Fuse interview: Ted Price introduces Insomniac’s shape-shifting new shooter

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Fuse interview: Ted Price introduces Insomniac’s shape-shifting new shooter

FUSE_Group

In terms of things that constitute A BIG DEAL, the arrival of a new Insomniac game is right up there. With past works including Spyro, Ratchet & Clank and Resistance, the California-based studio boasts one of the sturdiest resumes in gaming,  and its latest effort – spectacular third-person shooter Fuse – looks reliably distinctive.

The set-up is simple – you play as one member of a four-strong squad of special agents, each armed with a high-concept weapon powered by a mysterious alien substance called Fuse.

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There’s beefy Dalton who wields a weapon that allows him to generate a force field. Naya’s assault rifle generates a mini-vortex which sucks in enemies. Izzy wields a shatter gun that freezes foes on the spot, allowing colleagues to step in and vapourise them. Finally, Jacob sports a crossbow that fires molten projectiles capable of turning the opposition into a pile of ash.

It might sound like a rather familiar set-up on paper, but in action it’s an extraordinary sight to behold, with each outrageous weapon interacting with each other to create uniquely over-the-top action. Take a look at the announcement trailer below then read on for more from Insomniac founder Ted Price about how the project has taken shape.

What was the seed of the idea that would later grow into Fuse?

Ted Price: Brian Allgeier, who’s our creative director on the project, proposed a four player co-op game featuring a team of agents who would travel around the globe infiltrating various facilities, lairs, and such like.

And when did you add in the fantastical Fuse powers?

Ted Price: That was a relatively recent occurrence. We always had a McGuffin that we were chasing – ostensibly an alien substance but we hadn’t defined it very well. It wasn’t until fairly recently that we realised there was something of a disconnect between story and gameplay. Story was living separately. That was a hard realisation for us, because for a game to really impact people we believe story and gameplay have to be tightly meshed.

So we started developing Fuse, and we started looking at it as something that powers gameplay as well as story. We made it the driver for the weapons and we made it the core of the progression system. When we did that everything started to click. That was the time when we made the tone shift as well.

Yes, the game was first revealed at E3 2011 as the more family-friendly Overstrike, but you’ve since given the concept a bit of a make-over. Explain how that happened.

Ted Price: When we showed off the trailer in 2011, that was for the promise of gameplay that we had then. It was very story-focussed and less gameplay-focussed. In the intervening time we started really thinking harder about what the game was and where it was going to get its greatest impact.

That was when we started experimenting with Fuse. We created more visceral impact for our weapons, took a page from Resistance, went over the top with the visceral nature of each of the weapons and rethought the story in a slightly more grounded fashion.

The world is still very ‘Insomniac’ – it’s stylised in its own way and doesn’t adhere to any realistic conventions that we see today, and it is in no way a military sim. And it still has humour, but it’s a very different kind of humour to the campy, cartoony approach we originally took. I understand too that the change upset some of our fans who saw the trailer in 2011 and expected something very different. But what we have now is actually a better, deeper experience where we have gameplay and story tied more closely.

FUSE_Dalton_NayaFUSE_Izzy_Jacob

Gamers are really spoiled for choice when it comes to third-person shooters these days. How hard is it to make your game stand out from the crowd?

Ted Price: That’s where we focus a lot on gameplay, where we do things such as introduce Leap where you can move back and forth at will between our four different character archetypes. It’s why we’ve created these Fuse weapons which have multi-purpose functions where not only is, say, the Shatter Gun is a great crowd-control weapon, but it’s also a great healing device. This creates layered gameplay for each of the four characters that you can control in the game.

But we understand how competitive the environment is; we’ve been there. Just a few years ago we were releasing Resistance games into what was at that time the most crowded market! We roll with the times!

Each of the four characters has its own distinct gameplay system. How difficult was it balance these mechanics so that they interacted with each other in an entertaining way?

Ted Price: It’s hugely challenging. It took us a long time to get it right. We had a lot of failed attempts at creating weapons that were not only fun to use but also balanced and worked together.

