At PAX 2013, we had the chance to catch up with Insomniac’s CEO Ted Price to discuss the studio’s upcoming third-person shooter, Fuse. In our interview, Ted goes into great detail about practically every aspect of the game, helping illuminate exactly how the mechanics work and what to expect from co-op. Additonally, characters are explained, what role the story plays is discussed and some of the false assumptions about the game are cleared up. With its release coming up in just two months, it’s time to get educated on the “sleeper hit of 2013″ straight from the source.
[Hardcore Gamer] What was your goal with FUSE?
[Ted Price] From the beginning, the game has been a four player cooperative experience. That was the goal — to make a fantastic co-op experience, because we believe gamers continue to become more social and that playing together, especially in a third person shooter, can be a really rewarding experience. But at the same time, we knew that games that have strong co-op haven’t always presented the best single player campaign and we wanted to make sure that we did. So from the very beginning of development a few years ago, we started focusing on AI bots to make sure that what we gave you as a player were bots that weren’t going to get in your way, but also did what you expected — and I’ll give you a couple of examples. In the game, you’re always playing with four characters, and if you are playing with bots, the bots will use any of the abilities that you have unlocked for them and, to jump ahead, there’s a progression and skill tree for each of the characters that you as a player can go through and start to use to unlock special abilities. But once you’ve unlocked them, you can leap back and forth between the characters at anytime during the game and those bots will begin using those abilities for you — and my favorite is one of our characters named Izzy — she has the ability to throw out crystal healing beacons as part of one of her weapons and when you’ve unlocked that ability and you start leaping to another player, she will start throwing out crystal healing beacons for you, and when that happens, it’s a cool experience because usually in most games, we’re used to bots being just one more machine gun as part of your arsenal, but in this case they’re really multi-faceted.
Getting back to how that’s useful, in the game we have a feature called “leap”, where with all four characters, as long as there’s one being played as a bot, you can leap into that other character. Most RPGs and FPSs with multiple character choices force you to stay in a particular character once you start the story. We decided that didn’t make a whole lot of sense for this game for a few reasons: first, we wanted to break the mold, but secondly, each of the four characters has a multifaceted archetype associated with him. So, for example, Izzy is the healer of the group, but she’s always a great crowd control specialist as one of her weapons crystalizes enemies and creates these branching crystal structures that can freeze whole waves of enemies off to one side, which helps you manage the large number of enemies we throw at you. One of our other characters Naya has the warp rifle, which is an AOE weapon, where she can coat enemies with this special mixture and then set off a chain of black holes which *pop, pop, pop, pop, pop* nail a whole bunch of enemies in a row if you do it right. So great AOE, but she also is multifaceted in that she has invisibility planking that’s unlocked later as part of this weapon that makes her a great stealth rogue-like and AOE character. So all four characters have these multiple abilities which are very useful as you leap back and forth between them and see opportunities to take advantage of their skills.
[HG] So is the game more about weapons or abilities?
[TP] They’ve always really come from the weapons, so thematically at the very beginning of the game, you pick up these experimental weapons that are powered by Fuse, which is a volatile alien substance, and as you move through the game, you continue to upgrade these weapons has part of the skill tree and they unlock different abilities for you. Now, there are other skills that you unlock as well that buff your character and give you additional functionality or utility for your standard weapons that you pick up in the game as well. So there’s a lot of RPG aspects that are built into the game that you get to experience, and because they’re four characters with their separate skill trees, you get four different kinds of progression.
[HG] Are the skill trees accessible at anytime during the game?
[TP] Yeah, you’re earning experience as you move through the game as you would an RPG, but the action is a lot higher than a traditional RPG.
[HG] And you mentioned that the name “Fuse” actually pertains to the game itself as an alien substance; can you tell us more about that?
[TP] Story-wise, you learn at the very beginning of the game that this facility run by the government out in the middle of the desert has gone dark and you don’t know why. Overstrike is the team that’s sent in as the clean-up crew.
