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We sat down and chatted with Echtra to discuss the just announced Torchlight 3 class ‘The Sharpshooter’. Wishlist Torchlight 3 on Steam and check out the Torchlight 3 Discord, Twitter, Twitch, and Facebook channels for more development news.
Sharpshooting is a sport that owes its origins to the hunters of the Ember Hills surrounding Red Haven. Though the hill folk may have been subsumed into The Empire hundreds of years ago, their descendants carry on this proud tradition of archery and marksmanship today. There are Sharpshooters who specialize in distance aiming, trick shots, or speed shooting. The most talented become famous performers and athletes, their prowess growing to legendary proportions.
Each year, the Red Haven elite hold an exclusive competition known as "The Pursuit." Competitive nobles vie to amass the most fabulous collection of artifacts, hiring adventurers to gather unusual artifacts to fill their galleries and parlors.
Sharpshooters are among the most reliable adventurers, able to use their skills to procure artifacts hidden deep within trap-laden tombs. Sharpshooters gather their own collections, evoking the "Finder's Clause," found in most Pursuit Contracts, which allows them to keep a portion of their finds. Many of the artifacts house ancient spirits who once dwelled within the ruins that Sharpshooters prowl. Some form close personal bonds with these spirits, who aid them on their journey. With deadly accuracy and an assortment of ancient spirits at their command, the Sharpshooter is ready for adventure.
While it is the newest of the character classes, the Sharpshooter has been in the works for a little over three years. Designed to enable playstyles unavailable to the Railmaster, Dusk Mage, and Forged, the team began to refine the character class in 2019, but concept artwork started as early as February 2017.
“We knew then that we wanted a ‘ranged’ class, but the gist of that was still very nebulous,” describes Echtra’s Co-Founder and Torchlight 3’s Project Lead Tyler Thompson. “Were they going to be a trap-based class with ranged attacks? Were they going to be almost like a forest nymph who used plants to lash out at enemies that leaned into more traditional elven lore?
A very early Sharpshooter concept.
With the design and implementation of the three initial classes completed, the team focused on fleshing out the Sharpshooter. Facing a gauntlet of gameplay paper prototypes, the team took the best ideas and created a ranged-focused class with light summoning abilities. After pitching the vaguest of ideas to their concept artists, they realized they had a winning theme and formula when both the design and concept teams independently came up with the idea of a ranged class that is a ‘bit of a scoundrel.’
The mechanics came pretty late into the Sharpshooter design. Or rather, the final mechanics. At one point the Sharpshooter was a bow user who had a magical, dwarven made ammo bag that granted a chance to do a variety of special effects on their bow attacks.
Ultimately, it just wasn't feeling impactful enough. One night while design was discussing the Sharpshooter, the idea came up that the class should be about synergizing the trinkets and ranged skills. Each trinket skill would grant every other bow skill special effects, which made player choice way more powerful. It would take a lot more work, but far less than the exploration done with the other classes.
The team decided to give the bow weapon exclusively to the Sharpshooter after reviewing all the other ranged weapons they wanted to implement in the game. “We knew we wanted to include some cool steampunk firearms,” Shawn Stone, Echtra’s Senior Game Designer describes further, “and decided that pistols and rifles would be available to all classes.” In response to these mechanical weapons, it made sense for the Sharpshooter, who is an expert marksman, to have the skill and expertise to wield a bow successfully. The flavorful archery tools and accessories, like the pouches and gloves, were a good fit and nicely integrated into the Sharpshooter armor.
One thing that has been important for the bow is that it feels impactful. When fired, the arrows travel to and embed themselves into targets hit or even the surrounding environment. We asked the concept team to give us a number of options for bows ranging from crude wooden bows to more fantastic or technically advanced bows. As with all of our weapons, for our rarer assets, the silhouettes are generally more complex and the colors more vibrant. I think we ended up with some fun, powerful-looking bows that are quite satisfying to use.
With the Sharpshooter class mechanics solidified, the art team went to work establishing the look and visual style of the character. “We wanted their look to feel like a traveler, not traditional, probably non-western.” said concept artist McLean. “They were coming from somewhere else, and that place wasn’t the Empire.”
While original designs (shown above) started in early 2017, the second wave of concepts didn’t start evolving until spring of 2019.
Second round of Sharpshooter concepts.
While the team knew that we were going to make a ranged class, they weren’t sure about the specific ‘flavor’. “We had a large list of ideas and went through a lot of them to see what would stick.” explained Echtra’s concept art team. “Everyone loved working on big hats and relics. It was fun to imagine what those would be and what they bring to the character,” recalls Jen, one of the team’s concept artists.
Sharpshooter armor set concept art.
The Sharpshooter was a chance for them to balance the weight between the characters, as the Railmaster and Forged classes were more bulky and it was important for ranged class to feel nimble and quick. Creating an agile, appealing player class while balancing the larger silhouettes of the Sharpshooter's armor became a challenge for the character team. Large hats, hair, skirts, flared boots and belt attachments all needed to be balanced within each character design and across genders.
The team also played around with a number of different names, but ultimately stuck with ‘Sharpshooter’, feeling that it best spoke to the core of their theme. The Sharpshooter is an adventurer with amazing trinkets, yes, but they are also a bit like Annie Oakley -- an almost inhumanly amazing shot with ranged weapons. And with the visual design, mechanics, and name finalized, the Sharpshooter was officially considered complete.
The Sharpshooter is all about precision shooting and summoning spirits. Whether stacking buffs that increase your powerful potential, or calling down the spirit of a great eagle you call “Goose”, the Sharpshooter’s deadly capabilities are versatile. Combining the already distinct abilities with trinkets allows players to create custom builds that speak directly to their unique ranged playstyle.
Here are a few staple Sharpshooter skills which should give you a good idea of how the class plays.
Use your weapon and do a short range, wide cone burst of projectiles, each dealing damage. Holding it down increases the damage.
Fire a piercing arrow that knocks enemies back and does weapon damage on hit and leaves them bleeding.
Fire three piercing shots each dealing weapon damage. Each successive hit to the same target deals extra damage.
Summon an ancient rat spirit swam that moves slowly, piercing targets for damage and leaves them poisoned.
Sacrifice to Goose
Call down the great spirit of a great eagle you call ‘Goose,’ who knocks back enemies and applies damage vulnerability to them.
Summon the spirit of your best friend, Shasta, who deals weapon damage and taunts enemies.