It’s really easy to take the default approach where you give everybody an assault rifle or a giant canon and everybody is firing the same weapon. We absolutely did not want to do that but that did make the problem tough to solve. Creating differentiation without making one weapon better than the others was the result of prototyping – lots and lots of prototyping.

Fuse is clearly built around co-op play – is there much here for the single-player gamer to enjoy?

Ted Price: I mostly play Fuse in single player. I play it a lot, because as part of the team that’s my job. In single player you get a great experience because we spent a lot of time on the bots. We know how important it is to have great AI bots in a multi-hero game. Our bots – we hope – strike the right balance between bots that support you well and bots that don’t kill-steal or get in your way.

We want to avoid those annoying traits that you see so often in bots because as a single player with three bots the potential problems are multiplied. So, one of the great aspects of playing a single player is that you can leap between all four characters at will and it gives you many different ways to approach our different combat scenarios.

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Insomniac’s games are known for their wicked sense of humour. Is Fuse going to make me laugh?

Ted Price: We have a lot of subtle, sophisticated humour throughout the game. We definitely play up the strained relationships between our various agents. Dalton is probably the funniest character in the game. I really like Dalton because he doesn’t take himself too seriously. The characters do evolve in the game – we try hard in the story to show how they’re coming to terms with their situation. We hope players appreciate that as we have spent a lot of time trying to flesh these guys out and create a compelling story.

All of your games have a very distinct personality. They’re all very different but all unmistakeably bear you mark. What specific quality defines an Insomniac game?

Ted Price: It’s a great question. I don’t know what the right word is. Every one of our games has a quirky nature no matter how serious it is. Even Resistance in its own way was a bit quirky. But when you ask players and fans they’ll probably point to weapons first and foremost. For us, we’ve developed a reputation for creating over-the-top crazy weapons. And Fuse is not a departure from that at all!

Of all the franchises Insomniac has created, do you have a favourite?

Ted Price: It’s difficult to answer because I have been heavily involved in all of them. Shoot, I’ve been creative director on Ratchet games, Resistance, heavily involved with Fuse, I love Outernauts as somebody who has been peripherally involved with that, and Spyro… They’ve all been really fun and challenging as someone who has been part of the development team.

So, my current favourite – and this sounds like a suck-up answer – is Fuse, because I’m playing it a lot, I’ve been heavily involved in the process and I’m really proud of what the team has pulled off, especially in light of how much we’ve changed it in the last year.

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Do you go back and play your old titles much?

Ted Price: Not as much as I’d like to, but I have a lot of kids and as a result I get to relive them through their eyes, and that’s really fun.

Is that a painful process? Do you just see things that you wish you’d done differently, or done better?

Ted Price: I think there are always improvements that I know we could have made in our games. Ask any developer – if they say they’re completely satisfied with their creation, I would question that. Mostly because there is never enough time to do everything we want to do in any game. But I’m always proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish with the resources we have, and I’m really grateful for the fan response we’ve had to each our games. It keeps us going – it’s why we make games.

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39 Comments

4 Author Replies

  • I’d rather news on the store, and All Star Beta, but I cant deny this is an interesting interview :P

  • I might be paranoid, but seing the change of visual identity, EA behind it, and the choice of the trailer music, i’m sorry but all i see is another generic third person shooter :/

    you had a shot at proving that insomniac is one of the most creative studios out there :( ratchet n clanck isn’t selling enough i guess, even though “crack in time” is an amazing adventure / platformer.

    i still admire insomniac work and i’ll give Fuse a try but that 2011 trailer made me feel stuff that i didn’t think this generation of gaming could pull off.

    • I got to check out the game briefly and I’d cautiously recommend you give it a chance. You might not love the visual approach but the combat itself really was something a little different. Totally over the top and imaginative.

  • I really liked the overstrike stuff we saw before …

    but im gonna pass on this Fuse game.

  • meh so generic, oh well at least Ted Price is smexy

  • The progress that I see is that from an unique and charming Overstrike to an EA’fied generic looking shooter trying to appeal the masses.

