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Torchlight II mod spotlight – Theolentist class by OedipusTex

24 Feb 2013  by   David Reid
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Hey guys, welcome to the second part of our Torchlight II mod spotlight series! Previously we talked with the SynergiesMOD team, please check it out if you haven’t already done so. This time we got in touch with OedipusTex who shows us his work within the Torchlight II modding community, particularly about his interesting Theolentist class.

Theolentist class from OedipusTex

Theolentist class from OedipusTex

Incgamers: How did you first come across the Torchlight series, anything in particular that attracted you to Torchlight 2?

OedipusTex: I was always a fan of the Diablo series. TL2 is just such a high quality product it was difficult to pass up. It’s even somewhat popular among my non-gamer friends. Beyond that, the promise of being able to create your own classes was a big draw.

Incgamers: Good points :). What inspired you to think I’m going to build a Theolenlist class for Torchlight II?

OedipusTex: Building things is always fun!

TL2 happened to come on the scene at an opportune time for me. My “main” game, City of Heroes, had just announced it was closing its doors. The Theolentist began as an experiment to see how difficult it would be to bring in some of the City of Heroes archetypes into Torchlight. Along the way, the class shaped itself into something unique. But I think old City of Heroes players will be able to see the stamp of where that game heavily influenced the design of the Theolentist.

Incgamers: What are you currently working on right now?

OedipusTex: The Theolentist is still in it’s alpha stage, meaning large updates are happening pretty regularly, including the occasional total rewrite of a power. The Biology tree is the next to get some major work done to it. As I am writing you, I am editing the particle effects for a few spells using a Layout editor tool. The tool was created by a very helpful community member who wanted to give us the ability to edit files prior to the release of GUTS.

Theolentist showing WIP root blast skill

Theolentist root blast skill.

Incgamers: I’m sure they know who they are :). What is the is Theolentist class? Can you tell us what you’re trying to achieve etc?

OedipusTex: The “Theolentist” is a blend of a scientist and a Priest style character. It is a caster-class that uses the powers of Biology, Physics, and Astronomy to battle enemies. The main thing I’m trying to achieve with it is adding more excitement to an already great game. What I’m specifically aiming for is fun more than balance. But I’m also providing the Theolentist class to other modders who want to bring it in to their own mod environments.

Incgamers: Sounds cool, I like the sound of the physics and astronomy trees, what’s your favourite feature about your class?

OedipusTex: Probably the class and skill icons! I was very lucky to recruit a talented icon artist, who I think really gave the class a unique look and feel. They are designed by a community member named TwinkleToes. Beyond that, I’m a big fan of the spells in Astronomy that cause a lot of knockback though. Like, Heaven’s Gate. It’s a teleport and a control power. Something about the way it pops between locations and sends everything flying backwards makes me laugh. I lose a lot of productivity because I sometimes just pass time running around watching enemies go flying.

Physics tree of the Theolentist

Theolentist Physics tree.

Incgamers: Might have to make a build based around that lol. Balancing can take a large portion of a modder’s time, how did you all go about balancing the class’s skills and passives compared the vanilla ones?

OedipusTex: Balance is one of the most difficult goals to achieve I think. I like what Erich Schaefer, one of the minds behind the Torchlight series, said about balance: that he basically doesn’t aim for it. I’m somewhat in agreement with him.

Here’s a funny anecdote. In a very early version of the Theolentist class, the Locust Swarm spell used “standard” damage values for a power of its tier and mana cost. But when I tested it, it began doing 100,000 damage per second! I found out quickly that the reason was that the Locust Clouds created by the power homed in on enemies. When I turned that off, the spell became extremely underpowered. So what it goes to show is that formulas don’t work that great for ARPG balance. There’s a significant “can the player even realistically hit the enemy with this?” element that defies all formulas. You really have to be comfortable with a grey area.

Incgamers: Haha, I can only imagine the math and variables involved. Can you give some examples of hybrid builds and the benefits of mixing your class’s skill trees?

OedipusTex: I think that a lot of players will be interested in the spell in the Biology tree that causes their pet to double in size! I owe the discovery of that special effect to a fellow modder named Epoch, the mind behind the Ninja Class mod that is currently in development. He pointed it out one day and it was too cool to not put into the class.

Theolentist pet skill showing pet at double size.

Double the size, double the pawr.

I’ve also tried really hard to leave the class open to weird builds. My own Theolentist Astronomer/Physicist mix, for example, uses a Staff as her main weapon. She uses Holy Vector to teleport to the enemy and siphon attack and cast speed, then launches into Lucent Beam, which chips away quickly at everything’s health. There are a handful of powers that require a specific weapon–like one of my favorite spells, Kinetic Flurry, which whacks everything nearby with your staff while launching tornado projectiles–but many of them are open. And players are always surprising me with their ingenuity.

