After the initial announcement of Ratchet & Clank: A Rift Apart, one question went through everyone’s mind: WHO was that very cool new lombax?
After months of internet theories and embarrassing people calling her just “Girl Ratchet” or something, we finally learned her name was Rivet — an absolutely perfect name for a fighter on a par with Ratchet from another dimension. But as it turns out, it wasn’t an easy road for developer Insomniac to get Rivet’s incredible design, her place in Rift Apart, or even her excellent name itself.
In his GDC presentation, “Lombax Lessons: A ‘Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart’ Design Postmortem,” Insomniac Chief Designer Mark Stuart walked attendees through the history of Rivet’s naming and design. Rivet was born from one of Rift Apart’s design pillars, he said, which is “Everyone’s a Hero,” meaning the team had the opportunity to create a “strong, playable, female lead” alongside Ratchet.
They started work on Rivet early, codenamed Ratchette, but quickly scrapped it because it was “too small” and “reduced their existence to a gendered Ratchet,” he said.
And then, continued Stuart, it got even sillier.
“For a while we switched to just calling her Ratchet. After all, she and Ratchet are technically dimensional counterparts. Ratchet is a non-gender name. This stuck for a while but ultimately made every draft of the story very confusing Example: ‘Ratchet must save Clank from Ratchet who doesn’t trust Ratchet and has a long history of fighting Nefarious.’ In an age where story treatments were quickly repeated, it was hard to tell which dimension you were in, but also which Ratchet you were talking about.
Next, Stuart said, they switched to the codename Gadget. This was better, but ultimately didn’t sit well with team members who were kids in their 80s due to several other similar characters named Gadget from that era (Inspector Gadget and Gadget from Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers were given as examples in his slideshow).
Then, in a weekly meeting where name ideas were thrown around, someone threw out Rivet off the top of their head and people were instantly hooked. It fitted perfectly as another tool like Ratchet and also evoked a picture of Rosie the Riveter. And so Rivet became canon.
Stuart then shared details about Rivet’s early visual designs. He walked us through a series of interesting concept art pieces (which artist Dave Guertin also shared on his personal page), showing how the Insomniac team explored various themes for the character. One they refined early on was the concept of the “survival-oriented beastmaster”.
This version of Rivet would have leaned into their grudge against Nefarious and extended it to all machines to the point where machines would be rejected entirely. Instead, Rivet would take on nature and have the ability to tame three different mounts: a bug, a flyer, and an agorian beast.
However, Rivet’s ability to tame beasts was ultimately rejected, in part because Ratchet turned out to be a lot more fun in this version of the game. His regular toolbox let him do anything Rivet could do without the help of other creatures. But there’s another reason they scrapped the idea.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart photo mode screenshots
“We realized that the natural woman is a trope,” Stuart said. “Think of FernGully, Pocahontas or Krystal from Star Fox. Additionally, limiting the subject matter of their weapons stifled the creativity the franchise was known for. Ratchet’s weapons can shift, slice, bombard, and transform. This makes their set purely nature-based and unnecessary restrictions for us.”
Ultimately, the nature design inspired some of Rivet’s final weapons, such as Mr. Fungi, and some of the beast ideas were later salvaged in Rift Apart’s Speedle and Trudi, though Speedle lost an earlier concept ability where it had a large, glowing butt that would explode if it collided with something. Apparently slaying your mounts didn’t fit the idea that “everyone is a hero”.
However, Insomniac still struggled to find a good way to make Rivet distinctive. They tried to give Rivet and Ratchet completely different skill sets, but that made it frustrating for playtesters, who forgot which Lombax they were controlling at any given time and realized mid-jump that they didn’t have the skills they thought they had. that they had them. So Insomniac added the ability to switch between the two on the fly, but that was also confusing in action and they struggled to find a lore explanation for where the other Lombax went when they switched, or who was where during the switch Kinematics.
“Knowing that highly differentiated playstyles actively interfere with the holistic experience, we were forced to reassess how long we would play each Lombax,” said Stuart. “In other words, is it rivet cake or frosting? Is she what’s at the heart of the game, like Ratchet, or is she a unique and entertaining diversion in small doses? Finally, Clank has drastically different mechanics than Ratchet in most games, but we only play for him [a small portion] of the game. Clank is widely considered to be an adorable icing. Many of these problems go away when Rivet is only playable for small, focused sections of the game.”
But to find an answer, Insomniac only had to look back at its design pillars, including Everyone’s a Hero. Insomniac wanted a strong, playable female protagonist from the start, and they wanted to make the best distinctive Ratchet & Clank game they could from start to finish. Taken together, that meant no shortcuts with Rivet.
“Rivet had to be pure cake like Ratchet,” Stuart continued. “We wanted Rivet to be core gameplay. Their inclusion should be an inspirational display and not a bonus mechanic. In fact, it accounts for about 50% of the game time in the final product.”
This is how we came to the Rivet we know today. Insomniac united the two under the same pool of weapons and abilities, and then differentiated them in other ways like personality, looks, animations and of course the story. And we’re glad they ended up on the Rivet we know and love, as you can see from our launch review of Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and its place as one of our favorite games of 2021.
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.
https://www.ign.com/articles/ratchet-clank-rejected-names-rivet-ratchette-gadget-ratchet Ratchet & Clank: Declined names for Rivet include Rachette, Gadget, and… Ratchet