I can understand your point about diving into pure game mechanics and that being the point of the medium. That makes sense to me.
But does it have to be done through the medium of combat?
DJ: Does it have to be? No, of course not. Not at all. But in this case, we chose to express it that way. I think Skyrim is another great example of a game that does the same.
Skyrim, everyone talks about it in the same way that you watch a great actor, and then they're a character you believe in, and then you meet him in real life, you're like, "Holy shit. You're nothing like that." It's like, "Well, yeah, I'm an actor. I'm a professional. There's a craft here that you're not supposed to recognize."
Well, a lot of people look at Skyrim and they say, "Oh, the graphics" -- or the music or the sound effects -- "that's what makes it immersive." And sure, that's true to an extent. It is a combat game, there's fighting, but it's more of a simulation of an experience. So is Twisted Metal, but it's more of a simulation, like, live this character's life.
In [Skyrim], your brain is engaged in so much stuff that still speaks to what we're talking about, which is the language of interactivity. Walking through the forest, going "I need to get this shit back to the armorer, so I can sell it, so I can make money, so I can go on this side quest I've been trying to earn enough shit to go on successfully, but I can't go much faster because if I pick up another item, I'm going to be going really slow, and I'm going to get my ass killed going through this forest, getting back to town. How do I deal with that?"
The fact that your brain is engaged, and it's a wonderful engagement, is not that different than the brain in Twisted Metal going, "Okay, I need to kill these three guys in Last Man Standing. I'm going to plan a remote bomb," which in this game, yeah, you can sticky it to someone like a sticky bomb, but if you plant it on the environment it does three times the damage, and if you allow it to cook it does more damage, and if you can lead the enemy into that space, altogether you're going to take out three guys at once.
So, "Shit, I'm about to die. They know it. Let me go over there and make them think, 'Oh shit, you saw me. Let me run.' And let me fire some weapons backwards while they're chasing me so they use up their shields, and lead them into this narrow alleyway where I've planted this remote bomb. Suddenly, we go through the alleyway, I shield, I take them all out because they've set that up and I've had a payoff." My brain has just had a shit-ton of shit firing, going "I feel fucking good," and I'm speaking to the player, and the player is being communicated through the language of interactivity.
Versus going, "Let me show you the movie I want to make." I think that's great. Those games are wonderful, but for me personally, you ask me what I learned, it's that there's a purer way to those pleasure centers of the brain to really speak to the player and make them love games, and it's about choices.
It's not about using cinematic techniques to express that. It's about using interactive language to express that. I'm saying this because it's Gamasutra, and I know your readers, they know game design and stuff. So, hopefully this isn't too "What the fuck are you smoking, Jaffe?" That's kind of where my brain's at these days.
It seems like you're also talking about tactical complexity.
DJ: Absolutely. Yeah.
Is that what you think is at the core?
DJ: Choice is at the core. I was using the remote bomb as an example of something that's kind of our take on sort of that Skyrim situation where it's like "Okay, this is kind of a deep scenario."
DJ: That's right. You can have quicker, simpler choices of... In Twisted Metal, "Do I run or do I not run? Do I fire this missile, or do I fire that shotgun?" Or the shotgun, everybody knows in games or in life -- it's real life -- you get closer with a shotgun, you're going to do more damage. But even in Twisted Metal, if you get close enough with a shotgun to the driver-side windshield, you get a point blank. So even a simpler choice like that, all that's built in from the surface, shallow end of the pool down to the depths.
Now I've never done a game, and Scott [Campbell]'s [co-founder, Eat Sleep Play] never had a game that's had this much, and it's been hard to do. I'm not saying we've successfully done it. I'm just saying that this is what we love about games now, and this is what we believe in. It doesn't mean I'll never... I totally want to do a story game next, but I want to do it through mechanics more than cutscenes.
So, are we good at it? I don't fucking know. But I know it feels honest. It feels right. Versus... 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." I might not be good at writing a book, but that's that language. There's already a medium that does that really well. I'd rather, if I'm just going to try to hold your hand and say "This is the story I want to tell", use the medium that exists that's better at it.