Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time Panel Recap

Insomniac takes fan service to new levels in its panel from the last day of Comic-Con 2009.

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Who Was There: The panel consisted of equal parts Insomniac staffers and voice talent. From the development team there was creative director Brian Allgeier, project director Bryan Bernal, and writer T.J. Fixman. Representing the game's voice actors were James Arnold Taylor (Ratchet), Armin Shimerman (Nefarious), and Joey D'Auria (General Azimuth). Moderating the panel was GameSpot editor-in-chief Ricardo Torres.

What They Talked About: The panel was geared toward giving Ratchet fans a better idea of what to expect out of A Crack in Time--not only with the panel discussion, but also by showing the very same bonus videos that will appear on the game's Blu-Ray disc. Insomniac started by talking story. A Crack in Time is all about wrapping up the cliffhangers that the last couple of games presented. Beyond that, the new game will explore the origins of Ratchet and Clank a lot more than previous games. There's a particular focus on exploring Clank's character, with a goal of explaining "why he is who he is."

After a bit of talk about the story, the panel jumped into the first of a series of videos. This was one of the unlockable bonus videos from A Crack in Time, a behind-the-scenes feature showing the design process of the new enemies called Agorian Warriors--a tribe of big, hulking brutes. The video revealed concept art and original renders, moved onto the design process with various Agorian prototypes, and then showed the modeling and animation process. One of the highlights of the video was character animator Ben Van Dyken's desk, which had to have been covered with about a dozen empty coffee cups. His energy level definitely reflected that level of caffeine intake, especially in the enthusiastic way he made horrifying faces in a mirror in order to get a better idea of how to animate the Agorians' ugly mugs.

Then the voice actors talked about the voice acting process, starting with a focus on what sort of growth the actors have undergone. Armin Shimerman joked that his character has managed to become even more comically angry over time, even saying later that he had to tell his agent he can't schedule other voice work on the day after he's done a Dr. Nefarious recording session. James Arnold Taylor said that of all the voices he does (offering his Obi-Wan Kenobi voice from The Clone Wars as an example) Ratchet is the closest to his own natural voice, so he's been able to settle into a nice comfort zone as he's spent more time with this character. T.J. Fixman noted a blog news story he read recently about the entire Ratchet and Clank cast returning for A Crack in Time and how proud he felt that this had become a newsworthy cast--something you don't often see in games.

After the voice acting discussion, the developers got into the nuts and bolts of gameplay. For the new time-manipulation mechanic, they looked toward Braid and other time-bending indie games as inspiration. They then did a lot of research and testing before settling on the current time pad idea, where Clank stands on a pad on the ground to allow him to record instances of himself running around. They thought this pad system was the best combination of action and puzzle-solving.

Then they moved onto the subject of weapons. One of the new weapons is the winner of the community contest that asked fans to design their own weapons. The winner, whose name is Jackson, was actually sitting in the front row, and Insomniac made sure to point him out and ask for some applause. Jackson designed the Spiral of Death, which shoots a spiral at enemies that Ratchet can continue to control by running around, causing destruction from afar. This weapon was likened to a deadly yo-yo. They also talked about the new modifiable constructo pistol and bomb glove. Both these weapons can be customized in the way they look and fire by collecting modifier parts spread throughout the game. For example, the pistol can fire shots that either ricochet and bounce or stick and explode on contact, while the bomb glove can fire explosives that achieve wide, tall, or traditional round explosions.

Best Audience Question: One guest asked about what sort of bonus content they're aiming to put in the game, considering there's so much space to work with on a Blu-Ray disc. Bryan Bernal responded by letting him know that the Insomniac Museum will once again return in A Crack in Time. You'll be able to access it by either achieving 100 percent completion or simply preordering the game.

Worst Audience Question: The audience was on top of its game, failing to ask a single embarrassing question. So in the absence of a bad question, we'll throw in a funny anecdote just to fill this space. As the panel was winding down, fans were told there was only time for two more questions. The kid at the microphone--who couldn't have been older than 8 or 9--responded instantly by stating, "Well, I have three questions."

The Takeaway: Insomniac definitely seems to be a studio that appreciates its fan base. Among the community weapon design contest, showing a bunch of exclusive bonus features, a brand-new trailer, and revealing plenty of new details (yes, rhino weapons will be back. Yes, there will be lots of qwark) that fans want to know, it's clear this is a studio that values the people who play its games. Oh, and the game looks pretty great too.

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