Interview: Insomniac Games' Ted Price on going multiplatform, EA Partners

Insomniac Games logo
After announcing a new Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 project with EA Partners, Insomniac Games faces a bombardment of questions from fans and press. We fired off some of our own earlier today in an interview with Insomniac CEO Ted Price and EA Partners' Global Marketing VP, Craig Rechenmacher, and while the prolific developer remains tight-lipped when it comes to discussing the details of the new project, we learned more about the partnership's motivation and scope.

Joystiq: This announcement, is this for a single game? Or is this for the entire franchise?

Ted Price: This is for a single game.

Why not a franchise? Why start with a single game deal?

Ted: At Insomniac we actually tend to do game to game deals. We do one deal at a time and our goal is, though, to have a longterm relationship with anybody we work with. As you know we worked with Sony for 14 years and it has been great, and we're looking forward to a long and fruitful relationship with EAP as well.

Craig Rechenmacher (EAP): Yeah, from our standpoint, we're announcing a one-game deal, but our job is to make this first product a massive success. And if we do that, this is gonna be a long-term relationship.

With this announcement, is Insomniac creating more games or spending more individual time on each game it ships?

Ted: Well, it's easy for me to answer the last question -- we are definitely spending more time on games these days than we used to. As you may remember, back in the PlayStation One and PlayStation 2 days, we had one team and we were releasing a game a year. And that was a pretty brutal pace for us. However, as the year stretched on, we began to increase the size of the teams and lengthen our production time to add more polish to the game and have more time to tune them. And now we're continuing to do that, making sure the games we release are the absolute best they can be. Having multiple teams also gives us the luxury of sort of leapfrogging -- having staggered releases -- so that we can have a consistent stream of releases over the years. However, as we've moved into the PlayStation 3, we have lengthened our development times.
Are you working on a new software engine for both 360 and PS3 or does your current engine already support development on 360?

Ted: We're working on new technology.

Do you guys have any interest in licensing that technology?

Ted: Well, we've always had a very open approach to sharing what we know with the rest of the industry, not only with Sony first-party. Because it's a small industry, I think we can all learn from each other. The more we share, the more the industry benefits. And in many cases, there really aren't any "trade secrets" per se, because we're all basically doing the same thing. The goal for every developer I think is to create great content. And great games. And that really comes from the sort of "intangibles" at each studio -- generally it's the team itself, the creativity, the idea behind the game.

So, in terms of licensing our technology, that's not something we're talking about right now. We're just focusing on making the best possible games we can.

Major Nelson tweeted about sending an Xbox dev kit your way. I'm assuming you've had them for longer. How long have you actively worked on the Xbox 360 title?

Ted: Not gonna talk about time frames, but if anyone wants to send us dev kits, that's cool! We have no problem with that. (laughs)

What is the role of the East Coast studio? Was that launched specifically for this multiplatform deal?

Ted: (hesitates) I'm not gonna talk about what they're working on. The reason we started the East Coast branch was because we had several people who were interested in moving to the East Coast and they wanted to build a team with all the Insomniac principles we've all held dear for the past 16 years and they're doing a great job out there.

Is this new franchise more Ratchet or Resistance?

Ted: Oh man ... I wish I could talk more about it, but we're gonna wait to talk about the details behind that game.

Nod once if it's more Ratchet, nod twice if it's more Resistance.

(laughs)

Why EA Partners and not someone else?

Ted: I think at the core, we have the same values when it comes to our creative approach to creating games and to quality over quantity. And, from a more technical perspective, EA as a publisher -- EA Partners -- has an amazing global reach. And being a multiplatform publisher, that's a great combination for us since we're looking to go multiplatform. But more than that, they also work with the best independent developers in the world who, incidentally, own their intellectual property. And for us, that was another very attractive aspect of working with EAP.

Was owning IP a requirement or a bonus?

Ted: That was a requirement. We, long ago, made the decision that when we create a new franchise it's very important for us to retain ownership of the IP.

