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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 Previous Page 4 of 6 Next

How long would it be with just the small core group?

TP: It varies depending on the game we're doing. For Resistance 2, we had a programmer-heavy group working for probably six or seven months to redo a lot of our systems that we initially created for Resistance: Fall of Man.

They brought them up to date while a couple of designers were working on prototyping new weapons, and coming up with ideas for the new forms of gameplay.

At the same time, what's become a little bit more complex is our multiplayer team, who is also doing double-duty at looking what we're going to be doing for our next game, and also fixing bugs and putting out patches.

You used the phrase "double-duty", so do you have a live team, but they are also forward-looking at the same time?

TP: Exactly. Yeah.

Sounds tough.

TP: Well, it is, but it's not as difficult as putting the game out. Because after we've released the game, the game is generally working very well, and the bugs that we're fixing are very minor, or they're making tuning fixes based on what we're seeing from the community.

One thing that we had sort of touched on -- and this has come up other times -- is encouraging the behavior of the gamers through the design, and, particularly with the multiplayer, with the class system and the squad system, encouraging the way people stick together, and play the game.  

Designing multiplayer has got to be a big challenge; when you're talking about the numbers, eight for co-op is a big number, and 60 for competitive multiplayer is a ridiculous number, so... Has that been a real challenge?

TP: Well, when we began designing for Resistance 2 on the multiplayer side, we experimented with a lot of ideas. And Skirmish evolved from a lot of experiments that didn't quite work. We ended up kind-of having a "eureka!" moment at one point with the Skirmish mode, when we were faced with the unfortunate reality that just putting 60 players in a big arena doesn't work. It's just not fun!

And so, the design and multiplayer programming team got together and just figured out how to make the dynamic objective system and the squads work well. But it was a painful process, for sure, and we went through many iterations to actually get it right.

But I've got to tell you, those guys, kudos to the design team for both co-op and multiplayer. And the multiplayer team, the gameplay programming team which participates as much in design as they do in programming.

Insomniac's Resistance 2

One thing I really definitely got an impression of from talking to people, from listening to the discussions today, and the panels and stuff, is that this is a highly collaborative company; that you encourage that at all levels, and that people can contribute to the games in multiple ways.

TP: To me, after almost 15 years of doing this, it's weird thinking about how it could be any other way. We just have so many people here who have come to Insomniac because they want to make games -- and they want to make fun games. It would suck to stifle that creativity.

There is a certain point, though, I imagine -- well, no, I know -- where you have to buckle down and you have to say "This is what's happening."

TP: Of course.

I mean, this sounds really autocratic; it's not what I mean. But there's a point where you say, "OK, now go back, and it's your job now to program that, or it's your job to go crank on the assets," or whatever.

TP: Well, that's why we do have deadlines, and why we do have a hierarchical structure, where, ultimately, the creative director makes the final call on what's going into the game. But what has, for me, been fun, is that most of the decisions are made before I have to step in and say, "Well, OK guys, I'm going to break this tie by voting this way."

With enough discussion -- because we do encourage a lot of discussions and arguments here -- the best ideas usually fall through to the game. That way people walk away, even if they originally proposed a different idea, agreeing on what is implemented. And there tends to be a lot less friction that way.

Getting to that point, getting to that point usually is the result of many heated discussions. There have been a few shouting matches over various aspects of the game, but my goal is to make sure that people walk away feeling like we achieved a great consensus.

Something that you said this morning is that you "build consensus".

TP: I mean, that's what I feel like my job has been in general, whether I'm CEO, or CD; playing CEO today, or playing CD today, it's trying to encourage people to put ideas on the table that are either going to make our games better, or make the company better.

And then, discussing them, and walking away with an agreement between the people who are passionate about whatever idea happens to be in discussion.

I mean, I do end up making a lot of decisions in the role I'm in, but I like making decisions that I feel are supported by the company; otherwise, why would anybody want to work at Insomniac, if you have a leader who is just going against the grain all the time?


TP: I believe heavily that you have to have strong leaders on projects; you have to have somebody who's willing to stand up and make the tough decisions. And creative directors and project managers at Insomniac end up making decisions all the time.

That may not be popular, but there's a lot of discussion that occurs before those decisions are made; we do not encourage going off and just making off-the-cuff decisions, because that can result in tears.

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