Thursday, May 21, 2020

Travis Baldree is the Man

Not familiar with the name? That wouldn't be a surprise. Travis Baldree is a rock star in the game-making world, but he has maintained a low profile ala Jeff Lynne.

I bring Baldree up because I'm playing Fate (again) right now. Excellent game! Everyone's heard of Torchlight and Torchlight II, but not Fate so much. It's interesting because Travis Baldree designed and programmed Fate (WildTangent Games) and also created both Torchlights (Runic Games).

Torchlight was released in 2009, and many people saw it as a Diablo killer because it included everything that was great about Diablo I and II, and added features  that lessened the grindy nature of both Diablos (e.g. pets going to town to sell your loot). The graphics were much better than Diablo II. The first Torchlight came out a full three years before Diablo III was released, and everyone who loves dungeon crawlers thought, whoa, this is better than Diablo II, 1/3 the price (only $20 upon release), and the best part: no annoying DRM.

Torchlight sold very well for a game that didn't have near the advertising dollar of a company like Blizzard. Over 5 million units sold between both Torchlights as of 2015. And players really appreciated the respect they were shown by the lack of intrusive DRM. The Torchlight franchise's sales numbers are proof positive that incorporating DRM is how publishers demonstrate a lack of faith in a game's ability to sell itself.

Imagine what Torchlight's sales would have been if they were as well advertised as Blizzard's games.

Baldree originally formed Runic Games along with two founders of Blizzard North, the company that created the first Diablo. Runic was bought by Perfect World Entertainment in 2010, Baldree left in 2014 to start another game company called Double Damage games, and then Runic closed down three years later.

I haven't played Rebel Galaxy yet (the game Baldree made after he left Runic), but it and its followup look excellent. They're definitely in my queue for new games to try.

As a matter of fact, the scope isn't as vast, but Rebel Galaxy looks a lot more like the kind of game players were looking for than No Man's Sky delivered. You don't get to explore actual planets, but the whole procedurally-generated-solar-system strategize/battle/upgrade mechanic looks fun. The spinoff game Rebel Galaxy Outlaw even plays like Star Wars X-Wing in parts, according to the reviewer below.

Rebel Galaxy Review

Rebel Galaxy Outlaw Review

So what's the point of all this? I think Baldree is one of those rare people who just naturally know how to make a fun game, so it's worth it to keep track of his progress.

And Blizzard? I blew them off forever after their Internet-required DRM antics that started with Diablo III and continued with Starcraft II. And no LAN play in Starcraft II? Piracy my butt. They left it out so you'd have to look at ads on Battle.net.

The "Real" Reason Why There Is No Starcraft 2 LAN Play

I don't just complain when game publishers abuse their customers. I always vote with my dollars, regardless of how "awesome" a game is purported to be. This means I'll continue to enjoy Diablo and Diablo II, but unless Blizzard ends their draconian tactics, I'll never buy nor play their post Diablo II games.

With all the games I already own, and all the great games out there to buy that don't insult my integrity as a game customer, not playing Diablo III or Starcraft II isn't much of a sacrifice.




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