PSU Interview: Insomniac

PSU was given the unique and rare opportunity to interview Insomniac, creators of the highly successful Resistance: Fall of Man on PlayStation 3, and the brilliant Ratchet & Clank series on PS2. We spoke to the team about its plans for the future, including recently announced Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, exclusively on PS3, and the rumours surrounding a Resistance sequel.

PSU: How long has Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction been in development?

Brian Allgeier, Creative Director/Design Director: We began pre-production several months ago after Ratchet: Deadlocked shipped. We formed a core team of 15 people that consisted of the project leads, some artists, programmers, designers, and a writer. Though the whole company contributed during the early brainstorming process, most Insomniacs were focused on Resistance: Fall of Man. The core team developed a lot of the prototypes and gameplay that gave us a plan for production. It was great working with a small team early on and developing Ratchet and Clank’s back-stories, new gadgets, crazy weapon ideas, and new gameplay concepts. After Resistance: FOM shipped, we started production with the full team.

PSU: Will F:TOD be using the same game engine used in Resistance?

Mike Acton, Engine Director: The unique technology built here at Insomniac for Resistance: FOM certainly formed the base of what we’re doing with Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. However, we’re making such significant enhancements that they absolutely cannot be considered the same engine.

Our tools team has worked tirelessly to provide our artists and designers with a brand-new set of tools that will let us build better and faster than we could have on our first-generation title.

Our technology team is one of the very few groups in the industry with experience in building fast, practical game engines for the PS3. Every day we’re focused on taking lessons learned and re-applying them to our engine to create new features and improve upon existing ones.

We also have a much better understanding now of how to take advantage of the RSX and the Cell architecture. We’re using that experience to give our players more of the signature Insomniac animations, characters and visual effects that they’ve come to expect.

No, you should not expect to see the Resistance: FOM engine in Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. You should expect to see an even better one.

PSU: What is the basic storyline behind F:TOD? Will it tie into past titles and the PSP renditions?

Brian Allgeier: The Ratchet & Clank Future story opens with the shocking discovery that a villain from Ratchet’s distant past has tracked him down and wants him dead. This revelation brings up many questions as to Ratchet origins and launches Ratchet and Clank into a mysterious adventure where they begin to learn about his past, the villain’s current evil plans, and a glimpse of the future. The story takes place after the past R&C games. We’re bringing back a few of the favorite characters like Captain Qwark, who is working undercover to give Ratchet and Clank clues that help guide them on their journey. We’ve coordinated with High Impact Games (the folks who did Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters) to ensure that there were no story conflicts with the PSP game.

PSU: Ratchet & Clank has always been known for its fun, wacky, and well-made weapons. What weapons will be making a return and what are some of the new ones we might find?

Brian Allgeier: We’ve come up with a whole new arsenal of weapons for Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. Though there are some staple R&C weapons like the Pyro Blaster, a high powered flame thrower, all of the weapons have been started from scratch and tuned for the new enemies and combat. In addition to those weapons, we have some more outlandish types like the Tornado Launcher that sucks up enemies and whips them around – it’s also controllable by the sixaxis motion sensor in the controller. There’s the Plasma Beasts, which are slimy goo-like monsters that spring up and tackle enemies that are in range. And we’ve got the Groovitron, a disco ball grenade weapon that when thrown out causes the enemies to hypnotically dance to a groovin beat. Though it’s a strategic weapon that stuns enemies, many players will probably watch them dance and forget that they should take them out!

PSU: What is most exciting about building the game for PlayStation 3? Anything that you are able to do with the game that you could only do on PS3 hardware?

Anthony Yu, Lead Gameplay Programmer: The PS3 is a powerhouse if you know how to play nice with it. If you think of the PS2 as a shovel, the PS3 is a bulldozer. You have to invest the time to figure out what levers to pull when, but once you do, you’re ready to move mountains. The most exciting thing about it all is the revival of hope and inspiration that it brings to the Ratchet and Clank franchise. The boundaries are new and relatively uncharted, which gives us an opportunity to try to push all the boundaries again. A perfect example of something that we couldn’t have done anywhere else was the Tornado Launcher. The designers wanted a natural disaster in a box. It had to consume everything around it and spit it in a flurry. On top of that, they wanted the player to be able to control its path of destruction, but not affect Ratchet’s move set at all. On the PS2, we would have run out of processor time and run out of buttons, but on the PS3, it has become a reality. It’s instances of performing the impossible like this that revitalize the team and reinforce why we’re here. The PS3 gets people excited about making games, and nothing excites me more than excited people.

PSU: What resolution and frame rate will Ratchet & Clank be set in?

Brian Allgeier: For one of our recent demos, the game was running at 45 fps in HD mode. This is a good sign in that it is so early in production and we still have a lot of room for optimizing and improving the game’s overall performance. However, at the same time we’re also putting more and more stuff in the game like enemies, weapons, and environment details that can affect performance. This has always been the tricky balance for game development and as we get closer to our Alpha deadline (where we’ll have all the gameplay implemented), we’ll have a better idea of what we can optimize and tune to determine the game’s resolution and frame rate. So check back with us later on this topic!

PSU: Will there be online multiplayer? Co-op?

Brian Allgeier: I can’t answer that question – it’s too early to say right now plus Ryan, our Marketing Director, would probably kill me. He’s quirky like that.

PSU: What is the planned release date for Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction?

Brian Allgeier: It’s coming out this fall.

PSU: Rumors have been circulating that Rise of Man will be the sequel to Resistance: Fall of Man…any comment on this?

Ted Price, President and CEO: Rise of Man is a logical guess. But we’re not making a Rise of Man.

PSU: When should gamers expect to hear more on the next installment of the Resistance franchise?

Ted Price: I’ve already gotten called out for "confirming" a Resistance: FOM sequel. I’ve never done that overtly. What I’ve said is that Resistance: FOM is the first chapter of a bigger story…so for now we’ll leave whatever’s next shrouded in mystery Smile

And who doesn’t  love a bit of mystery! We’d like to thank Insomniac for taking the time to answer our questions, and wish them the best of luck with the continued development of the R&C and R:FOM series.