Max Schaefer's tasted success, and he's got the scars to prove it. The CEO of Runic Games, a man with an engagingly gentle demeanour, placed a bet with his colleagues that the studio's first game wouldn't break a million units. If it did, he'd get a tattoo - and so too would the rest of his team.
Ask most people and they'd happily take that bet on. Torchlight was a humble action RPG from a fledgling studio, yet its loot-happy mechanics scratched an itch that's been nagging at players for years since Diablo 2's release in 2000.
"There were so many risks with what we did, because we were making a single-player RPG, which was poison," says Schaefer. "You don't do that, and we were releasing it primarily on digital distribution and at 20 dollars, so we had no idea if we would sell 50,000."
Over a million copies later and he's the proud owner of a neat etching of one of Torchlight's alchemist robots on his calf. "The other two haven't done it yet," he admits, "but they're still working with their artists."
Its success didn't just lie in the fact that it filled a hole that Diablo wasn't yet able to; it was a perfectly crafted take on a genre seemingly deserted, and it's little surprise the result was so satisfying. Schaefer and his team worked at Blizzard North on the first two Diablo games, and are intimate with the delicate formula that makes such games so compelling.
"It's actually very difficult to make that kind of game, to have it play right and feel right, and have something in which you can have a lot of repetition with. I'm happy that no-one else is doing it, but I also understand that it's difficult. Making an easy, simple game is difficult."
So difficult that Blizzard is famously taking its time over Diablo 3 - a game that Schaefer and his team worked on when they were still working at Blizzard North. Torchlight, on the other hand, took some 11 months to complete, and its sequel is following an equally accelerated development period.
As such, it's familiar enough - though when it comes to the loot-heavy RPG, gaming's culinary equivalent of comfort food, familiarity's a welcome trait. Set immediately after the first game, Torchlight II disposes of the previous classes and introduces four new flavours.
First there's an engineer, a moustache-sporting, monocle-wearing dandy with a flair for melee combat and wielding mechanical things. He is joined by a berserker, a blue-furred beast with a tendency to destroy things, and an outlander, who'll be providing the ranged option. A fourth class is to be added to the mix, though the specifics are yet to be announced.
Torchlight 2's major addition - and the one that elevates the game from being a straight loot-'em-up to a more fully-fledged action RPG experience - is the addition of an overworld. An expansive waste, the new continent of Vilderan lends the game a sense of scale that was previously absent, and does away with much of the claustrophobia that defined the original.
Despite that, it's as colourful as ever, and a descent into one of its randomly-generated dungeons reveals that its hypnotic metronome of combat is still there. Enemies are numerous and more varied, and they're more dynamic in their behaviour; skeletons now come pouring in through wells, and corpses impaled on walls spring to life to get involved in the boisterous action. Naturally there are bosses too, and in true sequel tradition, there are more of them and they're more impressive in size.
But what's providing the real spice for the sequel is the addition of co-operative multiplayer, in which - in the vanilla version of the game - up to six players can go looting together. True to the breezy nature of Torchlight, griefing has been kept to a minimum: players will only ever see their own loot on screen, making it impossible to steal from others and negating an awkward scramble to molest a corpse.
And, as Torchlight 2 squares up to the imminent release of Diablo 3, there's its generous feature set, addressing the areas that Blizzard has notoriously stepped away from. LAN play is supported alongside the ability to go online, and mods will be supported through the release of Runic's own powerful creation tools.
"I think that some of the publicity around Diablo 3 recently has helped us quite a bit," admits Schaefer in what's more an acknowledgement of recent events than fighting talk. "They're not doing single-player stuff and we are, they're not doing LAN play and we are, we don't need you to have an online connection and they do, they're doing a real money auction house and we're not doing any of that."
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Runic's affable nature - something that's evident in the snug cuddle of its games - means that rather than wringing their hands over the negativity that's swarmed around Diablo 3 recently, they're sympathetic. Schaefer sees features such as the real-money auction house as a necessity for certain productions.
"I understand they're getting some criticism for that, and I actually support what they're doing," says Schaefer. "If you want to have a secure economy, you've got to do it that way. We're just going a different route. But the publicity around it has helped draw the distinction between us, and I think that's helped."
By the time Torchlight 2 releases later this year, people will have had a taste of Diablo 3 in the beta - and Blizzard's game may well have had a release date attached to it. It's not really competition, says Schaefer, and rather a welcome guest to this previously sparsely attended party.
"It just means more people playing this kind of game," he says. "If we were making a shooter, people wouldn't be saying a big shooter's going to come along and destroy the market. But since there aren't that many action RPGs, it seems like if there's a big one it's going to wipe everything else out, but I'd don't think that's true, I think it'll actually help."
Two well crafted loot-hungry RPGs this year? Why ever not. Torchlight 2's character and its decision to beat a different path should prove that, while the spectre of Diablo 3 looms large, there's always room for good games to co-exist.