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[Los Angeles-based High Impact Games are the folks behind Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters for PSP/PS2 - and the upcoming Secret Agent Clank for PSP - and Gamasutra chats in-depth to design director Lesley Matheson on the PSP, game engines, and the LA dev scene.]
Lesley Matheson, design director of High Impact Games, has a background with the Ratchet & Clank series at Insomniac. But she's splashed out from that established studio, along with other experienced developers, to found High Impact Games... which has found her new studio working on... more Ratchet & Clank games.
Is this a happy accident or an inevitability? And how about working on the PSP -- is that an engaging challenge? Coming from Insomniac, does she share the company's preference for total reliance on in-house tech?
And how is it working with Sony -- are first parties better publishers for independent developers? These issues, and more, are covered in this wide-ranging interview.
So how do you feel about developing on the PSP right now? Has everything, do you think, matured to the level where you can actually get like really good console-quality results out of it?
Lesley Matheson: I think we got console-quality results out of, even, Size Matters. I think the PSP always had the potential there; it was just a matter of tapping into it. Fortunately, we have a very veteran, very talented technology staff, so they were able to pretty much pull out the full power of the PSP. I don't know if you played Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters.
I just dabbled with it.
LM: In the giant Clank space sequences, we have like 20,000 particles on the screen at once.
High Impact Games/Sony's Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters
And you said you have a background with the series -- you worked at Insomniac before.
LM: That's right. At Insomniac Games, I was a designer on the Ratchet & Clank PlayStation 2 series, as well as a lead designer and project manager on Resistance.
This is interesting, because it seems Daxter was developed by Ready at Dawn, because they have a previous relationship with Naughty Dog, and you have a previous relationship with Insomniac. I'm assuming that it's not a coincidence.
LM: Well, it's a coincidence between us and Ready at Dawn I think. We had decided -- several of us had decided to form a company, because we were just really excited about doing our own thing.
When this opportunity came up, we just got a number of options with Sony, that they were really anxious to find somebody that could handle this game on PlayStation Portable. And really we were the only team who could take such a complex game and bring it over, so it seemed like a good deal to me.
The PSP is very cool because you can do very high quality, console-like experiences on it, but it's also sort of a weakness in the portable space, to the extent that because it's hard to do the kind of pick-up-and-play games that people can actually play when they're on the go. Do you find that from a design perspective that you have to find a contrast between those two ideals?
LM: I don't know. I mean, I think that the PlayStation Portable holds as much potential to do a pick-up-and-play game as anything else. Anything that we did for the Portable, including the Ratchet games, we wanted them to be something that people could fairly easily play, and come back to without much of a penalty.
I think, basically, it's all about what you design your game for, and if you really realize you're designing it for Portable, you make it more accessible.
I guess my question is in relation to keeping it consistent to the franchise that had its genesis with a more sit-down experience.
LM: That certainly was true with Size Matters; we were really trying to match the exact flavor of the Ratchet games. With Secret Agent Clank we've had the opportunity to diverge a bit -- to keep the Ratchet feel to it, [and preserve] the humor, but at the same time it's really got new and different kinds of gameplay.
So that allowed us to really take it and push it even more in a portable direction. I think -- I would say it's even more accessible than Size Matters in that respect.