|Industry||Computer and video games
|Founded||February 28, 1994|
|Headquarters||Burbank, California, United States|
|Ted Price (CEO)
|Products||Spyro series (1998–2000)
Ratchet & Clank series (2002–)
Resistance series (2006–11)
Number of employees
Insomniac Games, Inc. is an American video game developer with the corporate headquarters located in Burbank, California. Founded in 1994 by Ted Price as "Xtreme Software", the company was later renamed to "Insomniac Games" in 1995. Since the company's establishment, it has released titles for the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Xbox One video game consoles.
The company's first project was Disruptor, whose poor sales almost led the company to bankruptcy. Insomniac's next project was Spyro the Dragon, which had spawned two sequels within two years. It is a widely successful franchise, but Insomniac chose to develop a new franchise with Ratchet & Clank for the PlayStation 2. The company also developed the Resistance series for the PlayStation 3, and released its first multi-platform game, Fuse in 2013. The company also worked with Microsoft Studios on 2015's Sunset Overdrive. The company's current projects include a Ratchet & Clank remake and Edge of Nowhere, an Oculus Rift action-adventure game.
Insomniac Games has received recognition from critics. It was named the twentieth best video game developer by IGN, and the best place to work in America by the Society for Human Resource Management. Some employees that left Insomniac Games had founded their own independent companies, such as High Impact Games.
Insomniac Games was founded by Ted Price. Price had the determination of working in the video game industry since the release of Atari 2600 in 1977. He was nine years old at that time, and he lacked experience and knowledge in term of developing a video game.
Upon his graduation from New Jersey’s Ivy League Princeton University, he worked at a medical company. He later departed it, as he wanted to seek a more artistic job. The studio was officially established in February 28, 1994 by Price.
Price is later joined by more people. He met Alex Hastings, his fellow graduate and an expert in computer coding and programming, and Hastings decided to join the studio in June 2015. Hastings' brother, Brian Hasting, also become a member of Insomniac shortly afterwards. The studio was not founded as "Insomniac Games" when the company was established. It was named "Xtreme Software" for a year. The studio was later forced to renamed by another company that shares the same name in 1995. Naming the company was proven to be an obstacle for the founders. The studio came up with names like "The Resistance Incorporated", "Ragnarock", "Black Sun Software", "Ice Nine" and "Moon Turtle" before settling on the name "Insomniac Games". According to Price, the company chose this name because "it suddenly makes sense", even though it was not their first choice.
Shortly after the company's establishment, the studio began developing their first project. The team took inspirations from the popular Doom, and that the team hoped to leverage the industry's excitement for a first-person shooter again with their new project. Meanwhile, the team size expanded from three people to four. The team at that time still lacked any experience and was in a learning phrase, and they considered develop a "Doom clone" something "doable" for the studio. The game was developed for the 3DO from Panasonic, as its developer kit can be purchased for very low prices, and that the team had high hope for the console. Using a time frame of one month, the team developed a functional gameplay demo for the game. It was pitched to various publishers after the completion of the demo, and it was later shown to Mark Cerny, an executive producer from Universal Interactive Studios, who was impressed by the team's efforts. Universal later became the game's publisher, helping with the game funding and marketing. They also provided assistance to the game's development and helped with the game's cutscenes, which hired real-world actors to film real-time sequences. Catherine Hardwicke was also hired to lead its production design, and inspirations were taken from Warhawk. Cerny, while not joining the studio, also gave input and feedback on the game's level-design. However, the 3DO did not perform as they had expected, and Universal suggested that the team should switched the game's platform to Sony Computer Entertainment's PlayStation so as to increase the overall sales of the game. The game was originally running on a custom engine developed by Alex Hastings, and was upgraded and converted for the PlayStation within a month. Their debut title was called Disruptor, and was released worldwide in November 1997.
