From Disruptor through Spyra, Resistance and Spider-Man to the new Ratchet & Clank
The California studio Insomniac Games has built a good reputation in the gaming world in 27 years. Especially PlayStation fans know it. In collaboration with Sony, this team has breathed life into several unforgettable games and console mascots from this company, whether it is a purple Spyro dragon, a fun pair of Ratchet & Clank, or, after years of waiting, a real Spider-Man adventure.
The company was founded in 1994 under the name Xtreme Software by Ted Price in Burbank, California. However, in 1995, when the team appeared on E3, it was already called Insomniac Games because of another company called Xtreme Software. Price came up with the name Insomniac Games, but it wasn't their first choice. Originally, they considered Ragnarok Software and especially Ice Nine with a direct reference to the substance in Kurt Vonnegut's 1963 novel Cat's Cradle. someone else without permission.
Next came The Resistance Incorporated with an irony of resistance, but the name Insomniac Games, which was chosen shortly before the presentation at the spectacular E3, won.
At the Los Angeles trade show, Insomniac Games showed their first game, the first-person shooter Disruptor, which was released a year later (in 1996) for the original PlayStation. However, development did not initially begin for this platform, but for the overpriced and ultimately unsuccessful Panasonic 3DO console. The decision for 3DO was made by the availability of development kits. Panasonic provided them to everyone for about $ 8,000, while no one knew if Sony had PSOne devkits.
But about halfway through the development of the Disruptor, it was clear that the 3DO would never be a viable console. It was around the same time that Sony and SEGA launched alternatives such as the first PlayStation and Saturn. The last impetus to leave 3DO for PlayStation came from Mark Cerny, who was then executive producer of Universal Interactive Studios. This company was the last Insomniac Games visited. Cerny saw great potential in Disruptor and especially in the Insomniac Games team and began to work more with them, including suggestions for many levels for their next games. He has participated in virtually all Insomniac Games projects.
It was Black from Universal that Insomniac Games recommended switching to PlayStation. The game was also released in November 1996. The title was inspired by Doom, but unfortunately, it didn't sell very well. The failure of the title almost led to the bankruptcy of the Insomniac Games. Over time, Insomniac Games leaders look at it as a teaching tool that has taught them a hard lesson about production. At E3, where Insomniac Games were hiring new staff, the game was even played by John Romero, the author of Doom, and was supposed to say he looked pretty good.
When we finished developing the Disruptor, we never wanted to go back to it. It didn't make sense to us. We wanted to do something lighter. We wanted to move on to a completely different, completely unrelated game, Al Hastings, a computer guru and one of the first employees of Insomniac Games, told IGN.
At that time, Marek Černý decided to create a family game. This market was dominated by Nintendo and there was nothing like it on the PlayStation. The idea for Spy came about when Dragon Heart was made, in which Sean Connery narrated a computer dragon.
The idea arose to make a game that would be inspired by this. It was supposed to be realistic and a little dark and rough. It would be about dragons, said John Fiorito, who joined Insomniac Games as Chief Operating Officer in 1997, at the time of the development of the original Spyro, after first landing at Disney Software and later trying to get into Naughty Dog. But they never wrote him off.
Other developers have also tried to create a new PlayStation mascot. Fiorito is reminiscent of Jersey Devil, Blasto, and MediEvil, but the main character was Crash Bandicoot from Naughty Dog. Spyro was his deputy, but he was quite prominent.
We discussed the possibility of creating a more fairytale world with an anthropomorphic dragon, and at the same time, Al Hastings was working on a brand new engine for the PlayStation. This was in line with the idea that we could have a kite flying or gliding. We wanted a view. The large, open views were an anomaly at the time. You haven't seen many games on PlayStation that really take advantage of the hardware in this way, Ted Price said.
Why a little dragon? They didn't have much experience at Insomniac Games yet and technology was limited. Therefore, they turned Spyra's appearance toward something that would act as a small ball, so that his movements would not be a disaster. "That was one of the reasons for us to make him a small, cute dragon, as opposed to something bigger and more menacing," Hastings explained. Their goal was to get closer to the game Mario 64 because the popular plumber had a smooth and sensitive system of movements.
Spyro the Dragon was released for the first PlayStation in September 1998, and in terms of reviews and commercial success, it was surpassed only on Naone's Dog Crash Bandicoot on PSone. No wonder the team quickly set to work on a sequel that was released barely a year later.
