Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Well, Hell...I'd Rather Play In A Space Ship Than A Parking Garage Too...

Oh I dunno....I'm torn over this one.

I mean, ok, the ending occurs way too often in our business and that is very bad and very sad. And many times it IS the result of bad management and bad creative choices (that the game implementers- by the way-had NOTHING to do with 99% of the time). And the dude in the movie with the cell is a dickhead, no doubt.

So is this clip an accurate portrayal of the business? Do industry folks who work for developers (and publishers as well) really have a right to gripe about this stuff? Oh hells yes!

THAT SAID: I think this all too familiar discussion goes both ways in all creative businesses. But the way many developers like to spin it is, 'executives & high level creatives are clueless morons who are not engaged with the product and don't know anything because they are not the ones touching the code or the building the assets in Maya.'

This argument- by the way- is the obnoxious cousin of the equally obnoxious- and totally false- argument that 'great ideas are cheap and easy and execution is everything!'

I think both of those arguments are stinky-ass loads of horseshit. And I base that thinking on the game industry successes and failures I've been involved with and had a hand in over the last 17+ years.*

For every 50 examples a 3D modeler/programmer/game design scripter/etc. can give about being forced to implement an admittedly stupid or uneducated request from a publisher/producer/high level designer/game director, I can name 1 bad artistic/market ignorant/'ripped-off-from-the-latest-movie-they've-seen-without-even-realizing-it' high level creative decision made or suggested (or simply implemented without any warning) by a 3D modeler/programmer/texture artist/etc.

'Well, Jaffe- a 50:1 ratio ain't bad in the favor of the implementers', I hear you saying!

But it actually is. Because the reality is, the folks on a team who mostly do implementation can implement bad decisions (that they themselves had NOTHING to do with, creative wise) and a game can still be a mega hit. Don't get me wrong: NO ONE on the team wants ANYONE to ever be wrong. The more right we ALL ARE the better the game is going to be for the player. BUT if a specific texture doesn't look great or a bad decision by a publisher makes the frame rate drop in a few spots, those types of things (unless they are legion) don't spell doom for a game (and thus- because games are so expensive to make these days- also don't spell doom to the team, developer, and/or publisher).

BUT the folks making the high level decisions don't get to be wrong all that often. And for SOME decisions (game theme, genre, release window, key features, rating,etc.) they don't get to be wrong at all! Make even just a few of these big mistakes- or just miss ONE of the KEY issues- and that's the ball game.

All one needs to do is look at Sony Santa Monica's KINETICA or CALLING ALL CARS! to see this concept made real. Kinetica was a well reviewed, beautifully executed title (made by many of the same genius programmers and artists who make the GOD OF WAR series) but the theme and the art style and the read of the market for the time that title was made was all wrong. CALLING ALL CARS- while not as well reviewed as Kinetica- was beautifully executed from a code and art standpoint, but the theme and the timing made us DOA.

Now look: do I think there are people who can do BOTH of these things- high level creative, marketing thinking AND actual in the guts game making/implementation? Yes. But I've met very, very few.

Usually the ones who think they can do both kinds of jobs really can't. They just wish they could.

Trust me: I've tried to learn C programming language before. And you know, I can kind of do it. I can get some stuff to move around on screen and make stuff interactive. But I'd be a delusional fool- and a disrespectful asshole to the folks who are wired to be Gods at coding- to think my brain is even close to capable of thinking about- let alone executing- game code in ANYWAY close to what the coders at Eat Sleep Play and Sony Santa Monica can do. Same with art. Same with sound fx and music and producing and managing.

But because the high level marketing/game direction/design part of the equation is so intangible (just like writing a screenplay or directing a movie), most people assume they could do it if they just had the time or the opportunity. But I've seen many greenlit games that were ill thought out and/or poorly 'high level' directed (while being staffed with really talented folks) struggle for their lives (and frankly, the majority of these games end up cancelled).

The folks I love to work with in games are those who specialize in their fields but also have a healthy respect for those other areas of the game making process in which they do not excel. The reality is, all areas of game making are crucial and all areas need experts (as well as passionate, eager to learn noobs) on board if the ship is to fly high. Just like there are programers worth 100x their weight in gold because of their ability to lead a coder team to develop the next super hot graphics engine, and just like there are concept artists and 3D modelers who can take a chicken scratch sketch on a napkin and turn it into a fully realized, living, breathing world, there are people in design, direction, marketing, and publishing who can read the tea leaves of the business, who can take an accurate pulse of the players, and who are in touch with the cultural zeitgeist (as well as in touch with their own creative powers) and in doing and in being so, these 'high level thinkers' are able to make consistent-enough decisions that result in marketable high concepts, big sales, and intellectual property worth hundreds of millions of dollars.


