Insider: From Ted

It was the spring of 1996 and the first day of the second-ever E3. In a remote corner of the Los Angeles Convention Center’s South Hall Al Hastings, Brian Hastings and I were standing nervously next to a game kiosk. The kiosk was basically a wooden stand holding a 13-inch color screen and a PlayStation 1 hidden inside.

But on the screen was our first game, Disruptor. I recall a few people stopping by, picking up the controller and playing through the first level. When I say “a few” I mean a total of around 30 over three days.

For the three of us, it was amazing. Here we were – three industry noobs surrounded by huge games, getting to show off our little newcomer to the whole world.

Through the years we’ve experienced similar E3 highs. Like 1998 in Atlanta where the Foo Fighters played under a giant Spyro the Dragon banner. Or in 2004 where we demoed the first online multiplayer platformer ever, Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, onstage at the Sony E3 press conference. Or in 2006 where we had Resistance: Fall of Man multiplayer running on a crazy number of kiosks in the Sony booth.

However, nothing comes close to what happened this year. For me and for all of us at Insomniac this particular E3, our 19th,  was extraordinary.

There were many E3 moments last week to choose from that I could call my favorite.

Ultimately, what I’ll remember most occurred in the show’s final minutes.  After more than 40 live Sunset Overdrive presentations, dozens of press interviews, ushering thousands of players through our booth lines and sharing hundreds of pounds worth of Overcharge Delirium XT cans with fans, Insomniac and Microsoft team members who worked at the Sunset Overdrive booth gathered there for celebratory photos. I was moved by the pride and enthusiasm apparent on everyone’s face despite their exhaustion, especially when Drew Murray, our game director, gleefully jumped on creative director Marcus Smith’s back. The entire group felt such a clear and overpowering sense of ownership in Sunset Overdrive…that’s when you know you’re a part of something special.

Sunset Overdrive Game Director Drew Murray celebrates a successful E3 2014 by jumping on Creative Director Marcus Smith's back

Sunset Overdrive Game Director Drew Murray celebrates a successful E3 2014 by jumping on Creative Director Marcus Smith’s back

We all had a lot to be happy about at E3 2014 – 18 years after that very first time we showed off one of our games.

First and foremost Sunset Overdrive garnered more than 50 E3 nominations and awards during and after the show – an unprecedented amount for us.  That alone would have been enough to cap this E3 as Insomniac’s most successful. Yet we still had other exciting news to share about our upcoming PS4 re-imagination of the original Ratchet & Clank to coincide with the movie. Add our recent strong debut of Outernauts on iPhone and iPad, where we’re enjoying a 4.5-star rating and nearly 2.8 million beast eggs have been hatched since we were featured on the App Store home page, and last week eclipsed all of our past E3s by a country mile.

My own E3 actually started the previous week, deep in the bowels of the Galen Center on USC’s campus. Everyone associated with the Microsoft press conference spent much of the weekend rehearsing for the big show. I don’t think I was the only one who got nervous when reminded that millions of people around the world would be watching. No pressure…

As stressful as the press conference was, the one-block bus ride to the green carpet in our Sunset Overdrive-themed vehicle almost exceeded it.  Security officers wouldn’t let the bus, filled with Insomniacs dressed as Sunset City survivors, into the Galen Center parking zone. They even threatened to arrest the bus driver!  The misunderstanding was eventually corrected, and we made our unique entrance – after another shuttle bus rear-ended ours.

When the show floor opened on Tuesday, those of us manning the booth watched as fans literally ran to our booth to be the first in line to play Sunset Overdrive. Their enthusiasm was infectious, and I’m sure inspired both Insomniac and Microsoft team members working the booth.  That excitement never wavered throughout the week. And I still can’t believe the volume of Sunset Overdrive promotional items Microsoft provided throughout the show fueling the fire – wall clings in bathrooms, small Fizzie balloons , cool t-shirts, Overcharge!!! and of course a very BIG Fizzie balloon spewing insults. We’ve never seen that kind of support for one of our games. And it was awesome.

I spent a lot of time throughout the week meeting Insomniac fans and talking games. That’s always my favorite part of E3.  So when I was asked to help host an Xbox One event for retail partners after normal show hours mid-week, I was a little disappointed at first. Why? Frankly I expected a gaggle of businessmen in suits to show up, have no idea what our game was about and basically ignore us. Man, I was wayyyy off!

