Insomniac’s ‘LEAP’ of faith
OXCGN’s FUSE interview
by Arthur Kotsopoulos
©2012 Arthur Kotsopoulos
Aside from getting some hands on with FUSE‘s single player and cooperative game modes, we had the chance to have a chat with Brian Allgeier, a 21 year veteran of the gaming industry and creative director on FUSE.
Providing some additional information regarding how FUSE works, Brian discusses the difficulties involved with developing a cross-platform game after Insomniac Games worked exclusively on Sony consoles, and explains the process of the game’s change from its original title Overstrike when it was originally announced.
He also goes on to explain how the LEAP feature makes the co-op gameplay different to other shooters.
Brian: So did you get a chance to play single player or co-op?
Arthur: I was playing single player all day and played co-op today which is a totally different dynamic which is good.
Now to start off initially, the game was announced under the name Overstrike before being changed to FUSE. With the recent article over at Kotaku regarding Crytek’s free to play FPS WarFace, what are your thoughts on choosing a suitable title on a game and is it all that important?
Brian: A title is very important; it has to reflect what the game is about and be somewhat memorable so the people can talk about it and in the end it has to be simple and fairly clear.
That’s what happened with the transition of Overstrike to FUSE. With Overstrike we originally thought the of a game with the inspiration of Mission Impossible and James Bond, and as we developed the game we really thought we were breaking ground with the direction, not just being Mission Impossible: The Game.
We started exploring this alien substance that was part of the story but really wasn’t integrated into a lot of the weaponry of the gameplay.
The more we started experimenting, we were able to think about this cool alien substance that could combine with earthly materials to create these really powerful results. We realized that this was driving everything; it was driving the teamwork, the weapons. It was the main focus of the story and it made sense to call the game that.
Arthur: FUSE marks Insomniac’s first multi-platform game outside PlayStation exclusivity. Has the development process been any different to development for just a single platform? And what were the types of challenging involved?
Brian: Well we had to go back to ground zero and re-write all of our tools and tech to support a cross-platform game. The good thing was we created our tools so they had a faster creation loop; we could quickly get the code and characters and environments up and running in the game quickly.
Then be able to make changes if necessary which wasn’t the case with our previous tools; it was a much slower process.
We’ve certainly made a lot of improvements with our engine: we’ve got better shaders, better lighting and a lot of up close detail that is going to look significantly better than past efforts and our goal has always been to create the same experience on both platforms.
We don’t want to alienate our PS3 fanbase. We’ve got a lot of great fans and community who loved the Resistance and Rachet games, but we also want to make sure we have a great first start on the Xbox platform.
We’re working hard making the experience fun on both.
Arthur: How would you respond to the fans who have expressed concern about Insomniac developing for platforms other than just PlayStation? Like you said working hard to bring the same experience to 360?
Brian: We have a huge engine team, and a lot of people on the team have experience working on Xbox 360 and PS3 so we actually tackled Xbox first because there’s still people who were unfamiliar with it so we really wanted to educate ourselves how the Xbox works, knowing we could easily catch up on the PS3 because we have a head start with it.
That’s been a big priority for us- that the game looks great on both.
Arthur: Both third-person shooting and co-op play have seen major pushes this generation. After playing FUSE single player and co-op there seems to be a big emphasis on co-op play and special abilities of all the weapons.
How will FUSE stand out from the pack, and are you worried about comparisons with other big-name third-person shooters like Gears of War?
Brian: We developed FUSE from the ground up as being a co-op game with that mind in the entire time.
A lot of games develop a single player game and try to tack on co-op so we knew it was very important to create this team based experienced and the one thing that separates this game from a lot of other are unique classes and shared progression. Essentially the goal is everyone has their moment to shine on the team.
If you’re Dalton and you’re shielding everyone, or if you’re Izzy and you’re healing or Naya is creating black holes decimating hordes of enemies like you were doing today or Jacob and you’re sniping from a distance, everyone has got their role, working together and helping each other out.
The cool thing is as you’re playing through the game whether you’re playing single player cooperatively or any of our two modes, Echelon or campaign you’re always going to be upgrading your character, always going to be getting experience that will be levelling up and getting upgrades in their skill tree.
Rather than have you stick with a character from the beginning and never have the option to change character, we let you change characters. I need to be clear on how I say that, the feature that allows for that is LEAP.
Which is that in single player or co-op if there is an AI bot available you can always jump into that character.
So we give people a lot of choices on how they want to play their team and which modes they can play, so they’re always making progress no matter how they play.
Arthur: With all the choices and all the upgrades for each team member, it can be difficult to encourage players to stick together rather than take the lone wolf approach.
Do you feel with all these features in FUSE will encourage better co-operation through Echelon and co-op play?
Brian: Well, teamwork is encouraged as the game gets more difficult, so we have enemies that encourage team work.
We have the ‘Enforcer’ boss which fires bowlers that wrap heroes up and you have to untie them, we’ve got a couple of enemies like the ‘Infiltrator’ that goes invisible and grabs heroes into chock holds.
There’s another enemy called Spec Ops who has a jet-pack and he’ll bounce on his enemies with a shotgun.
You’re always having to keep your eye out on your teammates to ensure they’re not in danger.
We never want to force you to play cooperatively though. We believe you need to be encouraged and the situation has to promote it, but we don’t want players to jump through hoops and do these 3 things to have a team based experience.
Arthur: That’s actually a really good point, I know you’ve got your FPS shooters with team-based multiplayer modes but everyone always goes the lone wolf approach trying to do everything themselves.
If you’ve got a group of 3 or 4 people who are working as a team and then you’ve got 4 others who just randomly doing their own things, it makes things difficult.
FUSE is looking amazing and it’s got all the ingredients that could potentially spawn a new franchise and this is a stretch. Is FUSE at the moment more of an entry into multiplatform console development or is there a sense of scope to spawn a franchise in the future?
Brian: Well we develop all of our games with a deep mythology and rich back-stories for all our characters, so we like the idea that there is longevity, and with each game we make there is a potential for sequels.
Obviously we’re just focused on finishing FUSE right now, but Insomniac is an independent developer and there is always the opportunity to stay cross-platform for us but we just look at it one project to the next.
It just happened that this opportunity came up to work with EA and we just decided to go with that.