At a recent press event, we sat down with Insomniac's Ted Price to chat about the company's first multiplatform title - Fuse. He reveals why the game got rebranded from Overstrike, talks about some of the weapons featured in the game, and discusses some of the core gameplay features at work.
Matt Gardner (Dealspwn): You probably been asked this question a fair bit today, but it's one to which a number of our writers and readers will be eager to hear the answer: why the change from Overstrike?
Ted Price: Well, there are a number of reasons. First of all, when we developing Overstrike, we reached a point where it became really apparent that the gameplay and the story were two completely separate entities, and we didn't want that. We believed it was important, and we still believe, that the two be meshed seamlessly so that players have a more meaningful experience. So we were trying to figure out what to do; how to create a stronger identity for the game. The story really did fit with what you were doing doing in the game, so we seized upon this alien substance, which originally something of a MacGuffin, and realise that we'd had something that could start driving a lot off the gameplay: Fuse. And that's when we started calling the game Fuse. We used it to power the weapons, to form the core of the progression system, and used it as a feature to weave directly into gameplay, and everything started falling into place.
At the same time, we were dissatisfied with our weapons. Overstrike had been this rather cartoony, campy game for a while, and we were struggling with giving the weapons impact. We demonstrated one of them in our trailer back in 2011, which was more of a promise piece than anything reflective of gameplay. Izzy's glue-gun, for example, looked really cool, like something straight out of The Incredibles. It all seemed really neat and interesting, but in reality playing it wasn't that much fun. So we've had people say, “What? You could totally make that awesome!” and the fact is, we've tried! But we've been making weapons, innovative weapons in games, for a long time, and you get to a point in the creative process sometimes where you realise that a certain approach just isn't going to work, and we felt that way about almost all of the original weapons. And it was that sense of the visceral: the over-the-top satisfaction that you get from using Resistance weapons against the Chimera. So making that choice, making turning Overstrike into Fuse and making it a more grounded, mature, and visceral experience, that actually really freed us up to do some badass stuff with the weapons.
Dealspwn: That's been rather mirrored, it seems, in the aesthetics of Fuse. The original trailer for Overstrike was incredibly colourful, a little bit as you say like a Saturday morning cartoon. But we rather saw that as a strong point – giving it a real sense of fun and identity against numerous other modern metallic shooters. Obviously we can't make judgement calls at this early stage, but what we've seen and played of Fuse thus far has seemed a little grey perhaps...
Ted Price: It's a very shiny game, that's true, but we have listened to the fans. We certainly listened to the feedback on the recent Fuse trailer, and we've been injecting more colour into the game. I think that when the game is finally released, that it'll feel very much like a classic Insomniac game. We've made such a wide variety of games, from Spyro to Resistance, we've run the gamut. So what I think helps is that we always have a quirky sense of something, be it humour or strange, outlandish weapons, and we do have both of those elements in Fuse, and I think we'll end up with a visual sense of stylisation that will further help to set this game apart.
Dealspwn: Have you taken heart from the successes of Borderlands, which has proven that there's really a market for a four-way, co-operatively-oriented, multiplayer shooter? Has it been an inspiration in any way?
Ted Price: Well this was always going to be a first-person, four-player, co-operative shooter, and this was several years back when Brian, our creative director, suggested it. Right from the very beginning: four player, co-op shooter featuring a band of agents travelling the globe, and that has remained utterly consistent. We were more influenced by our own games, drawing from our experiences from Ratchet and Resistance and we knew that players want co-op features more and more. We saw that in Resistance, with players clamouring for those kinds of features, and we wanted to do something that reflected the society that we live in today: a very connected society, collaborating and co-operating, really playing together rather than against one another.
Dealspwn: Having gone hands-on with it, feels as though these four characters are incredibly distinct – both in terms of personalty and gameplay. In a number of shooters with co-op elements it can feel sometimes that really there's not much difference in terms of gameplay opportunities, but there's something really distinct here. How difficult was that to produce?
