Sometimes you have to learn "hey, it's okay to kill your babies." That's what Insomniac Games president and CEO Ted Price told me during an interview at DICE last week in Las Vegas.
Our conversation came about while discussing big topics at DICE 2010, including Remedy Entertainment's decision to axe months of development time spent making Alan Wake open world and Gearbox Software completely revamping their art style for Borderlands durring development. Price encountered a similar choice while developing the game that would become Ratchet & Clank.
"It [Ratchet & Clank] started out as as a game about a girl with a stick running around this Mayan-influenced environment and was probably going to be rated M [mature] if it had ever been released," said Price, laughing. "Not because of the girl but because it was a fairly dark game."
The "girl with a stick" project spent about six months in pre-production before Price began to realize the team at Insomniac Games just wasn't feeling it. He rationalized it would eventually make sense. It wasn't until a meeting with Sony, however, Price realized the real issue: himself.
"I kept pushing it because I felt at the time 'hey, you have to finish what you started' and I hadn't really learned that lesson that 'hey, it's okay to kill your babies.'" he said.
"I hadn't really learned that lesson that 'hey, it's okay to kill your babies."
"When we showed it to Sony, who was our publisher, they said 'look, we'll support you with this, if you wanna release it, it's cool, but we don't think it's gonna do well in the market.'" said Price. "And that was a real wakeup call for me and I had to admit that we needed to kill this one and start over."
The project died on the operating table, but just two weeks later, chief creative officer Brian Hastings came up with the original pitch that would quickly become today's Ratchet & Clank.
"[He] came up with the idea of this this little alien who has cool guns and flies around in spaceships," explained Price, "and when he said that everybody [at Insomniac] said 'that's what we need' and we also at that time realized that we had been straying from our expertise, which at the time was platformers, having done Spyro [the Dragon]."
To succeed, Price argued, Insomniac Games needed to fail. The first Ratchet & Clank was released on PlayStation 2 in November 2002. The series lives on today. Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time was released on PlayStation 3 last year and the series has seen several spin-offs on PSP.
"It was a really great experience to bounce back from that initial failure and to come up with something that was much better," he concluded.