Insomniac Games, the maker of PlayStation hits Ratchet & Clank and Resistance, has signed a multiplatform publishing deal with EA Partners. In other words, the studio is making a completely new IP that will be on Xbox 360 as well. That news broke yesterday; the internet was drowned in exclamation marks.
Today, with the dust settled, Insomniac leader Ted Price was chirpy. As his interview schedule was winding down, we asked him how he felt the deal had gone down.
Eurogamer: Ted, the news is out there; has it been a busy day?
Ted Price: Well, actually, it’s been really cool. We’ve had a super-positive response from our fans; the people who play our games. And that’s gratifying.
Eurogamer: Has anything surprised you about the reaction?
Ted Price: Nope. We anticipated that some of the hardcore PS3 fans might wonder whether or not we’d be delivering the same experience, and hopefully the comments that have been showing up from me in other places show we’re still as committed as ever to the franchises we’re working on with Sony.
Eurogamer: What about scope of the news: did you realise Insomniac was this popular?
Ted Price: It’s certainly gratifying! I’ve used that word twice now. It’s cool to see people that recognise who we are. It’s a nice change from 10-15 years ago when, for the most part, it was games that generally got the most attention and developer brands were few and far between. Here at Insomniac we’ve worked really hard to develop our brand so our customers know what they’re getting when they buy an Insomniac game. People sit up and take notice when we make a move like this. It’s great.
Eurogamer: Is there anything you’d like to clear up about the deal?
Ted Price: No: people get the point quite clearly. We’re entering a new deal with EAP for a multiplatform game. We’re extremely excited about that. But at the same time we’re remaining dedicated to Ratchet and Resistance and to our partners at Sony.
Eurogamer: One thing I don’t recall you covering is how loud the Xbox 360 is and how large that power adapter is. Surely you must be mad to support such a machine?
Ted Price: Ha – did you say it’s very loud?
Eurogamer: Yes, and it has a very large battery.
Ted Price: [Guffaws]
I have one sitting here on my desk now and it’s… It’s a little bit louder than a PS3.
Eurogamer: I’m surprised you can hear me. On a more serious note: what have you admired about Microsoft’s console from afar that you’re now free to explore?
Ted Price: We really didn’t look at the two platforms and compare them and decide that one was better than the other. Xbox Live is impressive in its breadth and its popularity with users; that’s a very cool opportunity for us to start taking advantage of. Beyond that, we’re focusing on the game, to make sure we can deliver an awesome experience on both platforms.
Eurogamer: What about things like Natal and Move – do they tickle your fancy?
Ted Price: We’re definitely learning as much as we can about those because, as with most peripherals that have come out in the last 10 years, some work and some don’t. Natal and Move have, in particular, a lot of potential for new gameplay opportunities. We want to see what’s announced at E3, in terms of other games using [Natal and Move], and learn from other developers.
Eurogamer: Michael Pachter told me recently that he would always tell you guys to go multiplatform because you’d make lots more money. Was all this his idea?
Ted Price: [Laughs] He’d like to take credit for it!
We’ve been talking about this for a long time, and over the last few years we realised we could reach a lot more gamers by going multiformat. But we at Insomniac have historically taken a very measured approach with what we do, and we weren’t going to make this jump until we felt ready to support the move with the right technology and the right game.
Eurogamer: Has watching EA partner with studios such as Respawn and Valve helped make your decision easier?
Ted Price: The Respawn announcement came well after we had been working out details with EA Partners, so that didn’t have any influence. However, we were very impressed with the partners EA had when we began talking to them. They work with some of the best developers in the world and the fact that these developers retain their IP was very attractive, as that has been our goal for a while.
Eurogamer: Is it more exciting to be working on your own IP?
Ted Price: It’s certainly a different feeling in that it is our responsibility and our opportunity to take the IP into different areas and to exploit it, if you will. If we don’t own the IP, it’s up to the publisher. We’re particularly excited about making an awesome game and taking the IP even further.
Eurogamer: What can you actually tell us about this mysterious game?
