Interview with Insomniac founder & CEO Ted Price about Fuse

Last week, I had the chance to sit down with Insomniac founder and CEO Ted Price and ask him some questions about his studio’s upcoming game, Fuse.

Why the name change from Overstrike to Fuse?

Well, as you probably saw in the cinematics of the levels you played, the game revolves around Fuse. It’s this alien substance and after we had been through the first part of the project, we realized that Fuse was at the heart of the game, in terms of both the story and the gameplay, as we started integrating Fuse into the weapons. It made a lot more sense to focus on that. Overstrike is the name of the team you play, but we don’t really delve into the background of the Overstrike organization itself, but we spend a lot more time on Fuse itself and how it affects the protagonist and antagonist in the game. Because everybody you encounter in the game is affected in some way by Fuse, in terms of motivation and the outcome of the game.

What was the biggest challenge Insomniac Games faced during Fuse’s development?

The biggest challenge was figuring out how to make the four Xenotech weapons work well together. We wanted to avoid a scenario where we were just giving you off-the-shelf machine guns and asking everybody to do exactly the same thing. What we wanted instead was four well-differentiated weapons that conferred specific archetypes on each of the four characters, but we went through a lot of trial-and-error to get those right. In fact, we did it very publicly – we showed off the first iterations of the Xenotech in our 2011 trailer. While they looked cool, they did not work gameplay-wise. We went back to the drawing board after we showed that video and after we had been trying to make them work, we simply couldn’t make the ones we showed work well. So we took a different approach for each of the weapons. It ended up becoming more fun to use and we ultimately figure out how to make them better in terms of their complementary effects in combat.

Were there any particular influences or sources of inspiration for Fuse?

From the very beginning, Fuse was about a team of agents infiltrating enemy strongholds in pursuit of this alien substance. So from a thematic perspective, Mission: Impossible and even James Bond movies were influential in terms of the story we were telling, but from a gameplay perspective, we drew heavily on what we had done on co-op previously: Resistance 2 co-op was one where we were experimenting with how to create archetypes in a shooter and [Ratchet & Clank] All 4 One where we had four-player co-op so we were experimenting how that could work together. But along the way, we found what we believe is a fresh approach to four-player co-op, with all the different features that we implemented into the game.

Was there a particular reason why third-person perspective was chosen over a first-person perspective?

That’s a great question – nobody’s asked that before! The reason was, when we initially came up with the story and the characters, we wanted to play up the fact that we have four very different agents in the game. They’re different races, different genders, and they have very different personalities. We felt we could anchor those personalities better and accentuate the differences between the characters by showing them more frequently with a third-person perspective. At the same time, we’ve had a lot of experience with third-person mechanics and wanted to build on what we had been doing with Ratchet [& Clank] and take it into a slightly different place with Fuse.

Are there any ideas in place for a sequel?

Whenever we begin an IP, our intent is to create a franchise, not just a one-off game. Because we don’t stick to real world themes or ground them in today’s world, we feel like every game and franchise we make is open-ended in terms of where we take it thematically and gameplay-wise. We’re certainly looking ahead to expanding Fuse in numbers.

Were there any difficulties also developing for the Xbox 360 since it’s a new platform for Insomniac?

There were fewer than we imagined because we have folks on our team who developed for Xbox 360 and PC. So that helped first and foremost. Secondly, we rebuilt our engine and tools from the ground up when we began Fuse to facilitate multi-platform delivery and to improve our internal efficiency.

Did you ever consider taking Fuse to next-gen consoles instead of current-gen?

No, because when we began Fuse, we had no idea when the next generation was coming. In fact, it wasn’t until recently that anybody had any real idea about when next generation would land. We wanted to, first and foremost, build a brand new world – it’s a new game, new franchise. For us, it was more about creating something fresh and new because that’s what we love to do at Insomniac versus waiting for the next generation platform. The timing just worked out for us for putting it out on this generation. I get a lot of questions about why we decided to release a new IP at the end of a console generation. There are two answers: one is we didn’t know when the next-gen consoles were coming, but the second is we acknowledged that coming out with a new IP at the end of a console generation can be risky. At the same time, we’ve heard fans talk loudly about the fact that all they’re being given is sequels. For us, it’s exciting to be one of the few new intellectual properties that are available PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 players.

Ernest Lin is a US Editor for PSU when he’s not sleeping in on the weekends. Follow him on Tumblr & Twitter for updates on gaming, movies, traveling, anime, Japanese pop culture, and more.