Insider: North Carolina

A small team of North Carolina based Insomniacs is participating in Extra Life this year. All proceeds will be going to Duke Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Miracle Network.

We are playing video games for 25 hours straight! Tomorrow, at around 10am EDT we will be live streaming our efforts. Length of the broadcast will depend on you guys. We will be playing a wide range of games including, but not limited to, Disruptor, All 4 One, and Fuse. We are not limited to Insomniac titles and will be playing whatever we feel like, or possibly whatever you all suggest. Who knows, we may even give away some prizes to participants.

So come join us. Help us raise money for sick kids. If you can’t make it and would like to donate to our efforts please do so via our team page here: http://www.extra-life.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.team&teamID=13005

Just scroll down and click on any of the team members to donate. We are looking to raise around $2,500 or more :)!

Stream will be at www.twitch.tv/insomniacgames.

Thanks.
IG

Remember that poster we posted on Instagram a few days back? Well we wanted to give people a heads up on where to get it, along with some local east coast love.

nc_header

At Insomniac, we pride ourselves on being open and having a two-way conversation with our community. Most recently, we have been listening and making changes to Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus based on feedback and discussion over the past year. Because of this and, well, just because we love you, we are producing a Community Day event to celebrate YOU! For the first time, the event will take place on the east coast in Durham, North Carolina. Community Day will be open to fans of all ages and will showcase Into the Nexus and the Ratchet & Clank franchise. Hear directly from our North Carolina team, ask questions to Ratchet veterans, and play the game before it comes out (well a small part of it anyway)! Also, did we mention barbecue? What would be a North Carolina Community Day without some good ol’ fashion NC-style barbecue. So come, join us Thursday, October 24, 2013 at the Durham Armory. Doors will open at 5:30pm and the event will run from 6:00pm to 9:00pm EDT. Please visit our event page here and get your tickets. Tickets are free, but will be limited to 200 total. First come, first serve! Everyone who comes will get at least a poster and have a chance to meet the dev team. Please note that a ticket is required for each person and the “purchaser” of the ticket must be present with a photo ID. Children will also be required to have a ticket and must be accompanied by someone with a photo ID.

If you can’t make it to Community Day and are planning on attending the Escapist Expo this year (also in Durham), you are in luck! Into the Nexus will be playable on the show floor Friday, October 4th through Sunday, October 6th. We will be showing off our demo from Gamescom and PAX, as well as, giving away posters to anyone who plays (while supplies last). So swing on by the Insomniac Games booth at the Durham Convention center. More Escapist Expo details here.

If you are in or around North Carolina (or just want to make the trek) we hope to see you at one of these two events.

Peace, love, barbecue, and of course… Ratchet & Clank!

- IG

We are excited to announce our Insomniac North Carolina team has officially moved into their new office space. Since opening the NC studio more than 3 years ago we never really had a space to call “home”. That has all changed with this stunning new space that includes: a large QA area, multiple game playing areas, large meeting room/kitchen- with fully stocked drinks & snacks, covered parking and an on-site gym. It is also now walking distance to restaurants, retail, housing and hotels. Furthermore we now have enough room to potentially DOUBLE in size! No more bumping into each other or working out of closets and maybe we can even host a Community Day ;).

Without further adieu, here is a sneak peek at Insomniac North Carolina!

Display Area

Lobby

Workspaces

Environment Art Pod

Large Conference & Kitchen

Kitchen

Gaming Area

QA Area

Hello Insomniacs and fans alike! I’m QA Tester Stephanie Lyons here with some exciting news from our North Carolina studio. This weekend, the Escapist will be holding its first Escapist Expo here in Durham, North Carolina and they’ve asked Insomniac to take part. What is the Escapist and what’s the Expo all about? Well, I’m glad you asked. The Escapist is an online magazine that has been covering and celebrating the video gaming world and culture for the past seven years. The Escapist Expo is a way to bring the fans, games and developers all together for one fantastic celebration of games, gamers and the people who write about them. So, why Durham? Well, in addition to housing the central office for the Escapist, Durham is home to quite a few game developers, including Epic Games, Red Storm and of course, Insomniac. Durham was also named the fifth geekiest city in the U.S and the Escapist wants to bring that geeky culture all together in one weekend.

