Former The Mary Sue writer Sam Maggs recently objected to her lack of credit for serving as a lead writer on Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart.
The social justice activist and writer was prompted to speak out after IGN published a report on Insomniac lead designer Mark Stuart’s recent GDC talk, ‘Lombax Lessons: A ‘Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart’ Design Postmortem, wherein he discussed how the Rivet got her name.
According to Stuart, the game’s multiversal counterpart to series hero Ratchet was initially codenamed “Ratchette”, though this was soon rejected for being “too diminuitive” and “reducing her existence to a gender-swapped Ratchet” – two principles which ran counter to the game’s “Everyone’s A Hero” design philosophy.
For a short while, the team had settled on playing up the doppelganger angle by naming her Ratchet, before finding it too confusing and switching it to Gadget.
However, when this name failed to land with developers who had enjoyed Inspector Gadget or Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers – the animated Disney television series featuring a female mouse with the same name – the subject was returned to the drawing board.
Eventually, someone pitched the name Rivet, and it quickly stuck.
Distinguishing Rivet as her own individual person was also tricky, as though the team initially wanted her to embody a “survivalist beastmaster” archetype and use nature to fight against her enemies, they found it was too restricve compared to Ratchet’s wide aresnal of sci-fi weapons.
Further, the team also scrapped this idea after they “realized the nature-loving woman was a trope.”
Following the publication of IGN’s article, Maggs took to Twitter to voice her issues with the piece, tweeting on March 29th, “This is a fun piece that goes into detail about how we developed Rivet, though it’s pretty upsetting and frankly offensive that they never once mention me, given I was the lead writer and responsible for a TON of this development.”
“Seems like Mark’s GDC talk makes it sound like a bunch of this stuff sprung up from nowhere? I was one of like 4 people in the room for most of Rivet’s development,” Maggs claimed. “I was the one who said ‘We can’t call her RACHETTE.’ Gadget and Rivet were me. Sucks to have my work erased.”
She asserted, “This speaks to a broader issue of game devs being entirely erased from the narrative of their own work once they leave a studio. I’m not even credited as a writer on this game despite dedicating a year and a half of my life to it and creating Rivet’s personality from scratch.”
Pointing to a quote from Stuart, Maggs continued, “‘At a time where story treatments were being rapidly iterated on’ – who wrote every single one of those story treatments? It wasn’t Mark! It was me, actually. I worked my ass off on this game for a long time and it’s misogynist erasure like this that makes my blood boil.”
Taking particular issue with the description of a vague “someone” having been the brains behind Rivet’s name, Maggs fumed, “‘Someone’????? I guess I just don’t even deserve a name or the memory of having been part of senior leadership on this project for years huh.”
“Who might have called this out as being an issue???!” Maggs rhetorically asked in regards to the issues with Rivet’s original name, Ratchette. “Could it have been me, the person literally hired to do this job ?????? Jesus.”
“Sorry to choose violence today but I’m not about to let a man erase and take credit for my own hard work.” An exasperated Maggs declared. “I’m disgusted and pretty livid.”
“This total erasure would make me less furious if I didn’t have the memories of SOBBING in offices for hours after fighting tooth and nail to stop Rivet from being cut from the game entirely weren’t BURNED into my brain,” she added, countering a claim by Stuart that Rivet was always intended to be a core element of the title’s gameplay.
“Rivet was a team effort,” Maggs said. “Maybe let’s acknowledge the whole team.”
That whole team would seemingly not include Stuart, as she next tweeted “Mark had a massive issue with me the entire time I was on this project and consistently attempted to undermine me. o I’m not surprised he’s decided to take unilateral credit for my work now that it’s been praised as successful 🙂 this is what it’s like being a woman in games.”
“Also just for the record Mark was not my BOSS he was my EQUAL colleague,” she clarified. “He was Lead Designer and I was Lead Writer. We were both directly under the game’s Creative Director. We were ostensibly EQUAL PARTNERS. Ha.”
“And as a final note, my experience at Insom overall was extremely positive,” Maggs soothed. “The teams I worked with were unmatched and incredibly talented. I’ve rarely found better, kinder people in this biz. I left the studio ultimately because of creative differences with leadership!”
However, this was not the final note, as Maggs proceeded to publish several more tweets on the topic, explaining from her point of view regarding Rivet’s development.
She began by explaining, “When trying to think of a name for Ratchet’s alternate-universe counterpart, I started from these core concepts: Should ideally also be named after a tool or mechanism, Should also be two syllables to evoke the similarity on speaking, [and] Ideally should end with a hard sound.”
“This is why ‘Gadget’ worked so well as an early idea,” she explained, linking to a November 2021 tweet in which she confirmed the character was named after Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers’ signature heroine. “You immediately understand the similarities between the two characters given the commonality in source material, syllables, and sound.”
However, finding that Gadget was “taken”, Maggs sought an alternative name by going “down lists and lists of tools and tech and gadgets to assemble a short list that could work.”
“Things like: Socket (which probably would have been most appropriate but also kinda just was gross and sucked), Hammer (no), [and] Rivet.”
“I assemble a short list and send it out to the team, who debate and send feedback,” said Maggs. “Rivet was an instant win, especially because of the Rosie the Riveter implications (though Rivet does carry a Hammer, so you can see some of those early naming thoughts peek through in design.)”