* Please don't send me or reference the 'ideas are cheap;execution is everything' clip from PIXAR. It's a great- and pretty inspiring- clip. BUT what a lot of people miss when watching that clip is that IDEAS are PART of EXECUTION at PIXAR and Lasseter and Pete Doctor and Brad Bird are all masters of great ideas and storytelling and character creation (all intangible skills that range from high to low level thinking) . If these Pixar creative leaders were not great at the ideas, then instead of UP and TOY STORY and FINDING NEMO, PIXAR would be making MARS NEEDS MOMS! and GNOMEO AND JULLIET (2 movies that I've seen no one bitch about the execution of, but have seen TONS of people bitching about the lack of quality characters, lack of fresh ideas, and stale storytelling within those technically well executed films).

ps. Does it suck to turn a parking garage into a spaceship? Yes. SHOULD that idea have been brought up during the concept art phase? Yes. But you know what? Shit happens. High level thinkers don't always get it 100% right out of the gate anymore than a coder is expected to NOT rewrite a line of code close to launch in order to make the game run faster. Great creative work (at all levels) is messy and iterative (look at the history of TOY STORY 2) and it's management's job to recognize this and build this uncertainty/iterative time/redo time into the schedule and NOT sign deals with publishers that promise the moon (simply to get the deal signed) but end up hurting the team.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Happy Weekend! If you were curious, here's what's up with me :)...

1. IT'S A TWISTED METAL WEEKEND: Settling in for a long weekend of Twisted Metal work. On Deck:

a-Sending my notes and ideas to the team so we can lock what the RANKED non-tweakable HOST settings will be. For ranked games, we're- understandably, I assume- not giving the host much freedom at all.

b- Figuring out the UNRANKED host settings for multiplayer. For example, when you fall off cliff roads and rooftops in an unranked game, we'll let the host decide if a fall= instant death (the earlier TM games) or just damage and a respawn back in the action (the latter TM games). Oh, and from what I hear from the TMA crew, UNLIMITED WEAPONS is a big no-no! :)

QUICK QUESTION: And we may have discussed this before but it's time to pull a damn trigger on the issue: My gut says everything should be unlocked in UNRANKED games (online and split) because if you just want to play casually with buddies and see the stuff you paid for, why the hell not? BUT I also know there is a vocal crew of CALL OF DUTY:BLACK OPS that were PISSED that everything was unlocked in unranked from the get go. What do ya'll think? AGAIN: PLEASE- not looking for fresh ideas...just looking to see which way you'd go out of those two options- thoughts? Thanks in advance!

c-Writing the TIPS that appear on the load screen in in game.

d- Sending the team my latest notes and thoughts on our CAMPAIGN mode (tweaks, tuning suggestions, any last remaining pacing suggestions/ concerns/questions,etc.)

e-Prepping for a TWISTED METAL media event next month.

f-Reviewing the shot list for our live action Twisted Metal shoot coming up next week (going back in to the studio to capture shots we missed, redo some performances that need touch of love, capturing a few new shots to make certain story points stronger). Storytelling- like game creating (and ANY creative project I would assume)- is ALL about the iteration.

g-Prepping tune/tweak numbers to send to Scott out in Utah for vehicle driving differentiation and weapon/special weapon damage amounts.

h-Recording a video for Victor Lucas' I LOVE JAPAN charity event.

FUCKING WHEW! Wish me luck!

Here's what else I'm gonna try to squeeze in:

2. WEST WING SEASON 3 MARATHON CONTINUES- Been devouring them on Apple TV for the last month! Never watched before and it's become my second favorite tv show of all time already (right behind SIX FEET UNDER). At the end of the series, it may take the top spot (but I doubt it).

