BLOGCAST

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Mike Acton is Director, Core at Insomniac Games. He has been with the studio since Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, heading up the Insomniac Engine team. Core Dump occurred over August 5-6, 2016 with nearly 90 attendees representing several development studios throughout the industry. CoreDump featured in-depth interviews and panels from the game-dev front lines along with tangible lessons learned and practical solutions for some of today’s toughest challenges.

***Note: Unfortunately we lost audio on the last 4 sessions from Day 1. We apologize for that. Below are all the other Day 1 videos. Day 2 had no such audio issue and those videos will be coming soon.***

View all sessions from Day 1 here.
View all sessions from Day 2 here.

I think #CoreDump was a success. There were lots of ways it could have gone wrong. Lots of ways it could have gone spectacularly wrong. But what we really discovered was the obvious: When you put a bunch of experts in a room together and discuss things they are expert in, there’s plenty to share and take-away. In fact, I think our main problem was that in two days you can barely scratch the surface of the problem spaces we encounter in the engine and tools of making games.

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Day 1 went essentially as planned. We interviewed people on the Core team and had panels discussing topics we felt were interesting. Keeping things working on time was important to us, and it was immediately obvious that a traditional open Q&A from the audience wasn’t going to work. We quickly settled on a Twitter format where people could tweet questions and we’d have someone watching the stream and quickly filtering them (and potentially rewording them) so that we could keep things moving as smoothly as possible. Surprisingly perhaps, there were people in the audience who didn’t use Twitter and were not interested in creating an account. But leaning over and asking the person next to them to send a question seemed to work for most.

During the day, we asked around during the breaks on what people thought was working and not working. Probably the most common feedback was that people wished other studios were participating. That multiple perspectives on a problem were really valuable. That we should do that “next time.” On one hand, I think people may underestimate the logistics of getting multiple studios to agree on anything like an untested conference beforehand and so I’m not convinced that would have been possible to arrange well in advance. On the other hand, we had a room full of people from other studios already in place. There was no good reason to wait for “next time” and so the format of the conference changed for Day 2.

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No one was trying to present a polished version of their “solution” to some problem implying it would “just work” for others. We were discussing the real-world issues and implications and causes and struggles and that’s always where the real complexity lies.

On Day 2, we invited anyone to join the interviews. I was pleasantly surprised that we could add someone from another studio to every single interview and panel for the day. I thought there were quite a few standout discussions that evolved from that. For instance, in contrasting the asset build solutions between Insomniac, Riot and Ready at Dawn, it was very interesting to discover how different things were even though we largely share the same problem space. It was also abundantly clear that no one solution was “right” or even “complete” and that we all had things we could learn from each other. And that, for me, reinforced the value of this type of conversation. No one was trying to present a polished version of their “solution” to some problem implying it would “just work” for others. We were discussing the real-world issues and implications and causes and struggles and that’s always where the real complexity lies. The devil is, as always, in the details. Your specific answer to questions like “How do you handle errors?” would radically impact what decisions you make regarding your build systems. The difference between systems that enforce hard constraints and those that try to make things work as well as possible when things are broken are enormous.

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The huge volume of unanswered or unanswerable questions that we all shared was also on display. How do you train? How do you impart specific, technical trade-offs? How do you really profile? How do you trace data through a system when things go wrong? How do you divide up your team? Who is ultimately responsible for making sure everything runs on the platform? How do you test? These are the kinds of discussions that most needed to be had (and will continue to be valuable topics) and that simply don’t work in a traditional lecture format when you don’t have a novel answer.

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I think we’ll do another CoreDump. I know it was valuable for me. And if we can judge by the comments we’ve gotten so far, I’m pretty sure it was time well spent for everyone who attended. If nothing else, in quite a few cases we just reinforced that hard problems are hard and that there just isn’t a magic solution. So no, you’re not doing it wrong. But we could all be doing it better. The ad hoc nature of the discussions was absolutely the heart of the event and that’s one thing I would not want to change next time. But I think having a bit more context like collecting screenshots and interesting tidbits over time to point to and discuss would be a valuable addition. And definitely it’s clear the thing to do is get other studios involved right from the start, if at all possible.

