Pause event with Ted Price of Insomniac Games page 1
On Friday the 17th October, I had the opportunity to attend the latest PlayStation Pause event, with Insomniac games President Ted Price. I assembled at the Arts Technica school in Darlinghurst, Sydney, with the usual suspects - including Sony Computer Entertainment head honcho Michael Ephraim, a friendly guy whom goes out of his way to greet the invitees. Soon enough we are herded into a theater where Ted Price is bought onstage to demonstrate a level from the finished build of Resistance 2. The cut scene which sets the tone for the level is full on, featuring a convoy of trucks transporting Nathan Hale and fellow soldiers being ransacked by the Chimera through the woods. It's both exciting and visually spectacular with a visually appealing look, with strong fog and convincing HDR.
Price commentated throughout the presentation, and whilst nothing revelatory was announced, he did mention that they have toned down the battles, taking players on more of an anticipatory roller coaster ride, responding to criticisms from the first Resistance of "everything turned to 11", whilst at the same time upping the gore quotient. Price was eager to stress the focus on the strong online multiplayer aspects of the games, featuring up to 60 players, dispersed into 5 groups.
After the presentation there was a short Q and A with Price. At that stage I was still unsure of my ability to obtain an interview with the man himself, so I asked the question I wanted the answer to the most:
TT Gamer: Are you able to make to talk about any PlayStation Home integration?
Price: Not yet. We are waiting to see when Home launches, and we will have a presence there. [Whispers] It's going to be cool. [Laughs]
So clearly that wasn't going to be revealed today.
Soon after, we disbanded to play Resistance 2 on the demo consoles. Having played through the first Resistance, it was fairly easy to pick up and play, however the player before me (was it you IGN?) had depleted almost all my ammunition and I died almost instantly. Still, it was fun while it lasted. Then I turned around to see none other than Ted Price standing behind me. "What did you think" he asked. "I liked it" I replied. "Call it superficial but I was pretty impressed with the visual look of the game. I've been getting a little sick of the next generation brown" I added. Ted smiled and ushered me out for an interview.
TTGamer: The first Resistance was quite visually spectacular, especially for a launch title, as was Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction. What have you learned from those two titles that have been applied to Resistance 2?
Ted Price: We've made a lot of improvements to the lighting system, so that the levels pop even more and so that we have a lot more dynamic lights in the game, creating real time shadows and more punch to the levels. We've added some really cool tech for our water, it's fully refractive, fully reflective and we've done a lot more optimisation of the engine so that we can add even more and more enemies, more effects, you name it, so it's really helped us with the overall detail and size of the game.
TTGamer: The PlayStation 3 system has evolved quite a bit in the last two years...
Ted Price: Well the engines for the PlayStation 3... our engine has evolved significantly, the PlayStation 3 has, of course, remained steady.
TTGamer: Yes, but in terms of adding, for instance, Dual Shock 3, Trophies...
Ted Price: Oh right, I'm sorry.
TTGamer: How does that affect development on the console? Because it almost seems as though they are making it up as they go along.
Ted Price: Well, Dual Shock, the vibration was relatively easy for us to add because we had done it on PlayStation 2, so it was surprisingly easy to add that into the games, and I think it really did help the games.
TTGamer: I digress; I'm not speaking so much about Dual Shock, but just in general of the evolution of the system, compared to say PlayStation 2, where you know, you got it out of the box, and that was it for the duration of the consoles life.
Ted Price: [Pause] I don't know...We haven't felt that it's changed significantly. I mean, most of the changes have been superficial, so what's important for us is that the hardware itself, the core, the cell processor itself is consistent, because that's what we focus on the most.
TT Gamer: How much power is there on PlayStation 3 that has so far remained unused?
Ted Price: Well, it's different for every developer. For us, I think we have a long way to go in terms of how much we can pull out of it. With every game, we discover new ways to optimise our routines and move more over to the SPU's. So I think what's great about the PlayStation 3 is you'll see continued improvements over the next few years with the games coming out.
Pause event with Ted Price of Insomniac Games page 2
TT Gamer: Have you gone gold on Resistance 2 yet?
