PREVIEW l INTERVIEW
It is always a pleasure to talk to a developer, especially one that is open and honest about his experiences and thoughts. I have been lucky enough to interview some great developers in the past but without doubt Insomniac CEO Ted Price was the most excited I have ever come across. I was the last interview of the day and he had been talking for four hours by that point. The fact that he was still enthusiastic and responsive spoke directly to the passion Insomniac has for creating games.
I asked Price how he felt releasing a brand new IP as his competitors churned out sequels and waited for the next generation of consoles to arrive. “We are keen to jump in,” he said. “We feel that there are plenty of people complaining on the internet about the lack of new content. We feel that Fuse offers something very different for those that are perhaps suffering from sequel fatigue. We think there is a great market that is simply after something new.”
Sometimes as a developer you just have to admit that it is time to go back to the drawing board and really focus on what makes the core gameplay sing. – Price
One thing I was really interested to find out about was the transition from Overstrike, the game Insomniac first showed at E3 all those years ago, into Fuse and how he felt about the negative internet reaction to the change. “What we’ve heard is the reaction to the aesthetics, which led to a deeper fear that this was going to become a generic shooter from a gameplay perspective. We have always known what the game has different to offer in terms of co-op, in terms of the way we combine weapons. The key for us has been getting the message out there that Fuse retains our original vision, which was to create a four play co-op game that raises the bar for co-op in a very Insomniac fashion and that hasn’t changed at all. The window dressing has changed a little bit but the reason it changed is a result of us realising that the weapons that we had created were not delivering what we needed to deliver to make this a different co-op experience, something that broke the mould.”
“In 2011 we showed off the first Overstrike trailer and that showed off a few weapons that were cool in concept but weren’t working that well in-game and when we continued to push them and try to figure out how to make things like the glue gun function, it just didn’t work. Sometimes as a developer you just have to admit that it is time to go back to the drawing board and really focus on what makes the core gameplay sing. For us it was taking a look at every single one of the weapons and adding more punch, adding more visual flare, giving them a feeling of satisfaction to use when you are playing as any of the characters. This drove some of the aesthetics of the game as well because the weapons became more brutal and we wanted to make sure that the aesthetics and the feel of the weapons all fit together. So after that we got a lot of blunt feedback from people that were envisioning a game that just didn’t exist and we listened and we made sure to continue adding to the game. Making sure the game had plenty of colour, that it had an Insomniac quality story, that we pushed the weapons to be something that just couldn’t be found in any other shooter.”
The next question I had was about going multiplatform. I wanted to know how it felt, after all these years of PlayStation exclusives, to be programming for a new system. “There have been a lot of 360 games this generation ahead of ours so we have been able to watch and understand what we were in for as we decided to go multiplatform. We rebuilt our engine, we rebuilt our tools, and it was an opportunity to improve a lot of our internal processes, which made the processes smoother, rather than working with the tech we used when we were solely PS3. So we were prepared for the technical challenges that came our way. This has allowed parity between the two versions. If you play the PS3 or 360, they are both the same game.”
A concern I had after playing Fuse was that there might not be enough there to keep single players interested. With such a heavy focus on co-op, could solo gamers just miss out? Not according to Price. “I am confident single players will get enough out of the game for a couple of reasons. First of all, we have ‘leap’, which is the ability to jump back and forth between all of the characters. Because those four characters are so different, it’s a lot of fun to constantly change up your combat strategy depending who you choose to leap to at any particular moment. For me, as a completionist, I really enjoy the aspect of filling out all the skill trees as I am going through the game. As I leap back and forth I can apply my skill points to each of the four characters and constantly unlock new abilities for all four and this becomes a really fulfilling experience for me as a single player. It is also nice that time strapped players don’t have to play the game four times to experience the four different characters.”
The biggest challenge for us was coming up with four weapons that fit together like puzzle pieces… – Price
This led me to ask about the weapons I had a chance to play with earlier in the day. They were unique to say the least and I asked Price how hard it was to create this particular brand of chaos. “The biggest challenge for us was coming up with four weapons that fit together like puzzle pieces in the game. The result early on was that one weapon would rise above others in terms of being more fun to play and we had to continue attacking that problem so that none of the characters were the go-to character for all players. We know that some players gravitate towards Dalton because he is the tank or Izzy because she is a crowd control expert, but now after so much tweaking and tuning, people like playing all four characters about the same, which is what we wanted to happen. Making weapons work , especially in a four player cooperative game and avoiding the pitfall of just giving everyone a standard machine gun and having them just fire at enemies and calling that co-op, that has been where a lot our energy has gone, certainly in the last year of the project”
As we were wrapping up our interview, I had to get in a question about Resistance, Ratchet and Spyro (My kids would kill me if I didn’t mention Spyro). I asked Price if they have moved on from these franchises or if they may come back into the fold once more. “Firstly I have learned to never say never. I believe that we will always have a place in our hearts for all of those franchises. We love all the franchises we have created. Spyro is probably the best example. Other people have done some great things with Spyro and it is gratifying as content creators to see our characters handled so well. Skylanders is something really cool. We never imagined that Spyro would have such a resurgence but what’s gratifying for us is to have people recognise that Insomniac created Spyro and for people to come up to us and say ‘hey we grew up on your games and now our kids are playing Spryo’, well that is awesome.”
After chatting with Price and playing a fair chunk of the game, I can honestly say my interest in Fuse has increased tenfold. It is obviously a title that Price and his development team have a lot of passion for and it certainly has the potential to be an interesting game. I can’t wait to get my hands on the final product to see if it delivers on its promise.
PREVIEW l INTERVIEW