Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty was one of the pleasant surprises at Sony's E3 press conference this year. The original game marks a first for both Insomniac and the dynamic duo. The new title is a downloadable game set shortly after the events of last year's Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, although it doesn't require that game to run. While Quest for Booty isn't meant to be a true sequel to last year's platforming adventure, it offers what Insomniac is hoping is a satisfying chunk of platforming action to tide fans over. We caught up with creative director Brian Allgeier to get more info on the upcoming game.
GameSpot: Why bring Ratchet to the PSN? When did the idea for it come up?
Brian Allgeier: During the development of Tools of Destruction we discussed with the folks at Sony how the Ratchet & Clank franchise might "touch the PS3 network." We wrote up a few proposals and the "Quest for Booty" concept was picked. We really liked the idea of smaller games with high production values that can be played in one or two sittings and cost less than a full-scale game. Personally, I've purchased a bunch of games that I have never finished and some games that I would like to try but do not have the time. I often wish I could play the more condensed version of a game that is shorter for a cheaper price. We thought it would be fun to try out this type of format and that it would be a great way to introduce new players to the Ratchet & Clank universe while at the same time revealing more on what happened to his friend Clank.
GS: How did you handle gameplay without Clank?
BA: Without Clank, Ratchet loses his ability to jump farther and glide. This gave us the opportunity to focus the design on tighter and more challenging platforming. For example, there are areas of the game where Ratchet has to walk along a narrow walkway. If Ratchet had Clank, the player could high-jump and glide past a large chunk of the challenge. Without Clank, the player is forced to skillfully tiptoe along the narrow path.
We also upgraded the wrench to give Ratchet more abilities to compensate for the lack of Clank. The wrench now can extend and latch on to distant objects with its new "Wrench Tether" ability. This allows Ratchet to move platforms, load catapults, and compress special spring pads. Another wrench capability is that Ratchet can pick up and throw small objects. For example, he can pick up glowing creatures called "Helio-grubs" that can be carried to light up dark caves. Picking up and throwing objects adds an additional puzzle element to our classic platforming challenges.
GS: How does this story fit in with the cliffhanger at the end of Tools of Destruction? Without spoiling anything, would you say it ties into the story that we're expecting in the sequel?
BA: Well without spoiling anything, all I can say is that players will learn more about what happened to Clank and there will be a very surprising reveal...
GS: Is this just using the same engine as Tools of Destruction, or has it been enhanced?
BA: This engine is very close to the one that we used for Tools of Destruction. While we upgraded parts of the gameplay engine and improved how the scenes worked, for the most part we've focused on getting more out of our existing engine. Now that we have a better understanding of what we can do, we're exploiting some cool features and integrating them into gameplay. For example, dynamic lights and dynamic shadows are used more frequently, and we're letting players manipulate them with the new wrench abilities.
GS: How much content was repurposed from TOD in terms of characters and the like? Obviously Ratchet and some key cast members, but how about locations and such?
BA: Pirates from TOD like Rusty Pete, Captain Slag, and the crew are back. We really enjoyed developing those characters for RCF: TOD and felt they had a lot of potential for their own story. We're introducing a new pirate captain named "Angstrom Darkwater." He has his own crew with a special twist that makes him feel much different from the other pirates. All the locations are new and are featured on a single planet called Merdegraw--a haven for space pirates.
GS: Did the fact that the game is downloadable affect how you approached development or design?
BA: One of the big benefits to working on a smaller game is that we get to spend more time on developing each part of the game. With the bigger games, it's harder to manage everything and keep track of what's going on. On Quest for Booty, I felt like we had more time to polish things up and create a richer experience.
GS: Does the game support trophies?
BA: Nope, we were wrapping up the game around the time the final spec hit and we weren't able to integrate them. All future Insomniac releases will have trophies though, including Resistance 2!
GS: How much gameplay is there to go through? How did you settle on how much content to include?
BA: Our primary goal was to make the game feel like an epic summer blockbuster movie. However, it's longer than most films in that the average player takes around three to four hours to finish it.
GS: Are there any unlockables?
BA: There are some secret weapon mods hidden throughout the levels that players can find to upgrade their weapons. We also have a couple of hidden Easter eggs in the game that I think fans will appreciate.
GS: You've mentioned this is an experiment and that if the game is a success you'll consider doing more. Would you be open to episodic gaming or just stand-alone games like this?
BA: Currently, stand-alone games are more appealing to us. This game still took over six months to create with a small team! Making this small game was a fun experiment and if it takes off, there's always the possibility that we'll do more. Don't get me wrong, we're still interested in making massive games. Have you checked out Resistance 2 lately?
GS: When is the game coming out and how much will it cost?
BA: Quest for Booty will be available on the PSN store August 21, 2008 and will cost only $14.99.
GS: Thanks for your time.