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Hi Everyone –

What’s summer without a summer break?  That’s exactly what Kerri and I are doing.  We are taking a break, to regroup, and think about awesome topics and line up a few guests for Moonlighting heading into the fall. Our goal from the start has been to make Moonlighting an interactive space for the exchange and sharing of knowledge but we’ll be honest, we have not seen the level of volume or interaction that we had hoped for.  So if you love Moonlighting, this is your chance to send us suggestions or an ideas so that we can improve our conversation.  We’d love feedback!.  While Moonlighting is taking a summer break, we’re still here to answer any questions that cannot wait- feel free to leave them here or email us at hrinfo@insomniacgames.com and we will get back to you.  We’ll keep you posted on our return.

Want to step inside Insomniac for a behind the scenes look and interviews with our incredible team? Check out our profile on the MUSE

We look forward to chatting with you soon!

Angela and Kerri

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Mike Acton is Director, Core at Insomniac Games. He has been with the company since Tools of Destruction, heading up the Insomniac Engine team. Core Dump is a two-day event where we will be sharing in-depth stories from the game-dev front lines along with tangible lessons learned and practical solutions for some of today’s toughest challenges.

Why a Core Dump conference?

Last year I had the pleasure of being part of HandmadeCon and I was impressed by how much useful (or at least interesting) information we were able to share just through a casual conversation. There is a place for the more formal talks at other conferences. But the idea of creating something where our team could share their thoughts on real issues without the constraints of trying to present a “novel” solution (sometimes things are just complicated, not necessarily new), fancy slides or an hour-long lecture format has been percolating in the back of my mind since then.

The fundamental question we’ve been asking is “if someone else was doing this, what would we want to ask them?” I know that if some of the other studios in our area were putting on a similar conference of interviews and panels, we’d definitely be interested. I assumed that’d be true for us as well. The opportunity to ask questions like “How do you divide up your team?” or “How do you review code?” or even “How do you branch and release changes within the studio among different games teams?” is usually limited to the moments we can gather together between lectures at other conferences. And often that’s where the most interesting conversations happen.

On top of that, the barrier to entry in doing a full hour-long presentation at another conference is quite high. For some that might represent between 40-80 hours of preparation through the year in advance. There are people on the team that just aren’t going to be able to make that kind of commitment year after year. And certainly the whole team is never going to be able to do it on any given year. But if we could capture some interesting answers to questions on topics I know the individuals can speak about without preparation (in the same way we all do in those casual meetups), we could create an opportunity for our team to share thoughts that simply would not have been shared otherwise.

It’s not at all obvious that this will work. I’m going to interview everyone on the team. I’m going to moderate panels on subjects where we have something interesting to share. Maybe we fail to come up with good questions. Maybe we can’t direct the discussion toward something that could be a useful takeaway for the audience. But I’m betting on the team. Everyone on the team is a genius and extremely knowledgeable in their areas – I have very little doubt that something interesting will be said by everyone. I am constantly impressed and surprised by the team, so this is my chance to share that particular experience too.

We also take our responsibility to give back and share with the community seriously, and when it’s obvious that The Way Things Are Done get in the way of our ability to do that, we will work around it. Hence, Core Dump.

If you are passionate about game development, specifically engine tech and tools, and love solving meaty problems, please join us at our Burbank studios on August 5-6. All the fine details are linked here. We are capping attendance around 100 and have around 20 seats left.

Eventbrite - Core Dump: Presented by Insomniac Games

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***UPDATE***

The original patch 2 was updated to add additional fixes. Because of that, we are now referring to it as patch 2.5. Patch 2 went live on Steam last Friday, but not on PS4 or Xbox Live. If you have patch 2 on Steam, the first fix in patch 2.5 fixes those people who became stuck in Merrow Ruins.

