Ratchet & Clank Devs Announce Outernauts For PC

By Nathan Grayson on May 10th, 2012 at 10:00 am.

Hoth is actually a lot smaller in person.

Well, they’re calling it “Outernauts,” but it’s a game in which you “master a wild, untamed universe of 30-plus planets and arenas” by “capturing, training and evolving exotic alien beasts.” So basically, space Pokemon. And it’s a Facebook game. OK, admittedly, for some of you that’s an introductory first impression on level with walking up, kicking someone in the shin, spitting in their face, and then saying, “Oh yeah, the divorce? It was your fault.” But – in spite of every fiber of your being screaming in protest like a choir of howling cats – this is one to watch. It is, after all, the first PC game from Ratchet & Clank, Spyro The Dragon, and Resistance: Fall of Man creator Insomniac. And apparently, it’s being targeted at 20-something core gamers – and, whether it ends up being horribly off-the-mark or not, that’ll definitely set a precedent for these things.

Right now, the game’s website – which promises a summer launch and a public beta “coming soon” – is pretty vague, though assurances that it’s the “biggest experience Insomniac has ever created in its 18-year history” raise a few giant, magically hovering cartoon eyebrows. An interview with IGN, meanwhile, puts some actual meat on the announcement’s oddly emaciated frame. Insomniac’s Rowan Belden-Clifford explained:

“The core audience we’re hoping to attract with Outernauts is myself – a 23-year-old core gamer. I see more and more of my friends playing Facebook games, when they have a few free moments and don’t have the time to commit to a lengthy session with a core game.”

“There are hundreds of beast abilities to master. Players will need to keep in mind which beasts and which abilities can counter their enemy, and approach each battle in the right way… Our goal with Outernauts is simple: Make a good game first. The fun of Outernauts comes from the thrill of the moment – through the game’s solid, fun combat.”

Unlike its obvious cartoon, card game, and, er, jet plane-inspiring inspiration, however, Outernauts’ battles are 3v3 grid-based affairs. Multiplayer, meanwhile, comes in competitive and co-op dungeon-delving flavors, and – in spite of claiming to put the “social” back in “social gaming” – it’s fully asynchronous, so you never actually have to talk to anybody. This, of course, paves the way for us to eventually evolve into mouthless, eight-thumbed cave creatures who’ll communicate entirely via sparse text messages and meticulously distributed Facebook likes.

Even in spite of my obvious qualms with a lot of this, though, Outernauts occupies an almost imperceptibly tiny tier of Facebook games that are attempting to garner attention from folks like you and I. Between this and Ghost Recon: Commander, major developers and publishers are watching – and a few are even trying to create real games for the platform. And honestly, given the size and ubiquity of the platform, they’d be hopelessly silly not to. Obviously, though, if these sorts of Facebook games flop, there’s a pretty bleak worst-case scenario: everyone declares Facebook a barren wasteland where Zyngas of the world prowl, roar, and prey on unsuspecting grandmothers, and they – out of perceived necessity – embrace that exploitative business model as well.

It’s hard to be overly optimistic, too, when Overnauts and Ghost Recon seem stuck between the wants of core players (mechanics with actual depth, recognizable names/franchises) and reviled Facebook gaming tropes designed for a different audience entirely (dodgy microtransactions, gimmicky “connected” experiences with other games, entirely asynchronous multiplayer). And that’s a shame, because Facebook is an immensely powerful social tool, and there’s tremendous potential in it for incredibly fascinating, meaningful game experiences. I just worry that we’ll never tap into it.

, .

31 Comments »

Sponsored links by Taboola
  1. Wodge says:

    I give it a week and Zynga either buys Insomniac or announces Xenomon: Space Trainers.

  2. Njordsk says:

    Bha, I’d rather have a good’ol ratchet & clank. I guess Sony owns the licence.

  3. Buemba says:

    “reviled Facebook gaming tropes designed for a different audience entirely (dodgy microtransactions, gimmicky “connected” experiences with other games, entirely asynchronous multiplayer)”

    Wait, why is asynchronous multiplayer reviled?

  4. Premium User Badge

    AmateurScience says:

    I wouldn’t mind playing a game through facebook, as long as it didn’t constantly spam my friends with shite trying to get them to play too and/or hoover up any and all information about me on there.

    • JD Ogre says:

      In other words, you WOULD mind playing it on Facebook (because those’re the only reasons anyone makes FB apps & games).

  5. BreadBitten says:

    I gotta say it’s pretty damn sad to see one of your favorite developers go the casual route. Insomniac should’ve stuck with Sony instead of selling their souls off to EA…

    • Kollega says:

      Well, i don’t know if that accusation is entirely just, since they’re publishing through EA Partners rather than going under their ownership. But again… Facebook game. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

      • BreadBitten says:

        It may be just my paranoia but after going through Eurogamer’s article on Free Radical’s shuttering I’m a bit more “aware” in keeping track of developers whose games I’ve come to cherish over a long period of time…particularly the independent ones.

