Happy Belated Birthday Everyone!
That’s right, it’s YOUR birthday as much as it is MY birthday (which technically it isn’t) because our great big community fansite turned TEN YEARS OLD last month! Somehow we outlasted the company I started this site for and made it to double digits!
Why didn't I celebrate this last month? Because I was busy preparing something REALLY special for everyone. As a fun little gift to everyone I have put together this“Where Are They Now?” piece to see what the former Runic Games staff are doing now, roughly ten months after the company shut down. This was put together with the help of our former Community Manager Brian Ward and with the help of several of the former devs who contributed their own words for the article. Everyone who didn’t contribute their own words I researched via LinkedIn or Google, which of course leaves a few blank or outdated entries on the list.
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL! We’re also simultaneously hosting an Anniversary Celebration Contest (sponsored of course by ModDrop) in which YOU could win a $50 (USD) Steam Digital Gift Card. Be sure to check out this link for details!
Skip to the bottom for some more big news regarding this website!
I have organized the list roughly by when the devs started working for Runic Games, by my own best guess. I tried to mark Founders where applicable as well. In addition, I scrounged up some old links on the history of Runic. They are as follows:
Who Works at Runic Games news post all the way back from 2009:
Remains of an old Wiki page on the History of Torchlight/Runic Games. The old BBCode is broken now that the wiki itself is gone:
Another article about the history of the company up until Hob was started:
Without further adieu, here are the Runic Games devs you came to know (and love?) over the years:
Founding and Torchlight 1 Era
Runic Games was founded shortly of the original team's former studio, Flagship Studios (North) was shut down in July of 2018. They spent several months doing odd jobs to get by while Max, Travis and Erich tried to find a publisher or someone to invest of the group. In the end Perfect World provided the funding to create Torchlight 1, which was intended from the beginning to build a fanbase for a Torchlight MMO that was supposed to follow directly afterwards.
August 2008 (Founder)- April 2014 as President
I'm Travis Baldree. I was the President of Runic Games for the first 7 years or so of its life, and one of the cofounders. I was also the project lead and lead engineer for Torchlight and Torchlight 2, and left after we assembled an initial prototype of what became Hob. I departed to go even smaller and founded Double Damage Games with Erich Schaefer where we made Rebel Galaxy, and where we are about to announce our next game.
From the initial founding period where we scrambled to exist, to pushing the Torchlight games to completion, I think it's fair to say I may have left the most blood in the dirt at Runic, so to speak. It was a hell of a ride with a bunch of wonderful people, and I hope they're all happy they did it.
Jason BeckAugust 2008 (Founder) - September 2013
Several companies later, now a Lead Artist at The Pokemon Company International
Greg BrownAugust 2008 (Founder) - August 2014 Tools Engineer
Now a Senior Engineer at VREAL
Kyle CorneliusAugust 2008 (Founder) - April 2016 Senior Concept Artist.
Currently doing Freelance work as a “Workshop Concept Artist”
John DunbarAugust 2008(Founder) - November 2017 Game Designer/Game Programmer
Now a Co-Founder at Monster Squad Entertainment
Mike FisherAugust 2008 (Founder) - November 2017 UI Artist
Current Status Unknown
Jeff MianowskiMay 2009 - January 2015 as Lead Character Artist then Art Director
Now a Character Man for Double Damage Games
Kevin GreenAugust 2008 (Founder) - November 2009 Artist
Now an Environment/World Artist at ArenaNet
Peter HuJan 2009- Oct 2015 “Founding Partner” ( I suspect the start date for this is a bit off)
Now CEO for Rhino Games
Brock JonesAugust 2008 (Founder)- August 2014 Senior Producer
Worked for Wizards of the Coast and now is a Software Engineer at VREAL.
May 2009- November 2017 QA Manager
Currently continuing his education to get a new degree.
Matt LeffertsAugust 2008 (Founder)- November 2017 Lead Animator
Now a 3D Animator for V1 Interactive, Inc.
Marsh LeflerAugust 2008 (Founder)- December 2017 First as Vice President/Lead Programmer, later as CEO/Studio Head
Now Studio Head and Co-Founder for Monster Squad Entertainment
September 2008 (Founder) - April 2016 Environment Artist/Lead Environment Artist/Senior Technical Artist
Now a Technical Artist for ArenaNet
Also the voice of the talking sword “Sword of Adam” in Torchlight 1.
Patrick BlankFebruary 2009 - November 2017 Game Director/Lead Level Designer
Now a Co-Founder & Creative Director of Monster Squad Entertainment
Sirio BrozziFebruary 2009- September 2010 Concept Artist
Two companies later, now an Art Director and Lead Concept Artist for Red Moon Workshop
Ben EvansMay 2009- December 2017 Senior Operations Engineer
Now a Release Manager for Bungie
Mike FranchinaDec 2009- August 2014 Senior Concept Artist
Now a Concept Artist for Blizzard Entertainment
Jeremy HuxleyMay 2009 - August 2010 Senior Environment Artist
Appears to now simultaneously be an Instructor for Computer Graphics Master Academy and an Environment/Shader Artist for Naughty Dog.
