The popular and funny Ratchet and Clank franchise is heading for a PS3 release - called Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction. It will be released here on November 9. I spoke to the famous Insomniac developers about what is in store.
Firstly : this title marks the start of a brand-new series of next-generation games for our heroes. What will be the first thing we will notice when we slide the title in the PS3?
The first thing anyone playing the game will immediately notice is the beautiful, highly detailed worlds that we have brought to life in Ratchet & Clank Future. Our tools and technology teams have done an amazing job continuing to develop our proprietary engine technology, and combined with the creative imagination of our artists, we are able to create an all-new galaxy begging to be explored.
Tell us about the overhaul of the engine technology to take advantage of the new console?
We are continuing to build our Insomniac Engine and have made many improvements to it since Resistance: Fall of Man. The one huge focus for us has been moving more of our processes over to the SPUs on the CELL processor. This has allowed us to get our physics and effects systems running roughly four times faster than it did in Resistance at nearly double the framerate, which is something you can see in weapons like the Tornado Launcher.
After saving many planets, what are R and C up for this time?
Ratchet and Clank are getting ready to go on a joyride through Metropolis when an Imperial Armada from another galaxy attacks. Emperor Percival Tachyon is a Cragmite, a race with an age-old grudge against the Lombaxes and he's bent on killing the last one...Ratchet. Our heroes steal his ship and warp to the Polaris galaxy, where they will discover much about their own origins while clashing with a bawdy band of space pirates and up to 60 other exotic lifeforms.
Do you feel you pushed PS2's capabilities as far as it could go -and what are the highlights of being able to now push the limits further still?
We had pushed the PlayStation 2 pretty hard by the time we finished with Ratchet: Deadlocked. People really praised the graphics in the PS2 titles; however, there probably was room to grow when you look at how a game like God of War 2 looks on the system.
That said, shifting our attention to the PS3 so early has given us a leg up in understanding the technology. We're still learning a lot about the system, but you can see the improvement from Resistance: Fall of Man to Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, and if the PS2 and PSOne are any indicators, we should see many more gains over the life of the system.
Things that we loved in the earlier games including use of weapons - what have you been able to retain but do better? Any hint on new weapons?
We have definitely brought our love of weapons to the game. One big new thing in Ratchet & Clank Future is the Combat Devices.
In every R&C game, we've had weapon ideas we had to cut because they would've broken the game.
The Groovitron is a good example of this as every enemy in the game is stunned by the music from it, so it has to be treated in-game as a rare item.
Working on PlayStation 3 has enabled us to use some of our favorite ideas from over the years but balance them in order to keep the game fun.
In addition, we've capitalized greatly on the SIXAXIS controller capability to give players more direct control over Ratchet's arsenal than they've ever had.
You can guide missiles to their target with the Visi-Copter (also a Combat Device), carve new paths out of rock and ice with the Geo-Laser gadget, fly freely over large worlds with Clank's Robo-Wings, and even control Ratchet himself as he freefalls from the sky.
The games have always been vivid and vibrant. Do you see even more of this look in the new game?
We tried to maintain the same stylized look in Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction that our fans love while raising the graphics bar to a level approaching today's blockbuster CGI films.
This means a lot of saturated and vibrant colors, and using a large color palette across the different levels.
Gamers won't be disappointed with the amount of variety in the color. It should give people the perfect excuse to splurge on that HD TV.
Were there any lessons learnt from Resistance that you could have applied to the development of Destruction?
Our Project Management team is a relatively recent addition to Insomniac that has applied a lot of lessons that we learned on Resistance in order to make Ratchet & Clank Future a smoother production.
They've done a fantastic job managing the scope of the project and ensuring that we hit all of our milestones and deadlines - which has allowed everyone to work at a more consistent pace throughout production and has led to better work/life balance across the company.
We also realized the importance of opening the game with a bang - and that's just what we do in RCF.
We essentially flat-out demolish the symbol of PlayStation 2 Ratchet & Clank: the city of Metropolis.
Players will get a sneak peek of this level via a downloadable demo that should hit the PlayStation Network Store in the not-too-distant future.
You've chosen to make it a huge single player experience. What was the thinking of this over multiplayer options?
When considering the options, we realized that multiplayer would take a huge commitment of our resources in order to do it correctly on the PlayStation 3.
In addition, we had to re-create all of our assets from scratch for the next-generation platform.
Those were two huge factors, but in addition, most of our fans were asking for a deeper single-player adventure.
With all of those facets in mind, the decision was rather easy to focus on single-player in Tools of Destruction.
How long has the game been in development and how many staff are involved?
The game has been in full-production since we finished Resistance: Fall of Man, and was in pre-production for a time before that. At its peak we had around 100 people working on the game.
Is all on track for a November release?
October 23rd, 2007 in North America.
What's your overall impression of the power of the PS3?
The PlayStation 3 really has given us all the tools we needed to make the game that we wanted to make.
While we have made huge strides from Resistance to Ratchet, we still feel like there is a ton more potential to be unlocked in the system and we really feel like we're still just scratching the surface.
After this, what's next?
A little breather after releasing two PS3 games in less than a year. Outside of that, we haven't made any announcements yet, but stay tuned!