Fuse Interview: Humour, Co-Op And The Importance Of Listening To Your Fans
Fuse might have been through a number of artistic changes – first it was funny, then it wasn’t and now it’s funny again – but can Insomniac successfully deliver its first multiplatform hit?
Insomniac Games president and CEO Ted Price talks us through Fuse’s development changes and just why Insomniac’s unique brand of game hasn’t been diluted…
Fuse has been through a few changes since its reveal, flipping between a humourous and a semi-serious tone, was the fan feedback on these changes important?
Price: Well, we heard loud and clear that fans liked some aspects of the game and were surprised by some of the changes that we made and that was useful for us. We took that feedback and we applied it.
We put more colour back into the game, we made sure that we were delivering on the promise of humour and you’ll see that in the game and we continue to evolve the weapons and the gameplay.
It’s been really gratifying and useful to have fans speak out. Sometimes it’s hard to hear as a developer because nobody likes to hear critique, but it’s important for us in a creative industry to be able to listen and gain some real benefit from what people have to say about the game.
We’ve been really gratified by the response that people have when they get their hands on the game because we built it from the ground up as a co-operative shooter that’s of course between one and four players.
If you decide to play by yourself it’s just as much fun as if you were playing with four friends. We’ve also spent a lot of time balancing weapons and making sure that we offer an arsenal that you won’t find in other shooters.
We’ve also revealed ‘Leap’ another feature that helps Fuse stand apart and it’s new progression system. It’s very difficult for people to experience those things just by seeing a video or reading an article. What you have are instances like this [press preview events] where players can come in, try the game out, experience it for themselves and give us some feedback.
Co-op games have been around for a while now, was it important to ensure Insomniac did something different with the genre?
Price: That was one of our goals from the very beginning and probably the core goal. To make a great co-operative game that’s fun with or without friends. That decision informed a lot of our design because making a game, which must support four characters creates different design challenges in terms of how you lay out levels and balance the weapons and it was important to nail that down early.
With the current console life cycle coming to an end are developers looking to co-op as a way of laterally tweaking experiences because an overall visual cap has been reached?
Price: Maybe, I think the bigger challenge is to create something that stands out because it offers features that are fresh. There’s certainly always the need to meet or exceed a bar visually, but you can’t just have that. You have to have features that makes players want to come back and play again and again.
Where there concerns about the AI? Played alone we’d imagine the Fuse characters have to be pretty smart…
Price: Oh yeah, from the very beginning we knew we had to focus heavily on AI and we have a brilliant programmer who has been working on it for years and has ensured when you play with the bots, they behave how you’d expect. They don’t steal your kills but they’ll support you in intelligent ways.
There are two examples I can give you: if you go down in the game it’s important that you get revived and your bots, as long as you don’t do anything stupid, will revive you. And that’s really important as you don’t want to get frustrated that your bots are ignoring you. They have a prime directive to find you and heal you.
The other thing that [Fuse’s] bots do really well; if you have spent time upgrading any of your characters and unlocking new abilities for the Fuse weapons, they’ll use those abilities. One of my favourites is to unlock the healing beacon for Izzy.
Then, if I use the leap function to play a different character, the Izzy bot will use the heal beacon on me. Even if I go way ahead of the group and if I get knocked down, she’ll fire a healing beacon across the battlefield to heal me and it’s really gratifying to see my bots doing that for me.
One of the fun things to watch is when bot Naya goes stealth and starts taking out enemies. Again, we have to strike a balance between bots that are super intelligent and strong and bots who are frustrating because they steal all your kills. We’ve been working really hard so that the bots feel… balanced.
A lot of developers under the EA banner often share development tools or even engines. Did Insomniac have any contact with Visceral who were working on the Dead Space 3 co-op and Army Of Two: The Devil’s Cartel?
Price: Nope, we have been watching from afar, as I’m sure they have, and I think all of the shooters that are coming out this Spring have something unique to offer. We’re of course focused on Fuse and we’re confidant that it is differentiated because of the weapons the Leap function the four player co-op and the fact that you have four unique agents instead of four clones.
Plus, it’s an Insomniac game so it has that Insomniac flavour to it. This is not a world that is 100% serious, we definitely throw in enough humour and we’re not trying to create a game that lives in today’s world.
After playing through a few levels it’s clear that Fuse is offering a substantial challenge. Was it a concious choice to make the combat quite so difficult?
Price: In the campaign level [that’s being shown] it takes place over halfway through the game, so it’s challenging. We expect that players that at this point players will have become comfortable working with others and also be fairly proficient with their weapons. I expect people to be challenged.
Echelon uses the same basic skills that you’re learning in the campaign, but it does but a great emphasis on teamwork because unlike the campaign, enemies are hitting you from all sides. You’re constantly readjusting to take on the different mini-challenges. You’ve really got to be on your toes and you’ve got to be communicating and you’ve got to be using your Fuse-powered weapons.
Insomniac has traditionally been associated as a PlayStation developer, but now you’re branching out…
Price: Yeah, we love the idea of reaching Xbox players with the franchises we make and we’re excited to reveal Fuse and have Xbox players checking it out.
How do you feel about Fuse going up against established co-op games like Gears Of War: Judgement?
Price: Fuse is a very different shooter. It’s a new IP in a sequel-heavy year and for us it’s cool to be the new kid on the block and we hope that players recognise this and those looking for a new experience will check it out.
What has it been like working with EA?
Price: Well, we’re an independent company and we own the Fuse IP, so we haven’t been talking to the other teams, however we have had a lot of support from producers, marketing folks, PR folks and it’s been great to have EA bring in people to see the game, which isn’t easy to do.
EA has a worldwide reach and it’s fantastic to have a partner like that.
You can read NowGamer’s hands-on impressions with Fuse and find out why we think its delay is really a good thing.