3. SPIN/MEDITATE- hope to get 2 spins in and about 20 minutes on the cushion this weekend. We'll see!

4. BILLS and BUDGET- ugh, never ends. How dare those bastards ask me to pay for the shit I use! :)

5. CONGRATULATIONS TO MY BUDDY- Some of you know I'm friends with Jeff Goldsmith, he of the amazing Creative Screenwriting podcast (also my co-writer on the TWISTED METAL:BLACK and TM2 end movies). Well these days he does an amazing Q/A with the world's best and most successful screenwriters and this stuff ain't PR fluff folks. He's really, really good at offering up insightful, probing, and smart as hell interviews about the craft and the life of today's working screenwriter.

OH WAIT!...he ain't doin that no more! :)

Nope- Jeff bolted from Creative Screenwriting and started his very own screenwriting podcast (same great format, same great guests, same amazing quality...if not better!) called THE Q & A WITH JEFF GOLDSMITH The first few episodes just hit this week (including one with the screenwriter of the new film FLAWLESS, a movie I REALLY want to see!) so please, do yourself a favor and check it out! 

This just can't end well...can it?!? :)

My kids and their baby sitter are washing our new dog- Austin- at home for the first time. We just got him in January and so far I've had the vet bathe him twice and then used an animal grooming/bathing service up the road just once. We let him dig in the dirt, play in the backyard, go a little nuts (as all dogs should! :) )...

Well today the kids really wanted to bathe the guy in their own tub and their baby sitter was game (she's braver than I am, I tell you that!) Well so far, it's going GREAT! He's such a damn trooper this guy- so sweet and gentle with my girls. He just puts up with everything. Look at that face: you can tell he's just like, 'Ah screw it-these are my people and if these loud little kids wanna bathe me, screw it- what else I got goin' on today?'  I'm not sure why he's a union truck driver from New Jersey, but there it is. :)

Ok- it's a full weekend so I'm gonna get banging on it. Hope ya'll are having a great one as well!

Talk soon!


PS. WHICH FONT? Is this post the way to go? 

Or should I go with the SMALLER FONT I've been using?


Wednesday, March 16, 2011


This is a picture of the top of the little cabinet outside my daughters' bedroom. Since they were born, I've been reading to them every night before bed. Hell, I read to them even when they were still in their mamma's tummy.

I have fond memories of leaving the God of War 1 team around 6 on most nights to rush home and read my oldest (now 7) The Foot Book By Dr. Seuss. Then I would head back in to Sony to work on the game.

Putting my kids to bed with books: it's just been instinct. It never occurred to me not to read to them before bed.

Ok, so back to this cabinet: I toss the books we're currently reading up on top so they're easy to get to the next night.

So just now, I was heading in to my office-across the hall from their bedroom- to start my day and I was stopped cold when I saw the books that were up there. When I looked at them, a few things occurred to me:

* Man, they grow fast and you can see that growth in the books they now like. My youngest (5) is learning to read for herself (and doing an amazing job of it, I might add!) and thus the Level 1 My Little Pony reading book. My oldest continues to say she wants to be an Animal Rescuer when she grows up (she's been saying this since she was 3) and hence the Jane Goodall bio above (side note: it's so cool to use books to introduce my girls to amazing people- and especially women- who have done amazing things in life!)

But these titles are such a far cry from The Foot Book and The Very Hungry Caterpillar cardboard books I used to read to them (and that they used to chew on as they were teething). It's a little sad to watch them grow out of those kinds of things (I love being a dad and loved having tiny kids in the house) but seeing this progress in them is actually much more exciting. Not just because it shows how much they are learning and how their mind's are developing. But because before I know it, they'll be reading teen fiction and then adult books. How fun to be able to share books with them as adults (electronically, I would imagine!) and how fun to sit around the table (be it ours or a table in their own homes as adults) and discuss and debate and share the things we've discovered in books.

* There's a shite ton of creative work happening in kid's fiction. Not just the Harry Potter and Percy Jackson stuff, but for all ages and all genres. Unless you have kids- or want to write kid fiction- I can't imagine this stuff is on your radar. It certainly wasn't on mine. But now that it is, it's such a cool new world to discover. And now that I've discovered it, I think I may actually have a kid/young adult book in me! But then again, I imagine most parents who rediscover the fun, imaginative, cool, varied, creative, and exciting world of kid fiction feel that way. I wonder if I'll ever really sit down and try to write the thing.

*The last- and most powerful- thing that stopped me cold when I saw these books is this: I am super, super blessed. By God? By random chance? By the team that programmed this super immersive VR simulation that I've been playing for the last 39 years? Hard to say- that's why I love being an agnostic...I don't have  to say! :)- BUT whatever it is that brings things into our lives, I've been blessed by it. Being a dad is the best thing I am and the best thing I ever will be. It is joy.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Trouble With BEING The Batman...

