PlayStation 2 console gamers secretly have a shrine to David Jaffe somewhere in their closets in America. The hard working developer best known for directing the Twisted Metal series and, more recently, God of War has been putting the finishing touches on the former's return to glory. Set for release on February 14, 2012, the eccentric developer is looking to bring back those cherished memories of vehicular manslaughter better than ever before.
For those unfamiliar with the musings of David Jaffe, he's unique amongst the gaming industry in how he directly mingles with the gaming community. Most recently he's been talking about what would it take for him to bring Kratos back for his fourth adventure, but he also discusses things outside of the game industry.
We spoke to the co-founder of Eat, Sleep, Play awhile back and the always charismatic didn't disappoint us. Sit back and enjoy this exclusive interview as David Jaffe brings us up-to-date about Twisted Metal, who would win a Mortal Kombat battle between Freddy Kreuger and Sweet Tooth, and learn what he thinks about Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch The Throne album.
Interview by Kevin L. Clark (@DLYDJ)
Complex: It's definitely an honor and a pleasure to chat with you, David. For those who may be ill informed—can you give us a brief history lesson about your origins as a designer and director in the gaming industry?
David Jaffe: [Laughs] Okay, well… yeah! I started out as a tester working for Sony. This is way back before they were Sony PlayStation, so most people don't remember those days. We used to make really terrible Super Nintendo and Sega games based on a lot of the really big budget Sony movies that were failures. So, you can imagine what it was like to do stuff like Last Action Hero, Dracula, and Cliffhanger—those were just some abysmal games! There I was, a tester, and right around eight month of being there the first PlayStation was announced internally.
Quickly I moved out of the testing world and got into designing games! The first game we did was a Super Nintendo game called Mickey Mania, but after that it's all been stuff for the PlayStation family. Whether it was the Twisted Metal franchise, Twisted Metal Black, God of War, Calling All Cars, I was present for it all. All throughout that time I was also Creative Director on a number of other titles that were done in our studio, things like Kinetica, God of War 2, and a few other titles.
The progress [with Twisted Metal] has been great, we have been able to put more time into it, but haven't added any exclusive features yet. It's more about fine tuning and polishing.
Complex: Given your start as a tester we have to ask if the Governator actually provided the voice for Last Action Hero? Or did someone else do it?
DJ: At the time, I don't think we were doing that title on Sega CD, which was the only system at the time that really could do voices that mattered. So, all I can remember is that that game was so terrible that Arnold's character fights this helicopter on top of a rooftop, and the way you defeat it is if you do like a karate-spin-kick that kicked the actual freakin' missiles back at the helicopter to blow it up. But I don't recall if Arnold or someone else did the voice of whoever his character was in that game.
It was just disgustingly bad, but you know those games back then weren't given a lot of time to be made. The fact that they made it to store shelves is probably someone's victory somewhere—which I can appreciate. Today, I only remember Arnold with video games for the fact that he was one of the key drivers behind that lawsuit of violence concerning the gaming industry a couple of months back. Thank God the Supreme Court threw out the case because it was a totally unconstitutional law! I tell you this, Arnold, as soon as you pay back all your royalties from all the violent products you've made—that has made you a wealthy man—then you get to file such a lawsuit. Until then, you should just go fuck somebody else and lie about it for 20 years!
Complex: [Laughs] Speaking of violent products, a lot of people were upset with the delay with Twisted Metal. Can you speak on the progress of the game so far?
DJ: It's going great! There's a great quote and I'll get it wrong, but it's a great quote by [Shigeru] Miyamoto. He's the genius at Nintendo who has really made it into the amazing brand that it is. He created Mario and Zelda and made so many classic games! His quote goes something like this, "A late game is only late until it ships, but a bad game is bad forever." When I heard that a long time ago, you know it's true! I hate the fact that with games—unlike movies, albums, or TV shows—most times when you hear a release date it comes out on the day. Games have a tendency to slip through the calendar cracks sometimes. There's all kind of reasons for it to happen and you know it's always disappointing, but for us, Sony, myself, and Scott Campbell [co-founder of Eat Sleep Play] — it was a really hard decision to make. You look at the game and Sony's always been great about putting something great out there in such a competitive market; you know you want to put your best foot forward! Thank God that they allowed us to extend the development schedule. The progress [with Twisted Metal] has been great, we have been able to put more time into it, but haven't added any exclusive features yet. It's more about fine tuning and polishing.
