A Vision of Insomniac's Future

Insomniac CEO Ted Price talks Fuse, escaping the ghost of the PlayStation 2, and the state of single-player-only games.

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GameSpot: You said that moving in a more grounded direction from Overstrike to Fuse allowed you to make the weaponry more imaginative. Was that a situation where you wanted to draw a starker contrast between the characters and the weapons?

Ted Price: I think that's part of it. Making the weapons more exotic really helps set the game apart. Even though we're set in a grounded world, we're trying to make it very clear that this world, because of this alien substance fuse, and because of these crazy weapons, this story with organizations that you won't see in our own world, it stands apart from a lot of the games that are based on real events from today. We at Insomniac love doing the more fantastic, out-there sci-fi stories and scenarios. So by moving in this direction, it was sort of a nice mix of that grounded but out-there sci-fi approach that we love to take on all of our games.

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That sort of exotic weaponry is very much a part of the studio DNA at this point, but in Ratchet and Resistance you were firing those weapons at aliens. In Fuse, the enemies are human beings. What's the balancing act like for you guys to make sure that the weapons are still wild and crazy but you're not creeping out the players?

Ha! I think it's OK to creep out the players. It's not that we're avoiding any kind of creep-out factor. We're doing what we think is most fun with hard-hitting weapons that do the unexpected. It's important to note, too, that the enemies we're fighting are humans, but you'll see some humans using fuse weaponry too.

So it's a level playing field? Both sides are using fuse?

Pretty much, yeah. That evolves as you move through the game. You don't immediately face enemies who are using fuse weapons. It's tied to the story. This organization, Raven, steals the source of fuse and begins using it in their own creations. Raven is a paramilitary organization and a weapons manufacturer. They've known about fuse, and they've prepared for it. That's why we see this increasing emphasis on fuse used by enemies the further you move into the game.

In terms of the game's personality, you mentioned that Fuse has a more mature sense of humor--not quite as slapstick as Ratchet. More subtle and dry. That's a lot trickier to do. It's hard to do that sense of humor and not have it go completely over the audience's head. Describe the challenge of that.

The challenge is doing just what you said, having a sense of humor that isn't campy but isn't so subtle that players miss it. And then integrating it into real-time gameplay so players hear emergent dialogue throughout the game that's relevant to what they're doing but also entertaining.

I think that [writer] TJ Fixman and [creative director] Brian Allgeier have worked really closely with all of our designers and gameplay programmers to figure out good places to expose more of our heroes' personalities through humor and through humorous interactions that are much more of a departure from the standard military jargon that we hear in other third-person shooters. We hope that it keeps it more entertaining while informing the players about backstory for each of these characters.

One of the things that Insomniac Games has always done really well, in my eyes, is atmosphere. Resistance 3 stands out as one of the best examples of the past few years. How do you maintain those same standards when you're bouncing around the world, going to all these locations, and you can't just do that one style really well?

One aspect of Resistance 3 was that we were traveling to different locations, and we focused on making sure that the story was well integrated into those locations. The same thing's happening here. There's a reason you're going to those various places that we gave a tease of today. It's all driven by fuse and your ultimate mission to bring it back. So making sure that the environments don't feel like window dressing is enabled by using fuse in those environments, helping to tell a visual story about fuse and how Raven is using it. How their use of it is evolving throughout the game.

It's important to make those living, breathing environments impact the players just as much as the combat and characters. I'm really proud of what the environment team has been doing, how they've adhered to the story and they're telling it in a way that doesn't require words.

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You mentioned in your PAX keynote address the importance of knowing your audience and focusing on a specific part of the market. Is this a new market for you guys, or are these the people who've played Ratchet over the past 10 years and now their tastes have matured?

Both, I suppose. It works well for the people who grew up with Ratchet and love the crazy weapons but who are looking for a more grounded experience--but with a hint of that humor you don't find in many games. For the Resistance players, this is the kind of weapons-focused shooter that they love, but it introduces a multiplayer aspect--the four-player co-op with unique characters--that enhances that kind of gameplay and takes it further. It's a very Insomniac experience that our previous players will appreciate; it has a lot of hallmarks of who we are and how we design things.

After Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One being a co-op game, this being a co-op game, and Outernauts being a Facebook game, is Insomniac a multiplayer/social gaming company from here on out?

I can't imagine that any game we'd do from here on out will be single-player only. The game world has changed. As gamers, we've always been social, but thanks to the way technology has evolved, it's much easier for us to play together. It's much easier for developers to create experiences where you can play together. So we want to encourage that with all of our games. Ultimately, in my opinion, it's often more fun to play with a friend. However, with Fuse, we do focus heavily on the campaign and ensuring that if you're playing by yourself, you'll have just as much fun as you do with your friends. We spent a lot of time on our AI bots and making sure they're solid and they do what you expect them to do at the right times.

We understand that a large portion of players are interested in that single-player experience. A lot of us gamers are interested in both. I love single-player games, but I also love multiplayer games, and I think that Fuse offers you the opportunity to do both without having to skimp on either side.

You're debuting a new engine and new development tools with Fuse. The timing seems interesting to debut that new tech at the tail end of this console cycle. How equipped are you guys to deal with the next console cycle?

It's important to note that we've worked on this new tech for a while. It wasn't an overnight decision to start working on new tech now. It's been several years in the works, and it was the result of having a toolset and an engine that was a carryover from PlayStation 2.

When we built Resistance: Fall of Man, we were building it on the back of the tools approach we had used on PlayStation 2. We inherited a lot of baggage with that. Long load times and long build times in particular. Tools that didn't necessarily decrease iteration time. We had wanted to make the shift for quite a number of years. Going multiplatform was the big opportunity for us to do that. It didn't have anything to do with any new approaching consoles.

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