Did you seek out EAP with that requirement in mind?

Ted: Well, actually, it happened organically. We knew about each other. We'd certainly been talking on a casual basis, as we do with everyone in the industry. Really, just, the relationship evolved.

Craig: From the EAP standpoint, this is obviously a developer we've had our eye on for quite some time. We were just waiting for the right opportunity, the right time, and this is it.

Is there a different audience on 360? Will multiplatform development affect overall design?

Ted: Not at all. I think the key principles behind any great game remain consistent no matter what platform you're on. So we'll continue doing things the way we do them. Of course our technology on the Xbox 360 will be a little different, but when it comes to the gaming experience, it doesn't matter what platform we're on. We wanna provide the best we can.

Craig: And in terms of opening up the audience, absolutely. This is gonna allow the Insomniac team to bring their quality, innovative title to a brand new audience worldwide. They have a 15-plus year history of making incredible software with the PlayStation folks, and one of the things that always gets lost in this message is that those PlayStation 3 fans, those hardcore fans, have a new franchise to look forward to from Insomniac.

Does this open the door to DS, iPhone, or XBLA publishing?

Ted: I can say that we are always open to new directions here. The only thing we're talking about right now though, are PS3 and Xbox 360.

Following the Bungie/Activision and Respawn/EA Partners announcements, do you think there's a trend towards this type of developer-owned relationship with publishers?

Craig: From an EAP standpoint, we're just thrilled to be working with Insomniac. IP ownership -- and it all depends by developer, and a lot of it has to do with their pedigree -- these guys are making massive bets on these new IPs. Our goal is just to work with them. If we do our job, if we make this a world class launch, we believe that we will earn the right to work with these guys in the future.

To Ted: Could you speak to the trend of indie devs leaving exclusivity for multiplatform deals?

Tim: I think it's good for gamers, really. When you look at the opportunities that are created by developers like Insomniac, Bungie, Respawn, creating new franchises is pretty sweet. I can't imagine that gamers aren't salivating at the thought of new franchises coming from teams who have sold a lot of titles and have produced some of the most well known and well respected franchises across the globe. So for gamers it's great. I think for the development industry it's great, because it's helping the industry evolve in terms of the way that we practice business and that's pretty much only positive, as far as I can see.

Do you think that your brand as a developer is growing in terms of your average consumer, who might see the brand of your games but might not see Insomniac as the creative force behind those games? And do you think that that is a trend that's changing?

Ted: Well we certainly tried hard to get our brand out there and make sure people associate Ratchet & Clank and Resistance with the Insomniac brand. We've slaved away for years to build a very robust community and we are extremely grateful to all of the fans of Insomniac for continuing to give us feedback for what we do right and what we do wrong. And certainly now, by branching out, I think it'll help people look at Insomniac that's something that's slightly different. Usually people associate us directly with Sony or with the PlayStation and it's great now to have a slightly different identity.

Craig: If you look at just the reaction today, there's a lot of excited 360 gamers out there, so I think there's a very large universe of fans of Insomniac and the quality products they put out.

I think some people erroneously assumed that Insomniac was actually a Sony first-party studio because of your long-standing relationship with them.

Ted: Yeah, I can understand. One thing we have tried to get out in front of is that nothing changes in our relationship with Sony in terms of how we're working with them. We're continuing to make titles with Sony. And we're very grateful to Sony for helping us get to where we are today. Because without their support it would be very difficult to be here, where we are now.

Just for clarification, Sony owns the Ratchet & Clank & Resistance properties?

Ted: That's correct.

Last thing I've got: Timetable. When can we expect to hear more about the game, this relationship, etc.?

Ted: What I can tell you is you won't hear anything else at E3. We wanted to get out in front of E3 with this announcement just to make sure that people actually heard it. And, we will be showing more and describing more, when the game is ready. That's the approach we really have to take.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.