The creators of Resistance and Ratchet & Clank explain why they're signing up for Facebook games.
The game makers at Burbank-based studio Insomniac Games are best known for bringing Ratchet & Clank and Resistance games to Sony's PlayStation consoles. Now they're embracing an all-new platform, social games on Facebook, with Outernauts.
Insomniac and publisher EA promise "a deep story with real RPG strategy" with Outernauts, but reaction to the game's official announcement today has been mixed. Why would a developer with the pedigree of Insomniac slum it with Facebook games? That's the territory of FarmVille, CityVille, Words With Friends – the casual diversions serious gamers tend to sneer at.
Insomniac Games' Rowan Belden-Clifford explains.
"We chose to develop for Facebook because we wanted to challenge ourselves to reach a broader audience with our games while delivering some of the hard-core gaming experiences we've become known for," Belden-Clifford, lead designer on Outernauts tells Polygon.
"Of course, we're still going to make blockbuster console game experiences, but tailoring our expertise for a different audience is also very appealing. Our goal is to make great games, period – regardless of the platform."
'the fact that I can battle anyone else in the world when I log on during a lunch break at work is awesome'
Outernauts was originally conceived under the Insomniac Click brand, the social games-focused division Insomniac Games announced in early 2011. It has since dropped the "Click" distinction, as Insomniac "made an internal decision to house all our games under the Insomniac Games brand," says Belden-Clifford. That choice reflects the make-up of Insomniacs dedicated to building social games.
"The Outernauts team is comprised of a healthy balance of veterans from our Ratchet & Clank and Resistance teams, along with new faces who have web-games experience too," Belden-Clifford explains. "The team leader is Chief Creative Officer Brian Hastings, who helped conceive and define the Ratchet & Clank universe. The Outernauts team is just as big a part of Insomniac Games as any other team."
As for the game itself, Belden-Clifford says it originally "arose from a desire to innovate within the monster combat genre and to raise the bar when it comes to gameplay depth and breadth on Facebook" and to bring the studio's 18-year console gaming experience and its passion for the role-playing game and MMO genres to the platform.
"With that comes some key things a hardcore console gamer expects from a console game: deep, expansive story, rewarding strategy and fun, core gameplay," Belden-Clifford says. "These are elements of console games that we take for granted, but that we typically don’t see in games on Facebook."
"We had the chance to do something on the same scope and scale as our console games, but in a different genre, so we jumped at the chance."
Insomniac's Outernauts announcement video was light on gameplay mechanic specifics, but promised the ability to capture, train and evolve alien beasts and asynchronous multiplayer, both cooperative and competitive. Belden-Clifford expanded upon the game's systems in an e-mail interview with Polygon.
"A good portion of the battles in our game are 3v3 beast battles, which provide quite a challenge to even seasoned monster combat players," he says. "There's also co-op instances you play with friends and hundreds of quests to complete that are tied into the overarching story.
"But really, the dream come true to me, is being connected with every other Outernauts player worldwide: the fact that I can battle anyone else in the world when I log on during a lunch break at work is awesome."
"We’re taking advantage of the fact that you’re connected live with every other Outernaut player in the world by having a robust PvP system with worldwide Leaderboards attached," Belden-Clifford added. "We also have co-op instances that you and a team of your friends can battle through asynchronously, working together to finish the dungeon’s boss before the timer runs out."
Asked whether Insomniac Games was concerned that the game would be able to turn a Resistance fan – that's also resistant to Facebook games – to an Outernauts convert, Belden-Clifford sounded (unsurprisingly) optimistic.
"I consider myself the core audience of previous Insomniac games AND of Outernauts," he says. "I’m 23 years old, and I play both console games and Facebook games, as does my roommate and many of my other peers. We as a company are as excited about reaching a huge new audience on Facebook as we are about satisfying our hardcore fans."
Outernauts is due to launch this summer. It's currently in a closed beta test.