Interview - Ted Price (Fuse)


Interview - Ted Price (Fuse)
Can Fuse ditch its generic shooter tag?
Onlookers have been slow to accept the shift from Overstrike to Fuse, but with the launch approaching Insomniac Games is hoping that players go hands-on with the game to see what they think of the tone, the humour and the gameplay for themselves. Ahead of the release of the third-person co-operative action shooter, we caught up with Insomniac Games CEO and producer on Fuse, Ted Price, for some tips and to see what the future might hold.

Ted Price
Ted PriceEnlarge Enlarge
CLICK: For anyone who has missed the story so far, what is Fuse all about?
Ted Price (TP): Fuse follows a team of four agents who are pursuing this volatile alien substance stolen from a bunker in the middle of the desert. They’re pursuing it across the globe and eventually into space. This weapon has given the US government the opportunity to create some very cool and lethal experimental weapons, which the agents come across in the first few minutes of the game. And these weapons give each of our characters some very different functionality, which you start to unlock more and more as you move further into the game.

CLICK: Have you a favourite character?
The one I play most often is Izzy because she’s a dual class. She is a great crowd control specialist with the shatter gun, but later she becomes a healer as she unlocks a healing beacon that she can use at any point in the game, tossing it across the battlefield or tossing it at her friend’s feet to revive them.

CLICK: Fuse features the progression tree. Is it possible to select a character that you like the aesthetics of and then make them the character that you want them to be?
TP: There is customisation in terms of how you spend your skill points in the trees. As you move through the game, you earn experience, you level up, you earn skill points and you can decide where you want to spend them. After several playthroughs you will unlock everything and so that kind of customisation starts to become less and less apparent as you move further into the game. But early on, I mean you can build out your characters in pretty effective ways.

I’ll give you an example. Naya Deveraux is the agent that uses the Warp rifle. The Warp rifle is the result of combining Fuse and antimatter. She can coat enemies with this mixture and set off a chain of black holes, which is really cool and makes her a great area of effect specialist. But she also has an invisibility skill, that she can unlock, which is also conferred by the Fuse weapon that she’s carrying. I could put a lot of points into that skill and increase the amount of time that I’m invisible and a few other aspects of that particular skill. I can also put a lot of points into my shotgun, which is one of the standard weapons we have in the game but it can be upgraded as well. As a result, I become a really effective rogue-like character – great at sneaking up and dealing serious damage at short range. On the other hand, I can make her into a good long range character by putting points into different stuff. It’s kinda up to you in terms of how you choose to outfit your characters.

CLICK: Fuse is a fairly tricky title. What kind of tactics or tips would you give players?
TP: I would absolutely learn how to use Leap. Leap is the feature that lets you jump back and forth between all four characters. As long as there’s an AI bot playing one of the characters, meaning if you’re playing solo or with one friend or with two friends, you can always leap. That’s useful because in combat you can take advantage of these different tactics that each character offers. And when you do that you start to discover, I start to discover what character I really like to play. The other thing that this benefits is as you’re leaping, you’re earning experience for each of these four characters because we don’t have shared experience points pools. So you’re unlocking skills for each one the more you play each one. So leaping has a real benefit for the progression tree.

CLICK: On the subject of leap, what was your reaction when Rockstar showcased a similar function in Grand Theft Auto V?
TP: Didn’t have a reaction. I mean it works well for us; it probably works well for them too.

CLICK: As we’ve said, the difficulty is maybe higher than some games on the market. Have you looked at the landscape and seen that players are looking for a challenge?
TP: Yes, we hear a lot from players that games are getting easier and easier. For us, our goal was to create a game that was challenging, but not frustrating. We train you in how to use the weapons, we give you the opportunity to unlock more and more, we don’t throw everything at you at once, but we present a pretty significant challenge in the game because we know that in a lot of cases four human players will be playing together. And when four humans are playing together you can have a wrecking ball of death moving through your level. So, we’ve got to make sure that our AI is smart and can deal with four talented and skilled players. We’ve also got to make sure that our level layout supports four players well and doesn’t create frustrating issues with navigation and at the same time we’ve got to make sure that we’re keeping players on their toes just with the types of other challenges we throw at them in the game, whether it’s mini bosses or bosses traversal, you name it.