“Narrative on games takes a lot more than ‘Somebody said something at a meeting I guess,'” she stated. “Naming is especially challenging! It’s actually the hardest thing I do on most games, I hate it haha. So there’s a little peek into that.”
After taking a moment to “to stress, as I did in my other thread, that none of this works without the team,” Maggs elaborated, “I come up with these guidelines, we shoot around ideas that fit within that box, I assemble a short list, we vote on names—TOGETHER. This is how the best level design happens too!”
“That’s why being cut out of the conversation hurts so much,” she said. “It’s a team effort, but at the end of the day, as Lead Writer, naming her was my job and my responsibility—and I was brought on to this project specifically to be a voice for the players who needed a Rivet in their lives”.
In support of Maggs’ point, “one of the former interns on the projected” informed her that “it was dev David Kim who first threw out the name “Rivet” to follow the guidelines and add to the shortlist!! TEAM!!”
Detailing more issues she allegedly encountered during the game’s development, Maggs then exclaimed,”LET’S NOT EVEN MENTION the FIGHTS I had to get into and the EMAILS I had to send explaining why we should take the BOOBS and MAKEUP off Rivet”.
“‘Why would an alien mousedog have human female secondary sex characteristics? Are Lombax mammals? Do they breast feed their young? If we don’t answer these questions, THE INTERNET SURE WILL'” Maggs quoted herself. “this is a real thing!!!!!!! I had to email!!!!!!!!! At my real job!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Pointing to a tweet mocking how in the version of the original Spyro: Year of the Dragon included in the Spyro Reignited Trilogy, Sheila the Kangaroo was made more obviously female, being given a thinner waist, longer eyelashes, and a woman’s haircut, Maggs noted, “I literally included THIS TWEET in my email to be like DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO RIVET”.
She next revealed, “at one point my CD [Creative Director] yelled at me in front of the whole office because I kept saying ‘Lombax Tiddies’ very loudly in the office whenever anyone would bring up Rivet’s design and it Made People Uncomfortable”
“You know what made me uncomfortable?” asked Maggs. “The Lombax TiddiesAnyways, thanks in large part to [Ratchet and Clank: A Rift Apart character designer Xavier Coelho-Kostolny] and [former Insomniac Games Senior Technical Artist Sol Brennan], Rivet got jacked as hell and as we yeeted the tiddy.”
“How will they know she’s a girl without boobies though,” mockingly asked Coelho-Kostolny.
“This reads like a joke but truly this was the argument: Tiddies and makeup are a visual shorthand so, upon looking at the poster, players will immediately know we have a playable female character in the game,” Maggs recalled,. “I get it, but we’ll never move the needle if we keep pandering.”
Maggs was then asked by a fan, “is there any canonical truth that she’s trans given that she has a tail?” to which she replied, “I love this fan theory”.
“I can say that I didn’t think of it when working on her initially (I’m cis and also stupid) but I am 10000% in support of it !!!!!!” she further gushed.
This theory was born from a radio broadcast featured in Ratchet and Clank: A Crack In Time, in which an easy-to-miss line from an in-game radio host reveals that female Lombaxes don’t have tails.
However, it should be noted that not only is this theory made suspect by the context of this information’s reveal, as said radio host is desperate to prove his co-host wrong on the topic of Lombax biology, but also the fact that while Rivet does have a tail, she also comes from another dimension where other races are seen having different physical traits from their main universe counterparts.
After her discussion of the article, Maggs also took the chance to state “also Rivet is canonically a lesbian.”
While Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart features a few will-they-won’t-they moments between Ratchet and Rivet, Rivet is shown to only be harbor platonic feelings towards the game’s other characters, male and female.
Replying to another fan, Maggs later pointed out that “they credited me under ‘Special Thanks'”.
Maggs name can be found under the Additional Insomniacs section of Ratchet & Clank: A Rift In Time’s full credits, listed unceremoniously alongside a number of other individuals who contributed to the game in some capacity, including both Brennan and Coelho-Kostolny.
Meanwhile, Jon Paquette is listed as the game’s Story Lead, and Lauren Mee as its Senior Writer.
A similar story to Maggs’ was told by Coelho-Kostolny in July 2021.
Taking to Twitter, he revealed there was “an incredibly heated discussion” over the topic as the game director and art director wanted Rivet to have “a visibly, fairly stereotypically feminine look” (wider hips and a larger chest), while he, Maggs, and an unnamed lead character technical director didn’t.
According to him, the trio objected to this look because Rivet wasn’t human.
Regardless, most concept art of Rivet that has been shown to the public depicts her with at least some suggestion of breasts. Others feature her with a physique radically different to Ratchet’s, some being more animalistic and others monstrous.
Prior games in the Ratchet & Clank series have featured aliens of all shapes and sizes, with those featuring an anatomy closest to humans’ being robots, anthropomorphic aliens, or a seemingly actual human like Captain Quark.
The series has also had no shortage of sexual innuendos – the least of which being the games’ subtitles – and a few slightly more mature gags.
The first Ratchet & Clank game even featured an Easter egg where side-flipping in front of a female NPC made her breasts grow.
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