This was a comment reply I made to a very well thought out- but fundamentally flawed (in my mind)- argument that a reader named Chris made about the way to improve- and the need for- great storytelling in games.

Here's what I wrote:

Chris- thanks for the well thought out, passionate reply. Clearly you've thought a great deal about this.

However,not to come across as someone trying to burst your bubble but I have to say that I've thought a lot about it as well and your 'imagine if's' (i.e. BATMAN/JOKER in the interrogation scene) sound a lot like me 5,6 years ago...even before that.

But here's the problem I have with your pitch and similar pitches (and trust me, I hear your line of thinking all the time):

You make the mistake of thinking that many of us who make gamey games don't care about infusing great story into our games and are just in it for the BIG! BANG! POW! because that's what we grew up with. Not the case. My generation also grew up with JAWS and ET and EMPIRE and OUT OF AFRICA and on and on and we are very aware of what film is capable of and there was a time a lot of us (myself included) longed for games to have a similar impact on our audiences (and on us).

But then we actually worked in the interactive medium and studied the medium and watched how the brain works when a game is played and realized that PLAYING as BATMAN in the interrogation scene would look NOTHING LIKE and FEEL nothing like WATCHING Batman interrogate the Joker.   And that's the mistake so many in your camp make (and I used to make it as well): you watch movies and get moved by them and then rush to say 'I want my games to feel that way too!' BUT you fail to realize that the feelings you are so amped by come from the very nature of OBSERVING SOMEONE ELSE'S STORY from a tightly controlled, highly manipulated, and non-interactive vantage point.

You CAN'T feel the way you feel when you WATCH a great scene simply by being the star of that scene. Because the INSTANT you have control, all of the emotion that you love about linear storytelling dies and your brain goes to the same place it goes in your real life when you encounter a challenge: 'how do I solve this problem?' it it 'how do I get home by 6pm for dinner with the kids' or 'how do I avoid the guy with the gun who just came into the bank' or 'how do I get that girl to go out with me', all of these scenarios- once they become YOUR scenarios- are expressed thru actions and 'play mechanics' and because of that, the FEELING you get when you are solving the problem (NOT watching someone else solve it) is one of a puzzle or a challenge (the feeling would be EXACTLY that of playing a game if you were capable of removing the real life ramifications of your challenge's outcome. But even though you can't the feeling is still very, very close to playing a game and it's significantly closer to the feeling you get playing a game than it is to the feeling of watching a scene in a movie).

And that to me is the FIRST step I feel game makers HAVE to accept if we are to discover what interactivity is capable of.

We have to realize that the way the brain responds to an interactive scenario is incongruent with the way the brain responds to watching someone else's interactive scenario play out. And in making this realization, we can then ask ourselves how the very thing that makes our medium so special- INTERACTIVITY- can bring about the emotions and ideas and scenarios that we see in film and are so eager to replicate in games. HOWEVER, the way we give our audience an emotion- even if it's an emotion shared by another medium like movies- will be very different than how the other mediums provide the very same emotion. THIS- to me- IS KEY!

OR we'll come to a point where we realize- BECAUSE we are slaves (as we should be) to interactivity, that we should chase after emotions and ideas and scenarios that are special and unique to interactivity, versus simply trying to replicate the emotions that other mediums already offer up so naturally and so successfully. Perhaps interactivity will NEVER be able to create the sort of emotional longing that one gets when they watch ET fly away from Elliot...but we CAN do tension, terror, competition, anxiety, the joy of team work, the joy of learning through experimentation,etc,etc,etc probably better than ANY other medium. And I say why run from this? Why not plant our flag in the rich and still fresh soil of the emotions and responses that our medium excels at NATURALLY?  Why are we so desperate to bogart emotions from other mediums? Perhaps those that are should just- you know- go work in those other mediums and then they'd be a lot more satisfied.

OR we'll wait for 100-1000 years until AI and processing advances to the point where a story/scene writes itself in real time/procedurally and as we play in the space we never encounter challenges (that pull us out of the fiction and turn us into puzzle solvers) but instead we experience a constantly adjusting and always engaging, interactive scenario that writes and re-writes itself in real time based on our choices, while still staying true with the genre/style of experience that we've chosen to have.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Shit Never Gets Old...

