Behind the Classics: Ratchet & Clank

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Behind the Classics: Ratchet & Clank

What a treat! PlayStation.Blog’s well-liked Behind the Classics series continues with an inside story behind another iconic PlayStation series, this time from celebrated developer Insomniac Games. The Burbank-based studio has produced a slew of memorable PlayStation titles, from the beloved PSone platformer Spyro the Dragon to the soulful PS3 shooter Resistance 3. But in 2002, Insomniac captivated both mainstream and hardcore gamers with the introduction of Ratchet & Clank, a technically peerless shooter-platformer hybrid that radiated style and spunk.

With November 4th marking the 10-year anniversary of Ratchet & Clank’s release on PS2, PlayStation.Blog caught up with Ted Price, Insomniac Games’ president and CEO, to learn more about how this impactful PlayStation powerhouse came to be. To learn more about the development of this classic series, be sure to check out our recent post that showcases 10 years of concept art.

Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault for PS3

PlayStation Blog: What was the original base concept for the game?

“He cited Marvin the Martian as inspiration.”

Ted Price, President and CEO, Insomniac Games: After deep-sixing the concept we called “Girl with a Stick,” we had to come up with something else, and we had to do it quickly. Brian Hastings, our chief creative officer, suggested we make a game about a spacefaring alien who has an outlandish arsenal of gadgets and weapons, citing Marvin the Martian as inspiration. That idea clicked with everyone and we all started digging in to flesh out the concept.

PSB: Did you know you were working on something special? What were your creative conditions as you worked on it – uncertainty, confidence, terror?

Ratchet & Clank Concept Art: Ratchet 2

TP: I don’t think we ever know something is truly special until well after the initial inspiration. Sometimes we get that “Yes, this is working!” feeling early in prototype phase, sometime it hits during production. With Ratchet though, we knew we had something promising when we built a test for Metropolis – one of the first worlds you visit in the game. We had Ratchet running around on platforms looking out over this vast city with streams of airborne traffic whizzing by. You could switch between the “suck cannon,” “pyrocitor,” the wrench and (I think) the blaster. It was a lot of smoke and mirrors because we weren’t using our final engine. We didn’t build out the backs of buildings, you could only travel a few meters in the world, and Ratchet was in his “brown” state, and I don’t recall having any enemies. But it convinced us and Sony of the potential for the game.

The Ratchet & Clank Collection for PS3Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault

PSB: Did you draw inspiration from anywhere in particular for the game’s look and feel?

“What you see is a result of our team having fun.”

TP: We drew from all sorts of sources. Cartoons, sci-fi movies, popular culture… There were certainly some direct playful references to other properties in both the initial concepts and in subsequent games. Captain Qwark was partially inspired by The Tick. Metropolis with its flying cars and city canyons is reminiscent of The Fifth Element. Courtney Gears from Up Your Arsenal was a riff on Britney Spears, who was popular at the time. But these are exceptions rather than the rule: Most of what you see in the games is a direct result of our team just having fun in a universe with very few constraints.

PSB: It was an ambitious title for its time. What were the biggest challenges in realizing your original vision?
TP: Controlling scope was (and still is) our biggest challenge. We were moving onto a new platform with a new IP and we had very little time to get it done. We knew we needed to be ambitious for the game to stand out. But we also knew that if we spread ourselves too thin with too many features, the game would be half-baked. Dealing with this conundrum hasn’t gotten any easier over the years because players’ expectations continue to skyrocket for all platforms.

Ratchet & Clank Collection

PSB: How close to your original concept was the finished game?
TP: It depends. Some of us consider “Girl with a Stick” as an important part of the Ratchet genesis, and Ratchet & Clank does owe some its mechanics and ideas to that concept. With that in mind, both Ratchet and Resistance went through drastic changes on their way to their final incarnations. However, once we had Ratchet up and running on the PS2, the changes were less severe. Ratchet did change in appearance along the way. When I look back at the original model versus what ended up in the final game, I see a big difference. We also continued to add mechanics to the game as we figured out what worked and what didn’t.

