Ted Price Pt 3: Justifying 60-Player ‘Resistance,’ Competing With ‘Killzone 2′

Over the last 24 hours I’ve posted parts of my DICE summit chat with Insomniac Games president Ted Price. You got the parts that covered “Ratchet,” the parts that dealt with Surfer Girl and storytelling.

Now you get the “Resistance 2” stuff.

This part started with a bit of skepticism from me about the promised 60-player modes and then goes all over the place — ending at “Killzone 2” and one of my better mid-interview jokes. (If I do say so myself.)

On with it…

Multiplayer: So, people read the Game Informer story [about “Resistance 2″]. People don’t believe the Game Informer story. Because that’s insane amount of content to put into one game. We’re talking about a full-fledged campaign, eight player —

Price: Online co-cop.

Multiplayer: Online co-op, which is a campaign…

Price: One secret about that: it has a story that drives it along and is parallel to the single-player campaign. It is not as in-depth as the single-player campaign. Obviously we’re not going to do the same sort of movies that we do with “Resistance 2″ single-player campaign. I want to make sure that’s clear.

Multiplayer: And then a whole set of multiplayer arenas, maps and what have you, correct?

Price: Correct. Sixty players.

Multiplayer: So, square-acreage or whatever, I assume this is the biggest game you guys have ever tried to make, right?

Price: Yeah.

Multiplayer: How does it compare to “Halo 3″ in the amount of content that it has? Because it seems like this is an attempt to one-up the insane amount of content in “Halo 3.”

Price: Not necessarily. We were not looking at “Halo 3” or looking to one-up anybody at all, other than we wanted to push multiplayer content. With multiplayer we saw an opportunity to up the game to 60 players with not a whole lot of pain on our end. The challenge for us is not technical at this point. It’s design. We’ve got to make sure that when you’re in a 60-player game it doesn’t feel like unmitigated chaos.

So we’ve been spending a lot of time analyzing and trying out different techniques to make sure you know what you’re doing, even though you’re in this massive battle, and it’s working. And it’s fun.

The online co-op for us was a result of getting so many damn complaints about not having online co-op in ’Resistance 1’ that we knew we had to do it. But we figured, ’Screw it, let’s not do what everybody else is doing. Let’s try something different. Let’s add classes to online co-op and let’s create a separate campaign for it and let’s do some stuff that will surprise people.’ And it’s turned out to be a lot of fun. How can we do this? We have a separate multiplayer team who is dedicated to this and has been dedicated to this for a while.

Multiplayer: Do they handle competitive and co-op campaign?

Price: That’s correct. We have a separate team that handles campaign. But they talk — a lot. So there’s a lot of crossover in terms of technology and theme. It’s important to keep all three of those elements — along with community — integrated together so that it feels like it’s not three separate games but that it’s one game with these three cool components.

Multiplayer: What’s your reaction to any skeptics who say this is too much, that there’s no way you can do all of this?

Price: It’s flattering. We certainly don’t think we’re over-reaching. We know we can do it. If people are skeptical, we look forward to proving them wrong.

Multiplayer: The 60-player mode — making sure it’s not unmitigated chaos. It sounds from the way you’re putting it that you guys started with the number. The number’s conceptually exciting: 60 people. And then going from there and dealing with the design challenge of ’how do we make this a comprehensible, enjoyable game experience?’ Is that right? That sounds a bit dangerous or reckless to be doing it that way.

Price: We knew that we were going to face this challenge even with 40 players. When we introduced 40 players in “Resistance 1″ we felt the need for more mechanisms to get people to keep playing with groups of others. Generally those games can get pretty unwieldy. At that point we began brainstorming on ways to create more structure within a large game. Once we felt comfortable with our techniques we felt we could expand it to larger numbers. And 60 was a number that we also felt technically, comfortable with.

Multiplayer: Have you played a 60-player game yet?

Price: Yep. It’s running. We’ve been playing that and eight-player online co-op for a while.

Multiplayer: How do you find 60 people to play the game?

Price: That’s a good question. We have a large technical group at Insomniac. All of the multiplayer guys get on. And then we have a lot of folks in the company, me included, artists, and they’re playing twice a week for an hour. And then we have Sony jumping in as well. And this allows us to make sure we’re lag-free over big distances. They’re in Foster City. It’s the real thing.

Multiplayer: Can the 60 characters all be on the TV screen at the same time? Or do you have to wall it off and make sure they don’t all show up on the screen.

Price: We always test that. In fact, with “Resistance 1″ we had all 40 players in the room firing rockets. We do that to make sure we’re optimized, just in case people try to do things…

Multiplayer: And they will.

Price: They will. We’ll be fine with that.

Multiplayer: Have you done 60-person stress tests yet?

Price: I think the testers have, but I don’t think we’ve done the rocket test. That tends to come later when we optimize. But so far in the games I’ve been playing, it’s pretty lag free.

Multiplayer: A lot of people were thinking “Killzone 2″ was going to be the big Sony FPS for the end of ’08. This does too. So is this going to be a head-to-head thing? Have you guys gotten any calls from guys in Amsterdam [where the game is being made]?

Price: Actually, we’re close to those guys. Our engine director was just over at Guerilla taking a tour. And we’ve had them in our offices. There’s definitely a friendship between the two studios. And we are both interested in making sure there’s a separation between the games in terms of theme and gameplay. Where they’re both released in relation to each other, I don’t know. That’s up to Sony marketing. What’s cool is that we both feel that same competitive spirit. We’re pushing each other, and that’s fine. It’s a good-natured competitiveness.

Multiplayer: Did that “Killzone 2″ trailer a couple of years ago fire you up back then?

Price: Yeah, and it was awesome. It was last E3, and when our guys saw it running for real, they thought, “Wow they just raised the bar and we all gotta make sure we can do the same.”

Multiplayer: Are you determined to have the better-looking game?

Price: Not in those words. I think it’s understandable that we’re both going for the best-looking game possible. The games are a lot of different. Yes, they’re both first-person shooters. And they both involve military aspects. But they’re on a different planet. We’re on our world with an alternate history. They’ve got a completely different gameplay style than we do. We’ve got Chimera. They’ve got Helghast.

Multiplayer: You’ve got the church.

Price: I don’t think it worries either of us.


This concludes our three-part interview with Ted Price. We hope you enjoyed it!