Ratchet and Crank creators Insomniac Games are changing their tune for their latest game – a four-player co-op action title called Fuse. Originally set up as Overstrike, the current version concerns a crack squad of hired guns who must take an evil alliance bent on creating superweapons with the titular alien substance.
At a recent showcase, we sat down to talk about the game with creative director Brian Allgeier. He’s been heavily involved with the Ratchet & Clank series to date and is enjoying the challenges of their new IP, from balancing co-op play to focussing on providing entertaining single and multiplayer experiences.CLICK: Can you start by telling me what your role would be on a game like this?BG:
Ok, so I’m the creative director on the project so essentially I’ve been guiding the story and design and the overall creative direction of the game.CLICK: Can you describe Fuse in one line?
BG: It’s a four player co-operative adventure centred on an alien substance called Fuse.CLICK: You’ve previously made a co-op title in Ratchet & Clank All 4 One but why did you decide on that format for Fuse?
BG: Well we always like to challenge ourselves and we also love co-operative games so when we sat down to come up with ideas for our next game we were drawing upon inspiration from films like Mission: Impossible. A team working together, four different characters with their own specialties. So that’s what led us to start to develop Fuse. And we also love creating exotic and imaginative weapons like in District 9. So it was the idea of taking all those elements and putting them together.CLICK: Was there any crossover with the development of All 4 One?
BG: No they were developed separately; it wasn’t like we were thinking we were going to make these two co-op games. But we certainly learned a lot from the team over in North Carolina as they were developing co-op elements. The one thing that we took away was that you really have to create a strong single player game. Because those people who are playing a co-op game play single player to test it out, to learn the controls and play for a couple of hours before they join a buddy. If it’s not fun, they might not want to play it co-operatively.CLICK: So you have to make a complete single player experience as well?
BG: Yea, exactly. We have a very rich story, we have fleshed out characters. And then we also have AI bots that fill in the roles of the whole team. So you’re always playing with a team. The one thing that we’ve added that is unique to Fuse is this feature called ‘leap,’ which allows you to change to any character at any time.CLICK: Was that always a part of the game or did it come after testing?
BG: It kind of came after testing and playing it. I think there was always that element where you were playing as Dalton and I have my shield and my shotgun but I really wish I had a ranged weapon right now and there’s Jake right over there. So wouldn’t it be cool to just play as him.CLICK: So its show off all the abilities. Rather than having to swap out between levels.
BG: Yea. Exactly.CLICK: The original version of the game was called Overstrike and was teased back in 2011. Can you describe how it became Fuse?
BG: Sure with all of our games they evolve and change, Ratchet & Clank was once called Girl with the Stick and then Lombax with a Wrench. Resistance went through many iterations, the same thing has happened with Fuse. And like I said before, the original inspiration was Mission: Impossible so we’ve just been making an espionage-based game. But as we developed this alien substance called Fuse, the whole game started to come together. So Fuse became the driving force for both the story and the gameplay. And it made more sense to just centre it around Fuse. And so there have been some new iterations in terms of the art direction, the tone of the game has certainly changed. And while we’re very proud of what we did on Overstrike, in the end we want to make something we’re proud of and we’ve developed something that we feel is moving in a new direction that people haven’t seen before.CLICK: There was a lot of humour in that demo which people really focussed on. Was that just a proof of concept or your real plan for the game?
BG: Uh yea certainly. We always wanted to add a level of dry wit to the game; it’s not slapstick like Ratchet & Clank. And we’ve carried some of that through to the final Fuse game. There is that moment of levity where characters are using wisecracks to lighten a situation. But it’s always appropriate for the situation and for that character. So we’re never doing it just for the sake of a joke, which is something we do more in Ratchet & Clank.CLICK: Did you find it strange that so many people focussed on that change of tone?
BG: I think it’s an easy thing to focus on because it was a big surprise and people don’t like to be told one thing and suddenly it changes. It was easy to just to make the assumption that suddenly we’ve gone super dark and drained the game of colour and now it’s just this hateful game! And it’s not true at all, we still really care about these characters, we still want imaginative weaponry and exotic locations and have elements of humour. And that’s something which has stayed true from the very beginning of the game.CLICK: With your history of creating so many imaginative weapons for the Ratchet & Clank series, was it hard to limit yourselves to just four this time around?
BG: Well you know we wanted this to be accessible, we want people to understand the classes, and we don’t want to muddy them with too many weapons. But with each weapon you do have primaries and secondaries and you can upgrade them with additional functions. So there is more depth for these weapons than you would find in something like Ratchet & Clank. And with the leap feature that’s where you get the opportunity to jump into any of the characters and use their weapons. So really your weapon wheel is your character wheel.CLICK: And you’ve also got a distinct multiplayer mode as well in Echelon?
BG: That’s right. The plan was to have these two distinct modes. We always knew we wanted the campaign story mode but we also wanted something that was a bit gamier, that was just fun to play and had a competitive aspect. And that was why we came up with Echelon.CLICK: Is it very hard then to balance the weapons that you have in both modes?
BG: Essentially they’re both co-operative and the competitive element is collecting the money. But you’re never fighting player vs. player.CLICK: Can you tell me about the story of Fuse?
BG: Essentially the game begins at this location called Hyperion Base. That’s where the US government has been developing Fuse which is an alien substance to create these prototype weapons. Our team learns about an invasion of the facility and they go there to investigate it and that’s where they find these weapons. And it’s been invaded by this paramilitary organisation known as Raven, which is after Fuse to develop their own weapons. So Overstrike 9 is being hired to stop them. Overstrike 9 is a contract team that gets hired when a country need plausible deniability. So if they want to bring people in but if they get caught they won’t get involved.CLICK: So Mission: Impossible
BG: Exactly. So Overstrike’s tracking down Raven across the globe travelling to exotic locales, encountering numerous villains and their strongholds along the way.CLICK: This is your first game in many years not being published by Sony and on multiple platforms. Is that a big change?
BG: It’s certainly a challenge when you’re delivering for two different platforms and different tech. We’ve really worked hard to make sure that people will have the same experience. So we developed the game on PC and then moved them to the different platforms. In terms of Sony, we’ve had a great relationship with them; we’ve worked with them for 15 years. But we’re an independent studio and there’s always that possibility of working with another publisher and the opportunity came up for us to develop our own IP and reach a larger audience.CLICK: Is it very different working with a new publisher
BG: Yea, there’s always a different dynamic with each publisher. I think everyone’s got their own personality and every company has its own personality. And it’s been great working with EA, they’ve been very supportive of us and certainly there’s a lot of expertise that they have to share.CLICK: What is your favourite feature of the game right now?
BG: That is a great question. I think it’s funny because it changes throughout the project. But I really just like the teamwork and the element of being able to work together and being more powerful. I was just playing Echelon mode and I enjoyed being Naya, being invisible and rescuing people and then running in and flanking enemies and really supporting the team. I think its fun when you take different people and personalities and match them up with the different classes. And you can really get a strong team if you work together.CLICK: So it’s not just killing all the time!BG: Yea exactly. I tend to like being more supportive in my role, be a facilitator so I like that the game supports that.Fuse is coming to Xbox 360 and PS3 in Q.2 2013. More details as we get them.