The search for the Lombax Secret, and Ratchet's past, is certainly driving a much stronger story in this iteration. What sparked the change for a more story-oriented game this time around?
We got in touch with Ryan Schneider, our friend at Insomniac, and talked a little bit more about their upcoming Ratchet & Clank game. Ryan was able to tell us a bit about the game's massive size, potential Home integration, and more.
I would say the quality of writing has been outstanding. TJ Fixman is our writer. He's a guy with his own agent, and he has movies optioned. We just have a terrific writer. It's not so much that we were taking a different tact to the story compared to the past. But the topic is more epic in general. We're exploring Ratchet's roots. Why is he the last of his kind? What is the Lombax Secret? Who are the Zoni and why is Clank the only one to see them? What kind of dynamic tension does that create? Will Ratchet trust his buddy Clank, or will he think he's got a bolt loose in his head, and he's gone haywire? These are the elements that make a good story. We've turned the lens inward. If you look at the past Ratchet games, it was about Ratchet against an enemy. Now, he's on a quest to discover something about himself. I think that alone makes the story more epic and more mysterious.
Is the writer new to the franchise?
Yes, this is TJ's first Ratchet game. TJ and Brian Hastings make for a great team. Bryan's our chief creative officer, and TJ's one of the funnier people I know. We love butt jokes -- and what's cool to us is that it does appeal to eight year olds and adults. The animators did a great job too. For example, in one scene Quark gives Ratchet and Clank a clue. It's the pirate guys and he says "check out this pirate design. It's perfect for parties and late night misadventures." Then, he leans into the screen and winks. It's not written into the script but it makes it come to life and makes it that much funnier.
Does the humor carry over into the international community when considering localization?
The glib answer is that 13 million people think so. But, the more genuine and quote-worthy answer and real answer is that it's rare for us to cut something that's inappropriate. We'll cut it ourselves and say "we're probably going too far there." For instance, we were going to bring back Courtney Gears for Tools of Destruction and we were going to make a reference to that certain pop star's recent misfortunes. Where's Courtney Gears? She's in and out of rehab and her career has taken a big misstep, and she's a bit rusty in the bolts. We thought that she's already been through enough. It's just piling it on, and it's not that funny. We probably censor ourselves more than we've ever been censored. In Japan, however, they will write their own backstory and they have their own sensibilities. We actively support and encourage that and they're great in identifying what works in that market. Of course, we don't complain because we're one of the few successful Western franchises there period.
By a new backstory, does it mean that Japan has their own story? Who does the localization?
It means that, yeah. They have a guy that's the Japanese equivalent of Marc Cerney. It's Shimizu-san, and he does a great job of taking our universe, and just tweaking it so that the Japanese will in love with it. I mean, they have a different Ratchet. They have a different Ratchet: he's got huge eyebrows, anime style eyes with white pupils. They have different sensibilities, and we support that and because of that the game does well. He's a huge mascot there. He's akin to what Crash was to PS1 here in North America. Ratchet is one of the faces of PS2. If you go to Japan, they've coordinated Ratchet dances -- they loves them some Ratchet.
Are the animations the same?
Yeah, the animation should the same as far as I know, because I wouldn't know who else would do them. I highly doubt we'd do custom animations for them. Although we have done "hero animations" in the past for them. I'd have to double check. I'd imagine we do the same cutscenes, and they have slightly different dialog.
Will American gamers be able to play as the Japanese Ratchet?
Yes, it should be an unlockable in there, but I'd have to double check. [Update: Just learned that Japan Ratchet will not be unlockable as a skin in final US build. I said in the interview I'd double check on that. You will be able to unlock Japanese language though in US build.]
Why is there no multiplayer in Tools of Destruction?
We got a lot of awards for making a great multiplayer game, but at the end of the day, people gravitate towards a single player adventure. We thought that the people power that would be used for a multiplayer mode would be best used making kick-ass single-player. To the credit of our production team, it takes guts to say no. We would've added multiplayer because people expected it and what's best for the game is making a kick-ass single player experience. That's not to say that Ratchet won't touch the Network somehow in the not-too-distant future, but it won't be part of the Tools of Destruction game.
Are there plans for downloadable content through the PlayStation Network?
If we do anything, it's going to stand on its own. Unfortunately, we haven't revealed exactly how yet. Things are abuzz at the factory, but exactly how remains to be seen. That's exactly where we're at right now.
How much gameplay can gamers expect from Tools of Destruction?
We don't really talk about hours, because we see it more of a sandbox experience. It should be comparable to Going Commando. But there's huge replay value, and there's a replay plan. There's going to be developer commentary which we've never done before. We're doing it Infobox style.
How many worlds will players go through?
There are 18 worlds. Well, 15 worlds and 3 levels of space combat.
How many weapons can players find in the game?
There are 31 weapons, gadgets and combat devices total in the game. Not just 31 weapons. Thought I mentioned that in the interview. If not, my apologies.
How much space does Tools of Destruction take on the Blu-ray?
Right now we're compressing and working on the final build, but yesterday we can say we're at 22.4 gigs. And even with taking out the padding and localization, you wouldn't be able to fit the game on a DVD-9. We have 15 languages on the disc, which saves a lot of production money for Sony. About 40 percent of that is localization. Of course, if you the math, we still wouldn't be able to fit the gameon a DVD-9.
Will there be any Home integration with regards to the skill points?
That's a great question. To be honest, we haven't announced any Home plans at the time, but we're intrigued by it. We're looking at what we can do with it. But it's not like w'ere back at the shop doing our Home thing. We're still considering our options, and what makes sense.
Any plans for LittleBigPlanet support?
I'll tell you this: we're huge fans of LittleBigPlanet. We talked to them at E3 and we would love to participate, and hopefully the guys at Media Molecule will get in touch with us.
Will there ever be another Ratchet game on PSP?
I honestly can't say. That's up to the team at High Impact Games.
The guys at Naughty Dog ended the Jak series, do you ever see yourself doing the same with Ratchet? Or, is it something you'll continue to work on?
Of course. The sales have been really good for us. Who doesn't want to continue exploring the universe in epic adventures? I think we'll be working oin the series for a long time.
So, Ratchet PS3 confirmed?