It's always an amazing feeling to see a game you're working on on a magazine cover out 'in the wild';knowing that even while you are holed up banging on the game and just going about your daily life, the mag is out in the world, doing it's job to spread the word! I love this cover and I love that DollFace and Sweet Tooth are out and about preaching the Twisted gospel to the masses!


++++UPDATE: One of the commenters- Misael- asked me why Dollface was picked as a cover subject instead of Sweet Tooth. I started to answer him in the comments but figured this may be of interest to some I put it here. Here's my answer:

Misael, We have a great producer on the game named Angelic who does a great deal of the Eat Sleep Play art wrangling when our games are fortunate enough to be offered a cover. Between her, the art folks at the magazine itself, and one of our stunningly talented concept artists (in this case a sickeningly MULTI talented ((and all around nice guy)) concept artist named Owen Richardson) the covers get done.

Ok, ok, YES there is a decent amount of backseat driving from myself, Scott Campbell, Kellan Hatch,Sony PD,PR, & Marketing and- naturally- the publication itself who always (understandably) has their own agenda they need to fulfill.

In the case of Twisted Metal and print mags, it's a bit of a challenge because we are always hearing this sort of thing: 'Vehicles on covers don't sell...we gotta see people/characters. Whenever we have covers with vehicles as the stars- in MOST cases- the sales for that month are not where we want them'.

And this is not just Gamepro. This pretty much seems to be the party line for 99% of the print mags that we've worked with. And we get the point. Most people are visually and instantly drawn to other people/characters instead of machines. Makes sense to us.

But it presents a challenge for our particular game because it's not good for Twisted to JUST put characters with no vehicles on magazine covers because new fans- as well as long time fans just getting wind of a new Twisted Metal- could easily misread the cover's message and think we've turned the new TM into a 3rd person character shooter and/or a game where you can get out of the vehicles and walk around ala GTA. So we're always trying to find the balance between giving the print mags what they need to succeed in their business world while also making sure the message of what the new Twisted Metal is is loud and clear (aka what WE need to succeed in OUR business world).

And sometimes there are mags that simply won't put cars on the covers at all. In those cases we have to look at the magazine's impact on gamers and the mag's cultural relevancy in the gaming space and the magazine's circulation and decide if the risk of potentially incorrectly communicating our brand with a non vehicle cover is worth it.

Usually though, the magazines are happy and helpful to work with us on a compromise and we are always grateful for that. This is why the actual Gamepro cover is different from Owen's initial concept art (which you can see a few posts down) the last minute Gamepro (a magazine we all love and were desperate to work with) stepped in with a suggestion of how to keep the cover character centric but still allow our brand message to shine through. I love how it came out and I hope the issue is selling great for the Gamepro folks.*

As for why Dollface was used instead of Sweet Tooth: I honestly don't know why Dollface was picked as the cover subject. Perhaps because PTOM (Playstation: The Official Magazine) had been kind enough just a few months back to also give our game a cover and they used a bad ass Sweet Tooth image (also by Owen) and so perhaps Gamepro wanted their Twisted cover to be different? I'm not really sure.

But as I said, I think it came out FANTASTIC! Hope you all do as well and I hope if you are into/interested in the new Twisted Metal (as well as interested in reading a game mag that- in the last year- has really, really gotten good) that you pick up the new Gamepro.



*Please don't read anything into the fact that the PTOM cover did NOT feature a vehicle. In other words: I'm not even close to suggesting that for PTOM we would live with potentially muddying our brand but we would not do the same for GAMEPRO. That's not the case and for all I know Gary and the team at PTOM would have been happy to work with us- like Gamepro-to create a marketable cover that worked for them while also working with us to more properly communicate our brand. It's just that the PTOM cover- which I also love and ended up getting a mega sized version framed and now have hanging in my office- came together before we had set up our internal marketing/PR/PD primary directive of 'ALWAYS show the game's characters IN/ON/AROUND/ASSOCIATED WITH the game's vehicles.' In fact Owen's submitted image for Gamepro also occurred before we had set up our 'Characters WITH vehicles' rule (thus the difference between his final image and the on the shelf cover). So again, thanks to Gamepro for stepping in with a great, creative solve that seems to have worked out great for everyone!

Shit Or Get Off The Pot...


Just because there's wind blowing and a minimal soundtrack and vast open spaces to explore and a slow pace doesn't mean that the game you are playing is art.