The retail guys and girls who came to the event couldn’t have been cooler. They’re avid gamers, like all of us, and probably even more hardcore. Their passion and knowledge re-invigorated all of us at the event after several long days.  Hearing them chant “Ryan!” while Ryan Schneider played through our single-player campaign demo was a special highlight.

Now that E3 has come and gone, our entire studio has taken a collective deep breath to savor the public’s response before we dive back in to finish the game.  We’ve had our ups and downs when it comes to revealing new games, and were a little apprehensive as a result heading into E3 this year.  Since Sunset Overdrive looks and plays so differently when compared to traditional shooters, we weren’t sure how people would react when picking up the controls for the first time. But when we saw fans coming back to play the demo for a fourth or fifth time…well, it was pretty clear that things were going to be okay.

To all of you who played and shared your thoughts, or sent us notes, or commented on forums and social media, thank you for your feedback!  It means a lot to us, and please know we are always listening. In fact, we created Sunset TV, a weekly show dedicated to all the latest Sunset Overdrive news, specifically to keep you informed both online and eventually in the game itself when we launch in North America and Europe on October 28, 2014.

Again, it was an incredible week for all of us at Insomniac. In a way, it was a lot like Sunset Overdrive itself: Loud, vibrant, hordes of people rushing around…and Fizzie.

Thanks for reading, and if you’d like, share your favorite E3 memories with the team and me in the comments section below or via Twitter. You can reach me at @igTedPrice.

Music games have always been a huge hit at Insomniac. For a long time, Guitar Hero and Rock Band competitions were a weekly, if not daily, occurrence around the office. But before those games put plastic instruments in your hands, our longtime fellow independent developer friends at Harmonix had created Amplitude and Frequency, two of our favorite music games, and two of the best PlayStation 2 games of all-time.

Now those same folks are working hard to bring Amplitude back to life in HD form. Reviving Amplitude is something that requires all of the community to band together and help it though, and Harmonix has turned to Kickstarter in trying to inspire the community to pledge funds to make the game.

There’s only four days left, and still about 50% of the way to go. If the money isn’t raised, the game won’t happen. We are big fans of both Harmonix and Amplitude, and we want to see Amplitude HD. As such, Insomniac has backed the game at the $7,500 level. We hope if you liked Amplitude or Frequency, or just love great music games in general, you’ll consider pledging too.

You might be asking: which backer reward did you choose? Some fans may remember our Pinballz music video, which was put into Rock Band by one of our fans via Rock Band Network (with all proceeds going to Child’s Play). Our latest music video, Crazy Ride, deserves some Harmonix game love as well, so we chose the $7,500 level to put our song into the game. If you missed the video, you can check it out here. 

Thanks for reading this, and thanks in advance for checking out Harmonix’s Amplitude HD Kickstarter and backing it!

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At Insomniac, we’ve always been transparent with our fans. It’s important to us that our fans understand why we do what we do – it’s really the only way to build a meaningful long-term relationship.

In the spirit of maintaining that rapport, I wanted to take a moment and discuss our big announcement today. In case you didn’t see it, we announced Sunset Overdrive, our next big console IP. You can watch the trailer here and sign up to get more info on the website here. Here’s the official description of Sunset Overdrive:

“Sunset Overdrive is an always changing, open-world shooter set in the not-so-distant future. A catastrophic event has left your city overrun by mutants. While the majority perished or transformed, you flourished. It turns out your calling isn’t picking up trash or serving food, it’s mutant destruction. With an arsenal of kick-ass, overpowered weapons and a knack for traversing the city with hyper agility, it’s not the end of days for you. Your story is just beginning.”

It may surprise some of our longtime fans that we have partnered with Microsoft Studios to develop Sunset Overdrive exclusively for Xbox One. When we first began discussing this idea with Microsoft, we were initially hesitant to shift back into an exclusive arrangement. But as the Microsoft team began introducing us to the abilities and philosophies driving the development of Xbox One, we knew that Sunset Overdrive was a perfect fit. The Xbox One and Xbox Live will support our ambitions to create an ongoing two-way dialogue with our community. It will also allow us to have quicker production cycles, enabling timely content updates for new weapons, characters, storylines and even pop culture-relevant content like memes based on social commentary.

