect World Entertainment, which is based in China, released a statement calling the decision: “Part of the company’s continued strategy to focus on online games as a service.” They also announced that they were laying off some developers at fellow Pacific Northwest studio Motiga, creators of the shoot-‘em-up Gigantic, in a decision which they have stated is unrelated.