Additional patch 2.5 fixes include:

  • Fix to statue puzzle doors locking players in some areas
  • Fix to display Icepedo help message
  • Make Bone Vaults Red Reaper chase easier by decreasing their grab radius
  • Fix to The Architect issue where player could get stuck away from their sub
  • Various additional fixes to mirrors getting out of alignment in Deeplight

***Original Post***

First and foremost we would like to thank everyone for playing Song of the Deep! We are thrilled by the love and support we have seen for the game.

Having said that, we realize some of you have been experiencing issues. For that, we apologize. Below is a list of fixes and improvements we are planning to release via a patch on all platforms soon. We expect it to hit PC, PS4, and Xbox One within the next week. Timing may vary per platform.

Overall

  • Fixed rendering issue that resulted in what appears to be stuttering/hitches (PS4/XB1/PC)
  • Improved mouse/keyboard controls (PC)
  • Added additional controller support (PC)*

*If your controller still doesn’t work, please contact us and let us know. We will do our best to add support.

Gameplay

  • Fixed issue where tether mines become invisible when exploding as the player dies
  • Various Fomori Architect boss fixes
  • Fixed issue where various claw switches were not opening doors
  • Fixed issue where one of the triggered doors in Deeplight closes again after getting the Sonar
  • Fixed issue where players could get stuck in the pathway leading up to the Resonance Orb
  • Fixed issue where totem heads could become stuck in collision or lost
  • Fixed issue where specific doors would appear to be destroyed, but players still couldn’t pass
  • Fixed issue in Deeplight where some player’s mirror would not align properly
  • Re-tuned Red Reapers in Bone Vaults to keep them from hitting the player unfairly
  • Improved tether mine behavior in puzzle sections

If after the patch, you find yourself still having any issues, please submit a support request here: http://www.insomniacgames.com/about/contact-us/

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Calling all Achievement and Trophy Hunters! Song of the Deep is out next week in North America and on Steam, and we have a fresh list of objectives for you to obtain. These are available on all platforms. For those of you on Steam, we will also have trading cards, emoticons, and profile backgrounds! Happy hunting!

The Last Merrow (50 points / Bronze)
– Meet the Merrow

Your Watch is Over (50 points / Bronze)
– Defeat the Watcher

Rest in Pieces (50 points / Silver)
– Grab a flower with your claw and drop them on the watcher’s corpse.

Aquatic Laser Show (75 points / Bronze)
-Activate The Deeplight

The Inner Sanctum (75 points / Bronze)
– Commune with the Giant Seahorse

Poor Turtles (100 points / Bronze)
– Defeat the Fomori Boss

Feast for a Queen (100 points / Silver)
– Feed the Queen Leviathan

Merryn and Goliath (100 points / Silver)
– Kill a Tremorclaw Crab as Merryn

Sea Saver (200 points / Silver)
– Destroy the Forbidden City forever

Gearhead (200 points / Gold)
– Purchase all the upgrades from the vendor

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Pre-order Song of the Deep for $14.99 ($29.99 for Collector’s Edition)
 
 

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Hi Everyone –

Thanks for checking out our Moonlighting blog! We are moving our monthly chat to WED, July 13, at 1:30 PM PT/4:30 PM ET this month. You ask why? Both of Kerri and I are out of the office. Same time, same space – just one week later. Hope you understand, and we will be sharing some insights on WED the 13th, about Insomniac.   Remember – this is your open forum to ask us all about Insomniac Games, our culture, our studios, and much more. Thanks much for being flexible and patient!

Angela and Kerri

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Hi Everyone,

As many of you already know, Moonlighting with Insomniac is focusing on diversity and women in the game development industry this year.  That theme continues this month with our guest speaker, Emily Saliba from Girls Who Code.