For this year’s Expo, the Escapist asked some of our resident Insomniacs to join the celebration by holding an open panel for our fans. We are thrilled to announce that our talented team of animators—Nina Fricker, Josh Huber, Brent Whittington, Paul Robbins, and Jason Buch– will discuss hand-keyed animation in the Ratchet and Clank franchise at 3 p.m. on Friday, 9/14. Veteran programmers Jim Van Verth and Garner Halloran will discuss How to Get a Job in the Industry at 1:30 p.m. on 9/14. And talented Designer Randy Greenback is participating in The Future of the Shooter panel at 3 p.m. on Saturday, 9/15. It’s a chance to meet part of the team and catch a glimpse of the process that brings everyone’s favorite Lombax to life. We hope you’ll take the weekend to join us in celebrating the industry, the Escapist and our incredible Insomniac team. The Escapist Expo will be held this weekend on September 14, 15 and 16th in the Durham Convention Center in Downtown Durham.

 

Friday, September 14th @ 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Dagobah Room
Animation in Insomniac’s Games
It takes a lot to make a videogame character come to life, including silky smooth animation. Insomniac Games is known for creating the easy movements of Spyro the Dragon, and Ratchet & Clank, and their artists use traditional animation techniques to bring out the cartoony movements of the characters. A bevy of animators from their North Carolina studio will let you in on their secrets.

Panelists:
Nina Fricker
Josh Huber
Brent Whittington
Paul Robbins
Jason Buch

Friday, September 14th @ 1:30 PM to 2:30 PM
King’s Landing
How to Get a Job in the Industry
Making games is the greatest job in the world, but how do you actually get it? Veterans from the worlds of tabletop and videogames share their experience and expertise, providing tips and insight on how to turn your passion for gaming into a career.

Panelists:
Dan Yarrington
Garner Halloran
Jim Van Verth
Greg Tito

Saturday, September 15th @ 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM
King’s Landing
Future of the Shooter
Shooters have evolved a lot since the wireframe days of Battlezone. From cross-genre fusion to the use of real world military ops, hear our panel of industry experts talk about what makes a good shooter today and what the genre can to do to evolve beyond its current format and settings.

Panelists:
Greg Tito
Richard Dansky
Quinn Del Hoyo
Randy Greenback
Jim Brown

Hey Ratchet fans!

This is Chad Dezern. I’m the Studio Director at the North Carolina studio. We hope you enjoyed our announcement of Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One at GamesCom, in Cologne, Germany last week. We’re ecstatic to finally get the word out as this really is the game we’ve wanted to make for a long time.

We’ve heard from many of you since the announcement.  I can’t talk about everything just yet (we’re saving a lot for future announcements), but I’ll do my best to answer the most frequent questions.

Does All 4 One support offline? Online?

Yes and Yes! We’re making it easy to jump into the game and have fun. Your friends can be next to you on the couch, half a world away, or any combination of the two (2 players on a couch in Kentucky can play with 2 players on a sofa in Singapore, for instance).

Can you play All 4 One with fewer than four players?

Certainly.  We’re supporting any configuration of 1 to 4 players. The game scales to make it fun with any number of players, and any play group has access to all of the content.

For the one player game, we let you choose an AI pal to keep the feeling of teamwork alive. We’re working hard to make sure your AI friend is genuinely helpful and fun to play with.

Is the story in All 4 One part of the Ratchet canon?

Absolutely. Veteran Ratchet & Clank scribe TJ Fixman is on board again for this installment. He’s written an epic galactic adventure that has mystery, suspense, adventure, heart, and some borderline inappropriate dialogue from Captain Qwark involving a platypus.

The new comic series (also written by TJ) covers the events between A Crack in Time and All 4 One. Call your local comic store (or grab the digital version from the PlayStation Network) and check it out!

Why is Dr. Nefarious now a good guy?

Doctor Nefarious is most assuredly not a good guy.  He’s an evil criminal mastermind at his core. But he’s an opportunist, and in the right circumstances he’ll work with his arch-enemies to save his own skin, especially if this comes at expense of the arch-enemies who happen to be Squishes.