    Take that trailer for example, it shows really nothing that makes the game stand out from every other shooter. Yeah, I can switch the characters instead to simply switch weapons. End of story.

    Sorry, but where shall I see the special Insomniac touch and humor there? Observe anything special about the gameplay mechanics? Either there is nothing of that kind in the game or the trailer has to be considered a failure.

    Once more sorry about my harsh criticism, I just honestly express my disappointment.

  • Very dispointing. I saw a playtrough on a Xbox. The character models don’t fit the voice actors, the script and the fun wapons anymore. It did in Overstrike but this has generic all over it and EA even more.
    Also won’t buy the next R&C. I hated the tower defence thing I played.
    This studio was awesome and I bought a lot of games for them but they have lost it.

  • what makes a game is character and this game has none. 2 bad actually i kinda like all their previous games… well all good things come 2 an end.
    should have kept overstrike looked far more interesting that’s what you get with publishers they only know how 2 destroy games and EA breaks a lot off good games.

  • In speaking of Insomniac they even made a Facebook game called ‘Outernauts’ and they also made it with EA. Hope Fuse doesn’t come out expensive due to EA’s greed.

  • I didn’t like the new visual approach either, but since I played the game myself very recently (for a very short time) it went right up my most wanted list… It’s jolly good fun and the new style might not be that interesting on first sight as Overstrike seemed to become, it fits the game and the story and makes me fondly remember stuff like Second Sight and yeah, even a sniff of good old 007…

  • The focus on gameplay is promising. By the looks of it the powers have a more frequent and direct effect than, say, borderlands or Gears of war judgement.

    Reading “We made it [Fuse] the driver for the weapons and we made it the core of the progression system.” makes me wonder if there will some kind of upgrade system, whether it be like borderlands or like ratchet and clank. Will have to find out in a later update.

    To be honest I think showing off overstrike so early was a mistake, it was clearly too early since -style aside- you’ve changed the core gameplay dynamics so much. But as onlookers we should just pretend overstrike never happened. This is fuse, and this is more mature, and it is about 4 different weapons giving different styles of gameplay.

  • Remove the SingStar icon off my XMB, I will never buy another Sony product if this isn’t fixed. I’m disgusted at Sony’s response to people’s concerns about this disgusting marketing tactic by Sony. Remove it!

  • Looking good

  • @11: You will never buy another Sony product if the icon isnt removed? Er… overreaction, much?

  • This game is going to bomb… hard.

    Way to go EA, you are killing yet another great studio ;_;
    Hang in there, Insomniac.

  • I’m not sure what to think of this game yet… I hope it turns out well.

  • Im nothing but disappointed with this title, They went from something unique to something beyond generic, The humour is nothing but dry wit now (Which every game like this has) and the dull colour palate of the world and characters just makes it visually uninteresting. THey had my money with overstrike, but after watching the 18 minute video of Fuse, not anymore.

  • They even published Bulletstorm along side Epic Games and didn’t even harm them. EA, don’t you dare ruin this great studio please.

  • Great post havnt tried the game out yet though

  • @13 It’s not an over reaction, it shows that Sony don’t care about what the user wants, so many people are against this stupid icon. I have been debating whether to get a Xbox 720 (or what ever it will be called) or a PS4 and Sony are making my choice real easy.

  • The main annoying thing about the damned icon is that idiots keep going on about it in unrelated posts, seriously…Sony have got the message for heavens sake, leave it now.

    On topic, wasn’t too sure about this. The Overstrike trailer didn’t wow me at the time but I did like the art style. I read at the time of the announcement Insomniac’s reasons for changing the style and I can see where they are coming from. Alot of the surveys and early testings came to the conclusion that most people said it was something 12 year olds would play. To me that’s not a terrible thing but I suppose when you think about it how many pre-teens play third person shooters?

    This is Fuse now and the trailer has me interested me more than I was expecting if I’m completely honest. If its still got the Insomniac charm and as long as you guys stick with at least a decent amount of tongue in cheek humour then I’m in.