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Emily Saliba, Girls Who Code

Emily is recent graduate of Columbia College Chicago and was the first woman to receive a BS in Game Programming.  She started working with New York based non-profit, Girls Who Code, to ensure the gender gap in tech closes.  Girls Who Code runs a summer program for seven weeks, and hundreds of clubs, that teaches high school girls the fundamentals of computer science. Emily taught at the General Electric site in Chicago and is now the site lead for the Los Angeles Summer Immersion Programs.  Emily is an aspiring technical artist and current student at Rigging Dojo and aims to inspire women to enter the video game industry.

If you’d like to learn more about Girls Who Code, please join our discussion by posting comments or questions below.  You can also visit their website http://girlswhocode.com/.

The comments section is now open for this edition.  We’ll be answering questions and joining you live on Wednesday, June 1st from 1:30 – 2:30 PM Pacific / 4:30 – 5:50 PM Eastern.

Please remember, we want to encourage open communication and informative discussions but we also need to be respectful around the subject. What subject are we being respectful of?  Not sure that this is needed – but maybe I’m missing something.

Looking forward to talking with you soon!

-Kerri & Angela

Ryan Schneider is Insomniac’s Chief Brand Officer. He has been with the company since the PS2 Ratchet & Clank days.

I’ve seen many changes in games marketing and PR the last 12 years at Insomniac, perched atop my old-man porch here on the fifth floor in Burbank. We were there for the birth of AAA console community developers. We watched the near-extinction of enthusiast magazines along with the early rise of social media.

But perhaps the biggest shift we’ve experienced has been the emergence of YouTube and Twitch content creators. We’ve seen a gradual shift from press, to developers, and eventually players influencing other players on what to play through their own hosted channels.

Admittedly, Insomniac has been a little late to officially embrace this movement. It’s not because Insomniac hasn’t cared though. The truth is, we weren’t exactly sure how best to interact with content creators — even though we’ve been content creators ourselves for many years producing our own trailers, podcasts, dev diaries, screenshots, music videos and even community day events. We also were watching to see if YouTube and Twitch content creators would be interested in games besides League of Legends, Minecraft, Hearthstone, Call of Duty and Halo. Ratchet & Clank and Sunset Overdrive proved to us there’s room for games like ours to catch on with the streaming community.

That’s not to say we’ve been completely on the streaming sidelines all this time. We started experimenting with live streaming way back in the Fuse days almost four years ago, continued with Ratchet & Clank: Full Frontal Assault and even tried open development streaming with Slow Down, Bull. We learned how challenging and rewarding live streaming can be, and applied some of those lessons to our weekly in-game “Sunset TV” episodes within Sunset Overdrive starting a couple years ago. And PS4 Ratchet & Clank recently had its own Twitch stream series, hosted by Melonie Mac, to support the launch of the game and film.

Ratchet & Clank Livestream with Melonie Mac

While we knew the value of producing our own content, we still didn’t fully understand how to work with fellow YouTube and Twitch content creators. For starters, we weren’t sure if those relationships should be managed through our publishers. (Depends.) Did all content creators require payment to engage with us? (No!) We weren’t sure how to even refer to content creators. Streamers? Twitchers? YouTubers? Influencers? (Consensus from the folks we spoke with seems to be “content creators” so that’s what we’ll go with now.)

Then we stumbled upon a little secret… everyone, including games publishers, is still learning!

A few weeks ago, we hosted a media day event at our Burbank studio where several content creators joined us to experience our 2016 games lineup. We learned so much from our guests at that experience, along with a Ratchet & Clank streaming event hosted by PlayStation a few weeks prior at our studio.

After much discussion internally, we decided to focus more on building relationships with content creators directly. It’s one of the many reasons we love being an independent developer – we can have greater control in how and when we interact with the community at large. Perhaps more relevant, we are taking a closer look at how we make our future games more amenable to content creators wishing to stream our titles, along with players who simply want a fun spectating experience.

