GamesBeat: Do you think there was ever anything, aside from those first moments, that ever came close to killing Insomniac?
Price: We’ve definitely had low moments at Insomniac, where we’ve decided not to move ahead with a particular projects. Most developers probably have that. Most of the time people don’t hear about those, but internally we’ve cancelled a number of different games.
One that I’ve been public about was the precursor to Ratchet and Clank. We’d spent a lot of time on a more mature game where I personally was excited about it, but the rest of the team was shaking their heads going, “You’re crazy. This isn’t going to work.” Our partner, Sony, was also saying, “We’re not sure about this, guys.” We made the call to pull the plug on it. It was tough to do that because we’d put a lot of work and time and money into it. But it was ultimately the right decision.
We run into those moments at Insomniac–I wouldn’t say frequently, but enough that it keeps us humble. It helps us understand that we don’t have all the answers. Sometimes the ideas we come up with don’t work. We need to be comfortable with moving in different directions. Often it’s easy to hold on with both hands when everyone is telling you this may not be the best approach. For example, you see usability results that say people don’t like what you’re showing. You have to be comfortable with changing directions. As a company, from the very beginning, we’ve been comfortable with change and moving in different directions. That’s just–this industry demands it.
GamesBeat: It sounds like you haven’t quite cancelled as many games as, say, Blizzard has.
Price: Different companies take different approaches. Some companies begin promoting their games super early, which increases risk. We like to feel confident that the game we’re going to release will have a relatively positive response when we unveil it. But again, you never know. We’re always prepared to be flexible.
GamesBeat: Going forward, how do you think about platforms? Tim Sweeney has talked about things like the need for open platforms for game developers.
Price: Those conversations have been going on for a long time. I don’t think it’s anything new when it comes to open source, open development. What gets most of the Insomniacs excited is sharing. We love to share our tech and our approaches. We like to talk to other teams about culture and what we think works. We like to learn from other teams when it comes to best practices and what other teams think works.
This is an industry where there are lots of conversations going on all the time about culture, about how to create an environment where you can be at your best creatively. Nobody has the right answers. Part of that is because the answers keep changing, given how the industry and the demands on the industry change. But if the conversations continue and everybody can speak honestly with each other and be collaborative in terms of coming up with solutions that work, I think that’s one of the things that makes our industry different.
Going back to sharing, I feel like most of us in the development feel like we’re all in the same boat. There’s nothing standing in the way of us talking to each other about anything.
GamesBeat: You are successful enough that you have fans in the millions. One of our themes at our conference is building gaming communities. You listen to you fans, but there are so many of them that you must have a million different suggestions about what you should do. How do you still listen when there’s so much noise?
Price: We have an incredibly effective community team. They spend so much time going through fan comments, listening to fans, responding to fans. Yes, our fans are in the millions, but I don’t think all of the millions of fans have specific feedback for us. Plus, we usually find that the feedback falls into very specific categories. The community team helps collate all of the comments and the feedback, and we share it with the team.
Usually, or almost always, that feedback corroborates what we’ve heard from our own internal testing, external usability, and what we already know. It helps us make intelligent decisions about what we want to improve in future games. But it is important. I will say that we have an incredible gratitude for those fans who are willing to say, “I like this, and I didn’t like that.” That’s great. It’s another aspect of our industry that’s unique. Our fans are willing to talk to us and we’re willing to listen.
GamesBeat: Can you take a breather after Spider-Man, or are you just hopping back on something else that’s already going?
Price: We’re always moving on something else. I assume that’s probably the same for most developers. There’s really never a dull moment. It’s just that game players tend to see the excitement, all the activity around release. But there’s always something going on behind the scenes.
GamesBeat: When you have an opportunity like now, or maybe it was earlier than now, an experimentation phase, are you looking more at platforms, or just ideas for games?
Price: We look at both. We have an IP ideation process here at Insomniac where we ask all the Insomniacs to come up with ideas for new games. We evaluate and share them across the company. Great things come from that. We also continue to watch announcements across the industry closely about upcoming hardware or platforms. We as a developer, as an independent developer, have a lot of opportunities to take advantage of new technology.
At this point I think the industry is in a really cool place, because with GDC just around the corner, one would imagine there’s going to be a lot of news. I don’t know. I think a couple of companies have been mentioning that they’re going to make announcements. Who knows about the rest?
GamesBeat: You did a very memorable job with that video you put out about the immigration problem. It was an interesting expression of leadership. How do you look at that responsibility of leadership?
Price: Thank you. We tend to focus on things that we at Insomniac find important when it comes to our society, our culture. We’re generally optimistic, but we look for–we want to continue spreading a message of inclusion and lead by example when it comes to how we approach having an industry that’s more diverse, talking about diversity and inclusion, describing how we’ve built our culture and what we think works and what doesn’t.
That’s how we tend to interact with the rest of the world. We do it from a game-centric, game development perspective. We’re not afraid to get out there and make a strong statement. We don’t do it frequently, because one always runs the risk of overdoing it. But we aren’t afraid to speak up.