Fuse Interview – Talking Co-Op, Overstrike, Shifting Tone, Weapons and Humour With Ted Price
Written Tuesday, November 06, 2012 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Since undergoing a shift in tone and a name change since its initial unveiling E3 2011, Overstrike has become Fuse, bringing with it the titular alien substance that ties the whole affair together. It's fuse that powers each character's weapon and factors in to the properties and abilities at your disposal.
Combining the unique properties of your fuse weapon is at the core of Fuse's four-player co-op gameplay, racking up combos to earn points that enable you to purchase new upgrades for your gun and your character.
Fuse is Insomniac's first game as a multi-platform studio, so while the developer is taking a few creative risks, it's also hedging its bets by making a cover shooter. We talked to Insomniac CEO Ted Price to find out more about Fuse, the thinking behind making a co-op shooter as the studio's first multi-format project and what the shift in tone between Overstrike and Fuse means.
Having moved on from Ratchet & Clank and Resistance...
We haven't finished with Ratchet & Clank. We're actually releasing the new Ratchet & Clank in a month. Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault (Ratchet & Clank: Q-Force in Europe) is coming out at the end of the month. It's a PSN title that's actually coming out on Blu-ray as well. We're really proud of it, because we took a different approach and I think the North Carolina team really took some risks creatively, but went back to what a lot of fans were asking for with the core Ratchet controls and weaponry, combining it in a very unique way with the strategic defence concept. The competition is a blast when you're playing against your friends. It's really, really fun.
Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault is being billed as a fun-size, bite-size adventure, right?
It's a little bit more than bite-size. It's actually ended up being a pretty big game. It wasn't necessarily what we intended, but like all of our games they tend to grow beyond what we intend.
You haven't finished with Ratchet & Clank then, but going multi-platform, why did you choose a co-op shooter as your first game as a multi-format studio?
That's a good question. It was Brian Allgeier's (Fuse's Creative Director) original idea, to create a four-player co-op game with four unique agents. And part of it was seeing that there's not a whole lot out there right now where players can team up as four unique agents. What we see a lot are games that have clones where everyone has the same abilities and it's all about pointing the same gun at the same enemy, and that's fun, but we saw an opportunity. Plus, we have heard a lot from our fans that co-op is becoming more and more important, as the world is becoming more connected and there's more opportunities to play together. All of us who have grown up in a less connected world see this co-op as a really fresh experience and something we weren't able to get when we were younger.
Having four unique agents like you have in Fuse with individual abilities, how difficult was it to balance those abilities and have them work together properly?
Very. It took us a long time to come up with weapons that were all fun, all powerful, but not overpowering and not focused on one archetype. That didn't occur until this year and we've been in production for a while on this game. That really coincided with our shift in tone, where we were formerly a much more cartoony, campy game, and we were expecting to be a 'T' rated game, but we realised that the weapons just lacked impact and we needed to let loose. We decided, let's go visceral and take a page from Resistance, let's go really over the top with the weapons and make it really fun to just kill guys. That coincided as well with our decision to drive the game's identity through Fuse, the game's alien substance. We started connecting all the pieces and came up with something that was similar to the original concept in terms of its gameplay and its characters, but a little different in terms of tone, and I've gotten asked a lot of questions about the shift. I've tried to point out that a lot of our games have gone through major shifts, although this particular game went through its shift a lot later in its cycle than Ratchet & Clank or Resistance, and those games changed a hell of a lot more than Fuse did.
With the shift in tone since the game was called Overstrike, has the script been through a lot of changes? Is there less of the humour aspect hinted at in the Overstrike trailers?
It's less campy, there's definitely less slapstick humour. And it was pretty slapstick originally, and while there's still humour in the story, it's a little bit more muted and more sophisticated, but we spent a lot of time in the game with emergent dialogue explaining who the characters are, and you definitely see humour in their interactions and the characters don't take themselves completely seriously either.
With the unique fuse weapons, was there a lot of experimentation finding out what works? Did you have to throw out a lot of ideas and concepts that didn't work and had to be scrapped?
Yeah, there were actually. And one of the concepts that shows up in our 2011 trailer is what we were calling Izzy's glue gun. I'm sure a lot of people saw a lot of connection between that weapon and The Incredibles, because in that movie you've got glue guns, so that was the inspiration behind that weapon. What happened is the glue gun would immobilise characters and then the glue would explode and they'd ragdoll around, and it just wasn't satisfying. It wasn't much fun to play and so that evolved into the shattergun, which is a far more satisfying weapon to use.
You also have generic weapons in the game too...
I call them 'standard weapons', because if you look at every other shooter out there, their focus is on standard weapons. They're a secondary focus for us, but they are important and we've tuned them just as much as we've tuned the fuse weapons and any other weapon in any of our other games. So, the shotgun has got to feel satisfying, the sniper rifle has to have that kick that you'd expect from a sniper rifle, and so on.
As you upgrade your fuse weapons then, what kind of additional properties can we expect to see them taking on?
We've shown off a lot of them already, but what we don't do is throw everything at you at once. We tried that and realised that if you get into the first level of the game and you have for example, all of the warp rifle's abilities, learning them and applying them is very difficult, so we've tried to introduce them gradually as unlockable abilities. But there are other abilities in various categories that you'll unlock and other buffs in categories that you unlock as well.
We saw some fearsome enemies in our demo, like the big robot boss and so on. What kind of enemies can we expect to be facing in Fuse?
There's lots of others. We like enemy variety in our games, and we try to mix it up frequently in Fuse. But I want to wait to reveal more of those down the road.
Are we going to see any fun unlockables like the Clank backpack in Resistance: Fall of Man in Fuse?
It's a good question. Wait and see.
Can you give us any clues about Fuse's mystery mode that's yet to be revealed?
No way. That's under wraps. I'm excited to talk about it because it's really fun, but you're just going to have to wait.
Is it safe to assume that it's some sort of competitive multiplayer mode?
You can assume whatever you want!
Are you positioning Fuse as a potential franchise for Insomniac now then, that will hopefully grow into something akin to Ratchet or Resistance in the future?
That's certainly our goal. With every IP we create, our goal is to have it live for as long as possible.
Do you think you'd ever revisit the Resistance franchise?
I've publicly said no, but at this point I'll say I don't know. I mean, this industry has changed so fast, I've learned that it's not a good idea to say never.
Is four franchises (Ratchet & Clank, Resistance, Outernauts, Fuse) quite a lot for one studio to handle?
We love building new IP. For us it's exhilarating.
Looking ahead to next-generation consoles, are you formulating some new ideas?
I'm looking forward to finding out more...
Fuse is out in 2013.