Disruptor was released to positive critical reception upon release, and was named "Dark Horse of the Year" by various gaming publications. John Romero, founder of Doom developer id Software also praised the game. The company also considered Disruptor a lesson for them, as they learnt a lot about video game development during the game's development. However, according to Price, it was "the best game that nobody ever heard of". With little marketing and advertisement, the game was a commercial failure for Insomniac. The situation was very severe, and that the company almost went bankrupted, as the sales of Disruptor failed to meet the team's expectation. Despite the game's poor performance, Universal continued to partner with Insomniac for their next game. The team's morale was low at that time, and they decided to move on developing something new instead of returning to Disruptor to develop a sequel.
At that time, the demography for the PlayStation decreased significantly. More teenagers and children started to use the console to play video game. As a result, the team decided not to make another violent game like Disruptor and instead develop a game that was family friendly, a game that would be suitable to every member of a family, regardless of their age. Family game at that time was dominated by Sony's competitor Nintendo with games like Super Mario 64, while PlayStation has no similar exclusives. Cerny later pushed the team to that direction, to develop a game which features a mascot and has mass appeal. An environment artist of Disruptor, Craig Stitt proposed that the game's theme and story should revolve around an anthropomorphic dragon. At the same time, Alex Hastings began developing an engine that specialized in developing games with panoramic view, which is suitable for open world games. The engine allowed more gameplay features including the ability for the dragon to glide through air. The game's name was Spyro the Dragon and was released in late 1998.
The game received critical acclaim upon launch and went on receiving awards from different publications. The sales for the game was relatively low initially, but later climbed up after Christmas that year, and the overall sales of the game exceeded 2 million. The team size was expanded again to 13 staff members. Due to the success of the original game, the studio was requested to develop a sequel for it. The development of Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! began shortly after the launch of Spyro The Dragon. The team considered developing Ripto's Rage! a challenge for them as they had to come up with new ideas that can "revolutionize" the franchise within such a short time frame. The team brainstormed different ideas for the sequel, but later chose to expand a mini-game from the original Spyro the Dragon, which they thought had offered a completely different experience from Spyro. The team also designed a more mature story and more advanced cinematic for the game. It met its target release window, and was released in late 1999. Hastings was originally worried about the release, as the game's development cycle was rushed and truncated.
Once again, the studio was asked to develop the third installment in the Spyro the Dragon series upon the release of Ripto's Rage!. In an effort to make the game more varied than its predecessors, the team introduced more special moves for Spyro The Dragon, as well as more playable characters. The personality of the dragon was also made more approachable for players. Nevertheless, the company was struggling to create new ideas for the sequel. During the game's development, the team expanded to about 20 to 25 people. Brian Allgeier, which would later become many Insomniac's games' director, also joined the studio at that time. Spyro: Year of the Dragon was released worldwide in late 2000. With three games releasing simultaneously in three years, the team needed a break from the franchise. It is the last Insomniac Games-developed Spyro game, The team wanted to create something new instead of another Spyro sequel, a game with another original character. The rights to the intellectual property was retained by Universal, even though Insomniac created it. This also marked the end of partnership between the two companies, as the team at Insomniac turned to work directly to develop exclusives for the PlayStation family.
2000 saw the release of Sony successor to PlayStation, the PlayStation 2. The company had different ideas running for their first PlayStation 2 project. This included Monster Knight, a concept that was designed back in 1999 but the game had never exited its planning stage. The cancelled project was revealed 13 years after the game's conception. The second title was called Girl With A Stick, which took inspirations from The Legend of Zelda and Tomb Raider. It was meant to be a serious game, and a title that proved Insomniac's ability to create games beyond platformers. Insomniac spent six months on the project. Several prototypes were developed, and a functional demo was created. However, most staff members, beside Price, was not passionate about the project, and thought that the project was too "one-dimensional". Sony also thought that the game would not find its own market, and recommended Insomniac to "play to [their] strengths". As a result, ideas for Girl With A Stick were scrapped. According to Price, Girl with A Stick is a lesson for them, as well as their first failure.