    • CptPlanet says:

      I think you got it a bit wrong. They said they expanded the studio with another division to also work on social games, they are still making normal games, for example their new game Overstrike is supposed to release this summer.

  6. Kollega says:

    As a big (and by that i mean, like, huge) fan of Ratchet & Clank, i just hope Insomniac are doing this because they need the money, not because they want the money.

    I guess the idea of “meaty yet bite-sized Facebook game” is just too optimistic, even for my levels of fanboyish adoration. But then again, seeing as this adoration is directed mostly towards Ratchet, not the studio that made him, maybe it’s expectable.

  7. Jimbo says:

    No, thank you.

  8. vodka and cookies says:

    I’ve always been a fan of Insomniacs games but signing up to facebook is something I’d rather not do, why don’t they put a version of the game up on Steam too ?

    Surely it would mean more users and they type of audience their looking for.

  9. Bhazor says:

    I’m in a bit of a psychic mood today so I’m going to make some predictions on what this game will feature.
    Click harvesting to get each critter through the virtual equivalent of a one armed bandit
    You can buy click bucks only in $20 increments
    Deep combat that is essentially “Use water attacks on creatures that are made out of fire”
    Automated spamming of your friends
    Artwork clearly “inspired” by a mid 80’s anime series.

    I heart Insomnia’s other proper games, but this? I did not ask for this.

  10. pakoito says:

    Right up my alley, but is the facebook integration and monetization worthy? Anyway they should be making this for 35+ people and the younglings would soon tag along. Damn you clueless marketing teams.

    • Mattressi says:

      Yeah, I was actually looking forward to this until I read “Facebook”. I would’ve spent a good amount to have a decent evolution of Pokemon (that pun actually wasn’t intended…odd).

      • pakoito says:

        My problem with pokemon is that even though it has a lot of depth to the stat and breed system, it’s not the same for combat itself. Rock-paper-scissors-lizzard-spock at best.

        As for a mature pokemon, theres a NEW KICKSTARTER PROJECT trying to do it. I did not buy, though.

        As for scratching the itch, Summoner Wars.

  11. Squire says:

    ”The core audience we’re hoping to attract with Outernauts is myself – a 23-year-old core gamer”

    I’m 25 and I feel like Michael York, my hand-ruby is about to start flashing. Concerning so-called ”Casual games” What the fuck happened to developing games for a target audience of say 18-30? Twelve year olds shouldn’t be playing facebook games on their phones all day they should be learning how to be humans.

    Now we have a dev [That made Ratchet and Spyro which I both enjoyed thoroughly, except latest Spyro trilogy, that was a poo] making games based on where a person aged 12-I dunno 23 spends most of their time ie the abhorrent FB and I understand they didn’t make adult-themed games but they were packed to the gills with sly adult references so you’d think they’d relish in a more adult-themed game after all those sequels.

    Why can’t we have 18+ games on FB as well as this casual crap? I tried to look for an 18+ game and found this, http://www.facebook.com/pages/GTA-the-coolest-18-game/189204097773730 , hmmmmmm.

    • JackShandy says:

      What on earth are you talking about? 23 is between 18-30, and above 18. Did you somehow misread the quote?

      • Squire says:

        Yeah, maybe I sounded a bit mental there but I meant 23 is the upper limit, and it starts at 12. As in people that don’t have jobs yet and can go on facebook all day.

        • JackShandy says:

          Oh, ok. I think you’ve got a pretty skewed idea of facebook’s demographic if you think it’s only for people without jobs, though.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      I guess 30-somethings must be fleshy or crusty gamers

    • Bhazor says:

      “Twelve year olds shouldn’t be playing facebook games on their phones all day they should be learning how to be humans. ”

      Quote of the day.

  12. aliksy says:

    Ew, facebook. No thank you.

  13. JD Ogre says:

    No thanks. The only things I want to see on PC from Insomniac are ports (with proper mouse & keyboard support) of Ratchet & Clank, Going Commando, Up Your Arsenal, and the full PS3 games…

  14. Bremze says:

    Nathan, I think “core” has a different meaning here than you think. Seems like “core” is usually used as something closer to an antonym to “hardcore” by industry folks. A step up from casual but still nothing exciting for most of the audience here.

  15. MythArcana says:

    Zuckerboinked.

  16. Jad says:

    The core audience we’re hoping to attract with Outernauts is myself – a 23-year-old core gamer.

    Okay, I’m 29, but that sounds like me. Go on …

    I see more and more of my friends playing Facebook games, when they have a few free moments and don’t have the time to commit to a lengthy session with a core game.

    Yeah, but I don’t see my friends playing Facebook games, because they’re not idiots. When they have a few moments of free time they might play Peggle or Drop 7 or even Angry Birds on their smart phones or computers. Those might be casual, but they are actual legitimate games, rather than micro-transaction business models wrapped in the thinnest layer of interaction possible.

  17. Premium User Badge

    Nero says:

    At first I was :)
    but then I was :(

    Anything that has to do with facebook is a turn off for me.