We like the mismatched group because it creates tension. Around here, we play the game with a healthy dose of spite and competition, and that’s just how our main characters would react to their plight. We also liked the look of these four characters together; Nefarious’ robotic skeleton contrasts nicely with furry Ratchet, metallic Clank, and muscle-bound Qwark.

Are there weapons in All for One?

Ohhhh yeah! Insane and powerful weapons are an important part of any Ratchet game. The weapons in All 4 One are all about coop; they’re powerful alone, but the devastating effects happen when you coordinate with other players. We showed an early-level weapon called the Elasti-Shock in our demo. We have many others in all stages of development from blueprint to production model, and we’ll show more in the months ahead.

How does the camera work?

Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One uses a single screen for both offline and online regardless of the number of players. Our camera system gets as close as possible when players are next to each other and moves out when players move apart. For the online game the camera weight will be biased toward the local players, but the fundamental feel will be the same.

Early on, we knew that we wanted to make a single-camera co-op experience. That way every player can focus on the same big screen to catch all of the action–it just feels more like team coordination with a shared camera. Also, this camera type is something we’ve wanted to try for a long time for aesthetic reasons. We can flow seamlessly between game and story moments and we can increase the detail and the quality of the visuals. It’s a fun system that opens up possibilities for all kinds of big in-game events.

Why do the characters look different?

When we started prototyping we dropped in the most recent character models from A Crack in Time. Individually, the models looked great. But together they were unbalanced. Ratchet didn’t stand out against the background, Clank was too tiny to see onscreen, and Qwark didn’t look proportionally correct relative to the other characters. That’s all completely understandable, as they were never meant to be seen as a set of 4 playable characters onscreen at the same time.

So Dave and Greg (the guys who designed the original models dating back to the ps2 Ratchet games) tweaked form and color until we had a group that worked well together. Emphasis on the word “tweaked,” the changes are actually fairly small, and we worked hard to keep the essence of each character intact.

Which team is making the game?

Insomniac North Carolina, mostly. In 2009, we opened up a new studio in Durham, North Carolina. We wanted to make more games, and we liked the idea of starting up a new location as an alternative for talented developers who wanted to stay on the east coast.

We started the studio with several key team members from previous Ratchet titles, including artists, sound designers,  programmers, and a designer. Then we hired some very talented and capable newcomers. The result is a group that merges experience with fresh ideas, which is exactly what we want for this game. We’re in a great spot; we have the excitement of a startup, but we also have access to unlimited expertise from the team in Burbank. The Burbank team supplies core engine technology, cinematics animation, community support, and more.

Is there anything else you want to tell us? (okay, I made this question up)

Some of our biggest fans have exclaimed, “I love Ratchet and Clank! Why would you ever change the formula?”

We love the Ratchet series too. But at the same time, we felt like we needed to change things up a bit to keep it fresh for us so we’re not solving the same problems over and over. A focus on co-op is a perfect solution. Many fans have asked for this for years, and when we started brainstorming it was clear that we had more ideas than we could ever use (always a good sign).

We’re making the best possible co-op Ratchet and Clank game. By necessity, that involves tweaking the formula. Simply dropping in more players doesn’t equal instant fun. We have to consider the camera, the amount of action onscreen, and how players interact with the game, and each other. We want you to feel the rush of team play, and to feel powerful when you work together instead of merely playing side-by-side.

So co-op is central to the design. At the same time, we’re not just making changes for the sake of it–the main attributes of the series that we know and love are intact. Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One has a sprawling story, explosive weapons, wildly varied alien locations, and unbridled ridiculousness.

Really, when it comes right down to it, the reason we are making Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One is because we’re excited about the potential of a co-op Ratchet game. You’d be able to tell immediately if that wasn’t the case and we all know this. We’re working hard to get a new Ratchet & Clank adventure in your hands in Fall 2011. We can’t wait to show you more and we really can’t wait for you to play it.

That’s all for now! Keep sending questions and comments, we love to hear from you.