[HG] So “Overstrike” still plays a part in the game?
It does. Overstrike is the name of the team, and they are the group that the government uses when they need plausible deniability. So they go in to find out what’s going on and it turns out that this facility was the source of this very volatile alien substance discovered in the 1940s. Over the past few decades, the government has figured out how to use it — not for energy research — but for weaponry, and has been creating these experimental weapons using Fuse. You get to see first-hand the experiments they’ve been doing — a lot gone awry — and while you’re there, a rogue paramilitary corporation called “Raven” invades and steals the source of Fuse — the only source. They’ve known about it and once they take it, it’s on. It starts at this massive global weapons race where your team actually has to take help to solve this problem, but have fortunately picked up some experimental weapons that will help them combat Raven and other factions which will ultimately start using Fuse against you as the game progresses.
[HG] Can you talk more about the weapons themselves?
Sure. As I said, there are favorites that you get to pick out throughout the game — shotguns, rifles, sniper rifles, pistols, miniguns, flamethrower, rocket launchers — but at the same time, we also give you four very Insomniac-flavored weapons. They are the Magshield, which is the result of combining Fuse with Ferrofluid, the Warp Rifle, which is the result combining Fuse and antimatter, the Shattergun, which is Fuse plus Black Melonite (an exotic crystal) and then there is the Arc Shot, which is Fuse and liquid mercury. Each one of those weapons creates these archetypes for these four characters who pick them up. And they don’t trade the weapons, they hold on to those four weapons and as a result, Dalton (who uses the Mag Shield) becomes the group’s tank. The mag shield is this portable barrier that Dalton can move around with that blocks any incoming projectiles, builds up kinetic energy which can be released in a blast that liquifies any enemies within a few meters, but it’s permeable, so his teammates can shoot through it. He could be moving forward as the tank while his teammates are cluttered behind him firing through this shield. Down the road, you can unlock the ability which drops additional shields, so in an ambush situation, Dalton can actually protect the group by dropping multiple shields creating this sort of turtle-esque barrier around them, which is really useful because you can shoot through the shields, but the enemies can’t.
Then there is Warp Rifle, which fires a mixture of antimatter and Fuse and what it does is it coats enemies with this mixture and the closer the enemy gets to death, the more likely a singularity will occur and when it happens you get this implosion where the [main] enemy is torn apart and an expanding ring which knocks down any nearby enemies, but better, you can actually chain the Warp Rifle’s effects. So, if I coated multiple enemies with this mixture, but I haven’t killed them all, and I kill one, it creates this chain *blam, blam, blam, blam* and you can take out a battlefield of enemies if you plan it right, which is great because you can earn a lot more points. It’s fun.
The Shatter Gun is the result of Black Melonite and Fuse and, when you fire it at your enemies, it will crystalize them and lifts them up from behind cover and sends out additional branches which will crystalize nearby enemies, creating this block of crystalized enemies and sets them up like bowling pins for your team to take down and you continue firing at them until they eventually shatter and explode, sending out additional damage. We wanted these weapons to be at their core fun.
Finally, we have the Arc Shot, which is a scope crossbow that uses liquid mercury and Fuse mixed together and fires bolts of superheated mercury which will pin enemies and do damage, but better, once you have unlocked another ability, you can fire both into the environment or into enemies and trigger streams of liquid mercury which get shot out and literally liquify nearby enemies. It’s useful when you’re dealing with snipers who are hiding behind cover, letting you fire a bunch of bolts around them, trigger and *blam*.
These weapons were built from the ground up to be strategically useful when combined, so there’s a lot of ways that you can combine them. For example, if I’m playing as Izzy who has the Shatter Gun, I can crystalize four or five enemies at once and have Dalton use his Mag Shield, which has a very wide blast radius, to blast them all. We made sure that whenever players are working together, they get experience points.