The real skill in creating friendly AI in games, however, isn’t in replicating realistic behaviour, but in aping the way another player would tackle the game. It’s second guessing human behaviour. “We do our best with that,” says Price. “There is one aspect of human play that the bots don’t ape, and that’s stealing kills. When you’re playing with friends, you’re working together to take on the enemies. Now, it would have been easy for us to turn the AI bots into super-killers, but we held back because we want solo-players to feel like they’re in control of the battlefield. They will definitely support you--so if you’re playing as Izzy and you’re using your shatter gun, Dalton will use his Mag shield to break enemies that you crystallise--to give you combo points that you wouldn’t be able to earn if you really were on your own”.
We can’t resist asking: “So, do they teabag fallen enemies?”. “No, not that I’ve seen,” answers Price with a grin.
Now, about those trademark Insomniac weapons. We asked Price to reveal the developer’s special recipe for creating such satisfying guns, and his answer… well, it sounds like experimentation really is the key. “We actually throw a lot away,” explains Price. “We had a whole set of weapons that we showed in our Fuse trailer, when we announced the game in 2011 at E3--and we scrapped them. The ideas we came up with at first looked good on paper, and seemed cool aesthetically, but they didn’t work in terms of gameplay. They didn’t give the punch that we needed, so we went back to the drawing board for all of them. That was a result of the team coming together and first of all admitting that the weapons weren’t working well, which took a while. Not all of us wanted to admit that they weren’t working.”
It can be tough to let go. Here on GamesRadar we’re still bitter about the fact that Insomniac have stepped away from the Resistance franchise, especially after number three turned out to be one of the best shooters of this generation. “Part of the joy of being an independent studio is having choice,” explains Price.
“We decided to bring Resistance to a conclusion when we looked ahead and realised that Resistance 4, while possible and something we seriously considered, wasn’t going to be the right game for us at that time. We wanted to do something new. One of the aspects of building franchises, and sticking with them for a long time is that even the team can get franchise fatigue. We had been pushing hard with Resistance from the beginning--which was a tough birth--to Resistance 3, which is a game we were all very proud of. With Resistance 3 it felt like we had capped off, or at least closed a major chapter in that franchise. So, a lot of the team was looking forward to doing something different.” And so Fuse was born.
Beyond Fuse, Price and the team at Insomniac are looking to the future. Being former PS3-exclusive developers, they know their way around a Sony console, so we asked Price for his thoughts on PlayStation 4. “What Sony have been announcing over the past few months, with more and more features made for independent developers, absolutely demonstrates their commitment to dev teams. Having worked with the first-party group at Sony, I know they’re very supportive of new IP and experimentation. And it’s cool to see the acknowledgment that the game development world continues to expand in unpredictable directions.
“And one of those directions is that – in some ways – we’re going back to the garage development mentality because we can. There are so many more opportunities at the finger-tips of small teams in terms of mobile and digital distribution, thanks to tools that are easy to use and often free. There are many more developers entering the industry than ever before, because these barriers have come down, and I think that Sony has acknowledged that by lowering the barrier for entry on its console as well.”
In other words, don’t expect ground-breaking games like Journey, Braid and Fez to stop just because PS4 offers more power than PS3. Expect more and more indie games to make the jump to home consoles and sit comfortably next to the brain-melting AAA experiences. Insomniac will be there, pushing into the next-generation on all fronts. They’ve been experimenting with social and mobile gaming with Outernauts, and morale at the studio is high.
“I love working with the people at Insomniac--it’s why I go to work every day,” says Price. “Over the years we’ve worked very hard at bringing in people with the same fierce independence, the same desire to keep creating new IP, and the same meticulous attention to detail that we’ve always had at Insomniac. It’s not that we’re The Borg or anything… we have a lot of creative independence too.”
Fuse will release on May 28 in the US, and May 31 in the UK and Europe.