The story of Sunset Overdrive begins during the tail end of Resistance 3's development. After working for years on the PlayStation-exclusive post-apocalyptic shooter series, the pair -- who are, by the way, good friends in and out of the office -- settled on another, very different dystopian story. But they weren't quite sure how to pitch it to their bosses.
"We were really convinced people didn't want to get bogged down in details of gameplay mechanics or story," Smith said facetiously, with Murray laughing alongside him. "And so, instead, we did a presentation where we just showed a bunch of influences." Those influences ranged from the Hyena Men of Kenya and the Tank Girl comics to the novel I Am Legend and the TV series The Young Ones. "[There were] '60s Halloween masks, and LEGOs were in there somewhere," Smith said.
"We were presenting to the owners of [Insomniac] and the CEO," Murray continued, "and afterwards, they were all like, 'what the #### are you guys talking about?'"
With the idea of Sunset Overdrive set internally, it was time to bring it around to publishers. While Insomniac ended up settling with Microsoft, Insomniac pitched it elsewhere first.
"We pitched it a few different places, and it was really important to [Insomniac CEO] Ted [Price] that we own the IP, so some of the conversations broke down over that," Smith admitted. "With Microsoft, they just came in very energetic and excited to work with Insomniac, period. And we'd heard some really good things about them and some resources that they would be allowing us to have."
Insomniac's obsession with owning its own IP started with its co-op shooter Fuse, and comes from a long legacy of making famous franchises -- like Spyro, Ratchet & Clank, and Resistance -- that it doesn’t own. "Most publisher conversations begin and end with IP ownership," Murray said candidly, "and I think [Microsoft] has been talking to Ted for a while, and at some point it was like, 'you can retain the IP,' and suddenly, it was a conversation point."
Murray and Smith went to Seattle multiple times to pitch Sunset Overdrive directly to Microsoft. Murray remembered "the main" pitch, where he wore his lucky shoes, riddled with holes, which he hadn't changed in two weeks. "We're presenting, and I have these wet socks up in Seattle. I swear, there must have been six or seven levels of hierarchy at this thing."
So looks like Microsoft doesn't mind if developers own their IP whereas "other places" wanted to own the IP and wouldn't publish the game without it. So much for the anti-developer / anti-gamer Microsoft.