Fuse is not only notable for being Insomniac Games (developers of Ratchet & Clank) first multi-platform title, but for gaining attention for a rather radical identity shift, changing from the humourous Overstrike trailer shown at last year’s E3, to the more serious, orange-tinged Fuse. The characters are the same, and even many of the weapons and enemies seem to be as well, but what can we really expect from Insomniac’s latest game? To find out, we interviewed Brian Allgeier, Fuse’s Creative Director, at EA’s recent Asia Pacific showcase.
Rocket Chainsaw: So how did this project come about initially, where did the inspiration come from?
Brian Allgeier: The original inspiration was Mission Impossible and the old James Bond movies from the 70’s and the 80’s. The basic idea of this elite team of agents that all have their own special weapons and gadgets that they can use together to solve impossible missions.
RC: You also mentioned in your presentation that there was some District 9 mixed in there as well. Where did that come from, when did the decision to go in that direction get made?
BA: Essentially as we were developing the game, we never really felt like we were breaking out of that Mission Impossible mould, and so we started looking at ways to really make this game feel unique and started focusing on the alien substance that was originally just part of the story, but as we developed it as part of the weaponry and gameplay we realised that this was a great direction to take the game. And it ended up being this Mission Impossible meets District 9, and so that’s why we decided to change the name and push it more in this Fuse direction.
RC: Well, obviously the change from Overstrike to Fuse has been fairly public, and there does seem to be a big fundamental shift in the game – many fans seem to be saying the former key element of humour is now missing in its present form. Is this really the case, is it a big deal as some are making out?
BA: Yeah, I don’t think it’s as big a deal. Certainly, some of the footage that we first showed when we revealed Fuse, I think would lead people to that perspective. But, once you’ve played the game and you’ve seen that there is an element of humour, that we still have these very exotic locations and a lot of colourful villains, you can see the roots of Overstrike there, but on top of that we’ve got this really cool alien weaponry.
RC: So, would you say that would be Fuse’s identity? Insomniac games are known for their very unique personalities, so would you say Fuse’s identity comes from its weapons, or characters?
BA: Yeah, it really comes from the alien substance ‘Fuse’, which powers the weaponry and is the main focal point of the plot. And it’s really what drives the teamwork and everything. When you work together you earn Fuse Points which powers up the Fuse Weapons, and allows you to progress through the adventure and ultimately find the Fuse source.
RC: I suppose that’s why you called the game ‘Fuse’.
BA: [laughs] Yeah, exactly.
RC: Fuse is also the first IP that Insomniac actually owns, how important is that to the company?
BA: Well, when you control IP, certainly you can direct its destiny. We obviously wanna keep control of it – a good example is with Spyro the Dragon, that’s something that now Activision is controlling, and we developed that property back in the 90’s and now it’s no longer in our hands. And so, we fortunately have a really good relationship with Sony in terms of Ratchet & Clank and Resistance, as we’ve always been able to have a say in the approval to whether a developer works on those games, but when you have your own IP, you really are in charge.
RC: Though we know you cannot speak about such things, evidence suggests Microsoft and Sony’s new systems will be arriving sometime late next year. Regardless, it is clear this generation is wrapping up. Do you feel, after so many years of new properties, and extended existing properties, Fuse can still find a place in the market? Is an audience there?
BA: Yeah, there’s over 100 million PS3’s and Xbox 360’s out there, and we don’t think people are going to throw those out the window the moment new consoles come out. So, you know there’s also a lot of room in terms of improving the visuals and the technology with the existing consoles. We’re developing a brand new engine and really mining a lot of what’s left in terms of processing power, and so we think there’s going to be an audience out there who will want play this awesome team-based adventure.
RC: Well, from what I played at the showcase, I’ve seen that every character has a specific weapon, such as the Magshield and the Warp Gun, so how do you guys come up with these designs? Were there other ideas that didn’t make the cut in the end?
BA: Yes, absolutely. We have a very collaborative environment, ever since the Ratchet & Clank days, we’re still developing- actually we just recently came out with a new Ratchet & Clank game, we just love to come up with ideas and brainstorm and write a bunch of weapon ideas up on the whiteboard. The sky’s the limit, we really try to raise the bar in making better weapons than what we’ve made before but the tough part comes down to picking just the right weapons and balancing them so they work as part of a team, but are still fun to use individually.
RC: What do you feel Fuse is bringing to its multiplayer that’s unique to the game?
BA: Well, certainly we’re developing the game from the ground-up to be co-operative. And that’s been our big priority with Fuse. A lot of games focus on single player and then they’ll add in co-op, but we really wanted to make sure people wanted to feel like they’re playing as a team, and that they each have their own special skillset. We also have another mode called ‘Echelon’, which is a wave-based mode, that is co-petitive. And essentially, you play through these rounds and you have to work together to survive, but you’re also competing for these money drops that are these large bags of cash, and coins, that you’re racing after. So, there’s that dynamic of wanting to work together, but at the same time break away from the pack and race after the cash. So, that’s a lot of fun to play and essentially we’re sharing the progression between the two modes. As you’re upgrading your characters in the campaign, you can bring the same characters over to Echelon and continue progressing them and vice versa.
RC: Do you have a specific character that’s your favourite?
BA: Well, this week I’ve been enjoying Naya Devereaux, who’s got this very powerful Warp Rifle that can create these series of black holes and she can chain those together to detonate multiple weapons at once. But what’s really cool is that she’s got this cloaking ability where she can go invisible and flank enemies. So, I have a lot of fun jumping between being the powerhouse of black hole destruction and the sneaky invisible girl that runs up behind and cracks enemies’ necks. [laughs]
RC: Fair enough! In the hands-on portion I played, it was generally a pretty standard demo requiring the Overstrike team to break through a bunch of enemies to reach a target. Will there be more varied objectives in the full game?
BA: Sure. There’s definitely many different objectives throughout the story based campaign. There’s also many different objectives that we randomise for Echelon mode. It can be anywhere from carrying precious cargo like a Fuse cell to a destination and protecting the carrier who’s holding it, we’ve got objectives where you have to defend a particular area as enemies rush in. We’ve got a number of different types of enemies that you encounter ranging from heavy lead-foot enemies with chainguns and flamethrowers to other enemies that encourage the group to work together and save each other. We’ve got infiltrators who’ll come out from being invisible and put players in a chokehold, we’ve got spec-ops enemies who’ll try to pin players to the ground and blow their head off with a shotgun. So, you really have to stay on your toes to see what’s happening and how to keep the team alive.
Fuse is currently scheduled for a March 2013 release.