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.