Many of you may be asking what this news means for Insomniac. What about Ratchet & Clank? What about Fuse? Others may ask why we have “abandoned” our PlayStation heritage. The truth is, not a lot has changed. Insomniac has been, is, and will continue to be 100% independent. We have treasured that independence for the last 19 years. It now allows us to own and control our IP, and find the most suitable partners to make those IP a reality. While we are excited about partnering with Microsoft on Sunset Overdrive, that doesn’t mean we can’t or wouldn’t make games with our longtime friends at Sony. That’s the magic of being an independent developer.

Everyone here at Insomniac and on the Sunset Overdrive team at Microsoft is pumped to bring the game to you. We hope you will sign up to get more info and join the S.C.U.K. For our local fans in Los Angeles, stay tuned to our Twitter (@sunsetoverdrive) as there will be some activities around town offering a chance for you to earn some of the first Sunset Overdrive swag.

Finally, next week we’ll be hosting a town hall style online stream. I’ll be joined by our Creative Directors on Sunset Overdrive, Marcus Smith (Creative Director, Resistance 3) and Drew Murray (Lead Designer, Resistance 3), and we’ll answer your Sunset Overdrive questions as best we can.

We can’t wait to show you more of Sunset Overdrive. Thanks for reading, and please let me know what you think about the game and the news.

Hey everyone,

During my keynote speech at PAX, I revealed the first screenshot from Fuse, our new game, with a link to this website. If you visited the site, you found a countdown clock that was scheduled to end at 6 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time on September 12th.

We had an awesome trailer planned and finished. Unfortunately a last-minute legal-rights issue has prevented us from releasing the trailer as planned. EA is trying to obtain the necessary approvals and we hope to bring the trailer to you soon. After discussing internally, we wanted to stop the countdown and explain what happened.

In the interim, we’re proceeding with our other plans for the reveal. The new Fuse section of our website will be up with information and screenshots when the countdown was scheduled to end. Additionally, top-tier press from around the world will be publishing previews of the game including hands-on impressions. Then, on September 13th at 10 p.m. PDT, Gametrailers TV with Geoff Keighley will bring you a Fuse dedicated episode with the first raw gameplay footage.

We hope after reading the previews and watching Gametrailers TV that you’ll be as excited as we are about Fuse. As always, we’ll be in the Insomniac forums and on our Facebook Page and Twitter feed.

Thanks for your understanding about the trailer. As soon as it’s ready we’ll make sure you know.

Ted Price
-Founder & CEO, Insomniac Games

Hey folks,

At Insomniac, we are proud to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Ratchet & Clank, which is coming up later this year. We know that the HD remaster of our classic PS2 Ratchet & Clank games is something our community has been requesting for a long time, and we’re looking forward to bringing this to fans this summer with the Ratchet & Clank Collection.

We’ve also heard a lot of community requests to develop a new Ratchet & Clank game, and one that returns to the classic third-person Ratchet & Clank camera. We listened to your requests, and this holiday season Insomniac will release our own new Ratchet & Clank game as part of our 10th Anniversary Celebration.

I’d like to officially announce that Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault will be coming soon to a PlayStation 3 near you.

Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault is a fun-sized Ratchet adventure which will be available for download exclusively on the PlayStation Store. We’ve returned to the series’ classic feel, camera, controls and weapons, while innovating and giving you a whole new way to play Ratchet & Clank! Even better, the addition of online features means you can experience Full Frontal Assaultwith your friends, so stay tuned! We’re really excited about this game, and we hope even these small tidbits about it get you excited too.

We’ve been hard at work on Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault and now we’re giving you a sneak peek at this first piece of art to give you a taste of what we have in store for you when the game launches later this year. In the meantime, we hope you pick up the Ratchet & Clank Collection when it comes out this summer. We’ll have some more news on the Collection’s release date and a special surprise for North America in the next couple of weeks.

Ted

Hey everyone,

It’s amazing that it has been almost ten years since the release of the original Ratchet & Clank on PlayStation 2. A lot has changed since 2002, but your loyalty to our furry Lombax and his faithful robot companion has endured. As we reach the 10th Anniversary of Ratchet & Clank, we wanted to commemorate the achievement of the Ratchet & Clank saga.

Today, we’re delighted to announce the Ratchet & Clank 10th Anniversary Celebration, which also simultaneously addresses the biggest current request from our fans; The Ratchet & Clank Collection . This will contain Ratchet & Clank, Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando and Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal – all remastered by Idol Minds, working closely with our team at Insomniac. In addition to a full 1080p HD remaster, and 720p 3D support, of all three games and the inclusion of three platinum trophies, we’re happy to confirm that the online competitive multiplayer from Up Your Arsenal will be included. Now you can check out the acclaimed multiplayer mode that many of you didn’t get to experience the first time on PlayStation 2.

