Fuse Q&A with Ted Price – ‘something different in a sea of sequels’

We chat with Insomniac CEO Ted Price, who discusses the controversy surrounding the cover for Fuse on PS3 and making a game at the end of a generation.

OPM: Is it weird to be making a game that’s going to be the last hurrah on a console?

Price: I wouldn’t say it’s weird, it’s something we thought a lot about in terms of timing. When we came up for the idea for Fuse we weren’t really sure when the next generation was going to happen. So we felt strongly that building an awesome four player co-op game was simply something we wanted to do, regardless of the platform. We knew there was a good chance we might be out at the end of the generation about we weren’t terribly concerned about it. Now it’s great to be one of the new kids on the block with something different to offer in a sea of sequels.

OPM: Ever considered holding it over for PS4?

Price: From the very beginning on Fuse we knew it was going to be this generation. We wanted to make sure we were being smart about development and not developing technology before knowing anything about the new consoles. Fuse has been our first multi-platform effort and its been important to us we get it right first time.

OPM: Many people have been commenting on Fuse’s boxart change, especially in light of Ken Levine’s recent comments about Bioshock Infinite’s cover.

The default positions for them were Charlie’s Angles-type poses, where it looks contrived and almost silly.

Price: Covers are tough. They’re always difficult and we’ve been through the wringer over covers for years and years trying to figure out what best represents the game. It’s rare that everybody’s truly satisfied with the cover either internally and externally, so we make the best decisions we can. For us on Fuse it was about showing that Fuse, this alien substance, is a central part of the game which we hadn’t shown before. And we were also prepared for a lot of feedback on the cover. It has drawn attention and people asked a lot of questions about it: Why’d you cut of their heads? What’s the reasoning behind that? Well, part of the reasoning is when you have four characters and you want to present them on the front of a cover, we found the default positions for them were Charlie’s Angles-type poses, where it looks contrived and almost silly. And we were trying to avoid that.

OPM: Does that mean games are reaching a level of acceptance to match films? Are you trying to lure in everyone with one image?

Price: I think that games have become ubiquitous, I don’t think any gamer would disagree with that. It seems like everybody is playing games and it’s a very good thing for our industry. But at the same time titles have spread out in terms of what types are being played, it’s not just console games. And that’s good for all of us. For us, we’re happy if we’re reaching a broader audience. And we’re very happy if Fuse is recognised by people who might not be playing games traditionally or picking up one game a year, but that’s not why we did the cover we did.

OPM: How difficult is it to get the message right with a cover?

Price: It’s really difficult to get it right because you don’t know. You’re putting yourself out there, putting our creations out and asking people to comment on it. And if the comments come back negative then we need to act on it, and if they come back positive then we need to figure out whether or not those comments were based purely on aesthetics or on something else.

But the most important aspect is to make sure that at the core of the game is fun. And that isn’t about putting out trailers. That isn’t about putting box covers about, but actually taking the game and getting it in people’s hands, watching them play and asking them questions about what they liked and what they didn’t like. We do a lot of that during development. So throughout the entire process for Fuse we focus test usability and make repeated tweaks until we felt like we got it right.

OPM: How soon does that start?

Price: We do testing internally from almost day one. As soon as we’ve got the first prototype up and running we will actually test it ourselves and then we start bring in outside people when we feel like the core mechanics are essentially there. When we get the weapons and basic co-op working we can bring in people who aren’t familiar with the game and ask them ”are you getting it?” One of the things we always do is simple mechanics such as aiming, taking cover or control layout, just to see if we’ve got those right first. Those happen very early in the process.

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