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Behind the Classics: Ratchet & Clank

What a treat! PlayStation.Blog’s well-liked Behind the Classics series continues with an inside story behind another iconic PlayStation series, this time from celebrated developer Insomniac Games. The Burbank-based studio has produced a slew of memorable PlayStation titles, from the beloved PSone platformer Spyro the Dragon to the soulful PS3 shooter Resistance 3. But in 2002, Insomniac captivated both mainstream and hardcore gamers with the introduction of Ratchet & Clank, a technically peerless shooter-platformer hybrid that radiated style and spirit.

With November 4th marking the 10-year anniversary of Ratchet & Clank’s release on PS2, PlayStation.Blog caught up with Ted Price, Insomniac Games’ president and CEO, to learn more about how this impactful PlayStation powerhouse came to be. To learn more about the development of this classic series, be sure to check out our recent post that showcases 10 years of concept art.

Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault for PS3

PlayStation Blog: What was the original base concept for the game?

Ted Price, President and CEO, Insomniac Games: After deep-sixing the concept we called “Girl with a Stick,” we had to come up with something else, and we had to do it quickly. Brian Hastings, our chief creative officer, suggested we make a game about a spacefaring alien who has an outlandish arsenal of gadgets and weapons. He cited Marvin the Martian as inspiration. That idea clicked with everyone and we all started digging in to flesh out the concept.

PSB: Did you know you were working on something special? What were your creative conditions as you worked on it – uncertainty, confidence, terror?

TP: I don’t think we ever know something is truly special until well after the initial inspiration. Sometimes we get that “Yes, this is working!” feeling early in prototype phase, sometime it hits during production. With Ratchet though, we knew we had something promising when we built a test for Metropolis – one of the first worlds you visit in the game. We had Ratchet running around on platforms looking out over this vast city with streams of airborne traffic whizzing by. You could switch between the suck cannon, pyrocitor, the wrench and (I think) the blaster. It was a lot of smoke and mirrors because we weren’t using our final engine. We didn’t build out the backs of buildings. You could only travel a few meters in the world. Ratchet was in his “brown” state (he looked a little bit mutant-ish). And I don’t recall having any enemies. But it convinced us and Sony of the potential for the game.

The Ratchet & Clank Collection for PS3Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault

PSB: Did you draw inspiration from anywhere in particular for the game’s look and feel?

TP: We drew from all sorts of sources. Cartoons, sci-fi movies, popular culture… There were certainly some direct playful references to other properties in both the initial concepts and in subsequent games. Captain Qwark was partially inspired by the Tick. Metropolis with its flying cars and city canyons is reminiscent of The Fifth Element. Courtney Gears from Up Your Arsenal was a riff on Britney Spears who was popular at the time. But these are exceptions rather than the rule. Most of what you see in the games is a direct result of our team just having fun in a universe with very few constraints.

PSB: It was an ambitious title for its time. What were the biggest challenges in realizing your original vision?

TP: Controlling scope was (and still is) our biggest challenge. We were moving onto a new platform with a new IP and we had very little time to get it done. We knew we needed to be ambitious for the game to stand out; but we also knew that if we spread ourselves too thin with too many features, the game would be half-baked. Dealing with this conundrum hasn’t gotten any easier over the years because players’ expectations continue to skyrocket for all platforms.

PSB: How close to your original concept was the finished game?

TP: It depends. Some of us consider Girl with a Stick as an important part of the Ratchet genesis. Ratchet does owe some its mechanics and ideas to that concept. With that in mind, both Ratchet and Resistance went through drastic changes on their way to their final incarnations. However, once we had Ratchet up and running on the PS2, the changes were less severe. Ratchet did change in appearance along the way. When I look back at the original model versus what ended up in the final game, I see a big difference. We also continued to add mechanics to the game as we figured out what worked and what didn’t.

Ratchet & Clank Collection

PSB: Which element of the game are you most proud of?

TP: The crazy weapons! Coming off of Spyro, a series where the main character couldn’t use weapons (other than his breath and his horns) I think a lot of us were yearning to jump into back into the realm of oversized, overpowered projectile weapons. We spent some time in that world with Disruptor but took a four year break while focusing on purple quadrupeds. We also latched onto weapons as way to separate Ratchet from other platformers, Spyro 1 & 2 included, which seemed perennially tied to bonking, bouncing and punching. Finally, in my opinion, creating weapons without any real world rules gave us a chance to operate at max creativity – which is ultimately the goal for a lot of us in this industry. It really didn’t matter WHAT the weapon was, as long as it was satisfying and fun to use we knew we’d be able to make it fit.

PSB: How would you like Ratchet & Clank to be remembered? What did it bring to the video game medium?

