David Jaffe and the Language of Interactivity
February 13, 2012 Page 1 of 3
Though he's recently announced he's planning to leave Eat Sleep Play, developer of the new Twisted Metal game -- due this week for the PlayStation 3 -- David Jaffe has poured his creative energies into the project and will continue to support it through launch before establishing his new studio in San Diego.
It's clear from talking to him that this game represents his current vision of what's possible in the medium. Strange that an update of a 1995 game -- complete with a scary clown that drives a killer ice cream truck -- could do that. Or maybe not, as Jaffe explains below.
Interactivity, he says, is the core of what makes the medium tick, and all of that storytelling that's shoehorned in, well, that doesn't have much to do with what video games are really capable of, or should be used for.
"A lot of people say, 'Do another story game like God of War,' and I would love to, but at that point, I'm like, 'I'll just write a book,'" Jaffe says below, in an interview entirely dedicated to his thoughts on interactivity and the true power of the gaming medium.
You had the big success of God of War, you took some time off, you worked on [cancelled PSP game] Heartland for a while, but you lost inspiration. Then you moved to [PSN game] Calling All Cars, and then Twisted Metal. What was important to you that you learned over the last several years?
DJ: Well, it's a big, big lesson. I got a better understanding of the language of games, and what makes games special, and what makes the medium special.
And just because I've learned that lesson doesn't mean I feel I'm good at it, or great at it, or even average at it yet, but I think that after going through God of War, there was a realization for me as a designer, and a player, that it wasn't speaking to the medium as respectfully, powerfully, and intentionally as I think I would want to speak to the medium.
And a lot of people hear me say that, and they heard my DICE talk, and they think what I meant was I want to go off and make iOS abstract Tetris games that are just pure abstraction. And it's not that. I still very much believe in IP. I believe in context -- both the commercial value of context and what it does to the user.
I think the biggest thing I learned is I don't want to try to make movies through games. I want to try to make experiences that speak respectfully and powerfully, using the language of interactivity. You hear a lot of people talk about the "language of cinema," and there is a language of interactivity, and there's a necessity to understanding interactivity.
And I think with CDs, the advent of CDs for game storage, and then high end graphics and voice actors and all this -- cutscenes -- games kind of got off on a bit of a wrong track that was very appealing, but it wasn't necessarily the only track we should have got off on. And I think that's what the lesson taught me. I want to get really good at the other track, and I don't want to try and make a cinematic game. I want to try and make a great game, if that makes sense at all.
So the obvious question to that is, how does Twisted Metal fit into that philosophy? Because it seems like a throwback, in certain ways.
DJ: No, it's not. It is, and it's not. The way I think of Twisted Metal is, it's kind of the shallow end of the pool and the deep end of the pool. The shallow end of the pool is where I think a lot of people would look at it and say it's a throwback, because at its first initial glance, it's old school. You're blowing stuff up, it's chaotic, it's fast.
Obviously with PS3 and new technology, we've been able to take that core fantasy and express the surface level a lot better. And obviously we've thrown in internet out of the box, blah blah blah, necessary and fun.
But for us, starting with Twisted 2 and going into Black, some of it was intentional, some of it was accidental. Watching us as players, and watching the fan base that was small but very vocal and passionate, we really did begin to realize that what made the game special was the multiplayer -- tactical, strategic, meaty, nutritious gameplay.
In this new one, we have built so much more depth into this game that we know a lot of people aren't going to pick up on it... You know, that's our fault. Everyone that doesn't pick up on it, that's a failure on our part. But we do think that more people than ever will pick up on the fact that there's a lot of depth here. It's depth that happens at 200 miles an hour, but it's not just the surface of blowing shit up, it's fun for a couple days, and you're done. It's tactical, it's strategic.
It's not chess. We're not that presumptuous. It's a fighting game. It's a shooter. It's meant to engage your brain in trying to make really cool choices about what weapon you use when, what sidearm you couple with your car. What enemy you're fighting determines what weapon and what tactic you want to use, and what mode you're playing, and what level.
And I can and will, if you're interested, go into it all... I can talk your ear off about the nuance and the depth of every single weapon having multiple functions, but it really is a surface throwback that's intended to express itself through technology, to express that fantasy better than ever before. But at its heart, it's a reflection of what we in love games so much today, which is basically trying to create a game that speaks the language of games, which is super deep and interactive.
Every year I do this, Sid Meier's quote of "a game as a series of interesting choices" becomes more and more of a mantra to me, and more and more of a just brilliant, brilliant quote to me, because this game really reflects the best we've been able to do once we understood that that's what really a game is, to engage the brain more than anything else. That's what we're trying to do with this.
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