If you’re a content creator, how does all this affect you? First and foremost, we understand more how you prefer to be treated. We think we better understand your objectives, and your wide-ranging equipment needs when you visit us to capture content. Most of all, we know we must be flexible to help you produce the best content, treating each of you as unique producers – not merely relying on the same assets we provide more traditional games journalists.

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Content creators at the Burbank studio in April.

How to Engage with Insomniac

Here’s the tl;dr part…the best way to work with us. While we’d love to be able to support every content creator, it’s just not realistic for us. We will correspond with as many creators as possible, as we try to respond to every inquiry we receive. But we have to be judicious with how we’re able to engage. Therefore, we’ve decided to focus on content creators with a minimum reach of around 10,000 on their combined social media and content channels. Videos should regularly generate more than 1,500 views per episode.

In addition, we will not pay content creators a fee to attend our events or to cover our games. Honestly, we don’t have a budget to do that. It’s also a matter of philosophy. We believe our games and access to the development team is valuable for content creators, and hope that value is apparent. If it’s not, we’re probably not a good fit to work together. And we want fans who watch streams that involve our titles to know that Insomniac is not paying their favorite content creators to praise our games. This feels like the most genuine approach.

Sunset TV Episode from June 2014

Finally, we’ll place a slightly greater emphasis on west-coast based content creators coast since it’s easier from a logistics standpoint if travel to our studios is involved. Full disclosure: At our recent media day events, travel costs were covered for several content creators who flew to our Burbank headquarters from various parts of the US and Canada. This is exactly how journalists are treated for press events.

If you are unsure about where you might stand, please use this brief form (below!) and we’ll get back to you promptly with some guidance. You should also refer to our content creator policy online for our stance on how to properly use or credit Insomniac-generated footage and audio.

Content creators are an important part of the games community and we now feel more equipped at Insomniac to build a meaningful relationship together. We’ll make mistakes along the way. But we’ll learn… and we’ll probably make new mistakes! Especially as we head into the new frontier of VR content creation (aka, help wanted!). We’ll work hard to continually improve though. Please come along for this crazy ride with us.

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Ratchet & Clank opens nationwide in theatres on April 29th, but many theatres have special screenings on April 28th at 7pm.

Our local theatre in Burbank, the AMC Burbank 16 at the Burbank Town Center has both a 3D and 2D screening at 7pm. Some Insomniacs and special guests will be stopping by the theatre to say hi to fans at the 7pm screenings, so if you’re looking for a spot to see it in LA, look no further!

We hope to see you there tomorrow night!

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Hi Everyone,

As you may or may not know, this year Moonlighting with Insomniac is focusing on diversity and women in the game development industry.  That theme continues this month with our guest speaker, Insomniac’s very own Animator, Lindsay Thompson.

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Lindsay Thompson, Animator

Lindsay attended Otis College of Art and Design with the initial intention of joining the Fashion Design Program, but in a snap decision changed her major to Digital Media at the last minute.  There she discovered an unknown interest and talent for character animation.  Upon graduating with a BA, she was hired at Rhythm and Hues in Los Angeles to work on Alvin and the Chipmunks and The Incredible Hulk.  For the next 6-7 years she traveled the world, working on films at Weta Digital in New Zealand, Animal Logic in Australia, ILM, Disney, and Sony.   Lindsay has played video games casually her whole life, but remembered playing Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction and noting how appealing and polished the animation was and always tucked Insomniac away in her brain as a place she’d like to work someday.  When she saw the opportunity to apply, she jumped on it!  She’s coming up on three years at Insomniac and feels so fortunate to be a part of the newly released Ratchet and Clank for PS4!

Please join Angela and I, along with our guest Lindsay, on Wednesday, May, 4th at 1:30 PM PT / 4:30 PM ET.

The comments section is open now for your questions so feel free to post away and we’ll answer you when we log in on 5/4/16.  Please remember, we want to encourage open communication and informative discussions but we also need to be respectful around the subject. What subject are we being respectful of?  Not sure that this is needed – but maybe I’m missing something.

Looking forward to talking with you soon!

-Kerri & Angela