And just because a game's story and presentation contains elements you've see in the 'big boy movies' doesn't make a game adult or mean the medium is maturing.

These are all surface elements that-while challenging as anything else in games to produce well- do not speak to the maturation of the medium one iota.

I'm tired of seeing gamers- and game journalists especially- falling for this.

Game journalists of all people need to be calling us developers out on our smoke and mirrors bullshit.

If we really want to get to the top of the mountain we have to be honest about the current state of the 'art'.

Just because your game wears the trappings of relevancy does not make it relevant. Any more than putting on a beret and a black turtle neck and sitting outside a Parisian cafe makes you one of the intelligentsia.

Just because your game's surface elements shout from the rooftops that 'this is important and artistic and meaningful' doesn't make it so. And in fact, the more a game- or anything for that matter- rambles on and on telling you how special it is, the more reason we have to assume that the claims come from a place of ego (or marketing) and not real passion and innovation.

Real art and genuinely important work doesn't need to continually toot its own horn. The very nature of something being artistic and important means that- except in rare cases- its power is evident without anyone having to tell you that it is.

And the sooner the people who write about games for a living start reporting on this angle of the story, the sooner us developers will be forced to shit or get off the pot. 


++++++UPDATE: I was responding in this post's comment section to Matthew but it turned into a long ass rant...SO I thought I'd just share it here. Here goes:

Matthew, like you, I'm nowhere NEAR opposed to a more balanced gaming diet. But there is a difference between WANTING a more balanced gaming diet and ACTUALLY- as a developer- BEING ABLE TO PROVIDE GENUINELY GOOD ALTERNATIVES to the already fantastic core/pure play experiences that games have been offering (exclusively, as a medium, it should be pointed out) for over 5000 years.

To me the issue- and the worrying point of all this- is that there seems to be the need/desire amongst some gamers,some game makers, and a number of games journalists to shout from the rooftops that games 'have arrived'. But for those of us who simply don't think that that is anywhere near the case, it's troubling because it sends a false message that actually hurts the very progress that is needed to CREATE AND NURTURE the more nutritious gaming diet we so crave (assuming this sort of diet is even possible with games/interactivity).*

Adults and kids are- in many ways- not that different when it comes to maintaining their motivation. So If I tell one of my daughters- whose current obsession is learning to draw a photo realistic unicorn/Pegasus hybrid- that her art is perfect and her image looks like a photo realistic magical horse AND if this is NOT ACTUALLY TRUE (and instead I only wish that it were true), then am I really helping my daughter? Am I really respecting her? Am I really DISRESPECTING the craft of art, in both the medium and long term? Because best case- assuming she cares what I think- and I think she does :)- she'll think she's a better artist than she really is and lose some of her ambition. WORST case my lie will make her think she's achieved her goal when she really hasn't, and she'll no longer want to improve at drawing. It's not that different when it comes to the 'games as art' issue.

Tell us game makers we've arrived and before you know it, we'll think we really have (some of us already do). As will the fans and the press. But we really haven't arrived at all and it all just seems like this bullshit, backroom, secret-handshake kind of club where we tell the press how important and meaningful we've become in order to stroke our own egos, and then the press (SOME, certainly not all) goes off and writes about how important games have become in order to convince themselves they are doing important work and not 'just' writing about the number of guns in the latest shooter or the size of the levels in a hit game's expansion pak. And they also write about how important games have become so that it seems that their education and time is not being wasted and that perhaps one day- just like their colleagues at the 'important'  periodicals and web sites that they really wish they were writing for- they too will be taken seriously. And all this gets filtered down to certain vocal fans who then go off and spout the very talking points us developers have force fed them through the very press that they are paying for. And so these fans go out into the world, carrying our message about games being important and artistic and as relevant as literature and cinema ('We're in early days! This is just like silent film! Give it time! Which game designer/game development team will bring us our very own BIRTH OF A NATION?!?! Where's our CITIZEN KANE?!?!')...

But let's be honest- if the fans really felt this way, why would they be putting such passion and energy into trying to convince the world? I don't feel the need to convince you that I love cheese pizza, adore Marvel Comics, and think sitting at my kitchen table while having a great conversation with my family is one of my favorite things in the world to do. Those are all true statements, by the way. I just don't feel the need to sell you on that truth. Yes, I may occasionally ramble on about the benefits and joys of said things, but I don't feel the passionate need to convince you of the fact that I really enjoy them. Frankly, I'd rather be spending that energy and time actually enjoying cheese pizza, reading Marvel Comics, and chatting with the fam.

