The Makers of Ratchet and Clank Think Gaming is Too Complex, The Solution? Facebook

Illustration for article titled The Makers of Ratchet and Clank Think Gaming is Too Complex, The Solution? Facebook

The people behind Resistance, Ratchet and Clank and Spyro the Dragon think video games are getting so complex that they're leaving a huge potential audience behind. Their solution? A Facebook game.

"Spyro was a two-button game," said Brian Hastings, chief creative officer at Insomniac Games. "Ratchet and Clank was an eight-button game. Resistance was an analog stick and eight buttons.

"You need to be a good game player to be able to get in there and have any fun."

But for those who didn't grow up gaming, the learning curve for many modern games is too high, Hastings says. That's where Insomniac Click comes in. Unveiled at South By Southwest earlier this month, Insomniac Click is a small studio inside Insomniac that will concentrate on making social games for web and mobile platforms. Their goal is to create games that can help introduce people to gaming and eventually lead them into the more complex, more deep gaming experiences of console gaming.


Their first game, which they hope to release this year, will be a Facebook title.

"There are a lot of other avenues we could have taken," Hastings said. "We think Facebook is one of the most exciting ones. There is such a large pool of people to reach."

In a story on Insomniac Game's website, Hastings promised that the games they make will be based on a "contract with our audience." That contract promises that their games will be fun for both players, be focused on the player experience, deliver the "richness of gameplay" expected in a console title, be easy to learn, but hard to master and finally be fun to play.

"We want to make games where the player comes first, where we are not using you as a tool to market our game," he said. "You can make money by having a good gaming experience."


While Hastings declined to say what the game will be about, he did say that it will be an entirely new game, one based on a new property that could make its way onto consoles one day.

"We are trying to make something different here," he said. "We are trying to make something that you would want to play. We want to make something that will be reviewed by console websites."

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I have a question. It's not a rhetorical question, but it's one I've heard asked before. These "gateway games," or whatever the various Facebook apps are supposed to be ... do they really lead people toward console games, or do people need to "jump in the deep end" from the start, so to speak, and learn video games by starting with consoles if they're ever going to play console games at all?

Granted, Facebook ~does~ have a very large user base, but I'm not sure what percentage of that base is interested in gaming (on Facebook or otherwise). Then again, with half a billion users, you could probably just brute-force it, maybe reach a percent of a percent of those, and still do really well.

As for Insomniac's own game history:

1) The Spyro games were easy to learn, but they weren't "two-button games" by any stretch, if I may say so.

2) I don't think the Spyro -> Ratchet & Clank -> Resistance complexity "gradation" is an example of how gaming is becoming universally more complicated (is it? I think indie games have really made us start coming full-circle). I think that simply points to the kinds of games Insomniac has pretty much built itself on — platforming games (Spyro and Ratchet) and shooting games (Ratchet and Resistance ... and Disruptor). Spyro would be easy to aim at a broad audience, especially one that includes kids or people new to gaming. Not so sure about Ratchet, and definitely not Resistance.

Some people won't want to play Resistance because it does indeed seem too complex for them; others won't want to play it because of the violence or the subject matter, so no matter how simple the gameplay is, they wouldn't be won over anyway. But not all modern games, even the best-known series, are that complex or difficult to learn.

I can't really say so much about this question, since I honestly don't know the answer, but as for this:

"You need to be a good game player to be able to get in there and have any fun"

I can't help but wonder. For people who aren't already good at games (even if not "hardcore games," but just the games they already play, no matter how "casual" they are), are they even interested in becoming good, or would they rather stick to the hobbies they already have? I don't know. I'm certainly not saying that people who don't have that kind of experience "can't" learn; I'm just wondering if there are a lot of people like this who actually care to do so.