The best way I would say it to you is that if we would have shipped on October 4th, which was the schedule, it would have been like when you were back in school writing papers—it would have been like your second draft. There would have been enough mistakes and rough parts around the edges that would have been distracting to the gamers, and it probably would not have been able to be all that it could be. So, you know, it's been great to have this extra time to tune, polish, balance, and play-test the game. There's so much depth in this new game. Nowadays, these games are so huge that it takes a long time to tune all these knobs to get it to be an experience that's worth $60.
I think the real trick with this new Twisted Metal is the best game we've ever made. I've never been so proud of a team or as proud of my own work in a game that I've put out—and I've been doing this for almost 20 years.
Complex: That is true… Do you think that by coming out next year will add to the variety of titles coming out? It seems like more triple-A titles always like to choose the fourth quarter to drop than other unoccupied spaces on the calendar.
DJ: Yeah… There's no doubt! It has really been interesting to see some of the negativity. Thank God because you never want to put out a press release and get hammered for it. I would say that 95% of the response from the delay has been really positive. It's interesting because it never would have occurred to me to spin the information with the fans of the game. I would've just been like, "Well, we need more time, it [the game] wasn't ready." The 5% that was negative that got back to us was literally folks being very cynical. At first, I got kind of annoyed, but hey man, that's the world we live in. I never believe the fucking corporation when they tell me something that I don't like. I'm always thinking it's got to be something else, and we probably all have been conditioned to think that way. So, on one hand, I sympathize, but at the same time, you can't help but hear the cynicism when folks say things like, "Oh, you guys are just moving your date to get out of the line of fire!"
I think the real trick with this new Twisted Metal is the best game we've ever made. I've never been so proud of a team or as proud of my own work in a game that I've put out—and I've been doing this for almost 20 years. We're not naive about it all, we understand that we have a mountain to climb given the competition that is hitting the shelves just next month. But we know we have our hardcore Twisted fans and we love them as much as they love us! Honestly, we have no clue if there's going to be a huge audience or a minuscule audience or something somewhere in-between that's going to show up after our fan base buys their copy. But I'll tell you this, man—if the reason we were moving [the release date] was to get out of the way of Call of Duty or Uncharted 3 then that's smart business. I would have proudly owned that decision, but that's definitely not the reason.
Complex: Some of those games that you may not have mentioned are trying to position themselves into the whole 3D gaming craze. What are your thoughts about that and could we potentially see a Twisted Metal 3D in the future?
He [Sweet Tooth] could do something like ripping out an enemies heart and he cuts it up into a cereal bowl and forces them to eat it at machete point.
DJ: [Laughs] Well, we're not going to be in 3D. It partially has to do with the fact that we're a really small team and we have more stark questions to ask ourselves. Do we want to have two or three coders off for a month and a half to make the game in 3D? Or do we want to have an extra boss in the game? Not every team has to make those kinds of decisions, but we're a small team, and we did. For me, it honestly would've been cool, y'know, for the small number of people who actually have 3D television sets, but I don't know if it would've been a great move 'cause we didn't design it. My understanding is that Uncharted 3 was actually designed from the ground up 'cause they knew they were doing 3D. That's the right way to do it, very much like Avatar versus Clash of the Titans. With our game, because it goes so fast and there's so much flying at you, I have no clue if that would actually translate into 3D well or just give you a massive headache [laughs].
Complex: It's no secret that we follow you on Twitter, but awhile back you said that you thought that Needles Kane should be in Mortal Kombat…
DJ: …Well somebody online asked me a question because Kratos was put in Mortal Kombat, which I thought was a fantastic fit! Them somebody says, "Hey! What about Sweet Tooth?" I said, "Hell yeah!" I think that he's a great fit as well. I don't know if he's exactly the right fit with Mortal Kombat being such a big brand. I understand why Kratos would be in it because at the moment he is a more popular character than Sweet Tooth, but do I think Needles fits in that world? I really do!
Complex: So what would you think his fatality would be?
DJ: Let's see that's a good question… I have to think about that. The tricky part with all that is that Sweet Tooth enjoys what he does so much that I think when he's surrounded by a bunch of other psychos, like the ones in Mortal Kombat, it's almost like he would have to come up with something more dubious that would be a mind-fuck. He could scare someone into committing suicide… That would be really cool. He could do something like ripping out an enemies heart and he cuts it up into a cereal bowl and forces them to eat it at machete point. [Laughs] I think that could be fun. I think at the same time to make him stand out, I would want him to do something that felt more than just another violent move, and like I said, it would be a mind fuck. Nothing else really comes to mind other than seeing him convince someone that they rather kill themselves than have Sweet Tooth do it.
The Robert Englund version of Freddy would absolutely kick the fuck out of Sweet Tooth, and while he's dying Sweet Tooth would say, "Thank you, Freddy! You are my god!"
