Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, between narration and animation

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, between narration and animation

Ratchet & Clank

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is a game that knows how to get noticed in many different ways but to capture much of the public's attention lately has been Rivet, the new entry of the cast of the game by Insomniac Games. Thanks to the presence of this character, the developer has built a deeper and at times unprecedented narrative for the Ratchet & Clank saga ... using all the weapons available in his arsenal, as the home Lombax teaches! Here's what the developers told us about the upcoming PlayStation 5 exclusive, coming June 11, 2021.

Pure storytelling ...

What to expect from the Rift Apart storyline? First, some connection to Into the Nexus (arrived in Italy only as Nexus), chapter of 2013 for PlayStation 3: the game ended with the two protagonists in the museum of Intergalactic History observing the destroyed Dimensioner, the same gadget that is stolen from Nefarious at the beginning of Rift Apart. The developers have confirmed that sections entirely dedicated to Clank will return to the game, in which the robot will try to realign the various interdimensional flows; It would therefore not surprise us to see other characters from the past return to action. The real goal, however, was to embellish the story with a more pronounced emotional connotation while maintaining a plot that is easy to understand and characterized by a more mature humor.

Ratchet and Clank in front of the dimensioner The narrative topos of parallel universes has long teased the developers, who started with the idea of ​​creating a total opposite for each character in the story, but Rivet has taken a firm stand against this idea , autonomously finding its own dimension during development. "The more we worked on the story, the more the characters took shape on their own," said Lauren Mee, Lead Writer at Rift Apart. The protagonists of Rift Apart arise from the strong desire to be an inspiration for the players and have been modeled, in turn, on values, emotional traits and characteristics capable of inspiring the creative team of Insomniac; Rivet, for example, seems a tough girl, and obviously she is, but under her thick fur she hides fragility and insecurities, but managing to overcome all the obstacles that the universe puts in front of her. For example, the lack of a limb, replaced by that mechanical arm that adds a lot of character to the character but at the same time is clearly linked to a story with difficult connotations.

Some sketches of Rivet Essential, in the character definition phase, was the contribution of Rivet's voice actress, Jennifer Hale (prolific actress and voice actress that we remember, given the period, as the voice of the FemShep of Mass Effect ): "For a long time Rivet didn't have a voice, or rather, he had my voice!" commented Lindsay Thompson, Senior Cinematic Animator: once she found the right voice Rivet started to really be herself. While Rivet escaped the, let's call it, "double game", part of the fun for the team was reimagining the worlds of Ratchet & Clank, not just creating a double version of Rift Apart locations like Megalopolis and Nefarius City ( same city, different universe) but also go to retrieve old places seen in previous chapters, such as Torren IV, the setting of the last demo shown, or Sargasso, seen during the last State of Play.

... and indirect storytelling

Nefarious City at night All the effort put into writing valid stories and scripts is, however, null and void if the right context is missing: both the interactive and the narrative part of a game must work but both are worth much less if the right details are missing. Rift Apart thus becomes the celebration of the cohesion of the Insomniac team, where the narrative sector has worked closely with the animators, the artistic one with the technician and so on. The profound discomfort caused by the world pandemic affected everyone, developers included, but the adversity of distance did nothing but tighten the bond between the members of the group even more, highlighting a palpable human component during the interviews. The stories about the developers' children made us smile, special postings during team meetings ... a new way of doing focus groups we would like to say! As we said, the relationship between different areas of the team was very strong, in particular that between the narrative sector and animation.

Some sketches of Ratchet's expressions The facial expressions and body language were essential elements of the narration, details of great impact and that pinch the player's unconscious chords: the way in which the ears and the queues of Ratchet and Rivet, capable of conveying amazement or sadness only from their position, are a small but significant example of how the details in Rift Apart make the difference. All this obviously refers to the meticulous work previously done on the 3D models by the artists, who had to find the right density for the Lombax hair or a suitable satin finish of the metal body of Clank.

Ratchet in a scene of action What is striking is that this painstaking work of constant round-trip between different areas of the team was not done only for the two protagonists but for every single element of the game. Think for example of the Topiary Sprinkler (new weapon of Rift Apart that we have already mentioned in another special dedicated to the game), a weapon that allows the player to place a garden sprinkler on the battlefield, briefly transforming enemies into hedges. During the fight you may get lost but we would like you to try to isolate (recovering the video at the top of this article) the moment when the enemies turn into hedges. First we see the animation that immobilizes the enemy and changes his appearance; then colorful flowers appear in a second moment wrapped in a light cloud of pollen and finally you can hear the rustle of leaves and chirps near the hedges.

Ratchet & Clank: Ragnarok

The Pirate Robot Pierre Obviously, when you come to pack a product of such great workmanship, you need a musical accompaniment that can support the weight of the work. Markus Smith, Creative Director of Insomniac, was very impressed with the soundtrack of Thor: Ragnarok, composed by Mark Mothersbaugh. "We really need a composer like him for Rift Apart," Smith thought while developing the game; "If you want something that sounds like Mark Mothersbaugh composed why not ask him directly?" Sony replied. The artist has an illustrious career behind him both as a musician, mainly as a guitarist for Devo, and as a composer of soundtracks for TV series, video games and films, including, as mentioned, Thor: Ragnarok. Mothersbaugh, interviewed by Smith himself during the final phase of the meeting with the developers, recounted his experience with the Marvel film: "Taika Waititi is a New Zealand Wes Anderson!" he said with a smile, then explaining how at some point in its development, the MCU film was much longer than its final minute, leading the composer to cut numerous songs. These were rearranged on the 2017 Mutant Flora album, which Mothersbaugh drew heavily on to find the right sounds for Rift Apart.

The Megalopolis Parade Summarizing the words of the musician, the beauty of creating the soundtrack for a video game is the freedom to be able to experiment, because each world, each level, must have its own personality and distinguish itself from the previous one and next: in a film you try to build a musical idea around a theme, in a TV series you try to find the right continuity but a video game pushes experimentation even more. In Rift Apart this musical research has been done through electronic sounds while the orchestral symphony gives the right emotional cut. What struck us most about this chat was an observation from Smith, linked to why Thor: Ragnarok was, musically speaking, the right starting point for Rift Apart. The developer underlined how Waititi's film is strongly irreverent and how, very often, the classic MCU hero scenes are supported by an important soundtrack but at the same time totally disassembled by the irony of the script and the interpretation of the actors. It seems that this Smith is very much liked, so much so that it is considered appropriate for Ratchet & Clank ... and in fact we have also come to the same conclusion. Not convinced? Think back to the hilarious scene with Thor and Loki from "Call for help?", Replace Thor with Ratchet and Loki with Clank. No need to thank!

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