    • Thanks for staying on-topic! Whether you’re into the Fuse concept or not, I’m sure you’ll agree there’s plenty to chew over in the video and Q&A – interesting to hear what you all think.

      As for your first paragraph – yes, Sony has indeed heard all the feedback. If anyone wants to keep on discussing it, please do so in the relevant thread. Any more off-topic comments here will *magically disappear*.

  • I’d rather buy a game that’s not a generic poofest :D

  • I can’t really get excited about a ‘Multi-format’ Insomniac game really, sorry. But i will try the demo when it comes out ;) + I would rather have more R&C PS3 only full games in the future(yep i just can’t get enough of’em) :P

  • I don’t like the look of the game not looking forward to when Somy force an icon of it onto my XMB!

  • Well Overstrike certainly piqued my interest when you first showed it but after looking at Fuse that’s almost completely died away now.

    I know you’re essentially working for EA now, but it’s like you’ve had to make it look as generic as possible for it to sell to mass market. I understand that a more cartoonised like Overstrike isn’t what usually sells (though the success of Borderlands and Team Fortress 2 can prove otherwise) but it looks like the only identifiable mark of an Insomniac game left is the over-the-top weapons, but even then quite a few games have done similar things.

    It’s a shame that it has taken such a drastic turn, but I’ll keep an eye on it. You’ll really have to sell it to me though, which is a first because I’ve bought and liked all the games you’ve made (except Disruptor – I never played that).

  • @fred dutton : thanks for answering, that’s pretty much i was saying, i’d still give it a chance, but i for one is a bit tired of photo realistic games, this makes all games look the same to me :(

    BUT as insomaniac enthousiast i’ll happily wait for a demo.

  • If this game will get the same level of support like Ratchet and Resistance then I gonna skip it.
    Just to remind Ratchet:ToD still have a installation bug and was not worth it, for insomniac, to release trophy patch(this is a statement from they forum). I liked the latest Resistance but online lag and frame-rate issue killed the game for me.

  • @Fred:
    Is EA only publishing both Fuse and that Facebook game Outernauts (yes, they even made a Facebook game) for Insomaniac and will Insomniac make more games only on PlayStation? Because I heard EA also published Bulletstorm with Epic.

    • Insomniac is definitely still working with Sony on PlayStation-only titles – we’ve got Ratchet & Clank: QForce coming up!

  • Great smashing super

  • @Fred:
    Ah I see, I wonder if Insomniac can make a new trilogy but only on PlayStation this time after Fuse and R&C: QForce. You know, shame they don’t Spyro and Resistance. Loved the Resistance series especially the 2nd one. I think one or two 3rd-party game is enough. I saw Epic went third party serveal times with and without EA and Gears of War was only on Xbox.

  • Anyone who has been a fan of Insomniac Games over the years should read this. It really is a good read and a nice trip down memory lane.

    http://tinyurl.com/cp7pmk6

  • Fred, I know this is off topic, but any news about the Worms: Revolution DLC that was meant to go up on the store yesterday? It was in the store post, but is nowhere to be seen on the store!

  • Fred, Youre more likely to read this article than any other atm. Just wondering how come the Tokyo Jungle dlc still isnt up yet?

    • As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on the Blog today, I’m afraid there were some issues uploading new DLC items in the weekly Store update yesterday. We’re working hard to get it sorted and you’ll have them soon. I’ll update as soon as I can. Really sorry you’ve had to wait!

      toxic-inferno – this applies to your query too!

  • Thank you for the quick reply Fred. I apologise my comment was off topic. I noticed a few more updates since yesterday so I thought it might had been forgotten.

    Sorry and thanks again.

  • Cheers for the reply! I hadn’t seen the other time you’d mentioned it, so apologies for that! Thanks for the update!

  • will the game support split screen gameplay though?

  • Sad to see Resistance go, especially after the technically awesome Resistance3, but this looks like great fun too. Always in for co op.

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