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PSP Fanboy interview: Secret Agent Clank's Lesley Mathieson

Way back at GDC weeks ago, we had a chance to chat with Lesley Mathieson from High Impact Games. They're currently working on their second PSP outing, Secret Agent Clank. Read on as we chat about this upcoming PSP exclusive action game.

This is the second PSP game. What has High Impact Games learned from Size Matters?
Well, we learned a lot of things. Obviously, the PSP is a very different platform than the PS2. We learned a lot of things about adapting the game to that platform, making sure the controls work, etc.

Is PSP a platform the team would like to continue with?
The PlayStation Portable is a great platform. We love working with it. At the same time, we're excited about the next generation of hardware as well. We'd be happy to work in any direction, so long as its an exciting and interesting project.

How are these projects chosen? Are they given to you by Sony?
I think there's something a bit of a dialogue there. Sometimes the fans bring it up, sometimes Sony brings it up, sometimes we suggest things to Sony -- we discuss, back and forth until we come up with something we can all be happy with.

Secret Agent Clank is a very different direction for the franchise.
Secret Agent Clank as a character has been around since Up Your Arsenal, and fans really loved him. We've always liked the idea of Clank as the main character. Putting him in as a secret agent allows us to, as you said, take the franchise in a new direction. We can add new gameplay that really feels different; it allows us to really capture the humor and the essence of the Ratchet series, but it still feels really fresh for Ratchet fans.

What makes it fresh? What are the differences fans can expect from Secret Agent Clank?
Wow, there's a lot of differences. Well, there's three playable characters: Clank, Ratchet and Captain Quark. Clank has assumed his secret agent role after Ratchet gets sent into prison for a crime he didn't commit. Clank is trying to figure out what's going on. He's playing both an action and stealth role -- there's a lot more stealth, a lot more spy gadgets. He's less about destroying everything around him like Ratchet, and more about sneaking around finding what's going on. And then you have Ratchet who's stuck in prison fighting all his worst enemies, and you have Captain Quark who's telling his all his ridiculous tall tales, and that has its own effect on gameplay.

Which of these three characters is your favorite?
I'd have to say Clank. I love playing with the spy gadgets -- they're very cool. I know the designers have spent a lot of time in making them feel like real spy tools.

Is the team using the full 333MHz of the PSP?
Yes, we're pushing the PSP as much as possible.

How has the added clock speed affected development?
Y'know, it just adds a benefit all around; that's the nicest way to put it. It's just nice to have.

What do you see as the future of PSP as a platform?
Well, the PlayStation Portable is great because its a nice little platform that you can play games on, but videos and music on it. While it continues as a multimedia machine, it's definitely stepping up more and more as a games machine. When the PSP was first launched, there weren't that many games for it. Now I walk into a store, and there's tons of stuff that I'm excited to pick up.

Do you the tradition of releasing PS2 ports of PSP games (like Size Matters) is cannibalizing the PSP image?
I don't think so. We've got a huge amount of mail after we released Size Matters on PSP demanding that we make a PS2 version. I think there's a really big market on the PS2 -- they can't afford a next generation console, and can't buy a PSP because you don't want a little kid holding such an expensive portable. PS2 owners now have access to the game, and we added new features for the PS2 owners: split-screen multiplayer so that kids can play together at home. I don't think, in the end, that bringing a PSP game over to the PS2 cannibalizes anything. People that want to play it as a portable will be able to, and those that want to play at home will be able to do that as well.

Is there a release date set for Secret Agent Clank?

A big thanks to the High Impact team for the interview! We can't wait to see more Secret Agent Clank.

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