The Average Gamer

Insomniac’s Ted Price talks Fuse and Dudebros

FUSE Dalton and MagShield
A couple of weeks ago I saw Fuse from Insomniac Games, previously known as Overstrike. Known for making Spyro, Ratchet & Clank and the Resistance series, Insomniac are now blending their serious wartime and quirky fantasy experience into a sci-fi shooter. I spoke to Founder and CEO Ted Price about the world of Fuse.

Fuse’s story follows a paramilitary group dropped into Hyperia base, a secret government research post investigating the properties of an alien substance known as Fuse. Inevitably, this substance has been used to make weapons which, in a remarkable coincidence, has resulted in one unique weapon for each member of the four-person team. You can find more details on how this plays in my Fuse hands-on preview.

Given that it’s a four-person co-op shooter, the first comparable games that sprung to mind for me were Borderlands 2 and EA’s other upcoming co-op shooter Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel. “Well, those are two very different games,” said Price. “What we offer is something that I think is unique in terms of its story-driven campaign, its four-player co-op abilities and the fact that each of these characters that you can play are very different archetypes. The fact that you can go back and forth between them at will and decide how you want to build your player’s strength is something that I think falls in an interesting space.”

Insomniac have put a lot of thought and effort into creating a game that encourages, but doesn’t force players into working together. As with Borderlands 2, you gain XP by killing your enemies – in the demo I saw this was mostly a rival group called Raven who have also invaded Hyperia – and spend that in your skills tree to unlock new abilities.

“In all our focus tests we’ve watched people naturally gravitate together because the weapons are strategically balanced for teamwork and they’re all made to work together. and the second thing is that when they start earning more points it’s a very attractive thing because as you unlock more abilities it becomes more and more enticing to earn more and more points.”

I found this happening very quickly myself. Playing as Jacob with the arcshot crossbow I was a fairly powerful death machine but the advantages of working as a team were obvious from the outset. My ‘Fusion Meter’ charged faster and my XP rewards were bigger. Most obviously, my teammates were pinned down by a shielded turret that they couldn’t reach but I could dispatch with little effort, thanks to my arcshot’s explosive bolts.

A lot of the focus is on building your characters the way you want to play them. Thanks to the Leap ability that allows you to jump between characters, you’ll earn XP for each character you play and be able to tailor each of the team.

Insomniac are currently working out how to balance this so that the latter stages don’t leave you with, say, three high-powered characters and a nerfed shattergun. “We don’t want to screw you if you’re the type of player who just likes to stick with one character and switch over to another one at the end. But part of that balance is also not making you feel that you’ve been cheated. If you are focusing on Dalton, for example, and later in the game you switch to Izzy and Izzy is already levelled up then you’ve lost all the fun of actually being able to progress your character the way you want.”

I was also pleased to see that with Izzy and Naya, Insomniac have included two playable female characters in the team. “From the very beginning we didn’t want to do the dudebro approach where it’s all about the muscular dudes exclusively,” said Price. “I think having Naya and Izzy on the team helped us tell a more interesting story because their backstories are unique. We also know that players have different desires. Not everybody wants to play [lead character] Dalton or guys like Dalton so we found in our focus tests that people gravitate a lot towards our women characters.”

I asked if the team knows why that was. “It was different, maybe? I mean, their weapons are useful. We’ve changed up their weapons quite a bit throughout the process and the female characters have always been popular regardless of weapons. I think it may be just that you don’t see it often in a game where you’ve got four players or multiple characters playing together. Not often.

“I think the stereotype is that most shooters are about teams of men, especially – and we’re not a military setting by any means – but when it comes to third-person shooters there are a lot of military sims out there. It’s generally focused on men so having the women in the game and having a very different world where we’re breaking a lot of the rules in terms of what is plausible, it helps separate us from a lot of other, more serious, sim-like shooters.”

Hang on, why’s he bringing up plausibility? “Well, there’s the existence of the alien substance. The fact that there’s this rogue paramilitary organisation that can invade US airspace at will. And a lot of the other things that happen in the game. There’s some pretty crazy stuff that happens to the player that I’m not really talking about right now. They are not things that you would see happening to this world which, again, sort of separates us from your more grounded sims out there.”

The portion I saw was some fancy weapons shooting anonymous dudebros dressed in black. There could be a lot more to FUSE than Insomniac are letting on.