–Chad

Hi all,

This is the start of a new blog series where we’ll be profiling various Insomniacs and their special talents beyond the world of videogames. We’re kicking things off with two long-time Insomniacs: Dave Guertin and Greg Baldwin. Dave was one of the original artists on Ratchet & Clank and is often credited with creating the original designs for both Ratchet and Clank. Greg has worked on every Insomniac-developed Ratchet & Clank game as well.

Both have teamed up to create CreatureBox, a blog that serves as a “playground for (Dave and Greg) to experiment with character design, illustration, and comics.” They’re also the guys responsible for our fantastic collector’s edition Ratchet & Clank vinyls.

Below is an email interview I conducted with Dave and Greg…read on and be sure to check out the amazing time-lapse videos they’ve created. You will have an even deeper appreciation for what it takes to create truly memorable characters.

Enjoy!
Ryan Schneider, Community Director

Tell everyone a little about yourselves, outside of Insomniac. How did you get into art, how were you trained, where, etc.
Greg Baldwin: I grew up just south of Boston right on the ocean in a town built around fishing ports. I was fixated on comic books, video games and animation. I wanted to be involved in commercial art as far back as I can remember. I don’t think I really got into it so much as it couldn’t avoid me.

I dropped out of college on my first attempt; but fortunately, my girlfriend at the time, now my wife, has always pushed me to do better. I went to Southern California to get the education I needed to become a competitive artist. I always maintained my interest in comics and commercial art, but the more I trained, the more I became obsessed with sculpture. I ended up focusing my degree on drawing and sculpture, and am confident when I say that becoming a sculptor is a death march at best.

Fortunately, I was lucky to meet some really incredible video game gurus and they helped me land a job as a digital modeler. After a few short stints, and a lot of time honing my skills, I landed a job at Insomniac. It was a strange and awkward journey, but I wound up very lucky and now work with some of the most talented people in this industry!

Dave Guertin: I was born and raised in a small city just outside Providence, Rhode Island. Growing up I tended to be the quiet kid with my head severely lodged in the clouds. Before I knew it, I started scribbling out all these strange ideas and stories as I soaked up the treasure trove of 80′s inspiration. Fortunately I had supportive parents and several teachers throughout grammar school who kept me on the right track which gradually lead to massive hopes of a career in art.

In 1989 my Dad bought me my first comic from a CVS Pharmacy. From that day on, my focus was pinned on moving to NYC to become a comic book penciller. I started to bury myself in the books in addition to playing lots of video games with my friends. Once I hit high school, I stacked my schedule whenever I could with art courses including drafting and photography while working away on cartoons. In my junior year, the Savannah College of Art and Design gave a presentation–I was sold.

A few years later I graduated with a degree in Sequential Art, yet the late 90′s were not a pleasant time for the comics industry. I found myself switching gears and jumping head first into the concept art field. I began my career with Singletrac Studio in Salt Lake City, a wonderful group of artists who took the time to show me the ropes of game creation. After a series of buyouts, the company went under and I jumped at the chance to be a part of the Insomniac team.

How long have you been at Insomniac, what has the journey been like here?
Dave: I started as an environment artist about 9 1/2 years ago. The journey has certainly been fun, challenging, and unpredictable. At the time, I was brought on to the skeleton team developing Insomniac’s first PS2 title–known most often as “Girl With a Stick.” Within the first few months an opportunity arose to help develop the concept art, so I slid back over to the drawing table. While the job was fun, the project went through a series of bumps and bruises and was eventually cancelled. After an announcement from Ted and a long weekend, the team rallied to create a new title: Ratchet & Clank.

I have always been amazed how quickly Ratchet got off the ground. Within three weeks we had designs fleshed out and a playable character running around on screen. The team hit an instinctive stride as everyone contributed to building a new universe at a record pace. What followed was a wild ride across the production of several titles where I learned volumes about making games.

Over the next several years, I transitioned between a few positions including Character Art Director and, most recently, Principal Artist. The growth in the team, technology, and franchises has been extremely exciting to watch and I certainly look forward to the years ahead.