The collection will release this fall in North America. I know it’s a little bit later than the Spring European release, but it’s because we have something very special planned to celebrate the tenth anniversary, and we’ll share all the details very soon. We’re also working to make a special bonus available for fans who wait in North America, details when we can share!

We’re so excited that Sony has worked to give our original Ratchet & Clank PlayStation 2 adventures the HD remaster treatment. Stay tuned in the coming months for more on the Ratchet & Clank 10th Anniversary Celebration, as well as more details, screenshots and footage as we near the release of the Ratchet & Clank Collection.

-Ted

Hi everyone,

Yesterday an article appeared on a popular games website (which has since been picked up by other sites) with the headline “We’re Best on PS3 Insomniac Boasts”. The website reprinted an erroneous story that extracted two sentences from a seven-page interview I had done with Tom Russo for EGM, conveying a false sense of Insomniac’s (and my) self-superiority.

Not only were my comments taken completely out of context, I was misquoted (the website in question subsequently corrected the quote.)

The article used an answer I gave Tom while he was asking me about Insomniac’s history. The question leading to my answer was “Many people consider Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction the first game that really showed the potential power of the PS3. Any insights into the development of tech that helped achieve this?”

The answer I gave referred to our engine team’s focus AT THE TIME on heavily using the Cell’s SPUs. We were fortunate to be on the PS3 very early and also fortunate to be releasing our second PS3 game in the second year of the console’s existence. At that point in 2007 we were very public proponents of using the SPUs because we wanted to share our positive experiences on the PS3. However the writer of the web article decided that somehow I was saying Insomniac is better than any other developer on the PS3.

The original headline and the revised headline (“We Aim to Be Best on PS3”) are not statements that I or anyone at Insomniac would ever say or would want implied. While we’re proud of our games, we also have the greatest respect for our peers in this industry and are always grateful when our games are supported by our fans and media alike. Our goal is to make games people love, not to crow about how awesome we think we are. We’re also particularly harsh self-critics and are always looking for ways to improve ourselves, our processes and our games. As a result the web article really struck a nerve for me because it was so far off in describing who I am and who we are at Insomniac.

But after my initial negative reaction I realized that stories like this are a necessary byproduct of the wonderful right those of us in the free world have to express ourselves. In America, Europe and in many places across the globe we can say what we want without fear of persecution.

Unfortunately for those of us who develop games, our right to express ourselves is hanging in the balance. If you’re not aware of it, today there is a California law sitting at the US Supreme Court which, if upheld, could completely change the game business. The law would make it illegal to sell games with content “inappropriate” for minors to anyone under 18. The law would ignore ESRB ratings and use completely arbitrary and vague definitions to describe what is allowed and isn’t allowed. Ultimately games would be treated as restricted substances – similar to cigarettes, alcohol and drugs.

It’s very important to note that no other form of media has to contend with this kind of restriction. It’s not illegal for those under 17 to attend a R rated movie, to read a Stephen King book or to listen to Howard Stern. But if the Supreme Court rules against the game industry, it could be illegal for someone under 18 to buy Resistance if the game is deemed inappropriate for minors under the new law. And as content creators, if there is a chance that our games will appear in an “Adults Only” section of game stores we will have to restrict what we create to avoid going out of business. To me such a situation is tantamount to government censorship.

If this law is upheld it could have a ripple effect across all other forms of media. Those who have sought to censor films, television, books, talk radio, and music will now have precedent to renew their fight against freedom of expression. In other words, this case is a very, very big deal.

What I’d love to see are more game news outlets focusing on big issues like this. Game sites can encourage gamers to take a stand and tell their representatives that games deserve the same protection as other art forms. We have the numbers on our side. We need to  take advantage of that  to make it crystal clear to our government that a law like this cannot stand.

And one article doesn’t do it. Those who are reporting the news should be treating this case with the gravity it deserves – giving us frequent updates, interviewing those involved, opining on the outcome and explaining the consequences of a decision that goes against gamers.

But the time is now. The US Supreme Court hears oral arguments beginning November 2nd and a decision will probably follow quickly. There are a few short weeks for gamers to be heard before it’s too late.