The last work became the third. Spyro Year of the Dragon arrived on PlayStation 2 in October 2000 and was the last of four games released by Insomniac Games in partnership with Universal, which owns the rights. You now have Activision Blizzard in your hands. The dragon Spyra woke up in the Spyro Reignited Trilogy from the Toys for Bob studio.
According to many, they needed a rest from Spyr, a change of environment, and embarking on something else. At the same time, they decided to leave Universal and work directly with Sony. She supported them, and from the beginning, Sony's management liked the idea of a cross between Tomb Raider and Zelda with a girl who has a magic wand and fights monsters.
They worked on the Insomniac Games project for several months, created about three different prototypes, and at one meeting with Sony, they realized this. The Japanese company was willing to support their title. We believe in the ability of your people. We believe that you will find your way with this title. However, at the moment we are not sure if the game can be more interesting. We encourage you to focus on your strengths. Maybe consider what you have done in the past was one of Sony's recommendations.
It was a big awakening for Price. Everyone else in the Insomniac Games told him essentially the same thing, but he didn't listen to them and was behind an action-adventure with a magical girl. In the end, the decision was made to cancel the project, and after a few weeks, the idea for an action platformer was born.
From today's point of view, it was a logical transition when you look at Spyr and Ratchet. The idea for the main character Ratchet was originally inspired by Martian Marvin. He later evolved into Ratchet, a hairy alien creature that uses weapons and has an auxiliary robot, which he named Clank.
Fortunately, the development went fast, using the engine from the never-realized Girl With A Stick. Sony fully supported this vision and the development of Ratchet & Clank took off at full speed. The game was released two years after the launch of the PlayStation 2, in November 2002. And it was a hit that determined that all resources would be dedicated to this brand by Insomniac Games in the coming years.
The PS3 released the other three adventures of the pair in 2003, 2004, and 2005: Going Commando, Up Your Arsenal and Deadlocked. It turns out that Insomniac Games know how to quickly complete and release quality, some of the best-selling games.
The collaboration with Sony was helped by Insomniac Games' relationship with Naughty Dog. The company shared the same building with this team until 2001 when Sony bought the Naughty Dog. Both creatives created games for the PlayStation, and a friendly competitive and cooperative relationship developed between them. This has even led to the frequent sharing of a lot of knowledge and sometimes also techniques and technologies. The mediator was Mark Cerny, who helped Insomniac Games and Naughty Dog.
The extraordinary relationship pushed both teams forward. When they watched Jak & Daxter at Insomniac Games in the PS2 era, they wanted to push Ratchet even further and make him a more amazing title. They did the same in Naughty Dog when they played Ratchet.
When the PS3 came out, they had to rewrite Ratchet in Insomniac Games and do each character again to be in 3D. The goal was to create a game that would be the same size as the first part, but at the same time be better. That worked, and in addition to Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction, PlayStation 3 also released Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty, Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time, Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One, Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault a Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus.
But before that, another game was created. The first-ever Insomniac Games title for the PlayStation 3 was the sci-fi first-person shooter Resistance: Fall of Man, which underscored the great relationship with Sony when it was the starting title for the PS3. Player interest and positive reviews resulted in two more Resistance installments for the PS3, which were released in 2008 (two years after the first installment) and 2011. Unfortunately, Resistance did not have the commercial success that the developers had hoped for. Therefore, emphasis continued to be placed on Ratchet's hairs in particular.
Since 2013, Ratchet & Clank has taken a break and Insomniac Games have tried other projects, including Sunset Onedrive in collaboration with Microsoft and various smaller titles for mobile phones and tablets. In 2016, however, the well-known pair returned with a restart, and Ratchet & Clank was created on the PlayStation 4. Meanwhile, they worked for many years on the action-adventure of Marvel's Spider-Man, which was really successful.
But it was a spiderman who took care of the future of the study. Insomniac Games benefited from a relationship with Sony, which eventually bought them in the summer of 2019. Then Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales was released for PS4 and PS5, and in a few weeks we'll be playing Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart with Czech subtitles on PlayStation 5.
What will be the future of this California studio? The second Marvel's Spider-Man can be expected with certainty, and several times we have witnessed an indication of the return of Resistance, which many fans would appreciate. But I'm sure that in the coming years we will see new adventures of Ratchet and Clank, and Sunset Overdrive, the brand's own Insomniac Games and Sony, respectively, may also grow.