TP: Ratchet is still alive and well, and a lot of us at Insomniac are very proud that Ratchet & Clank is one of the last platformers standing and still going strong. And we all like to think that Ratchet has contributed to the evolution of platformers and action games in general over the last decade and a half. As a minor example, seeing radial quick-select menus in other games is a compliment to us because I think Ratchet was the first to have one (though I could be wrong). And I’m still waiting to see a sheepinator in another game. To be fair though, I think Heretic (1994) and Hexen (1995) were the first games to have weapons which turned enemies into farm animals.

PSB: Which of the Ratchet & Clank characters is closest to your heart?

TP: Captain Qwark. I love him because he’s always larger than life, always 100% sure of himself, and usually wrong. My wife tells me she knows people like that. Still trying to figure out who she’s talking about.

Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal AssaultRatchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault

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Comments

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S-o-h-a-i-l 5 November, 2012 @ 3:16 pm   1

I preordered Ratchet & Clank: Q-Force (/Full Frontal Assault) from Tesco and they’ve emailed me telling me my preorder will be available in 6 weeks, is that true ? Will the game be releasing in 6 weeks here in the UK ? If so then that’s really disappointing.

Its a real shame, this series started out great, then took a huge nose dive, all 4 one looks…crappy, and the newest one is selling out, slapping a mascot on a terrible looking game to make money =/. For shame

I’d be happy if it was a Ratchet & Clank icon on my XMB.

UltraSilver64 5 November, 2012 @ 4:06 pm   4

I’ve been a fan of this series ever since playing the very first demo and I am very surprised on how they have turned out.

Not sure about All 4 One (will probably find out on 7th Nov, through PS Plus), but I was impressed with the HD versions.

Could you pass on the following idea to Insomniac: SCE Cambridge did 2 volumes of God of War (covering PS2 & PSP) for PS3. Now that The Ratchet & Clank Trilogy covered the original PS2 versions in HD, could you do a 2nd one that covers the remaining 3 games of that generation (i.e. Gladiator (Deadlocked in US), Size Matters and Secret Agent Clank)? It would be great to play these on the big screen in HD!

Keep up the work Insomniac and help Ratchet & Clank continue to reach the stars!

UltraSilver64 5 November, 2012 @ 4:09 pm   5

@S-o-h-a-i-l

In answer to your question, Ratchet & Clank: Q-Force is out on 9th November. This was confirmed with me by Play.com (whom I pre-ordered my copy from).

Tesco may have a different way of shipping, but the offical release date still stands as 9th November.

Hope that helps you out.

dogwalker4000 5 November, 2012 @ 5:14 pm   6

Been a fan of R&C for a long time and tbh I quite enjoy the change of direction, keeps things interesting. The QForce beta was actually a lot of fun and sold me on the concept.

Saying that, another classic R&C certainly wouldn’t go a miss :)

I gonna take anyway, but more exited about Gladiator. It suppose to come to the psn by Xmast, I hope.

Thanks for the post – I loved Ratchet & Clank when it has some concept (before making whatvever game you like then add Ratchet and make it another game in series).

S-o-h-a-i-l 5 November, 2012 @ 5:53 pm   9

Really UltraSilver ? I was told that’s just a filler date as the NA release is set for the 28th, I’d assume the UK release would be closer to that. Previously, Tesco had listed it as te 2nd of November, but they emailed me on the day telling me the game has been delayed for 6 weeks.

Witcher70 5 November, 2012 @ 6:12 pm   10

i pre-ordered my copy of R&C: Q Force two months ago i went into GAME to pick it up, they tell me its been DELAYED til 30th november, So what is going ON ???????

I pre-ordered Ratchet&Clank: Q-Force today :P Think it’s out on the 30th of this month(well that is what it says on Amazon.co.uk) I CAN’T WAIT!!!;) But i got LBP:Karting coming at the end of this week so i can wait a bit then :D

supersmith2500 5 November, 2012 @ 6:29 pm   12

@UltraSilver64:
HMV also listed it as 9th November. Not sure if it’s a official date, it should be out this month.

darkdudes_2 5 November, 2012 @ 6:54 pm   13

why does resistance and ratchet get so many games and our beloved spyro not >..<

S-o-h-a-i-l 5 November, 2012 @ 7:15 pm   14

I changed my preorder to Amazon – Tesco was being iffy on the release details.

supersmith2500 5 November, 2012 @ 7:33 pm   15

@S-o-h-a-i-l:
Well there is no release date confirmed for EU yet. I think it’s the 30th. Shouldn’t be months.

S-o-h-a-i-l 5 November, 2012 @ 8:02 pm   16

I understand that, but all Tesco had to tell me was my order would be ready for dispatch in 6 weeks, that’s half way into December !