Wonder RussellAugust 2008 (Founder)- November 2017 Head of Marketing
Now Director of Communications for Undead Labs
Erich SchaeferAugust 2008 (Founder)- April 2014 CCO/Designer
Now President of Double Damage Games
Max SchaeferAugust 2008 (Founder)- December 2017 CEO
Now CEO at Echtra
Matt TanwantengAugust 2009- October 2013 as a Software Engineer
Now Lead Engineer at Binary Thumb
Jamus ThaynMarch 2009 - September 2013 as Senior Character Artist
Now Senior Artist at Panic Button (after a lot of jumping around)
Matt UelmenJanuary 2009(Technically a founder I believe) - November 2017 as “Noisemaker”
Now doing music for Torchlight Frontiers at Echtra
Torchlight 2 Development EraTorchlight 2 was another step towards an MMO. Torchlight 1 came out during a sweet spot, before Diablo 3 was out and very few other ARPGs of the type were on the horizon. The general outcry for the game was that it was wondering but was missing Multiplayer.... and that was unacceptable. In the end Torchlight 2 and Diablo 3 were due out at nearly the same time, so Runic delayed Torchlight 2's release to add more to the game, and polish while the initial focus on Diablo 3 lessened.
Justin MillerDecember 2010- March 2014 Senior Software Engineer (Networking)
After bouncing around a bit, now a Co-Founder and Network/Server Lead for Echtra
Brian BarhostMay 2010- January 2015 Level Designer
Now: Senior Designer at Bungie
Matt MunroeApril 2011-November 2017 QA Tester
Now a Software Test Engineer for Camoflaj
Tim SwopeJuly 2010 - November 2017 as Lead Environment Artist
Now an Environment Artist at Valkyrie Entertainment
Matt TinariMay 2010 - March 2015 Lead Environment Artist
Now a 3D Artist at Valkyrie Entertainment
Jesse TuckerApril 2010 - February 2015 as a Level Designer
Now a Designer at Galvanic Games Incorporated
Colin TurnerFeb 2010 - November 2015 as Senior Animator
Now Lead Animator at Double Damage Games
Tim VarneySeptember 2012 - April 2016 as Technical Support Engineer
Now listed as a Law Clerk for Chicago Public Schools (What a career changed!)
JD WikerApril 2010 - June 2012 Lead Writer
Currently listed as Writer/Editor for En Masse Entertainment
Brian WardBrian here! I was Runic's Community Manager from June 2010 until the last day we were in business in December 2017. If you played our popular Scavenger Hunt at PAX, that was my doing. I'm now working with the fine folks at City State Entertainment, where we're making a TriRealm MMORPG called Camelot Unchained. If you're familiar with Dark Age of Camelot, then this is the game for you. It's currently in Beta, so go check it out. At CSE, I'm in another CM role, where you'll see me frequently running large scale playtests with our Backers. Find out more at http://camelotunchained.com/
September 2010 - November 2017 as a QA Tester
Current status unlisted - Rumored to have done QA for the original Rogue Galaxy.
Pre Hob Development Era
This is a hard era to track. Torchlight 2 was wrapping up, but the majority of the team didn't want to do ANOTHER "Diablo clone." Some members of the team had literally been working on nothing but this style of game since working on Diablo 1. As a result, several members of the company left, either to start their own companies or join others. Multiple game prototypes were tested out while the company tried to find something that satisfied them, including a concept prototype for what eventually became Travis and Erich's new baby, Rogue Galaxy.
George DavisonMay 2014 - September 2015 Principal Graphics Programmer
Now a West Coast Technical Director at City State Entertainment
Ole CilioxNovember 2014 - Unknown. Señor Programmer. Current job status unknown.
Jeremy MillerNovember 2013 - November 2017 Character Artist/ Lead Character Artist
Current status unknown, possibly doing Freelance, possibly doing concept art for Warhammer Online.
Sierra SoleilDecember 2014- November 2017 Senior Linux Administrator
Now DevOps Engineer at Quadient
Sophia MacDonnellOctober 2014 - October 2016 Gameplay Programmer
Now a Software Engineer for 343 Industries
Hob Development to the Shutdown
Finally the new team decided to make Hob, a game that was part adventure, part giant puzzle, part Zelda clone, and also drew inspiration from multiple other games. I had a chance to try it in development twice, and it was fascinating to see what concepts were in the game from very early on to survive to release. Unfortunately very shortly after Hob was released Perfect World decided to shut down Runic Games, choosing to focus on multiplayer games instead of single player experiences. Unknown to the greater world at this time, the fabled Torchlight MMO, known now as Torchlight Frontiers had been in development for up to a year.