I challenge the news sites to carry the flag on this issue, to make it a key and ongoing story. Because ultimately whatever decision is made will affect them too.

Who’s going to rise to that challenge?

Ted

Hey guys, Ted Price here,

I wanted to speak directly to you, our fans, about some big news for Insomniac. Over the last 16 years, you’ve supported Insomniac by buying over 35 million copies of our games. You’ve explored with us the worlds of Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet & Clank, and Resistance on PSOne, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3. And you’ve interacted with us directly through our online communities. In other words, we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well.

Lately, many of you have been asking, “what’s next?” Today, we’re excited to announce that we have created a brand new universe and franchise for you to experience in the coming years. As we develop it, one of our goals is to provide an awesome experience for as many players as possible. With that in mind, we’re working with EA Partners to bring this title to both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

You may be wondering why we’re announcing this game now, and how it relates to our existing projects. We’ve been developing games on an annual pace during the last 16 years. One thing that has become apparent to us though is that in order to live up to our own high standards of quality, we want to give ourselves more development time to iterate and polish our games. All future Insomniac titles will benefit from longer development cycles, which will directly benefit you, our fans.

We know many of you are extremely loyal to the PlayStation family, and especially to Resistance and Ratchet & Clank. We are too. Our relationship with Sony Computer Entertainment is still very strong, and continues as we develop additional projects exclusively for PlayStation 3 – projects that will take full advantage of our additional development time.

This is an exciting time for everyone at Insomniac – we look forward to continuing to create the high-quality experiences you’ve come to expect from us. From all of us here, thanks again for all your support. It truly means a lot to us.

Recently I’ve been feeling like a big hypocrite. Since Resistance: Fall of Man I’ve been extolling the virtues of the community features in our games. And a few weeks ago I mentioned in an interview that I think that community represents a hidden arms race in our industry.

But I have to come clean. I haven’t actually been part of the community. I haven’t been on Facebook until lately. I don’t Tweet. I don’t have a MySpace account. And I only post on forums occasionally. What’s wrong with me? Haven’t I heard that being part of the “community” is freaking awesome? How can I promote community if I’m an outsider?

I’ve told myself that I’m just too busy. How can I find time to post updates when I’ve got work and family obligations, right? Another excuse I’ve made is that I just don’t have anything interesting to say. Do people really want to hear about…well I can’t think of anything offhand that’s particularly cool right now.

But the truth is that I’ve been intimidated. The idea of exposing my life to others through social networking terrifies me. And as a result I’m feeling pretty darn old.

Two weeks ago I tried signing up for Facebook. I figured I’d be able to dip my toes in, lurk in the background and then gradually increase my Facebookosity. As soon as I entered my info Facebook suggested 30 people I should “friend”. About two minutes later I had 30 more people sending requests asking me to be their friend – some of whom I didn’t know at all.

I’m not an unfriendly guy. At least I don’t think I’m unfriendly. But when I was faced with those decisions of who to accept as a friend I felt like running and hiding. Sounds puerile I guess. But I wasn’t ready to open up to the world. So I promptly deactivated my account.

I remember laughing at my mom when she got her first computer and didn’t know what to do. My brother became her personal IT slave and coached her through things I thought one should know from birth. What I didn’t realize was how big a leap my mom was taking – adopting technology that was completely foreign to her.

Now I understand where she was coming from. I never would have imagined that I’d be standing in my parents’ shoes – freaked out by something technology-related. But there I was. Game developer. Occasional tech evangelist. Scaredy-cat.

After some hand-wringing I realized that I have to embrace social media on a more personal level. The truth is at Insomniac we’ve been embracing it for a long time. We’ve been changing the way we make games as a result of the social media/community boom. And if I’m going to be a more effective part of that process, it’s time for me to get over my “Facebookphobia” once and for all.

So I decided to give Facebook another shot. I played around with the privacy settings. And I added a few friends. I’m now up to the incredibly impressive total of 6 including my wife.

And you know what? It’s pretty cool. I’m starting to get it. I still don’t have anything to say. But I like reading my friends’ comments. Maybe I’ll make my first comment soon. Maybe one day we’ll be friends on Facebook. Heck, maybe I’ll even Tweet.

Regardless, in the meantime you’ll certainly be hearing from me regularly in this blog. Thanks for being patient as I slowly catch up to the rest of you.

For now, please feel free to send your comments here on what you’d like me to talk about next…keeping in mind that any future projects are off-limits.

Until next time…

From Ted