Few weeks after the cancellation of Girl with a Stick, Brian Hastings proposed that the company should work on a space adventure game with a science fiction theme. The game originally revolves around a reptilian alien travelling across different planets with different weapons. The reptile later evolved to a cavemen, and eventually became a Lombax, a fictional animal. They later named the creature Ratchet. They also designed a companion for Ratchet, an android with a completely different personality called Clank. Inspirations for the game were drawn from manga, Conker's Bad Fur Day and their own Spyro the Dragon. In order to differentiate the project from their previous projects, they added more complexity to the game, including shooting and role-playing gameplay elements. The team was more excited about this project; however, the company was unable to develop a demo for the game as they did not have a suitable engine. As a result, they developed Art Nuevo de Flash Gordon, a Metropolis dioramas, to Sony, and Sony decided to help the game's funding and publishing. Jason Rubin, on behalf of Naughty Dog, later gave Insomniac a helping hand by lending them the engine which powered Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. The title was simply called Ratchet & Clank. Originally set to be a launch title for PlayStation 2, it was delayed by two years and was released in November 2002. It was a critical success.
Sony green-lit the development of the sequel five months before the launch of Ratchet & Clank. Insomniac hoped to bring more new elements to the franchise, while listening to players' feedback and improve the negative features of the original Ratchet and Clank. Approximately a year later, Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando was released. When Going Commando was launched, Insomniac had already finished the prototype of their next game, Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal. It introduces a multiplayer mode, expanded upon Going Commando's arenas to the franchise. Meanwhile, Alex Hastings continued to optimize the engine and increased its processing power in order to further polish the game. The sales of it was way higher than its predecessors, and was the highest-rated game in the franchise's history.
Similar to Spyro the Dragon, Insomniac released three Ratchet & Clank game within three year. Insomniac has the intention to bring the franchise to a different direction after Up Your Arsenal. Hastings hoped that their next game can feature a darker tone than its predecessors. As a result, the plot switched to focus more personally on Ratchet himself. Inspired by Running Man and Battle Royale, the team turned the game into an action game without any platform elements. While the gameplay remains largely similar, Clank's role was significantly diminished in this game, and was removed from the game's title. The game was Ratchet: Deadlocked, and was released a year later in 2005.
While Insomniac is handling the development of the Ratchet & Clank franchise, the team had intention to work on something different. With the launch of the PlayStation 3, the team thought that the new audience attracted by the new console would be more mature. As a result, they wanted to develop a game that would suit their taste. They also hoped to expand their games catalog, as they thought that the studio should not only specialized in one specific genre. This new project is also part of Insomniac's expansion, as they wanted to have multiple projects in parallel development. The conception of this project began after the completion of Deadlocked. The team all agreed that they should develop something different, for a different platform. Inspired by Starship Troopers, Resistance: Fall of Man marked Insomniac's return to first-person shooter root after Disruptor. In order to make the game stand-out from other shooters, they experimented with different ideas, including turning it into a squad-based shooter, and introducing giant lizard enemies which was later scrapped. Sony once recommended Insomniac to change its lizard antagonist because they were not fun to play with. Furthermore, the team has varied opinions on the game's setting. Initially proposed as a "space opera" game, Cerny proposed to set the game during World War I, but was later pushed forward to World War II as the team wanted to introduced extreme weaponry to the game. It was shifted to the 1950s because the team considered that the market for World War II shooter was over-saturated at that time. Fall of Man was a launch title for the PlayStation 3. The team described developing a new game for the console as a challenging task, as they had to work very fast so that it can meet its target release window. The game is a financial and critical success, despite causing controversy over the use of Manchester Cathedral. The development of the sequel soon began. The team wanted to introduce drastic changes to the game which led to a lot of internal debate between staff members. The sequel, Resistance 2, was released in 2008.
Meanwhile, the Ratchet and Clank franchise continued to evolve. The team decided to rewrite every character when the franchise shifted to the PlayStation 3. The team introduced the Future series, which includes games like Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction (2007), Quest For Booty (2008) and A Crack in Time (2009). In 2008, the studio set up a new studio in North California of about 25 to 30 developers led by Chad Dezern and Shaun McCabe. The new studio would also be responsible for some of Insomniac's Ratchet & Clank games.
