Insomniac keeps gamers on alert

Jan. 20, 2013 @ 02:42 PM

Soundproof rooms for editing sound effects. More secluded areas for employees to play games, also known as “research.” White boards in meeting rooms and in between individual work stations for capturing the fruit of brainstorming sessions.
The new office space for the Durham studio of the Burbank, Calif.-based game development company Insomniac Games accommodates some of the company’s “unique layout needs,” said Chad Dezern, studio director, and also makes room for the company’s expanded employee roster.
The company moved at the end of August from about 6,000 square feet of space off Meridian Parkway to about 12,000 square feet in the Westpoint at 751 development. Located near The Streets at Southpoint, Westpoint at 751 also includes an Aldi grocery store and Bonefish Grill restaurant in addition to a three-story office building.
Dezern said when Insomniac Games first opened its studio in Durham in 2009, the company’s location was “more about finding a temporary space to get started.” The Durham studio started out with four workers, Dezern said. He said the studio is now at 36, and is still growing. The new office space has room for additional expansion, he said.
“We wanted to make sure we had a place that was easy to get to from anywhere,” Dezern added, speaking of the new location in Durham. “This particular spot is good for us because it’s close to a lot of lunch options, it feels active around here.”
The Durham studio opened in 2009 as the company didn’t want the Burbank location to grow past its “magic number” employee count, Dezern said. Insomniac Games, founded in 1994, has developed games for the Sony PlayStation that have now sold more than 40 million units. Its Sony PlayStation titles include “Resistance,” “Ratchet & Clank,” and the first three “Spyro the Dragon” games.
“We grew to a size where we had a lot of opportunity, but we didn’t want to grow past kind of the magic number, which for us, was about 190, 200 people in a studio,” Dezern said of the decision to open an additional studio. “So we started looking for options for a new studio, and after a lot of thought, decided that our best bet was to launch an East Coast studio.”
The Durham studio has released two titles so far, Dezern said. The first, “Ratchet & Clank: All for One,” is a Sony PlayStation 3 game that released in October of 2011. The game was meant to be “all about” cooperative play, he said, and supports up to four players together.
The second was “Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault,” which released Nov. 27.
“ ‘Full Frontal Assault’ was all about trying to make a game that was small, a $20 title, but that was something that you can play for a long longer than you might think for a game at that price point,” Dezern said. “It was a hybrid of base defense and world exploration, which was a new place for us to be in,” he added.
The company has worked on additional content release to support “Full Frontal Assault,” Dezern said. There was expected to be an announcement on Thursday about additional content. He said he could not discuss other projects.
In general, Dezern said there is now a lot of change in the game development industry. Players’ habits are changing, and are becoming more diverse.
“So we’re now in a world where you have not only console games, but social games, games played with your iPhone and tablet, and a lot more options for games,” he said. “And as far as where Insomniac fits into that world, we are an independent developer … we’re about reaching a lot of players.”
While every game the company has sold to this point has been on a Sony PlayStation console, James Stevenson, community and marketing lead for Insomniac Games, said in an email that the game “Fuse” is planned to be released for the PlayStation 3 as well as the Xbox360.
Last year, the company released its first social game, called Outernauts. Dezern said that’s available on the social media website Facebook, as well as the online games hosting website Kongregate.
“We really tried to bring our signature style and humor and depth to the social games space,” Dezern said.
He said the Durham studio had some involvement with the project. A team of developers at the Durham studio helped develop the game’s look, he said.
“More casual gamers are playing games now because of increased awareness from Facebook and mobile gaming,” he said. “There is a certain amount of attention that’s taken away from what we call the ‘core gaming experience’ on the console, but the overall numbers just keep getting bigger,” he said. “So it’s kind of figuring out how to make games that resonate with a lot of players – that’s the challenge for us.”