Ted Price: Really nothing, because we want to wait and announce it in the right way. We don’t want to do little details here and there. We want to make sure our first impression is a strong one.
Eurogamer: What we’ve heard is that this new IP will be set in “a brand new universe”. Now, that word “universe” could mean you intend to make more games, as you mentioned above. Or that word “universe” could mean you’re making a space MMO with giant laser zombies in it.
Ted Price: That’s a good suggestion [snorts]. I’m sure a lot of our guys would be interested in that particular idea.
Eurogamer: You can take it.
Ted Price: Really? Royalty free.
Eurogamer: Take it.
Ted Price: Thank you.
Eurogamer: Insomniac’s name is synonymous with Ratchet & Clank, Resistance, Spyro. Will you surprise fans with this new game?
Ted Price: I think we will. Again, I can’t give any details because I don’t want people making assumptions before we announce it. Of course, that’s inevitable – that people will make assumptions – which is why I’m trying to stay as quiet as possible.
Eurogamer: What’s the development cycle going to be like – will you need longer to come to terms with a new platform?
Ted Price: We’ve already extended all of our development cycles since we began working on PlayStation 3. We believe in taking more time on each of our projects. I don’t want to comment specifically on how many years for each game, but we’ve taken a hard look at our own development processes internally and made some tweaks that we ultimately think will benefit gamers in a big way.
Eurogamer: How much work has been done on the new game?
Ted Price: We started a while ago but I can’t talk about what specifically we’ve done on it because, again, we get into that territory of giving details away about the game.
Eurogamer: Is it playable – does it resemble a game now?
Ted Price: I can’t… Ha! Let’s just talk about the broader issues just now. I’d love to get into details but I just can’t.
[EA PR: I won’t let him get into details. Sorry, Rob.]
Eurogamer: There has, understandably, been debate about how strong Insomniac is on PS3 and whether an Xbox 360 game can match up. Do you really expect to master a new console on your first attempt?
Ted Price: I don’t think anybody ever masters a console to tell you the truth. We’ve been working on the PlayStation 3 for many years and there are still things that we’re discovering about it; still ways we’re finding to push our technology further. Our goal is to create bar-raising technology experiences when we release a game on both platforms. For us to say that we’re going to master the Xbox 360 or the PS3 would be a little arrogant.
Eurogamer: When people talk of pushing a console 100 per cent, then, they’re talking a load of old rubbish?
Ted Price: Everybody has a different perspective on what it means to push something 100 per cent. There are always limitations involved with each machine, whether it’s memory or the amount of processors you have. There are always tricks you can employ to squeeze more out of the machine. And that’s not just technology tricks, that’s development processes that allow you to create assets that are more efficient so you can fit more in. In this world, developers are always, always learning ways to make their games better, regardless of the hardware.
I’d be surprised if you could take any developer’s release one year and say it was the same quality as a release two years ago. Most developers are always improving their stuff.
Eurogamer: Let’s pretend I’m your biggest fan and I’ve read the news and I can’t sleep until I find out more about your new EA game. When will you let me sleep?
Ted Price: All I can say is that it will not be at E3. We will not be talking about this at E3.
Eurogamer: What about at gamescom, Germany?
Ted Price: Not saying anything about when we’re talking about it [laughs]. I’ve given you as much information as I’m comfortable giving right now.
Eurogamer: What’s EA’s actual day-to-day involvement in bringing your new game to fruition?
Ted Price: Our relationship is… You can call it a traditional developer-publisher relationship. We create the game and they provide support for us: localisation, QA, anything we ask for. What really attracted us to EA Partmers in the first place is that they’re really set up to be a support system for developers creating their own IP. They work with companies that have usually a fairly long track record of delivering titles on time. That’s a perfect type of relationship for us. We’ve already got our own infrastructure and production processes, but we’re not an expert in distribution of titles and localisation. Those types of things publishers do so well. So it ends up being a symbiotic relationship.
Eurogamer: Has your new game got a name yet?
Ted Price: Not yet. We haven’t announced any names yet…
Eurogamer: But you do have one?
Ted Price: [Laughs] I tell you what, when we announce the game you will hear the name!