Both the Resistance franchise and the Ratchet & Clank franchise continued in the 2010s. The team at North California developed Ratchet & Clank: All 4 One. While it received mixed reviews, the team continued to develop the next game in the series. Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault was another game developed by the North California team. It is expanded upon levels from Up Your Arsenal and Crack In Time and has a structure that is similar to a tower defense game.
Meanwhile, the company worked on the sequel to Resistance 2, Resistance 3. Resistance 3 is designed to be similar to the original Fall of Man instead of 2. The team at Insomniac also looked at players' feedback regarding the negative aspects of 2, brought back some mechanics from Fall of Men, and focused more on 3's story. They considered that such approach can differentiate franchise from other ordinary first-person shooters. Resistance 3 was regarded as the best entry in the series, but it performed poorly and was a financial failure. According to Price, the team was disappointed, even though they were still proud of the project, which they were "personally connected" to. In early 2012, Price announced that the company would not be involved in any future Resistance project, and would move on to their next project. As a result, Sony retained the rights to the IP.
Insomniac had focused exclusively on developing games for the PlayStation. It changed when Insomniac announced that they had partnered with Electronic Arts via EA Partners to develop a multi-platform game for both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, a video game console from Sony's competitor Microsoft Studios, in 2010. The decision to that is that the company hoped to reach a wider and broader audience, while keeping the rights to their own IP so that they can gain full control of their franchise. However, the company did not reveal anything about the game. The also formed a new subsidiary called Insomniac Click, which focused on casual games and games for Facebook. Their first game was not set in any one of Insomniac's existing franchise. Insomniac partnered with Electronic Arts again, which owned the popular casual game developer Playfish at that time, so asto help the game to reach a broad audience. Outernauts was announced shortly after, and was released in July 2012 for browser and mobile platform. Click was later merged and reincorporated back to Insomniac, and the browser version was later cancelled.
The EA Partners game was later officially revealed at Electronic Entertainment Expo 2011 as Overstrike. Overstrike was pitched by Ratchet & Clank director, Brian Allgeier, and was said to have a direction similar to the Ratchet & Clank series but with humans. The team thought that it would appeal to teenagers. After several playtesting, they realized that their game was made too simple for teenagers. The company also developed and designed many weapons for the game, but none of them related to the game's story. As a result, they retooled it, and made it to head to a new direction, which can attract older players and make weapons an important part of the game. The game put focuses on the game's co-operative campaign, as they thought that it was a popular trend at that time. It was later renamed to Fuse and was released worldwide on May 2013. The overhauled Fuse was one of the lowest-rated games developed by Insomniac, and it was another commercial failure, as it debuted at 37th place in UK in its first week of release. Fuse was considered as a learning lesson for Insomniac, a lesson for them to understand what type of game they are good at making. The reception to Fuse proved that studio should develop "colorful, playful experience that's loaded with unusual, sometimes silly weapons." The year 2013 also marked the release of the last Ratchet & Clank Future game, Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus.
There was another game that was in parallel development with Fuse. The development of this project began soon after the completion of Resistance 3. The game originally took inspirations from Hyena Men of Kenya, Tank Girl, I Am Legend, The Young One, Halloween masks from the 1960s, and Lego. Marcus Smith and Drew Murray were the creator of this game, and their first pitch to Insomniac's head was rejected as it was too confusing. They were given a time frame of one week to re-pitch the title, and they successfully convinced studio heads to begin the game's development. The game was later pitched to various publishers, which reject them as Insomniac demanded to own the IP. The project was later pitched to Microsoft Studios, who was eager to work with Insomniac and allowed Insomniac to own the rights to the game. Sunset Overdrive was the title of the game and was made exclusive to Microsoft's Xbox One console, and it was released in the 20th anniversary of Insomniac, in 2014.
