Resistance 3 is almost here! The latest installment in humanity's battle against the Chimera hits store shelves in early September, with the promise of new weapons, a deep story-line and a focused multiplayer experience in hand. We sat down with Marcus Smith, Creative Director at Insomniac Games, to talk all things Resistance 3. Enjoy!
Gaming Union: Insomniac seems pretty busy at the moment - Ratchet & Clank is going strong, OverStrike is on the way, etc.. Is Resistance still your flagship franchise? Where does the series fit in the studio's future plans?
Marcus Smith: As far as Insomniac goes... you're right. We've got three different games with very different focuses. We're kind of going in a lot of different directions. Ted Price, Alex and Brian Hastings, the owners, have been doing this for a long time - something like 15 years of doing Sony exclusive games - and they're just interested in doing other things.
As far as Resistance being the flagship... I think Insomniac has always branched out. I loved the Spyro the Dragon series when [Insomniac] did that. I didn't work there at the time, and I was bummed when they didn't work on the fourth game, but ultimately, I think it was healthy for them to move on. I think that's what we're seeing here. We've done Resistance 3 and we're really into it and proud of it, but we're not currently slated to do a Resistance 4. So it would be hard to say it's any kind of linchpin within Insomniac, I think we're thriving and branching out in a lot of different directions.
GU: Do you think a Spyro situation, where you guys hand off the series to somebody else, will occur?
Marcus: I can definitely see that. Nihilistic is already doing a [Resistance] Vita game, which is going to be awesome. We really respect those guys as game developers. Sony Bend did Resistance Retribution on PSP. We've got a lot of different places for the universe to go, so I could certainly see the series going to another developer. I'm sure Sony would want to find a high caliber developer to do a good offering. I don't think they'd hand the franchise over to somebody who is going to screw it up.
GU: Resistance has gone through a number of changes from the original up to this point - core mechanics, protagonists, multiplayer offerings, etc.. Is there a series identity crisis?
Marcus: I could see people saying that. Sequels are kind of a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't scenario. If you change too much, you get that backlash of people saying, 'This isn't the same game you gave me before!'. If you don't change enough, it's trite and you're just doing the same thing over and over. As developers, we get bored easily, we've kind of got ADD, so when it's the same game with the same themes, a lot of the mechanics might change because we want to stay true to those themes. The two weapon system in Resistance 2 worked better for a slower, cover-based shooter than it did for the faster pace of Resistance 1.
For Resistance 3, we're trying to give people a game that they can play how they want. You can use cover or run-and-gun, and we wanted to make sure there were penalties for that. Survival is a big theme, so we took away [health regeneration]. People have gotten kind of used to regen, but the fact of the matter is that if you can just hide behind something and reset, it's not very exciting. So, we took that away and we're going back to the roots of first-person shooters, where it's more pickup-based and when you have low health, you have to play very differently.
GU: With the return of the weapon wheel and non-regenerating health, it seems Resistance 3 is more closely aligned with the original. Is that accurate?
Marcus: Definitely with those mechanics. For the Resistance franchise as a whole... the three pillars we always have are exotic weaponry, a compelling, deep story-line based on the alternative history, and multiplayer. The games that have those three things could have any other types of mechanics involved, because that's the identity of Resistance to me.
GU: Based on some of the changes you've made, how do you get the message across to fans about where Resistance 3 fits?
Marcus: It's hard because there are some people who really liked Resistance 1, didn't like Resistance 2 as much. Then there's people who were the opposite and preferred Resistance 2 more than 1. It all comes down to personal taste. What I can say is [Resistance 3] is more of a greatest hits. There are elements from the two previous games and it's definitely a bridge between them, brought up to modern times with great graphics. We're also extremely proud of our tight controls. I think people need to pick it up and try it out for themselves.
GU: Multiplayer is another area that's seen a number of shifts away from Resistance 2's online coop and larger environments. What's the identity of multiplayer for Resistance 3?
Marcus: It's really all about player choice. We've walked away from the large number of players in order to not have to drag you around and tell you what to do at any given moment. We've given you all of the weapon arsenal, but we've also added in passive and active abilities. Passive abilities enhance your skills. For example, there's an ability where your accuracy is improved when firing from the hip. Then there's active abilities on the d-pad that have a cool-down period so you can't use them over and over again. There's a wide variety of abilities that we've added to the multiplayer that help you play the way you want. It's like a soft class system, where you can grow into whatever skill-set you want.
GU: Those abilities sort of play into the level progression elements of multiplayer popularized by Call of Duty. What's going to make Resistance 3 stand out?
Marcus: I think it's a very, very different experience from what you're getting from those games. The similarities of the rewards, perks is conceptual only. The way we execute them is very different. One of the things I don't like about some games that use those types of rewards is death from the air, where people have leveled up and gotten something that allows them to kill me from somewhere that I can't see and I have no way of countering it. When you get an ability in Resistance 3, everyone can see you're using it and can choose to engage you or use another ability to counter it. All of the abilities are really designed to be slight improvements and not to completely unbalance the game.
GU: Resistance 2's online coop was quite well received, but won't be included this time due to resource constraints. Has there been any discussion of bringing that type of game back as a downloadable spinoff or standalone title?
Marcus: There was always talk about something like that. I can't say whether or not that will happen. It really comes down to resources, what we have time to do and how much money there is to do it.
GU: I would love to see that. Please, make it happen!
Marcus: [Laughs] Okay, I'm writing that down.
GU: Resistance 3's multiplayer beta got off to a somewhat rocky start. What casued that? Did the PSN outage earlier this year set back your preparations?
Marcus: The PSN outage certainly didn't help. Normally, we would've done a closed beta to iron out a majority of the server problems. We have a totally different server architecture, so it was really important for us to have an extended closed beta period. PSN went out and we didn't get to do that. Now with the open beta, it sort of airs out the dirty laundry. All of the problems we would've normally solved behind the scenes are being solved very publicly. There's nothing we can do about that at this point, we're just fixing issues as they come up. We hope that people have faith, because Insomniac has usually been pretty good at hitting their deadlines and providing a high quality experience. We feel very confident that when the final game comes out, we will have the majority of the problems ironed out.
GU: One last, specific question. There was a moment at the end of Resistance 2's campaign, where Hale alone enters the Chimeran ship only to find a fallen soldier with plenty of ammo waiting for him. It made me think about the connection between gameplay and narrative. How do you balance that?
Marcus: It's interesting that you mention that specific case. While you have to stay true to the theme and tell a story, at the end of the day you don't want to screw everybody by saying, 'Guess what! You're in an alien spaceship and you get no ammo for any of your human weapons... Good luck!'. For Resistance 3, we've kind of throw that problem out the window, because we're trying to create a game where you can play strategically and use all of the weapons at any given time. That particular issue is one we fought over a lot, and ultimately, we had to play the video game card and say, 'I would rather have players get the ammo they need than have a jarring thematic change'. I totally feel where you're coming from, though. I had the same issue with the original Half-Life when you get to the alien world and find a guy with human ammo.
GU: Thanks for your time, Marcus.
Resistance 3 hits store shelves worldwide in early September.