Kresnik258 5 November, 2012 @ 8:53 pm   17

It really, really annoys me when people take to the blog comments to talk about things that have absolutely no relevance to the article. Yes, I’m annoyed by the Singstar icon too. Now is neither the time nor the place to vent about it.

On topic: Ratchet & Clank is probably my favourite videogame series of the last decade. While I’d read some of this stuff about Girl with a stick before, it was nevertheless an interesting read. I hope we get another 10 years of Ratchet because honestly, he’s never let me down. A Crack in Time is one of my all time favourite games, behind only Spyro: Year of the Dragon :P

Keep it up, Insomniac!

@S-o-h-a-i-l – I wouldn’t listen to Tesco, they aren’t the most reliable retailer…

Anyway, happy 10 years R&C! Always has been and still is the best game series ever. Psyched for Q-Force! :D

extermin8or_ 5 November, 2012 @ 9:28 pm   19

are people certain rachet and clank is out this friday then, shopto, hmv and play.com seem to think so but insomniac didn’t answer me on twitter when I asked :( if :) tbh im only buying the ps3 version for the free digital copy for my vita :p

Tyrannic_Puppy 5 November, 2012 @ 9:31 pm   20

Happy birthday Ratchet and Clank. It has been the time of my life.

I love all these behind the scenes looks we’ve gotten at Insomniac and Ratchet over the past few months. It is by far my favorite game series of all time, I have all the games on disc (except the mobile game) and shall soon have them all downloaded on my console too (thanks PSN+ for giving me All4One).

Can’t wait to get Gladiator and Full Frontal Assault as well to round out my collection. And I thoroughly look forward to another ten years of Ratchet, though I’m still excited to see what Insomniac comes up with next (just don’t let whatever it is kill of Ratchet. There is still so much to explore with him).

extermin8or_ 5 November, 2012 @ 9:31 pm   21

*Lots of places say it’s out 30th november both amazon and shopto who have now changed their release date and they are usually correct…

supersmith2500 5 November, 2012 @ 9:47 pm   22

Well HMV says 9th Nov. They might be wrong.

TehPhilosopher 6 November, 2012 @ 12:03 am   23

Thanks for this!

So, any plans on releasing a R&C plush toy, or perhaps a collaboration with Sideshow for a premium format figure, like the upcoming Diablo statue? I think the duo would be a perfect fit for it, with changeable weapons.

Please can we have a trophy patch for Tools Of Destruction and Quest For Booty? It would increase their value and generate more revenue on the PS Store. I guarantee if they were patched you would see an uptick in sales.

It’s horrible having them missing from my trophy list. Feels incomplete.

Kieranmarsh (6) and everyone else.

1:
The team would love to answer everything but can’t for many valid reasons.
2:
Some people only scroll to their own comments.
3,4,5,6:
All the above can be answered with this: Due to the nature of business things happen which can delay, alter or stop something form happening. Like many other companies, Sony sometimes cannot tell us why or it isn’t even to do with them.
7:
Many licences and agreements IP’s have to be renewed, altered and even brought to get the games as a new release on a digital platform. These take time.
8:
As it stands, these are the recommended retail prices (RRP) and it will stay this way for quite sometime.
9:
They do not show the tax rates, as it’s different in a lot of states. Exchange rates and demand are just some of the factors at work here.
10:
The only thing you have a valid grievance on, this should be forced on us in the games folder.

* from not form
** Sorry 10 shouldn’t be forced on us.

This blog and the forums have a very vocal and passionate group of people who understandably (but misguidedly) get frustrated about these things. Which is another reason why I Sony is brilliant.

RoronoaSouthe 6 November, 2012 @ 11:47 am   27

@ ChazzH69

I’m just gonna take points 1+2. I’m aware there is some stuff they can’t talk about but look at the Store update. 16 posts. The 2 comments ask questions and Jawad answers good and then 3rd is basically the 1st question again. Should have ignored it or if he felt the need to “See comment 1″. Simple. Another question is what avatars do we get this week. That should be on the blog post. 607 Comments and only 16 Answers. Thats pretty bad.

I also emailed in a complaint i got a “Thanks, we’ve got your e-mail and you should get a reply from one of our team within 24 hours.” that was on 1st and its now the 6th.

UltraSilver64 7 November, 2012 @ 10:36 am   28

Just a quick update:

@Vashetti: I totally agree with you. Tools of Destruction and Quest for Booty should have Trophy patches, though I guess they currently don’t because there might be an issue of Trophies being earned retroactively (as a majority of us might have already finished them both in their entirety).

@S-o-h-a-i-l: I was notified by Play.com the day after I did comment #4 that Q-Force was delayed until 30th November. Shame really, as I was looking forward to a double-whammy of Ratchet & Clank this week (Q-Force & All4One).