Ted Price: Yeah, we've gone gold. It's actually being manufactured right now.
TT Gamer: Are there any plans at the moment to continue the game through downloadable content?
Ted Price: We haven't announced anything yet.
TT Gamer: Are there any Xbox 360 dev kits in the office?
Ted Price: [Laughs] No. There are Xboxes though. Plenty of Xboxes 360's though.
TT Gamer: Insomniac have won a lot of awards for workplace relations. Do you see that as improving the quality of your games, or improving staff retention?
Ted Price: I think it has a lot to do with how we develop games. We have a very collaborative approach so that everybody has a chance to speak up about what they like and what they don't like in our games, and that goes for every aspect; story, enemies, weapons, technology. We encourage people to bring up problems and propose solutions, and it's very different from a structure where you've got a design director dictating every move and every piece of the game, or a technology director doing the same, and that's been persistent since we started 15 years ago, and I think that's one of the things that made Insomniac successful.
TT Gamer: How important, especially in this day and age of rising development costs, is console exclusives to the PlayStation 3?
Ted Price: How important are they to PlayStation 3? Very important to PlayStation 3, to continue to have a strong brand. Because people identify certain games with the platform and vice versa.
TT Gamer: Why do you prefer working with Sony?
Ted Price: We've had a good long term relationship with Sony. There's a lot of mutual trust. In terms of how we develop games, we develop autonomously and Sony is very hands off when it comes to how we do things, so that works for us.
TT Gamer: What stumbling blocks have you identified with the PlayStation 3 architecture that can hopefully be rectified in the next console?
Ted Price: [Thinks] Hmmm.
TT Gamer: What would you add, if you had the choice?
Ted Price: I don't, I mean, I can... this statement is applicable to any platform: more memory and more processing power is always useful when it comes to development. One of the great things that Sony did with the PlayStation 3 though, was to include Blu-ray, and Blu-ray for us was a huge win, because it provided us with much more storage space than DVD's, and we've really, really been happy with that.
TT Gamer: What size Blu-ray disc are you using for Resistance 2. I think the first was 17GB?
Ted Price: 17? Yeah, Resistance 1 was 17. Uhh, I don't know the exact size for Resistance 2. It was definitely over 20. Somewhere between 20 and 25.
TT Gamer: It certainly helps with higher rez textures...
Ted Price: Oh yeah, I mean we've done a lot of compression for optimizing our file sizes as much as we can because that also helps in terms of loading big time. I mean, the better you compress your stuff, the faster your levels load. But it's a big game and there's a ton of content in all three modes that's not necessarily shared between modes. So we're very happy we have the space to work with.
TT Gamer: Resistance: Retribution for PSP is being released next year, but not handled by Insomniac.
Ted Price: No, there's a crew called Slant Six that's doing it, and we've talked with them pretty regularly over the last year or so and made sure that we're both in sync in terms of whats going on with all the Resistance games.
TT Gamer: Is it hard to give up your babies, with both Resistance and Ratchet and Clank developed externally for PSP?
Ted Price: It can be. There's an amount of trepidation that we have before we get to know the development team. With Ratchet and Clank PSP, the guys that developed that, High Impact, that team includes a bunch of ex-Isomniacs, so we felt confident they would do a great job. With the Resistance: Retribution game, those guys have a fantastic track record and after talking with them as well, we felt very confident that they would kick some ass, and they really did. I mean, having played it at E3, it's a fantastic game.
TT Gamer: Does Insomniac own the intellectual property for Resistance or does Sony?
Ted Price: Sony does. Sony funded it. I mean, that's what generally happens in this industry is that if a publisher pays for all the development of a game, they own the I.P. and that makes sense.
TT Gamer: Is there anything you can tell us about the next Ratchet and Clank?
Ted Price: Nope! [Laughs]
TT Gamer: Alright, we look forward to Resistance 2 coming to retail next month.
Ted Price: Thank you very much!
TT Gamer wishes to thank PlayStation PR for organising the event and consequent interview, and Ted Price for coming down to Australia for the second time this year.
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