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Insomniac Interview, Part I

insomniac.jpgInsomniac was kind enough to answer some questions that the writers here at have put together. It’s a long process, getting all these questions answered, and you can see that several Insomniac employees were involved in answering the questions. I originally contacted them last year, but they were so busy trying to get Resistance out the door that they suggested I contact them again after launch, which is what I did. We spent a lot of time thinking of what questions we could ask, so hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as we did. Thanks, Insomniac! Don’t forget to check out the Insomniac Full Moon Show podcast for more about Insomniac and upcoming projects.

I’ve divided the interview into two pieces, here’s the first part. The second part comes tomorrow.

1. Generally, launch titles don’t sell a lot of copies just because there aren’t that many consoles out there yet. Why did you decide to make Resistance a launch title for the PS3 when you knew that sales wouldn’t be that great? How does Insomniac gain from that?

Ted Price, President and CEO: First, I think it’s important to note that Resistance: Fall of Man has been the #1 selling PS3 title since launch despite games like Madden and Call of Duty 3 being available on the platform. More important, as more PS3s make it into consumers’ hands, Resistance: FOM’s sales continue to increase. Finally, with the recent European launch putting Resistance: FOM atop the sales charts across all formats and more content coming soon, we’re expecting Resistance: FOM to continue to be high on gamers’ “wanted” lists.

We knew from the beginning that launching with the hardware would mean lower initial sales. But we also felt strongly that the opportunity to establish a new franchise in a very crowded genre was something we couldn’t pass up. With less competition at launch it meant that Resistance: FOM would get a fair shake as the “new kid on the block” and potentially garner more long-term sales assuming we did our job in creating a AAA game. In this business, exposure is EVERYTHING for a new franchise and had we released Resistance:FOM a year later, it would have been much harder for the game to get the attention it deserved no matter how good it was.

2. What development tools and languages do your programmers and artists use? I’m a former game developer myself (I worked on Wizardry 8 at Sir-Tech), so I’m really curious as to what compilers, IDE’s, languages, graphics programs, 3D programs, etc your software developers and artists use.

Luke Petre, Director of Tools: Our artists work with a variety of 2D and 3D applications including Photoshop (for texture painting, marketing art, etc.) and Maya (3D modeling). A lot of our 3D artists are using sculpting software more frequently as we continue to work with higher and higher poly counts to produce HD content. We export data from these 3rd party applications into internal formats in some cases, which gives us a degree of flexibility in choosing the right piece of software to produce specific types of assets. In general, we try to develop technology that allows our artists to work with whatever applications best enable them to produce high-fidelity content as quickly as possible.

Our tools are mostly PC-based and are predominately written in C++.. There’s also a fair amount of Perl that we use to automate tasks and tie various systems together. There are even some Python scripts and some batch files floating around. Our PS3 code is primarily developed using a variety of IDEs, Sony’s PS3 compiler, and SN System’s ProDG debugger. The runtime code is a mix of C++ in the higher level systems and a decent amount of C and assembly for the low level engine code.

Getting all these different environments and tools to play nicely together can sometimes be a challenge, but we try to be flexible in terms of what tools we use to attack different problems. This flexibility often pays dividends in how our games perform and the flexibility our artists have to bring their ideas to life in ever-increasing detail and depth.

3. How many developers and artists did you have working on R:FoM? Will other PS3 games get the same level of allocation?

TP: At times our team, including our quality assurance staff, was up to 100 people. The size of the team varied depending on the phase of production we were in. During Resistance: FOM’s production we developed a lot of proprietary software (our engine, physics system, animation system, level production tools, etc.) that we’ll continue to use and improve during this generation of hardware. Because of this the team was slightly larger than what we anticipate for future PS3 titles.

4. Why did you decide not to do online co-op in R:FoM? It’s something that a lot of people would have liked. I’m just looking to see what you guys were thinking in this regard.

TP: We had to pick our battles. Resistance:FOM is a very large game – most people spend 12-15 hours getting through the single-player campaign alone. And then there are the massive online multiplayer modes we implemented that offer a LOT more gameplay. While it would have been very cool to do online co-op, we opted for offline co-op partially because we simply didn’t have the time or manpower to make a game this large and hit launch at the same time. And I don’t think the game is any less great because of it.

Something I have also said in interviews is that during the design process we did discuss online co-op seriously during production. We concluded that it was just as much (or more) fun to be sitting next to someone playing offline co-op than playing online co-op with a potential stranger. Yet whenever I’ve mentioned that particular reason, people have sneered and said “yeah, whatever dude.” But that’s the way we felt at the time.

Come back tomorrow for part II of the Insomniac interview!