Insomniac announced Slow Down, Bull, a part commercial and part charity project for Microsoft Windows. It is their first game for Microsoft Windows. During E3 2015, the company announced Edge of Nowhere, a third-person action-adventure game for Oculus Rift, a virtual reality hardware. The company is set to release a remake of Ratchet & Clank for the PlayStation 4 in 2016.
Spyro the Dragon
Insomniac is the creator of the Spyro series, and they handled the development of the first three games, Spyro the Dragon, Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage!, and Spyro: Year of the Dragon. It is a series of platform games which revolves around Spyro the Dragon as he progresses through a Medieval-styled world. The dragon also has the ability to glide, charge, and breathe out fire. The original trilogy had collectively sold 8 million copies. The series continued after Insomniac's departure, with Universal outsourcing the game to other companies, and two subseries, namely The Legend of Spyro and Skylanders, were developed. Activision Blizzard is now the owner of the franchise.
Ratchet & Clank
Ratchet & Clank is a series of action-adventure game with platform elements. Players mostly take control of Ratchet, as he progresses to different planets to save the galaxy. Clank is also playable in several segments of these games. The series is divided into two different parts, the original series (Ratchet & Clank, Going Commando, Up Your Arsenal, and Ratchet: Deadlocked) and the Future series (Tools for Destruction, Quest for Booty, A Crack In Time, and Into The Nexus). The first three titles in the series was remastered and packaged in Ratchet & Clank Collection, while a remake, called Ratchet & Clank is currently in development. A Ratchet & Clank animation film, with screenplay and additional marketing handled by Insomniac, is also set to be released in 2016.
Resistance is a series of first-person shooters set in an alternate history around the year 1950. An alien race, called "the Chimera", has invaded and conquered earth, and had turned humans into monster-like supersoldiers. Players play as Nathan Hale in Resistance: Fall of Man and Resistance 2, and Joseph Capelli in Resistance 3. The series also has two handheld games, namely Resistance: Retribution, developed by SCE Bend Studio, and Resistance: Burning Skies, developed by Nihilistic Software.
Other notable games developed by Insomniac includes Disruptor, Fuse, Outernauts and Sunset Overdrive. The company has cancelled several games, including Monster Knight, Girl With A Stick for the PlayStation 2, and 1080Pinball, a pinball simulation downloadable game, whose development began in 2007.
Insomniac Games puts lot of focuses on maintaining their independence. Despite working solely for Sony Computer Entertainment for decades, it has never been part of SCE Worldwide Studios. The studio partnered with Sony because Sony helped the game's marketing and hence increased the public exposure of their games. They team found being controlled by publishers a frustrating experience. According to Price, working with Sony is an autonomous process. While Sony can give inputs on the game's development, Insomniac has complete control of it. The studio later decided to go multi-platform so that they can own the rights to their own franchise, and that they can establish more identity for the studio, other than being related to Sony.
When choosing to develop their next title, they usually work on games that they thought they were good at making, games that focus on storytelling, creative weapons, and third-person gameplay. The company also recognizes the importance of developing new intellectual properties, and they are projects that they are passionate about, despite its risky nature. They also thought that they were lucky to be in a position to have the opportunity to develop them.
Internally, the team are given a lot of creative freedom. Unrelated staff members can provide comments to the game's design. Price considered game design a kind of social design, in which the team as a whole is tasked to find out how to solve a problem collaboratively. Price also thought that trusting the team is an essential part of a game's development, and that honest communications between staff members can ensure that the game would head to a correct direction. Price also thought that admitting mistakes can help maximizing creativity, and that leaders of a company should be approachable for staff members.
The company has a close relationship with Naughty Dog, as they were located in the same building. As a result, they often share technology to each other. Some of the employees from Insomniac Games left to form High Impact Games, which had later collaborate with Insomniac to work on Ratchet & Clank projects, as well as other games like Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier and Disney Princess: My Fairytale Adventure. Nathan Fouts, an ex-Insomniac employee, founded its own studio and developed Weapon of Choice. HuniePop was designed by Ryan Koons, who used to be an employee of Insomniac.
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