On February 14th, Sony’s Twisted Metal is going to make a sweet comeback to gaming in glorious style. By now you have likely played the Twisted Metal multiplayer demo which released on PSN just yesterday & if you haven’t you should make it a point to do so. It has been years since Twisted Metal has seen a new release & David Jaffe felt the time was right to bring the series back & based on demo impressions it looks like fans share that enthusiasm.
Today we bring you ‘Part 1’ of our interview with EatSleepPlay’s David Jaffe. Touching on the development time, influence Call of Duty has had on the online interface, and decision as to why the time was right to reboot the franchise, Jaffe shares intimate details on Twisted Metal’s game design & development cycle.
‘Part 2’ will go live later this week, so stay tuned for even more Twisted Metal details from David Jaffe.
How long has Twisted Metal been in development & did the team’s focus change when the game made the jump to retail, as opposed to a PSN release?
It has been in development for about three years, so a while. Longer than I wish it had been but you know we just kept adding stuff.
But, yea, to an extent, I have on my whiteboard a piece of paper that talks about the core focus of the game & that hasn’t changed. Scott and I really wanted to make sure that the reason we made the game was really all about wanting to expand upon & bring to more people the multiplayer aspect of Twisted that for a long time only the hardest-core Twisted fans got. A lot of people loved the game & saw it was a lot of fun, but a very surface experience, which was what we’d been calling the shallow end of the swimming pool.
We knew when we said that we really want to put our efforts in to kind of taking those goals that the harder-core fans were picking up on that showed that there is a lot of depth in this kind of game and genre & let’s make it bigger, better, and more apparent and deeper and that has not changed. That has always been our core goal that we’ve been chasing after. But, certainly, around that core goal, as the game, you know, people start to play it & they start to talk about it.
At first it started as a PSN download & then we talked “Let’s do it as a $39.99 release like they did with Warhawk & SOCOM”. And then Sony was like “Yeah, but a lot of people love the stories. Let’s put a single-player.” Those are the things that really kind of evolved, but what was great about that was as those things evolved & out of the evolution was that it was necessary that we had more time to create the game.
It gave us more time to bang on the multiplayer & add either more maps or more techniques for the weapons or just more balancing time. I look at the multiplayer that is coming out in a couple of weeks & I go “I sure am glad all those other things got added even though it wasn’t the initial intent” because I feel we’ve made the best Twisted Metal we’ve ever made & I’m super proud of the multiplayer & I think without having those additions which yielded extra time, I don’t know if I could be saying that.
Twisted Metal has been missing for over five years with the last original game being Twisted Metal Head-On which launched the PSP. Why did you feel it was time to reboot the series & how supportive was Sony in this decision?
The last one that I personally worked on, I mean I had a little hand in the port of the PSP one just kind of working on some levels that were never put in a canceled version of Twisted Metal Black 2. But the last real Twisted Metal I had much to do with was Twisted Metal Black & when we were working on the port, you know we had no intention of going back to Twisted Metal as we decided to do more PSN type titles & we had done Calling All Cars, and as we started working on the port it was like a high school reunion. It was fun to go back to that world, fun to go back to that character & that type of gameplay style.
It was that, coupled with the fact that we were seeing & beginning to see games coming out that were fulfilling a lot of the promise of the PlayStation 3 scalabilities that we said You know, the fantasy that we had since our very first car combat game that we made in 1995, but we conceived of in 1993, we could really execute on that fantasy and give players a much closer version of what we have been seeing in our heads all these years. So, that was really the reason that we said that would make a really cool multiplayer game & then when we said let’s really show people a fighting game in vehicles & it is a sport to us & it’s really a shooter, a lot of people think of it as a driving game or a racing game & it certainly isn’t a racing game but it’s barely even a driving game. It really is a very fast-paced but still deep shooter.
We got really excited about the opportunity & then, yeah, Sony was the one that said “We love what we are seeing. Please take more money, please take more time”, which is usually the opposite. You are usually begging for it & they’re like “We want this to be bigger & to what you guys’ envisioned. We want the stories, we want the bosses, & we want the characters” and so they have been tremendously supportive. I wasn’t in the pitch for Flower, which is one of my favorite games of all-time, but certainly they were front and center to green light that game. The fact they got behind the game in a genre that really hasn’t been what it once was in ages, I think speaks volumes about how supportive they were. It’s been a really good ride in a lot of ways in terms of their support working on this title.
Online is a big element to Twisted Metal. Can you share details on what kind of community features the game will have & did Call of Duty have any influence on Twisted Metal’s online infrastructure?
The influence it has had on us is probably the same influence it has had on most games, which is the, I don’t know what I would have said if you asked me before Modern Warfare hit, but the rapidness in which the console game community has embraced & demanded a level of persistence to daunt the moment to moment game in a more action oriented game versus more of a RPG, which used be kind of the home of that aspect that’s a ‘meta’ game. Certainly that has become de facto in many games, so Twisted Metal, it’s hard to make a shooter that’s a straight online shooter without building some of that persistence in & we certainly have done that.
What I will tell you is we really wanted to make a game that reflected the kind of shooter, both locally on the same couch with a buddy or up to three buddies & yourself and online, that we weren’t seeing in those amazing games like Call of Duty, Battlefield 3 & Uncharted 3 because so much of what they have done to move the industry forward has just been tremendous strides in the ‘meta’ & the rankings & the perks and all that, but it was the moment to moment gameplay where we wanted to put our resources because we really wanted to make the focus about depth & strategy and really pushing to the forefront this sort of super, I always say advanced checkers because it is wrong to call it chess because it’s certainly not that deep but it’s certainly much deeper than something like checkers.
It’s that same idea, if you look at the surface of Twisted Metal it is very mouth breathery, it’s a lot of explosions, cars & guns, but when you really think of & look through the matrix and you can actually see what is happening, it’s a fast-paced, strategic, tactical action game. For us, we wanted, I’d say 95% of our resources went into that, and there was some pushback. There were times in the design where we were fighting & we get this game has a thousand perks or whatever the number was at the time we were looking at it, but for us we want the moment to moment where you’re in the game world, not after the game & you’ve ranked up and all that. We want that to be what makes us special.
I can proudly and honestly say, and I’m extremely too close to have an opinion that matters to anybody other than myself, that this multiplayer game absolutely can go head-to-head with Call of Duty, Battlefield 3, Uncharted 3, & Counter Strike in terms of the moment to moment. There are days where I think we will be nominated for multiplayer & shooter ‘Game of the Year’. There are days where I think we are going to crash & burn too, but, it’s important for people to read your piece to understand, that we are absolutely crushed by those other games – meta games – so their infrastructure has had an influence because we have it because it’s necessary, but it has actually been good for the game and I think persistence is important but we are nowhere near the scope of those games when it comes to the number of unlocks & number of perks and things like that.
The other thing I will tell you on this topic was that we absolutely did not want anything that you unlocked in online games to throw off the balance because, as I said and keep saying it, it’s a fighting game or it’s a chess match, so it would be like “Oh, look, this guy has been playing chess longer & suddenly his Queen has grenades & an Uzi”. It’s like, no the Queen already has her pros & cons. You throw this in and it not only makes it a really shitty experience for new players coming in, but ultimately it’s not a pure experience. So for us, it was really important if you win a Twisted Metal online game it was because you were genuinely the better player, not because you’ve played long enough that you’ve unlocked something that throws off the balance. There have definitely been a lot of Call of Duty discussions in the ‘meta’ part of our game design but it’s definitely not aiming for that.
So, that’s a really long answer but that is kind of the history of how Call of Duty came into our design discussion from time to time.