There's not a lot of developers out there as David Jaffe, if any. As a Designer he more then proved his worth and brilliancy with the likes of Mickey Mania, Twisted Metal, God of War, and Calling All Cars!. His last game was Drawn to Death, the only game released by his own studio, The Bartlet Jones Supernatural Detective Agency, and while it didn't set the world on fire as his previous work did, it was certainly creative and interesting. I mean, who else would have thought of creating a multiplayer game set in the violent and over-the-top sketches of a bored kid at school?
Better yet, how does one convince Sony to publish such a game, especially considering most of David Jaffe's past games thrived on single player experiences?
"I remember going to Sony, right before starting production, and asking if it was cool to focus on single player first for Drawn to Death, even though I was also passionate about the multiplayer component. But Sony was interested in trying the free-to-play model, so it made sense to start with the multiplayer, and perhaps later on try the single player. As you know, that didn't go so well, but it was a great learning experience."
"After that we actually worked on a early prototype for Sony... I'm dying to leak it and show it to people because it was pretty cool, but there's still people at Sony that I have great affection for, so I'm keeping it close to my chest for now. But at the time their business model changed, and they called saying they wouldn't be able to continue with it. Sony gave us a great sort of exit of the contract. They payed us great severance and insurance for months and all that, but both me and Nick Kononelos [co-founder of The Bartlet Jones Supernatural Detective Agency] just decided to shut the studio down."
And so, David Jaffe became absent from the industry, even though it might not be for too long:
"I don't know if I decided to leave the industry, but I know I've taken a break, a very long vacation since we released Drawn to Death. But there might be some announcements coming soon, that would not take me away from streaming. It won't be a full time gig, and I don't want it to be. To get back into games full on, it would take the right people and the right publisher, like some of the old school Sony people - some are still there."
"I would need someone that likes building teams, as I don't want to deal with that. If someone told me: 'all you need to do is show up and provide direction, ideas, lead design, lead narrative"... then I would be really interested in having that conversation, but the idea of going out and knocking on doors, taking meetings, raising money, and building a team... nah, I just have too much delicious freedom right now doing the streams."
David Jaffe is currently a streamer and a content creator on YouTube, on his own channel. Sometimes he just chats about specific topics with his audience, other times he streams videogames. He even interviews people in the industry, like Days Gone Director's John Garvin and Jeff Ross. It's all kinds of crazy, unpredictable, and interesting, but almost always fun, for his audience, and for him.
"There's an immediacy about streaming that my brain really loves. I can wake up, have an idea, do it that afternoon, and get an instant response - good or bad. Then I can move on to the next thing. I don't have to answer to anybody, I don't have to pitch it to anybody, and can just do it and entertain people that like it, or get feedback and just improve."
"Doing a videogame, you may have an idea you love, and your brain gets to enjoy that idea, but after that... you may get little pings of enjoyment while pitching the idea to the people that actually have to build it, and hopefully you might see their eyes glow too, and they might even add to it to make it better, but between having the first idea and seeing an audience responding to it, that can be 18 months or more. Now that I've had a taste of the immediacy in streaming like this, it's just... why the fuck would I go back to just waiting years to be told if someone likes or dislikes something."
In part, this desire for immediacy is due to Attention Deficit Disorder, a condition David Jaffe has talked about in recent years, but one that he wasn't always aware he had.
"I didn't know I had it when I was making games like Twisted Metal and God of War, so, one of the reasons I was so difficult to work with, was not because I was a dick, but because I had ADD and I didn't know it. It took me a while to realise that if I were to have success, I would need to surround myself with strong producers, like Shannon Studstill in God of War."
"Once I realised I needed that structure, and that I couldn't provide it to myself, it got better, but I still made their lives difficult, as I didn't realise I had ADD and just put it all under the 'I'm a creative, I can't be contained!' umbrella. Now that I realise it's ADD, I don't think I would be as difficult to work with. There's good things and bad things about it."
"I'm a hard guy to manage, cause I just get excited about something else and want to move on to that, and they need to constantly refocus me and clean up the mess behind me. The good part is that I don't have patience, and so I get to the quick of the issue really quickly, and I can read people really fast too. Hyperfocus was also beneficial. I take medicine for ADD now, even if it still colours all aspects of my life."
Perhaps that hyperfocus and quick thinking was what allowed David Jaffe to realise what the future of videogames might be while playing The Last of Us: Part II, a thought he recently shared in his YouTube channel.
"Yeah, I was turning a crank to hold a garage door, and when one of the characters was going under it, I released the crank to see what would happen. In that moment the garage door slams down and the character quickly jumps back, and for a second my brain perceived I had done it, perceived the game was adjusting itself. It wasn't, of course, that happens to every player, it's programmed to do that. At best they could have created a few scripted scenarios, but that's about it."
"It reminded me of the Holodeck in Star Trek, with procedural generated narrative, or in our case, AI created game design based on a template of what the developers want the game to be like. I don't think you and I will be alive to see it, but we will see the beginnings of it. Well, someone told me that Gabe Newell at Valve said we're actually a lot closer to that then I think we are, and that's great - Gabe knows a lot more about this shit then I do."
"As a gamer, I can't wait for it. One of the things that holds me back from really feeling lost in these experiences, is the fact that it's so clear that it's on tracks, like an amusement park ride. It's fun to imagine you're on a Pirates of the Caribbean boat, but you know you're not, because it's just too limiting."
This is it for our first part on the David Jaffe interview. So be sure to check soon for the second part, as we talk about Epic Games Metaverse, crunch in videogames development, services like Game Pass and PS Now, and how all of this can impact and inform videogame design moving forward, plus a lot more. Cya soon!
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