Ratchet & Clank / Insomniac Games
RATCHET & CLANK: A MASTER CLASS IN DESIGN
Have Insomniac Games created the perfect design formula?
by Felipe Parada
Insomniac Games is one of those rare game developers that can do no wrong. With elite developers like Rockstar North, Naughty Dog, CD Projekt Red, and Bethesda at the forefront of the gaming industry, you really don't hear too much from smaller developers looking to deliver a stellar gaming title. I feel that Insomniac is one of those developers that should be brought to the front of the line and share the limelight with the other elite developers. There really hasn't been one game that has been poorly received by the gaming community.
Developing such recognizable franchises like: Spyro the Dragon, Resistance, Ratchet and Clank and Sunset Overdrive, just to name a few, Insomniac Games has a formula for pumping out titles that stand out from the rest. A lot of it revolves around their philosophy on maintaining its independence even though they solely worked for Sony Interactive Entertainment for decades. Insomniac Games was smart enough to partner up with Sony because Sony would help them market Insomniac's games, a move that would pay high dividends in the long run.
Insomniac Games held a high standard of having complete control over its properties which eventually led the developer to depart from its partnership and produce games for other platforms. Although Sony did own the rights to certain properties, Insomniac Games was able to establish its brand to the point where they were able venture out and create new franchises and further establish themselves as a dominant game developer. According to Insomniac Games founder Ted Price, The company's team found that being controlled by publishers can be very frustrating, and working with Sony was an "autonomous" process. I'm sure Insomniac wont be the first developer to feel frustrated with its publisher and it sure wont be the last (that's right, I'm looking at you EA).
This seems to be the case nowadays as developers are giving up their standards in order to get the support they need to release a "watered down" version of their original vision. Considering how the development process could have gone down a much darker path, I'm glad that Insomniac Games chose to stand their ground and hold THEMSELVES to a higher standard. It is that "higher standard" that shows up in their games and its that "standard" that has kept them in business since they were first founded in 1994. Not only have they set a standard for themselves but they have set the example of how development teams need to conduct themselves when their vision is on the line.
Ratchet & Clank / Insomniac Games
This leads to the present, and Insomniac Games still seems to be setting higher standards for themselves. I know I'm a bit late to the party but I finally got the chance to play Ratchet and Clank for the PlayStation 4. The game was included as part of their "free monthly games" so I decided "Why Not?" This was my first time playing the Ratchet and Clank franchise (I know, let the judgement begin). I went into this game with no judgment, and I heard both negative and positive comments in regards to the franchise. But what the game was able to accomplish is a testament to Insomniac Games philosophy of creative control. It's Insomiac's innate ability not to let outside forces impede on the final product.
From the moment the game loads you are presented with a movie-like introduction to your characters. After a bit of research I found out that many of the assets were taken straight from the Ratchet & Clank film that released back in 2016. You can definitely get that feel for presentation during the early hours when Ratchet leaves the garage. As the garage doors open, you are thrown into a world oozing with character. Every enemy, every plant, and even something as small as nuts and bolts feel like they were expertly crafted with love and passion. The only other game that I played that projected this level of passion was Gurellia Games' Horizon Zero Dawn. And when I play this game I have the urge to explore every ledge, cave and building that the game will allow me to. It's little things like this that evoke great game design and it keeps players fully engaged until the ending credits begin to roll.
One of the best parts of this experience is that Ratchet & Clank isn't afraid of poking fun at themselves. Insomniac always finds a way to inject plenty of humor in their games but it doesn't go overboard. They constantly remind you, through clever voice over, that you are playing a video game and nothing more. Through flashy set pieces and missions that feel like they aren't just mere filler quests, Ratchet & Clank make it easy for the player continue forward while still making it an enjoyable game.
Sure the games looks pretty but what good will graphics do if the game doesn't play well? Safe to say that Ratchet and Clank has struck that perfect balance of platforming, shooting, puzzle solving and melee combat. There's no portion of any game mechanic that drags on for too long and Insomniac Games knows this, which has led them to create a near perfect formula. They've had enough trial and error in their previous titles to get them where they are now.
The formula is so prolific that it has nabbed them the Spiderman licence. How will they balance out story, stealth, combat, exploration and the infamous QTE's? I dont doubt that Insomniac is hard at work developing a Spiderman game that can rival the Arkham Series. If they continue perfecting their formula then there will be no doubt that Spiderman will be the next step for Insomniac Games. And after playing through Ratchet and Clank I am confident that the developer will continue to give all of us a master class in gaming.
So what do you think? Did you guys think Insomniac Games set a high standard for game design?
Travelling back to Yharnam.