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RATCHET-ing Things Up - Part Two

The second part of Cinescape's interview with Insomniac CEO Ted Price

By James Stevenson     November 02, 2002

Sony Computer Entertainment's RATCHET AND CLANK is one of the year's best titles that no one knows much 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. This week, in part two of our four-part feature, we examine the weapon and level design in RATCHET AND CLANK.


Developing all of the gadgets and weapons, and the game's intricate macrodesign, was one of the early challenges for the dev team. First though, somebody had to come up with the idea for the Suck Cannon.


"It usually ends up being five and ten people throwing out ideas. 'Hey wouldn't it be cool if...', that's where the suck cannon came from. 'Hey, it'd be fun if you could suck enemies into a gun and then shoot them back out as projectiles.' Or 'Boy I'd really like to pilot a cruise missile'

RATCHET AND CLANK

or 'Yeah, turning enemies into chickens sounds fun' and that's where it starts," says Price, "and once we've talked the idea through and determined there aren't any technical problems with it, we'll go ahead and prototype it."


Once the gadgets and weapons had been prototyped and fully developed, the macrodesign was designed. The macrodesign is what connects the worlds together. You'll need certain items to solve certain puzzles to unlock other planets.


"There is a set of dependencies that we created to build the overall macrodesign and we couldn't do that until we knew which gadgets and weapons were going to work. And of course," says Price, "we did develop the story and the macrodesign at the same time, and that was very important because we wanted to make sure that every place that you end up going has a purpose and has a connection to the overall story."


This was a big step for Insomniac as in SPYRO, each little world had its own story that wasn't connected to the big one. To make further comparisons between the two, RATCHET AND CLANK is about ten times bigger.


"It's pretty different," says Price. "SPYRO was all about using a fairly limited move set to take on enemies with very simple behavior. Ratchet is more about making choices, deciding to buy one weapon over another, or getting the right gadget and using it. In SPYRO, we didn't give gamers many choices, at the end of the game players would have everything. In Ratchet, you may get to the end and not have everything available, because you don't have to buy all the weapons, we give you the option to do it, but you don't have to."


With the large selection of weapons to use, and the enormous levels gamers might begin to

RATCHET AND CLANK

feel overwhelmed when they start playing. But way before it hit your PlayStation, battles between the designers and the artists were occurring about the size of the game.


"We all had some wars here between the designers and the artists because the designers wanted to make the levels even bigger. But we only had a limited amount of time to build these things. What we did, was we took stock of the technology that we had, which was fantastic technology, and tried to figure out how much we could possibly build within a given timeframe," explain Price. "Each world took six weeks to construct with a two-person team, so we had to decide what these two-person teams could accomplish in a six-week period."


If there is one thing to be said about RATCHET AND CLANK's massive worlds are the incredible views that gamers will see. The designers intentional put in a lot of open spaces, and viewpoints, so that gamers could get a good look around.


"We wanted to give the players a real sense of space," says Price. "And to do that you have to create big worlds, you can't create claustrophobic environments and we had to give the player 'lookout points' where you can stand at certain places and feel like you're looking over an entire world, or at least a portion of a world."


Looking over these epic worlds, players will quickly notice the stylized look of these levels. Anyone who is a fan of older retro sci-fi will instantly feel at home with the warm look of the levels.


"Our influences were 50s and 60s retro sci-fi, we didn't want to do something that was really hard-edged, but we did wanted it to appear that we had a lot of science fiction influences. Every world has a lot of high-tech in it," says Price, "so we started looking at old Buck Rodgers and Jetsons-type paintings and refined our approach a little more and took it a little realistic. We decided not to go all the way realistic, because then it would have lost some of the warmth that we would have enjoyed building into our games."


 

Next week, look for part three of our interview with Ted Price, discussing the audience and humor in RATCHET AND CLANK.

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