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Peeking Inside Insomniac: A Conversation With Ted Price
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Peeking Inside Insomniac: A Conversation With Ted Price

November 14, 2008 Article Start Page 1 of 6 Next
 

In 1994, developer Insomniac Games, nowadays best known for creating franchises like Spyro, Ratchet & Clank, and Resistance, was founded by a group including Ted Price, CEO, president, and creative director at the company.

Since that time, the developer has forged a reputation for quality, and has concentrated exclusively on its relationship with Sony platforms and Sony itself -- having not published a game with any other publisher since 1996's Disruptor.

In these unique circumstances, Insomniac staffers have been very vocal about the core philosophies that drive the production of games at the studio -- per the developer's website, "quality over quantity", "innovation", "collaboration", "efficiency", and "independence".

Gamasutra recently spoke to Ted Price at last week's community event, held at the company's Burbank, California headquarters.

You'll find below a wide-ranging discussion about such topics as Insomniac's decision-making process, its development cycles, its new studio in North Carolina, and the company's relationship with its fans.

You presented a lot of interesting stuff today, but one thing I can see is that it seems like you're really into this idea of having this community day here; you seem really charged up by having the fans here, having a chance to talk to them, and just to give back. Can you talk about that a little bit?

Ted Price: Community is something that we started years ago, when we went into the multiplayer space, and as we have released more and more games with multiplayer component, we've learned more and more that community is essential to supporting an online game.

And the MyResistance.Net community, and the Insomniac community have been instrumental in giving us feedback about what's good about our games, and what's bad about our games.

So we wanted to make sure that our community recognizes how much we appreciate their feedback. And it's unfortunate that we can't bring everybody from the forums to Insomniac, but we did our best to bring in people who could actually make it, and who we knew would enjoy getting kind-of a peek into the game development process.

You could tell how enthused everyone was to be here. They were just totally pumped.

TP: Yeah. This is what we live for, because it really is direct contact with people who are playing our game for fun. Not necessarily because they're doing a review or looking at it for competitive analysis; they're just out there because they love games. So...

I was actually a little surprised; you pulled back the curtain a little bit more than I expected, actually. You were pretty frank about some of the decisions that you made, and some of the tech, and also just showing the test environments and stuff. I was actually a little surprised how open you were -- but I don't think it's going to hurt, at all.

TP: We're not concerned about talking about the development process. In fact, we have an R&D section of our website, where we give away a lot of our, if you want to call them quote-unquote "trade secrets."

And the idea is that, in this industry, things move so quickly that there really aren't that many trade secrets -- things that get you ahead -- necessarily.

It's more about your production process; it's more about being efficient, and continuing to push your design. So we want to give back to both the community, and to the industry, with what we do with our web page, our community day, and with our [code and game development solution-sharing] Nocturnal Initiative.

And you guys are pretty keyed into participating in industry events, as well -- I mean DICE and GDC, and stuff. Which is really useful, I think, from you guys, because you guys are such evangelists about having your tech in-house; pulling it all in and doing original tech.

TP: It's something that we started with 15 years ago, and it's always -- it simply colored the way we develop games. We made that decision early on, and as a result, we develop a certain way. And for us, we place a lot of value on being able to control one's own tech, and customize it for the games that we're doing.

In what way do you think that is shapes the way you develop your games?

TP: Well, that's a good question. It's hard to compare how it colors our development process, to how people who use off-the-shelf technology may change their development process, but...

When we begin developing our games, we know that we can propose design ideas that we might not be able to support at the time. And when we do that, we go to the tech and tools team, and we ask the guys, "Can we do this?"

And on a lot of the occasions, the answer is yes; on some instances, the answer is no, but there is always the chance to dream big, because we can implement new tech during the production cycle.


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