We also have one more mode in the game called Echelon, which is our co-petitive mode where we really lower the hammer in terms of making the game challenging for players. These are 12 round battles that have randomised objectives within the battles. It’s a wave based mode, but it’s an offensive wave based mode where you’re going after characters in these levels, doing different things. And you really have to work together as a team, and you really need to know how to use your weapons to keep from being slaughtered. But it’s the kind of thing that we’ve seen players come back to over and over again because it has that “OK, just one more round” feel to it.

CLICK: We saw the launch trailer and at the end of it Dalton makes a little quip; was that kind of a reference to people who were saying that the tone had changed completely from when the game was Overstrike?
TP: Well the game is still humorous, and I think that the perception has been that the game is a dark, gritty shooter and that’s not true. We want people to experience the game for themselves by trying the demo. See what you think. There’s plenty of self-referential humour that occurs in the banter between all four of these characters and it was really important for us to continue to explore the lighter side of gaming. Now, the stakes in this game are high, I mean we have this volatile alien substance that is dangerous and is being used for very bad things and the game’s story asks the question, “What happens when humans get their hands on something they were never supposed to have? How does it twist them? How does it change their motivations?” And you see that with the antagonists in the game. But at the same time, we’re not trying to be a doom and gloom, the sky is falling game. We love putting humour in our game, even if it is the more dry and sophisticated humour of Fuse rather than the campy humour of Ratchet.

CLICK: Have you been keeping an eye on feedback from the demo and have some people been changing their tunes?
TP: Yeah, we’ve actually seen a lot of comments from people saying, “I had no idea the game was like this. I expected something completely different, I’m having a blast and really enjoying playing with my friends.”

CLICK: What are the challenges in creating a game that’s as enjoyable in single player as in multiplayer?
TP: One of the biggest challenges was making sure that the bots behave the way that players want them to because this is a four character game, so at all times you are playing with four characters on screen. So if you’re playing by yourself, you’ve got three bots who are there to support you, but we make sure that they don’t get in your way, they don’t steal all your kills and when you’re in trouble, they help you out unless you do something really really stupid. They also, and this is very important, as you go through the progression tree and start unlocking skills, your bots will use those skills. And that’s tied to the leap function. So as you’re leaping in and out of your characters, the bots will take over for you and start, for example, using the healing beacon. If I’m playing as Jacob and I go down and need reviving across the map, my bot Izzy will lob a healing beacon across the battlefield to me if I’ve unlocked that skill. Or Naya, if I’ve unlocked her invisibility function, will go invisible and work her way though enemies to help me out; that’s just a couple of examples of how the bots are smart in the game.

CLICK: Insomniac isn’t known for creating one-off games, it tends to be the start of a new franchise. Will the story be self-contained or is there a window of opportunity for a new title?
TP: I don’t know any developer who intends to make just one game, I think we all have a desire to make worlds that live on. And our goal with Fuse was to create a franchise. A lot of the story elements lend themselves well to taking this world in different directions. Fuse, in particular, as a substance is a malleable substance. Our goal was to create this alien discovery that fuses with other earthly materials to create something very different. And that’s the genesis, that’s what powers each of our very different and very exotic xenotech that you pick up in the game. So for us, it’s fun to think about where we could take these worlds, these characters, these weapons down the road, but no concrete plans yet.

CLICK: Of course, one of your other franchises is set to diversify with the Ratchet & Clank movie, so where did that idea come from and what do you think of it?
TP: Since Spyro we’ve been trying to bring our games to the big screen and through efforts of Ryan Schneider, who’s our brand development director, and TJ Fixman, who’s our writer for the movie and for Ratchet & Clank and Fuse, we’ve been able to partner with Blockade and Rainmaker Entertainment who are making the movie. And thanks to support from Sony, it’s become a reality. That, for us, as the creators of Ratchet & Clank is really gratifying because a lot of fans will get to see Ratchet in a very true-to-Ratchet universe because the guys that we’re working with understand what Ratchet is, they understand his humour and they understand the worlds that we’ve built for him.

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