Making their first appearance in 2002, Ratchet and Clank, Sony's heroic Lombax and his trusty mechanical sidekick, have been mainstays on the PlayStation 2, Playstation Portable, and PlayStation 3, starring in a total of nine different games. This month marks the launch of their tenth release, "Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One," which is Insomniac's North Carolina studio's first title, as well as Ratchet and Clank's first foray into four-player co-op gaming. In order to celebrate this momentous occasion, MTV Geek recently asked Studio Director Chad Dezern a few questions about R&C's latest title, and how it differs from its predecessors.
MTV Geek: How long has four-player co-op been in the works?
Chad Dezern: We prototyped four-player co-op for the first time in early 2009. We immediately liked the results; we saw the potential for frenetic fun right away.
Geek: How has the development of this release differed from other "Ratchet & Clank" games?
Dezern: This was the first game for the new studio in North Carolina, so we developed it with a smaller team over a longer timeframe. The basics of Insomniac’s long-standing production model were intact; we got together with the team and brainstormed, then focused on the best ideas for prototyping. Great ideas come from all over the company, and "All 4 One" was a true group effort.
We tweaked parts of our process for the co-op game. We held daily playtests with 1, 2, 3, and 4-player groups online and offline to make sure the game was fun and balanced in every configuration. Even then, it wasn’t uncommon to see a programmer or designer with four controllers (two in each hand!) to test out a new feature. Some people got pretty good at that. We should put them on display and let the public gawk at them.
Geek: Was Move capability ever considered for this game?
Dezern: We’re Move fans; we play Move games in the office and at home. But we didn’t really consider Move support for "All 4 One"; we focused on support for 1-4 player coop instead.
Geek: What other characters could work alongside Ratchet and Clank?
Dezern: The Ratchet and Clank Universe is full of great characters. Including Captain Qwark was a no-brainer; he’s the longtime third wheel (though that description is sort of unfair to third wheels, which can be useful in some situations). For the fourth hero, we considered countless options and finally settled on the most absurd option of all: Dr. Nefarious. We loved the comedy potential of forcing our heroes into a dire situation with a complete idiot (Qwark, of course) and a conniving villain (Dr. Nefarious). The tension ends up working really well for a co-op game, where you typically spend some amount of time yelling at your friends.
Geek: Were there any gameplay tweaks that had to be implemented to accommodate Dr. Nefarious as a playable character?
Dezern: We wanted to give Dr. Nefarious a special attack that suited his cowardly, evil heart. So we gave him the ability to cloak, then sneak behind enemies to deliver a powerful blow with his annihilator blades. He’s a literal backstabber!
Geek: Does the tenth game in the series mark any kind of a turning point for our heroes?
Dezern: Ratchet and Clank are finally coming around to the fact that retirement just isn’t in the cards. Ratchet in particular has grown more selfless, more heroic as the series has progressed, but he hasn’t quite come around to being a hero 24/7. In "All 4 One" he learns that you can’t go back; he’s stranded without the Aphelion and forced to work with an arch-nemesis, relying only on his inherent wits and heroism. He makes the best of a tough situation.
Geek: As the tenth game in the series, how do you think the Ratchet and Clank in this game would feel looking back on all that they have accomplished?
Dezern: They’re extremely proud of all they’ve accomplished—I mean, several entire galaxies wouldn’t exist without them. But also extremely wary. Danger lurks around every corner when you’re an intergalactic hero.
Geek: What was the process for coming up with new weapons for the characters and how do they accommodate the new gameplay style?
Dezern: We always start out with big brainstorming sessions for weapons. Everyone shares their favorite ideas, then we go through several rounds of editing to choose the winners. We prototype a lot—we try things out to get a sense of what’s working and not working in the real game; that’s the only way to know for sure, and we always find surprises when we get a controller in our hands. In "All 4 One" we focused on weapons that work well with team play. Each weapon is effective and upgradable for single players, but the real fireworks happen when you use weapons in a coordinated way with your friends.
We brainstorm characters in a similar way. But instead of prototyping, the final list comes from the needs of the story and the macro design of the game. We’re lucky to have a deep bench of characters in the series; it just feels right to mix familiar characters with brand new faces.
MTV Geek: Did the inclusion of 3D influence any aspects of development?
Dezern: Our 3D support comes from a unique place. Instead of setting out to make a 3D game from the start, we found that the game worked particularly well with 3D thanks to the directed camera type. So we were already well into production when we prototyped the technology. We gathered around with our glasses and realized that the game in 3D could be something special; seriously, it looked amazing from day one. Our engine programmer put a lot of effort into implementing the tech in a way that worked with the existing game, and we made only a few tweaks to the models and lighting to make sure the final game looked great.
Geek: Is four-player the new standard for the game or can we expect to see the duo team up (or even go solo again)?
Dezern: I can’t answer that question! I can only say that the Ratchet Universe is a big place, full of possibilities...