“We were yearning to jump back into the realm of oversized, overpowered weapons.”

PSB: Which element of the game are you most proud of?
TP: The crazy weapons! Coming off of Spyro, a series where the main character couldn’t use weapons other than his breath and his horns. I think a lot of us were yearning to jump into back into the realm of oversized, overpowered projectile weapons. We spent some time in that world with Disruptor but took a four-year break while focusing on purple quadrupeds with Spyro. We also latched onto weapons as a way to separate Ratchet from other platformers, which seemed perennially tied to bonking, bouncing, and punching. Finally, in my opinion, creating weapons without any real-world rules gave us a chance to operate at max creativity –- which is ultimately the goal for a lot of us in this industry. It really didn’t matter WHAT the weapon was, as long as it was satisfying and fun to use we knew we’d be able to make it fit.

Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal AssaultRatchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault

PSB: How would you like Ratchet & Clank to be remembered? What did it bring to the video game medium?
TP: Ratchet is still alive and well, with Full Frontal Assault coming out in a few weeks. A lot of us at Insomniac are very proud that Ratchet & Clank is one of the last platformers standing and still going strong. And we all like to think that Ratchet has contributed to the evolution of platformers and action games in general over the last decade and a half. As a minor example, seeing radial quick-select menus in other games is a compliment to us because I think Ratchet was the first to have one (though I could be wrong). And I’m still waiting to see a sheepinator in another game. To be fair though, I think Heretic (1994) and Hexen (1995) were the first games to have weapons which turned enemies into farm animals!

PSB: Which of the Ratchet & Clank characters is closest to your heart?
TP: Captain Qwark. I love him because he’s always larger than life, always 100% sure of himself, and usually wrong. My wife tells me she knows people like that. Still trying to figure out who she’s talking about.

More Behind the Classics

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  • Can’t wait for Full Frontal Assault! $19.99 and Cross-Buy! That’s a steal1

  • these articles are great..only thing thats missing is a CRASH article…and CRASH in PLAYSTATION ALL STARS..;)

  • Awesome! Any chance plus members will get any R&C discounts in celebration?

  • Can’t wait to see Ratchet finding wheres the other lombaxes in a next traditional ratchet & Clank game! …

  • @3
    I saw Crash in All-Stars Several times in the early private betas. Should be expected no?

  • I got to say It’s been one hell of a ride.Ten whole years Of Ratchet and Clank,I still can’t believe it when I was 10 years old,and brought Ratchet and Clank and I’am 20 now.So It all add up for me and some others.I like to think of myself as a “The Ratchet and Clank Veteran”,but I have to say thank you to everyone working In Insomniac Games.You guys did an awesome job of making this game,and I can’t wait to see Ratchet and Clank FFA.I played the beta version of it and I was pleased it was looking good The funny thing is I had put down some stuff on paper for the Ratchet and Clank game,and what it should be about It sounds good,but I will leave it up to you guys to make the next Ratchet and Clank game Ha Ha.So congratulation on making it this far with the Ratchet and Clank series I’am glad I was on the train supporting you guys.

  • Will thee be a PS Plus discount for Full Frontal Assault?

  • Great now I have to buy the HD collection…

  • I love these games so much. I didn’t realize that yesterday was the 10 year anniversary. How appropriate, then, that I spent most of the day playing Ratchet & Clank HD (the first one).

  • Much love from Canada, you all are awesome! keep up the great work as usual.

  • Would be nice if you guys gave us a PS Plus discount on the Ratchet and Clank collection on psn. Makes no sense for a first party psn version to not have any type of discount.

  • would have been nice to seen Deadlocked released on the 4th

    any date yet?

  • Happy anniversary Insomniac! I remember playing R&C games on my friends ps2 with him had lots of fun on that thing. :] Myself im pretty new to the series and got the collection about a month ago having loads of fun playing them.Can you tell me if and when is ratchet deadlocked coming to psn?

