Preview: Ted Price Talks Fuse

When starting an interview it helps to know who you are interviewing. Sitting down while saying “I recognise your name, but not sure exactly what position you hold with the company?” — is a perfectly polite and fine question. But when met with the response “Founder and CEO!” — both sides of the equation begin to wonder if a little more pre-interview research was not in order. As we get a few questions deep into the interview, at least it becomes clear that I know the history of the games Ted Price’s company has made and I have at least done some research into Insomniac’s latest project, Fuse.

Changing Names

Originally announced as Overstrike at E3 2011, other than it being a four player cooperative third person shooter not much else was detailed, but it was clear to see from my hands-on demo with the game that a lot had changed since the last video trailer we were shown at it’s announcement.  Ted Price tells me; “We have got a fairly strong response to the change in tone from the players who saw the trailer in 2011, which was almost a concept trailer for the game, but during that time, we were being very careful with our weapons.  We were going very cartoony, making a T-rated game — which limited us in terms of what we could do. So, we decided to just go crazy.”
Ted goes on to explains why the vision to make Fuse a story driven game influenced the change in title; “We realised, pretty late in production, that we were lacking a solid connection between story and gameplay. Fuse as an alien substance always existed, it wasn’t called Fuse. It existed as a McGuffin in the story, as ostensibly the reason that you and the agents were travelling across the globe and beyond. We knew that to make the game compelling and elicit a more positive response from gamers we would have to connect the gameplay and story better. So we decided to take Fuse and really integrate it with gameplay.”
The substance of Fuse allowed for some creative freedom for a company that has built franchises well known for their zany, inventive and fun weaponry; “Whenever we introduce alien tech is a licence to do whatever the hell we want. And we love making worlds where we are not following the rules. We have absolutely no interest in doing a military sim where it reflects a real world scenario. We love making up our own universes, our own twisted version of Earth and Fuse certainly gives us the licence to play.”

Changing Direction

The story and art direction both seem to have taken on a slightly less comic tone than the originally presented concept. “In terms of story, you play the role of four agents — part of a mercenary team called into action by the US government when one of their top secret bases goes dark. That base is called Hyperion and in that base scientists have been experimenting with an alien substance called Fuse. And that base is under attack by a rogue paramilitary organisation called Raven who is intent on possessing the source of Fuse for their own purposes.

When talking about the change in art direction, Ted notes; “We have created a very unique Insomniac feel for the visuals.” I asked if Fuse was in a middle ground between Resistance and Ratchet & Clank and whether it had now moved more towards the Resistance end of the scale; “A lot of people have commented that Fuse seems to fall somewhere between those two titles, I think they are correct, but it wasn’t by intention. One thing I will say is that Fuse still retains humour – it’s not as campy or as over-the-top as it was in the trailer in 2011, but, as you saw in the demo, there are definitely sequences in the game where the characters aren’t taking themselves too seriously. You hear that a lot in the ambient dialogue and we try to make sure we explain the relationship between the characters in a humourous or wry way through the game.”

Dalton’s Magshield in action.

Meet The Team

Dalton – Leader of the team, his Fuse weapon is a Magshield that can be used as as a portable or deployable shield, but it also can be launched as a wall of kinetic energy in a blast attack. Basically serves as the tank and protector of the group.
Izzy – A former intelligence broker has served her time and now let loose to make use of her Fuse infused Shattergun that causes enemies to freeze in place in a crystallised structure. Can also heal teammates with grenades.
Jacob – A former LAPD detective, his Arcshot Fuse weapon is a crossbow that fires bolts of mercury that can also be used to make traps that disintegrate enemies.
Naya – The character I got to control in my hands-on demo of the game. She is a stealthy assassin and ex-member of Raven. I had fun in the demo using her powers of invisibility to get up close-and-personal to get to work with her Warp rifle. Using the Fuse power this rifle creates singularities (yep, it’s a Black Hole gun!) These singularities can also be chained together by rapidly firing for even more explosive results and useful for combining with other teammates incoming firepower.

Changing the Game

We are interested in doing something different with cooperative gameplay.” One of the most notable differences could be the Leap system that allows players to jump between any of the four characters not already under human control at any time; “This for us was a reaction to what most multiplayer games tend to do. At the very beginning of a story driven campaign you are asked to pick a character and once you have made that choice you are stuck with that choice for the whole game unless you decide to start over. We didn’t want to create that restriction for our players. Plus the game really rewards strategic experimentation, we try to encourage that by allowing players to jump back and forth to any of the players controlled by AI.”

He revealed that you could choose to play all the way through the game as one character  just choosing to level up that one person or keep Leaping between characters to earn Fuse points with each individual to unlock each of their characters unique skills available. If any one player dies in multiplayer though, it will require a restart of that section of the game – when playing as a team you are going to have to learn the best ways to combine your powers for maximum effect.

A concept of  ‘Lethal Teamwork’ is promoted throughout and players can cooperatively use Fuse Powers for combination bonuses – An example of which is the ability for team members to fire their Shattergun, Arcshot or Warp Rifle shots through Dalton’s Magshield‘s protective forcefield. This does increased damage and both players get more points than they would individually. Combat against larger foes mixes up the way you need to combine your firepower and if your team if getting overwhelmed you may be able to unleash a moment of Fusion where everyone gets to let loose with ammo and Fuse powers while also healing any wounded team mate. A part of the level we played through demonstrates the need to combine efforts to overcome more environmental puzzles with a player firing upon a sensor allowing another team mate to climb over to deactivate a laser grid so that the team can progress.

I asked if the development of the multiplayer modes in Resistance influenced the desire to make a multiplayer focused game “We have seen a pretty strong trend towards co-op. Players have expressed to us, and to others publicly, a desire for more cooperative play in games.” I welcomed the addition of a Split screen multiplayer option, but questioned the use of development resources;”The motivation is probably more important than the time it takes. The motivation for us is that we know a lot of players prefer to play with friends physically and when you are playing couch co-op, it’s awesome as you can turn around and slap them!

Leaping Platforms

Having been such a long supporter of Sony, Fuse may have shocked many of Insomniac’s long term fans by being the studio’s first multiplatform release. Ted also described moving over to development on the 360 as a “Relatively painless experience.” Not worried about stepping away from being a one console company or the timing of releasing a new franchise with a new console generation on the horizon, Ted went on to explain; “When we started Fuse we had no idea when the next console generation would be coming out, there were all sorts of crazy predictions. The most important thing for us was to focus on a great new multiplatform IP. That is what we want to do and since we don’t know anything about next generation consoles let’s make it for this generation. And you know what? The opportunity to stand out among sequels is fantastic if we are releasing at the end of this console cycle.

We will all get the chance to team up and see if Fuse’s cooperative core does help it stand out when the game launches in March 2013.

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  1. cybelorian

    Thanks Tim, you always pull up the long ass awesome interviews. The game does look fun, and I like the art style.

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