If you, like many people, began their gaming career in the mid-nineties to early two-thousands, then the name Insomniac Games ought to ring a bell. This development team is best known for their work with the early Spyro the Dragon series, Ratchet and Clank, Resistance, and their most recent release, Sunset Overdrive.
Insomniac Games began way back in 1994 with Ted Price at its head and Alex & Brian Hastings as programmers. Since its founding, it has remained an independent developer, allowing it to – in their own words – “Create and develop the kind of games that we’d like to play, instead of some boring license or port forced on us by corporate overlords” (Insomniac Games, About). And they have created some games that were pillars of early gaming for some of us.
But, while they began with the fun, family friendly games like Spyro and Ratchet and Clank, they began to branch out in 2008, and have continued to do so today. In 2008, they released their first title that took on a more mature theme – Resistance. Though it retained some similarities to the Ratchet and Clank games, it was a foray into the unknown, and it was quite a jump for a studio like theirs.
If you compare their early titles with their later one’s there is such a stark contrast that you would be hard pressed to say the same team developed both without prior knowledge. Though the Spyro and Ratchet and Clank games were focused on fighting, they were whimsical. The colors were bright, the animations cartoonish, and ‘gore’ was a foreign concept. Yet, despite doing that for about eleven years they were able to do a complete turnaround for Resistance: Fall of Man. It’s an alien war game that’s so gritty, violent and all around gloomy that you could get PTSD just by thinking about it. To be able to do something like that, and to do it well, speaks volumes for the quality of work able to be done by an independent studio.
However, it’s not as though they’ve done all of this on their lonesome. If you played any of the Naughty Dog games around the same time – Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, for instance – they styles of the art, animations, and even themes seem oddly similar for two separate studios. Well, unknown to most players, the two studios had quite a bit of communication going back and forth between them. At the time, both teams were working in the same building.
This next-door-neighbor type of situation led to both teams Easter-egging (if that word can be used as a verb) portions of the other team’s work in theirs as little inside jokes. This situation, though, has led to some belief that Insomniac Games piggy-backed the early Naughty Dog engine for their games at the time. To this, CEO Price is reported to have said in a Playstation Independent Magazine article from 2006, “People assumed that we were using Naughty Dog’s engine for Ratchet, and that was not true. We shared some technology with Naughty Dog way back when and that was great, but we are a company that puts stock in developing specialized technology and we will continue to do so”.
Regardless of what was going on at the time, it is behind the team now, and they are focusing their attentions on much wider horizons. Currently they are beginning to expand into the next-gen consoles with their exclusive Xbox One release Sunset Overdrive and their continued work on social media games (their latest release for that was Outernauts in 2012). So, be sure to be on the lookout for any new games by Insomniac in the near future as they continue to churn out excellent independent works.