Theolentist lucient beam skill

Blasting away with the Theolentist

Incgamers: I like the sound of that. Are there any design concepts you left out due to time/tool constraints etc that you can share with us?

OedipusTex: Absolutely. The Theolentist class has a total of 30 core skills, but I have written closer to 40 spells total. Some were dropped after play testing them, others were blended together with each other or existing skills, a few were turned into pet skills. The spell Heaven’s Gate, for example, takes the place of an old spell called Celestial Revelation which only caused controlling effects in an AoE. Blending the idea of the teleport with the idea of the AoE control power I think increased the pizzazz of both concepts.

Incgamers: How did you go about getting your class integrated with the SynergiesMOD?

OedipusTex: One thing about TL2 modding in the pre-GUTs environment is that all of the “hooks” necessary to create a class mod are currently centralized in a few core files. To make a mod work, modders need a level of control over those files. With so many people playing Synergies, it made sense to make a mod that would be compatible with it. The Synergies team have been helpful by placing “hooks” for my class in their core files, but the process of keeping it all updated is challenging. The Theolentist appeared in a few Synergies releases before we made the decision to stop putting it in there until the game is more stable (when the Theolentist would be available for all mods). There’s some hope that after GUTS that process will be a bit easier. It’s what we get for jumping the gun!

Incgamers: I wonder if there will be a more easier standardised process when GUTs is released. Have you used any custom tools when developing your mod(s)? Did these help make you more productive?

OedipusTex: There is a set of fan-made tools developed as pre-GUTS resources for all TL2 modders. The specific tools are a PAK extractor, a Layout editor, and a DAT file decoder/encoder. Those tools are the foundation of the communities’ ability to make mods prior to the release of GUTS. I would be nowhere without them.

Incgamers: What are your thoughts about Kickstarter if it could become a place to get funding for large mods if legal issues could be worked out with dev’s or even partnered with? I’m sure there are more hurdles though.

OedipusTex: It’s an interesting idea. :) I am not that familiar with Kickstarters, though I have funded a few campaigns. My own class has been funded so far by myself. I’ve sunk a hundred dollars or so into the project.

Incgamers: That’s interesting, spending not only your own time but also your money as well. Where do you see the TL II modding community now and in a few years time?

OedipusTex: Hopefully making the game legendary :).

Incgamers: What have you learned from working with the SynergiesMOD team and contributing to the TL II community?

OedipusTex: I’ve learned that time and effort often pay off.

Incgamers: Any advice for wannabe modders out there?

OedipusTex: My main advice would be to take it one step at a time and not to get discouraged and to remember that this can be a practical activity; learning the ropes with modding can help you gain an understanding of how software works in general. TL2 code isn’t a programming language–more like a data structure, really–but it helps you understand how all the parts come together. I actually have some background in C++ and C#, but its been in modifying the data structures of games that a lot of the programming concepts I’ve used in my daytime job have really come together. I think it’s easy to teach concepts like If statements and While loops, but difficult to demonstrate how all of that would come together and result in something as complex as a video game. TL2 offers a new unique chance to peer right into the data, and see how all those spells, special effects, and menus fuse together.

Incgamers: Lastly, anything you’d like to add or say to your fans etc?

OedipusTex: I’d like to say thank you for all of the support they’ve offered the class. The feedback has been invaluable. When I first started the Theolentist class, it was just a testbed and I thought I’d be lucky if as many as a dozen people ever played it. I’ve been seeing a few fan videos pop up lately to track the class’ progress, and it’s the most bizarre feeling. Like, someone out there is actually playing what I made? How did that happen? It’s just been a lot of fun and I’m very grateful to the fans for making it happen. And I’d also like to give a big thanks to all the members of the mod community who have helped make the Theolentist a reality–especially TwinkleToes for not stabbbing me for the billion revisions I made to spells back before the public got to see the first public test version of the class.

Incgamers:Haha, thank you for showing us your thoughts behind your work, we certainly look forward to more from you in the near future.

OedipusTex: Anytime! Thanks for everything, and I hope to see some new Theolentists rolled in the future.

So, an interesting peak into OedipusTex’s Theolentist class which you can try in the near future, I’m certainly going to make a build around astronomy and physics. If you got a mod you’d like to have featured in the Torchlight II mod spotlight series, simply contact us. Till then the stars aligned to tell me “loot my precious… loooooooot”.

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