I'll tell you this though, Kev, Sweet Tooth is my love letter to those movies I grew up with. The original Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween and Candyman — I love them all! I'd love to see a slasher fighting game and I would love to put Sweet Tooth into the mix of all that. I absolutely love those legendary horror icons.
Complex: So a fight between Freddy Kreuger and Sweet Tooth locked in psycho combat could be very real, eh? Who would win between these two nightmarish warriors?
DJ: [Laughs] The Robert Englund version of Freddy would absolutely kick the fuck out of Sweet Tooth, and while he's dying Sweet Tooth would say, "Thank you, Freddy! You are my god!" The new one, the guy from Little Children [ed. note: Jackie Earle Haley] — Sweet Tooth would rip that motherfucker apart and not even be aware he did it. He'd be like, "Oh, you were my target? I didn't even know I killed you — that's how much of a p***y you are!"
Complex: [Laughs] Awesome. It's also no secret that you're into music—specifically hip-hop. You were sharing your thoughts on The Throne's Watch The Throne album. Can you let us know your thoughts about it? Also, what songs would be great music to commit vehicular manslaughter to?
I think with Kanye, frankly, it was after Graduation where there's been brilliance on everything he's done and there have been amazing songs.
DJ: The album is really interesting. Rolling Stone had a review where they said that Watch The Throne seems more like a Kanye West album that Jay-Z just happened to show up and be involved with. I can see that. I wasn't one of those guys that didn't like The Blueprint 3, I really liked the album, I thought My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was a little too… It's almost like he's getting to that point I'd called The Spielberg Zone. I absolutely still love Spielberg, I grew up loving him, but he got to this point after Jurassic Park where it became more about just being a master of the craft, and the movies became less accessible. I think with Kanye, frankly, it was after Graduation where there's been brilliance on everything he's done and there have been amazing songs. I fucking love "Otis," I love that song. "No Church in the Wild" is incredible. There's not one song on that album I don't like. "We Made It In America" is another great song! Every song on there that I think is a really great song is also not that accessible of a record. It doesn't take me to the place where you want to go there.
I was actually going to spend like $950 to buy tickets to see them at the Staple Center, but I was like that's too much money. Recently, I was bummed that I missed Eminem and Jay-Z perform their concert. In terms of which song makes me want to commit vehicular manslaughter to… I don't know there are some great songs like "Who's Gonna Stop Me," but honestly "Otis" would be one of those vehicular manslaughter songs. It has such an attitude, such power, and "fuck you-ness" that the sound of it is the spirit of Twisted Metal. Even though it has nothing to do with killing people with your car, there's a sense of entitlement about it that, to me, is very much the essence of this game, and it always has been. Twisted Metal has never been the prettiest game of the shelf and it's never been the most popular game every year it was released. But it always had the most passionate fans and I'm very proud to be a part of what it is and if you don't like it go fucking play something else! This is who we are! We hope you dig it, if not go fuck off, I love that about "Otis," and I love that about Twisted Metal.
The people who criticize the games are the ones who basically have never actually sat down and really engaged in a good game. If they did that then they would very quickly realize that all of these surface elements are commentary on what is corrupting our society.
Complex: Awhile back when the riots were going on in London people were blaming video games as a root cause. They threw titles like Grand Theft Auto under the bus. What are your thoughts on video games being the culprit behind such a publicized calamity?
DJ: Video games are the whipping boy, y'know? That's how you know you have arrived. People are always a little afraid of stuff they didn't grow up with. It's absurd because you think that people would be more open-minded. The funny thing about it all is—I have this debate with people all the time—that anybody who plays video games and is engaged with the culture are intensely aware how the brain works. I don't have a degree or anything to back this up, but as a way person, I'm watching, and you see gamers almost in a meditative state while playing the game. The only way to make great gameplay is to engage the brain. The people who criticize the games are the ones who basically have never actually sat down and really engaged in a good game. If they did that then they would very quickly realize that all of these surface elements are commentary on what is corrupting our society.
Yeah, there is an element of shock value that effects you for the first few minutes, but then it wears off. If it's a good game, your brain is rationalizing on how to drive this car to the mobster's hideout without wrecking the car and blowing up the bomb in the trunk. Your brain goes to that place of solving puzzles, spacial relation challenges, and resource management puzzles. I totally get how someone who is not familiar with all that would just look at the surface and come to such a conclusion, but I think it is unfortunate that we live in such a time. People spitting off utter nonsense without any real understand of what they're talking about is classless. So, I say that you say that I don't think video games were responsible for 95% of the things that most people lay at it's feet.
Interview by Kevin L. Clark (@DLYDJ)