  • Great post, give us a trophy patch for Tools of Destruction please!! :)

  • I’ve bought all the R&C games for PS3 on release so far, but I’d love to see a PS Plus discount for Full Frontal and Deadlocked when they come out.

  • Sadly my first R&C experience was All 4 One (as in sad because of all the wasted years…) which my son and I (he’s 4) blasted through and thoroughly enjoyed! However being a Sony fanboy I was aware of the series, just none too bright I suppose. However (!) Sony, being the the amazing company they are, bundled the new R&C HD collection with a freakin’ Dualshock 3 for only 59.99 American dollars! Now I don’t see the ‘other’ guys doing somehting this amazing. And I cannot wait to see my son’s face on Christmas morning when he gets R&C: HD, a spiffy new evil black controller,….and ummm, (out of context) Skylanders Giants on PS3!

  • …oh, btw, great article!

  • is it possbile to bring back ps eye interviews .. as well as written dialouge

    vp psn legioniarre group

  • Love R&C, hope we see a new trilogy next gen.

  • I just read through the other Behind the Classics and I would like (if I may) to make a small constructive criticism. I noticed that y’all tend to reuse the same questions for each game. I think it would make for a more interesting read if you were to actually personalize the questions for each game. Just my 2 cents, take it or leave it.

    Also, I’m sure that a Behind the Classics is on the way for Sly Cooper, so I’m not going to ask for that. Instead, I’d personally love to see one for Legend of Dragoon.

  • In 2002, I was a freshman in college. I wasn’t as big on gaming back then and didn’t have much disposable income, but I used to get the PlayStation magazines which contained demo disks. One day I popped in one with the original Ratchet & Clank. My friend and I were instantly hooked. I still vividly remember that experience, which says a lot since I can barely remember what I just had for dinner. Not long after that, I got the game, and have been buying Ratchet & Clank – and every other Insomniac game – on day one.

    I say it all the time but it bears repeating: Thanks for creating, and continuing to support, my favorite franchise of all time. You guys are a huge reason I’m such an avid gamer these days.

  • After this is done this $19.99 Ratchet and Clank game is finished, I hope we will get a full game. You know? One that’s $60.00

  • Ratchet and Clank made my preteen and teen years. In fact, Ratchet’s first ps3 outing, while not my only reason for wanting a ps3, was my main number 1 reason for wanting a ps3. I had an 11th grade english binder decorated with Ratchet images in 2005-2006 taken from Insomniac’s website. I still remember when I lost it and the next time I went to class and the teacher had it on the marker rail on the white board and my name was written and pointing to it because I was the only one in the whole school with such a binder. And when I’d email the Insomniacs, they always replied with a message tailored to what I said and not robotic like! They shared my enthusiasm for R&C. They sympathized that I wouldn’t be 17 until three months after Resistance came out. They were like “Hang in there!” You know? I bought the last unreserved copy of Ratchet Deadlocked from gamestop the day it came out.

  • (CONTINUED) When all my PS2 games were stolen in 2007 (including my PSP game Ratchet Size Matters from former Insomniacs), I bought all the Ratchet games again but though I had them new at first, I had to buy used the second time around because they were out of print. 2010 I got all my PS2 games replaced, twice the amount that I had before, AND a PS3 with more games including the first three PS3 Ratchets. I’ll get All 4 One soon and Full Frontal Assault.

    Thank you guys for the great last ten years. Ratchet has been there all those formative years and means a lot to me.

  • FullFrontal assault shud be good…suprised its only 20$

  • I am someone who never played ratchet and clank before ps3, I got the HD collection to start my adventure, I am not finished it yet, but I can say the first 2 games in it are great.. I played a bit of a crack in time as well, which seems ok.
    but then I tried the demo to full front assault, and what the heck did you do. the single player was annoying, I figured it would be a more multiplayerish game. so I went to play multiplayer and.. 2v2??? what i this ps1? needless to say, I’m not getting the game
    4v4+ or gtfo.. I am disappointed with the series progression, it’s one step foreward 2 steps back.

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