Insomniac’s Ted Price Talks Fuse, Co-op, and New Platforms

Since the release of Disruptor in 1994, Insomniac Games has been a well-known name in the games industry. Responsible for series such as Spyro, Ratchet & Clank, and Resistance, Insomniac has been a stalwart developer on the PlayStation family of consoles. In 2010, they announced that their next game would be multiplatform, and the speculation went wild. As it turned out, they were working on a new four-player co-op game called Fuse. Last weekend at PAX East, I got a chance to chat with Insomniac CEO Ted Price about Fuse, co-op, and the challenges of moving to new platforms.

As Insomniac’s first multiplatform game, I knew they’d want Fuse to stand out. I asked Price what made Fuse unique, and he replied, “We knew from the beginning we didn’t want to have 4 players toting the same machine gun. That wasn’t going to work for us, because people are already doing that. That bar had been set. There was an opportunity to change up how people perceived co-op, and action, class-based co-op in particular.”

Hearing co-op mentioned always perks my ears up. Co-op is something that I value in a game, but many companies are moving away from making it. Insomniac, by contrast includes co-op features in nearly every game they make. Price says a big part of that is the difficulty involved, and the fact that co-op isn’t something for everyone.

“Not everybody plays co-op. I think that’s still the case in our industry right now – there are more people playing by themselves than playing cooperatively. We believe that number [playing cooperatively] is growing. It’s being facilitated by other forms of gaming, like mobile. The idea that we as players are constantly helping each other is now being facilitated by games outside the console industry. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that it continues to be the trend. There’s also the difficulty factor. I mean, making a game that sings in terms of co-op features is hard. It takes a lot of extra effort, and a very different approach to designing levels and spaces. If you really want to design a co-op game, you need to think about your combat spaces very differently than if you’re designing a single-player game, or adding in another player at the end of the production cycle.”

Judging from what we know about Fuse so far, and the infographics that they’ve pushed out, the characters are a big part of the experience. I asked Price if it’s hard to make four characters that are unique, yet still compatible. He said it was, but not for the reasons you might think.

“Just because a lot of people on the team participate in making suggestions about who the characters are, and what their back stories are, and how the individual personalities should interact – There are tons of people contributing ideas, so making sense out of all of it was a little bit of a headache. The other thing we had to make some hard decisions about was How much story do you tell? In a 4 player co-op game, if you bog the player down with cutscene after cutscene, people get frustrated. We had to balance telling enough story so that people get the characters and why they are different, and so people get what Fuse is with lots of action in the game. That’s easier said than done, and it’s easier in a single player game than in a 4 player co-op game.”

As Game Front is a PC-focused site, I had to ask Price is we’d ever get the chance to play Fuse on our platform of choice. His reply didn’t give me a lot hope. “I got asked that at the panel and I said, ‘No.’ Right now, for us, it’s all about launching on May 28 on PS3 and 360 and making it awesome. I mean, we have definitely learned the hard way that when you spread yourself too thin, you don’t deliver as good a product. So we want to keep the scope under control, especially for Fuse. Moving onto one new platform is hard enough, right?”

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