Greg: I’ve been at Insomniac a bit over seven years now. I was hired on as a texture artist to help wrap up the first Ratchet & Clank and help get the ball rolling with Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando. It was amazing to jump in feet first to such a cool project. At the time, specialties were mostly dependent on what was needed in any given week, so it was always exciting to see what I was going to learn that week!

Over the years, I have worn a lot of hats at Insomniac. My title has changed a number of times too. But what I have always loved about Insomniac is that no matter what position you hold, everyone’s voice is considered equal. I’m now a Principle Artist in the North Carolina studio and I’m shoulder deep in the trenches with the rest of the cronies. It’s awesome!

Give one story that makes each of you laugh out loud (in a good way) about a memory of working at Insomniac. (Yes, Dave, you can bag on me for the Broken Finger episode of 2004!)
Greg: Ugh. Alright, here it goes. At the end of RC3, a few of the Insomniacs were being interviewed for some of the teasers and trailers. I was asked to be interviewed by Ted. It was kind of a big deal, because I was still toting around the “new guy” tag.

When I arrived, I sat down in front of a film crew and the guy that was asking the questions. I was pretty nervous. He told me to take it easy, and said he would ask me a few questions to get me warmed up. Always the clown, I answered every question he asked with the most inappropriate concoction I could muster up. I had the crew rolling. Turns out, those were the real questions. I provided ZERO usable footage. Ted was standing off camera during the whole ordeal. I can only imagine his neck pain as he no doubt shook his head in disbelief the whole time. Sorry about that, Ted! In case I never apologized officially.

Dave: There have been many laugh out loud moments, but one experience continues to rise to the top for me. During the production of the first Ratchet and Clank game, Chuck Suong (one of the friendliest animators on planet earth) would occasionally bring his dog Nala into the office. She wasn’t the nicest pooch on the block, freely snapping at employees who would get just a little too close to her food bowl, but she was a member of the family none the less. Every once in a while she would wander around the office soon returning to Chuck’s side. On one fateful day however, her journeys led her to John Fiorito’s desk where she proceeded to deposit a large “#2” on the carpet. I’m pretty sure that was the last time I saw Nala.

Now if you asked about a story of almost passing out in the bathroom from pain and fear, that would revolve around the infamous basketball injury of 2004.

How did CreatureBox come to be?
Dave and Greg: CreatureBox began mostly as an experiment. We were out to lunch one day talking about all the blogs we had been following. Since our sensibilities have always been in similar places, we wondered about jumping into the mix and starting a blog together. We figured alternating posts would help keep each other motivated while avoiding the trail off that we had seen on some of our favorite sites. After brainstorming some names over a couple evenings, we registered the domain, cobbled together a WordPress site, and started posting sketches. We really didn’t have any major goals or expectations other than exploring some ideas and expanding our techniques. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

Exactly what is it and why does it exist? What does it represent to you?
Dave and Greg: At the core, the site is largely a playground for us to experiment with character design, illustration, and comics. Getting the work in front of others has created an air of accountability which continually gets us back behind the table to beat each other up with imagery. This has forced us into new territory that we may have missed otherwise as we search for new styles or approaches. Sometimes one of the toughest challenges in an art career is staying motivated and inspired–in many respects CreatureBox continues to be a healthy kick in the butt while practicing away on nights and weekends.

What has the response been so far to the Creaturebox site and books?
Dave and Greg: The response has been great! We feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to connect with so many artists and fans throughout the world. The yearly sketchbooks we put together continue to be an awesome learning experience not only with technique, but production processes as well. This has lead to some showings and signings at San Diego Comicon while connecting with fans and book sellers. We’re continually reminded how close knit the design community is and are thankful for the opportunity to contribute in our own maniacal way.

What’s it like running your own little side venture while working at Insomniac?
Dave and Greg: It’s a ton of work and a lot of extra time. Insomniac will always be our primary focus but we’ve found our weekends filled pretty quickly with CreatureBox madness. We’ve made our share of mistakes but we continue to learn each and every day. One of the biggest lessons has been time management and knowing where to apply our energy. While we’ve had some great opportunities within the entertainment and animation industries, knowing when to take on projects has been critical. First and foremost, CreatureBox is about having some fun and growing as designers so ensuring there’s enough time for our monsters, spacemen, and publishing adventures is important to us.