Ted Price: I'm glad you brought that up, because that's what we really wanted. We wanted character-driven gameplay, augmented and enhanced by Fuse itself, to provide diverse gameplay experiences. But it was incredibly difficult to do, and it's taken a huge amount of prototyping. But this is what you find in co-op games, sometimes; you have the same guns, you're shooting the same enemies, and it's enjoyable, but often unassuming. We could have gone down that route, but we decided to take the hard road. In fact, we did not work out ho to make the weapons truly complimentary until well into this year, and we've been working on this for a while. It just didn't click until this year, and we were getting worried about it. But now, I'm really happy with where the game is at. You know, it's interesting to watch people playing the game, because there's not one character that everyone gravitates towards, and we definitely wanted to avoid that. We really wanted people arguing over who the best character is, and we've seen that.
Dealspwn: So who is your favourite?
Ted Price: (Laughs) Well I have trouble answering that! It depends on the day!
Dealspwn: I think Dalton might have been a character I would have looked at in the past and ignored, but he's absolutely crucial and allows for action that doesn't just stick to pop-up cover, and that shield blast is very cool indeed...
Ted Price: It's really satisfying, and we've tried to make it so that it's fun whoever you're playing as. It's really important that you don't get the feeling that you're missing out on a better character. Everyone will have their favourites, but we've worked incredibly hard on balancing things out, and there'll be plenty of really cool secondary weapons to experiment with too. Who did you play as in your demo?
Ted Price: So lots of impaling enemies and laying incineration traps, then?
Dealspwn: Oh yes! I think there was a moment where we were all behind Dalton's shield and firing through it, and I made a fire barrier that slowed them down, Izzy froze them in place and then Naya came out and smashed them all to bits in melee while decloaking. It was almost trailer material! But it's impressive how it feels incredibly supportive and very complimentary in terms of those Fuse weapons.
Ted Price: The scoring system is the manner in which we've tried to facilitate co-operative gameplay, but we never force it down your throat. We just wanted to present a co-op toolset that promoted enormous amounts of fun both individually and collaboratively, and leave it up to the players to determine the manner in which those tools are used.
Dealspwn: It also seems like you've really thought about maximising the gameplay opportunities no matter how many people are playing. The Leap feature, for example, looks like it'll make that singleplayer experience quite a tactical proposition, and indeed after you explained it, it almost seems like a no-brainer...
Ted Price: Well exactly. We we're quite surprised that being able to jump between characters like that hasn't featured in more games like this, to be honest. But for us we knew that there was a huge opportunity to make things even more fun by freeing you up, and letting you play as whoever you want to play at any given moment. It didn't make sense for us to lock the player into one character and, as you say, it creates new gameplay opportunities. Instead of relying on teammate AI, now you can take direct control.
Dealspwn: This is Insomniac's first multiplatform game. What does it mean to you as a studio, and indeed personally as studio head, to be able to put this game – a new IP – in front of a much wider audience than before?
Ted Price: Well we're going to be getting more feedback, that's for sure! We've always had an excellent fanbase who've delivered comments on our work in the past – both good and bad. I'm looking forward to seeing how the Xbox fans respond to Fuse. We've had lots of feedback from Xbox fans over the years basically saying, “When are you going to release Ratchet on Xbox?” Which is funny, because Ratchet is a Sony exclusive. But it demonstrated a wider interest in our game, in Insomniac Games, and the experiences we create that have their own personal flavour. So I'm really stoked to see how Fuse is received by the masses.
Dealspwn: And how's the relationship with EA been in comparison to the longtime partnership with Sony?
Ted Price: Different. Everybody has different motivations, and different approaches towards working together. EA Partners work exclusively with developers who own their intellectual properties – we own Fuse – so that, I'm sure, has been different for them too.
Dealspwn: One final question. What is, in your opinion, the biggest, best, most awesome, kickass thing about Fuse?
Ted Price: Weapons. I'm a weapons guy. We've had some weird and wonderful weapons in our games throughout the year, and Fuse is no exception. There are some marvellously unique weapons in this game that we're very proud of indeed.