James BallMay 2016- May 2017 Environment Artist
Now a Senior Environment Artist at Harebrained Schemes
Lauren DetjenJuly 2017 - October 2017 as Software Quality Assurance Tester
Hey there! I’m Lauren, and I was brought onto the Runic team in the summer of 2017. I was primarily software QA with a dash of community support, such as helping folks on the Runic Games Discord channel as well as service tickets people would submit. While being there was short-lived for me, I’ve met and worked with some of the coolest people ever and would do it again in a heartbeat if I could.
Currently, I’m working at Microsoft doing more or less the same work on State of Decay 2! I help out Undead Labs’ Discord server, peruse the /r/StateofDecay subreddit for issues and bugs, as well as testing both the latest builds and retail for problems people may be facing.
Allen FongFebruary 2016 - November 2017 Chief Operating Officer
Working on something unannounced.
April 2016 - April 2017
Hey, I'm Tom Hanrahan and I was a Level Designer on Hob from April 2016 to April 2017. My biggest contribution to Hob was designing the dungeon where you get the punch upgrade. It was my first task when I started at Runic and definitely the area that I spent the most time on overall. Currently I work at Zynga where I design levels mostly in 2d (as opposed to a big 3d world like Hob) and it's been really fun and a cool change of pace, having spent all of my career working in 3d. I feel really privileged that I got to work at Runic and be a part of Hob. Thank you to everyone who played and enjoyed Hob, and thanks especially to the fans of Runic who keep the torch (pun intended) going.
Kochun HuNovember 2015 - November 2017 Audio Lead
Now only listed for Freelance Composer/ Sound Designer for Superhero Soundworks
Gabe JacksonJune 2016 - May 2017
The first time i saw Torchlight 2, I immediately thought "THIS is a game I'm designed to build art for"
In 2015 I saw a Demo of hob and was blown away by the Uniqueness of the environments & overall ambiance.
Little did I know the Runic team would bring me onboard in 2016.
For nearly a year I helped the Art team build out & finalize a series of creatures & critters used to populate a dystopian land, long forgotten by time.
I watched a unique world & all it's inhabitants come to life around me, as the hard work of my colleagues came to fruition. You have no idea what it's like to take an idea, work with others to build it, then watch it spring into Life; into Motion! As a Character Artist, that's what I live & grind for!
Rick LesleyMarch 2015- October 2017 Level Designer, then Senior Level Designer
Now a Game Designer at V1 Interactive, Int
Kristina NessDecember 2015 - November 2017 Senior Concept Artist
Now listed as a Concept Artist for Valve and System Era Softworks
Joshua MillerI was a last minute addition to the QA team for Hob. I came near the end of development working to find any game breaking bugs and have the honor of testing out all the achievements. I also played fetch with Falcor as part of regular runic responsibilities. Working at runic re-ignited my passion for games and is why I'm studying game art and development during my free time. A man still has to pay the bills though, and after the launch of Hob, I went on to the Xbox Game Store team before eventually transitioning to my current role at Expedia earlier this year. Now I help to manage projects but I miss the games industry.
Nick SouthamMay 2016 - Unknown as a Concept Artist
Now possibly a Concept Artist at 5thCell
John VeneronI'm John Veneron, I was the producer at Runic from 2016-2017 on Hob. In addition to owning the schedule, defining team milestones, and organizing everything process, I was also responsible for running playtests, playing the absolute crap out of the game, and all aspects of studio personnel management. Since I left Runic in the summer of 2017, I've released multiple patches for Rock Band 4 - can you believe it is still in active development? After wrapping up work on RB4, I moved from Seattle to my home town of Rochester, NY, where I am focused on growing the local game development community.
Paul RichardsConcept Artist for Hob, other info unknown
Ian WelkeDates Unlisted, but job title appears to have been Quality Assurance Manager
Current status unknown
Matt WyattAppears to have been the company Accountant
Now a Revenue Account Manager for Unity Technologies
Final Thoughts and an Announcement
As you can see, there are a lot of groupings where either former Runic employees left to form their own studio or joined the same company to come back together. For the most part it sounds like nearly everyone found work after leaving Runic, which is a huge relief! On the other hand, it pretty much kills off the notion some fans had that they might refound again as a new studio.
So that.... that brings the story of Runic Games to an end. The Torchlight franchise is living on with Max, Justin, Matt Uelmen and the Echtra team, and we're excited to see where that goes.
As for Runic Games Fansite... well this will likely be the final article written under that name. We're going to be rebranding to a new domain name very soon, so the story of Runic Games Fansite will also be born again as something new. I hope you all stick around to see what happens next!