Thursday, 16 May 2013

Interview: Ted Price (Insomniac Games, FUSE)

At a recent press event for the game Fuse, I sat down with Insomniac Games CEO Ted Price (TP). We discussed FUSE, freedom of speech and the next generation of consoles. My interview was recorded and his answers have been transcribed/paraphrased.

Big thanks to Ted for talking to us!

AE: Has the game Fuse changed significantly from what you originally envisioned compared to the final product?
The core concept has remained consistent. We wanted to create a core cooperative game that was a blast for one through four players.

There are always four heroes playing with you whether they are controlled by humans or AI. We knew that when it came to coop and humans playing together, that we had to raise the bar in some way In terms of themes, the game had always been about a team of agents infiltrating enemy strongholds in pursuit of a volatile banned substance. While the window dressing for the game has changed a bit, those core concepts have remained consistent.

AE: What was the one concept that was included early on, but later scraped because it was impractical, unworkable or not fun?
There were ideas that we thought would be cool, but just didn't work. For example, when we showed off the game as Oversight in 2011, one of the weapons we demonstrated was a glue gun. This was a gun that Izzy would fire and it created these shiny expanding spheres that would glue enemies to surfaces. Concept wise, it sounded really fun, but in practice, when we put it in the game and tried to make it work, it wasn't fun. We tried a lot of variations on that glue gun and the problem was it just didn't have much impact and it felt like it was lacking something. In the end, we went back to the drawing board on that weapon and all the other Fuse weapons to figure out how we could make them much more satisfying in heavy combat

AE: With EA having another coop based franchise in Army of Two, which was released a month or so ago, are you guys concerned about releasing Fuse so close to Army of Two?

We know coop exists in other games, but our goal was to take coop further, especially because we offer two to four player coop and with what were doing with LEAP [switching between characters on the fly] and the combinatorics of the weapons and having a progression system. All of these features are unique in terms of what is offered on coop for consoles.

AE: Is there any DLC planned for the game after it launches?
At this point we're just focused on getting the game out to launch. We've just released the demo and we're starting to get some really great feedback on that and it's fun finally to get the game into players hands and be able to address their questions in terms of what the game is, who these characters are and what we're doing for coop.

AE: Since Insomniac owns the FUSE IP, how involved is the publisher into day to day operations during development? Did you guys own your IPs for Sony?
In terms of Sony, we didn't own the IPs for Ratchet and Clank and Resistance, however we've always operated autonomously. For those two franchises, they were our ideas and we presented them to Sony in the form they showed up on the market. When it comes to new IPs, it's something we're passionate about. We welcome input from our publishing partner, but ultimately, were the ones putting our creative reputation on the line with each of the franchises that we build. We take that responsibility very seriously and with Fuse in particular, we own the IP, so it's ultimately our call in terms of what the IP is.

AE: With the next gen consoles on the horizon do you guys feel added pressure to get this generations console titles out to market?
When you're working on a console title the size of Fuse or the other large releases that have come out over the last six months or so, they're typically multi-year projects. When we began Fuse, we did not know when the next gen consoles were going to come out so the pressure hasn't increased or decreased in terms if what were doing. For us it ultimately comes down to our need to produce a game at its very core. That's what we were driven to do and that's what we know players expect from us at Insomniac.

AE: Recent tragic events such as the Sandy Hook shootings have cast the video game industry under the media spotlight. What do you feel is the best way for the industry to approach this?
Number one: it's important for the industry to continue to support the ESRB rating system. We do a better job than any other industry In terms of keeping game buyers informed. The ESRB is very clear about what an E, T and M rating means. We've statistically proven that we have a better track record than any other industry in helping parents make informed decisions about their game purchasing.

Number two: I think it's important for gamers to be vocal about games as an art. I think it's incumbent on gamers to remind their representatives that the Supreme Court made a landmark ruling in our favor clearly reinforcing the fact that games have as much right to exist freely as books, music, tv and film. As a parent, I really do believe in my right to choose what is appropriate for my children. I do not want the government interfering in my parenting responsibilities and telling me what my family can and can't experience. I consistently rely on the ESRBs rating systems to inform me about what my kids should play. In fact, I had a deep conversation with my thirteen year old daughter this weekend about the rating system. My daughter was interested in playing an M Rated game. We went to the ESRBs website and actually read the descriptions of the game on the site and I made the call and I said no way are playing this, this is not appropriate for you. When I feel it's appropriate [in the future], I'll make that call. I hadn't played this game previously, but as a parent, it was great to find the information freely available and do what was right for my own family.

- Sidd Masand