Sometimes I think I can detect a little bit of co-workers and friends in your character designs. Do you actively try to incorporate subtle (or not so subtle) “tributes” to people you know in either your game characters or your Creatures?
Dave and Greg: Ha! Yeah, that’s totally possible. You just never know where an idea is going to come from. Whether it’s from the guy who cut you off that morning on the way to work, or the way (Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time creative director) Brian Allgeier made his cereal that morning. I don’t think we’ve consciously snuck anything into the games–well, maybe Guthrie as the War Grok–but ultimately most characters have been victims of the subconscious. But you never know what the future games will hold!

What are you up to in the North Carolina studio? What’s the energy like there compared to when you first started off at Insomniac in California?
Dave and Greg: The studio in North Carolina is great. The crew that moved out from Burbank is a wonderful group and super talented. It was a pretty big change to go from 170 allies to under 30. Initially, it seemed as though it was going to be a throw-back to the small team environment that Insomniac was founded on. But once the dust settled and we brought on some of the newest team members, we realized this is not something we have ever been through before. It’s a really exciting time to watch the culture develop as the team grows. The core Insomniac principles of inclusion and creativity are intact wrapped in a North Cackalacky fervor! On the production side, the game continues to make huge strides and we’ve all been excited about the look and direction. There’s a lot of great ambition and anticipation and we can’t wait to show it off!

What’s been the biggest joy and surprise about launching and sustaining CreatureBox?
Dave and Greg: Haha. Just keeping it up and running has been a joy and a surprise. But seriously, getting back to learning has been the best. Hitting the tables with fresh eyes and new found motivation has been huge for our growth as artists. It’s safe to say that starting CreatureBox has really made it clear just how much we still have to learn. It’s really exciting.

Hello everyone,

Greetings from Durham! Welcome to the inaugural dispatch from Insomniac’s studio in North Carolina. I’m Studio Director, Chad Dezern. We’ll use this space to keep you updated with the latest news from our top-secret game lab in the heart of the deep woods near Research Triangle Park. Every day nature and technology do battle outside our windows; as I type I’m watching a scientist in a crisp white lab coat wrestle a mountain lion. At least I think that’s what’s happening, it’s dark out there.

To kick things off, I’m going to A some FAQ’s whilst recommending only the finest BBQ (said, for some reason, with the voice of a late-night 70s disc jockey).

Why are you in North Carolina?
We’re here because we think Insomniac has a culture, a process, and a technology base worth expanding. And all three of those things are portable; opening a studio on the east coast allowed us to grow our capabilities while maintaining the successful team size in Burbank. With two studios we have location options for talented game developers from all over the world.

We chose the Triangle in North Carolina after narrowing the field down to a list of finalists. It’s simply an amazing place to live—it’s friendly, affordable, and diverse. So—more games, cool place!

What are you working on?
Here it is! This is the most frequently asked question of all. And you’re probably expecting something like “I wish I could tell you, because we’re excited about it. But we’re not able to announce just yet. Stay tuned!” But no, I’m totally going to tell you. It may be a little unorthodox, but I think this is the perfect forum to make the announcement. Here goes: we’re hard at work on CENSORED CENSORED CENSORED CENSORED CENSORED CENSORED CENSORED CENSORED CENSORED censored by the Insomniac Games Community Team.

So you can see why we’re excited! We can’t wait for you to play it.

Where is the best Eastern North Carolina-style barbecue in the Triangle?
This one is divisive and may result in fisticuffs. I’m partial to the Barbecue Joint in Chapel Hill. The Pit in Raleigh has the best ribs, though. Backyard Barbecue is solid all-around and close to the office. I want to go there.

What games have you been playing? Will you share them with us in a “playlist” section at the end of every entry?
Why yes I will.

Playlist
Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, Brutal Legend, Beatles Rock Band, Scribblenauts (I’m still coming to grips with the fact that I can summon Cthulu), God of War: Chains of Olympus.

That’s all for now. For my next post I’m going to write something titled “I have resolved to stop comparing one thing to another. Or, a game is not a film.” Until next time!