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RATCHET-ing Things Up - Part Four

We conclude our look at Insomniac's RATCHET AND CLANK

By James Stevenson     November 11, 2002

Sony Computer Entertainment's RATCHET AND CLANK is one of the year's best titles that no one knows about. Developed by Insomniac, the folks that brought you SPYRO, it utilizes platformer roots while at the same time adding many elements never seen in a platformer game before. Cinescape recently had the chance to talk shop with a very busy Ted Price, President and CEO of Insomniac, about all things R&C. Last week, we examined the weapon and level design in RATCHET AND CLANK. This week, in part four of our four-part feature, we look at the animation of RATCHET AND CLANK and Insomniac.


As is becoming typical with most of Sony's internal projects, the animation is quite superb. RATCHET AND CLANK continues this fine tradition with fantastic animation. A big part of the process to the design team was getting the characters' faces right.


"We had a couple of choices when we started out, as far as how we were going to animate the facial expressions.

RATCHET AND CLANK

Some people use vertex morphing, blend shapes and things like that," explains Price. "We decided that we would build a joint system for all of our faces in the game. Then set up expressions, keys for those joints so that we could use sliders to control the expressions and the mouth shapes etc. And that's the system we ended up using for the both the cinematics and in game animation"


Insomniac's animation department employs eight full-time animators. These animators did all of the in-game movies and animations.


"There are over sixty minutes of cinematics in the game," adds Price,"it's the length of a short film as far as the cinematics go. They just pulled off a massive amount of work, and their diligence in using the tools that we ended up choosing."


Looking back at those first days of the development, Price recalls the original goal that the team set out with: to redefine the character-action genre.


"We had been working with Spyro for so long we felt that we knew the genre pretty well and we knew the boundaries that existed," says Price. "We wanted to bring in elements from other genres to create something that no one had seen before, elements from RPGs, adventure games, shooters, and of course we wanted to stay somewhat true to the platformer roots. By combining all of those different elements, we were able to bring to life what we think is a new take on the character-action genre."


Above all, though, Price hopes that gamers take a lot away from the game in the ways of story, gameplay, and challenge.


"I hope they enjoy the story. I hope they find elements of gameplay that they haven't seen in other games before. I hope they feel like they were

RATCHET AND CLANK

challenged but at the same time were never frustrated and I hope they feel like their money was well spent. From everybody we've talked to who has played the game," says Price, "we have learned that it is a very long game and that one of the things consumers are interested in right now are games that are worth the money. We hear a lot of complaints about people who play short games and think 'Oh God, I should have just gone and rented it.' RATCHET AND CLANK is not a rental, you cannot finish this game in a couple of sessions."


But it's the weapons that Price finds most satisfying. Looking back now, though, there weren't any weapons that got cut out that he'd like to see put back.


"There are a lot more we probably could have made work," says Price. "But we felt that the number of weapons that are in the game right now is a good number because it didn't get confusing. We wanted to stick with a number that wouldn't be overwhelming, but still made players feel like they had a lot of choices. We're happy with the number that ended up in the game."


Above everything else, the massive project that is RATCHET AND CLANK couldn't have come together without the collaborative teamwork at Insomniac.


"One driving force at Insomniac has always been the collaborative nature of design here and one thing that we try to avoid is having one person responsible for and being the visionary behind the design," says Price. "We believe that it's a collective effort, an ensemble effort every time we make a game. I don't believe RATCHET AND CLANK would have been as varied and as deep as it is, if we hadn't asked everybody to contribute creatively to the design. That's our philosophy and I think that's why people enjoy working here and why the games we make come out the way they do."


 

RATCHET AND CLANK is Rated "T" for Teen and retails for $39.99.

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