It's the same with 'games as art'. If artistic/meaningful games were even semi-close to being what so many 'games as art' supporters claim, many true believers would be saying, 'you either get it or you don't and it doesn't really matter to me because you not getting it doesn't take away my enjoyment of and my response to meaningful, artistic games'. But many supporters of the 'games as art' movement seem hell bent on convincing the world that GAMES. DO. MATTER. And come on, not to be a prick, but it's clear that this desire comes from the same place as the game maker's desire to create these sorts of arty games and the game press' desire to sell the 'GAMES HAVE ARRIVED' bullshit headline. And that place is: a deep seated insecurity born out of being a childhood/teenage outcast/geek.

Don't get me wrong. LOTS of great art has come- and will continue to come- from creators working through and allowing themselves- as adults- to feel the full brunt of childhood/teenage angst. But putting that angst IN THE WORK/ON THE STAGE/IN THE BOOK/ON THE SCREEN/IN THE PLAY MECHANICS is what matters and THAT is what makes something meaningful. Using that angst - and all that energy- to embrace, support, promote, and fight for a flawed theory (aka 'TODAY'S GAMES ARE AS- AND PERHAPS EVEN MORE- ARTISTIC AND EMOTIONALLY POWERFUL AS CINEMA AND LITERATURE') is sad at best and a waste of time at worst.

Now why do I care so much about all of this? Well part of it is- frankly- I got a SHIT TON of work to do this afternoon on Twisted Metal and we're running out of time and so I'm really anxious and nervous as all get out that we won't get it all done. That's just life in the game making biz. You NEVER get it all done. But it still makes me nervous as shit! So I'm procrastinating by blogging and tweeting about a subject that- no matter what any of us say today- is way too big and has way too many moving parts to predict what it will actually become in the next 5, 10, 100 years...So yeah, there's that. And so it's either blog away or stuff a mega sized cheese pizza into my pie hole. I guess I could simply be with and accept and feel the Twisted Metal anxiety and deal with it like an adult...but come on, who are we kidding? So yeah...there's that. But back to the point: why do I care about this subject so much?

Well the flip side to this whole thing is: those very same 'GAMES ARE ART!' accolades given out (by developers, press, and fans) to 'ART/MEANINGFUL GAMES' does damage to pure games.

'How?', you ask? Well I'll tell you:

Shining the powerful media light on these sorts of games- that tell you they are important but are not really all that engaging/interesting play wise and are nowhere near as emotional or meaningful as most B rate, night time dramas on network television-means that the media light and publisher cash gets taken away from traditional games. And because of this, traditional games are disrespected, devalued, and shown a lack of appreciation, understanding, and love for the very things the medium does so well, so effortlessly, and so successfully.

To shed copious print and e-ink (not to mention publisher marketing dollars) on a title just because it shouts loudly that it is art/important (where- upon closer inspection-said title is usually 'simply' a game ((and usually an average one at that)) cloaked in artistic robes created for- and custom tailored to fit- another medium) is a real problem.

To be going on and on about how games need to be/can be/should be/already are 'more' than 'just games'  to me disrespects the joy and happiness traditional games bring to the world. I don't know about you, but my life would be at least a little less fantastic (and probably a hell of a lot worse) without Baseball, Basketball, Chess, Chutes & Ladders, Old Maid, Ms. Pac Man, Zork, Super Mario Bros., Gears of War, Killzone 3, Guitar Hero, and Call of Duty:Black Ops Multiplayer.

See, I'm ok if games are never 'accepted' or 'legitimized' or called 'art' by those folks that many in the 'games as art' argument seem to care about  (although I accept that perhaps one day games may very well be viewed that way, by elitist snobs and your 'average' people alike). But I'm not ok if the progress of making pure games better and more successful is slowed or even stunted by a significant enough redistribution of energy, funds, and media attention into the 'games as art/games are important' camp.

Why doesn't more of the gaming press trumpet the amazing breakthrus in play mechanics every year? Why do television commercials have to sell me the story aspect of the game versus the actual gameplay aspect? Why not more features in the deeper/more serious gaming mags and game sites about things like the chronic problem of conceptual and thematic mismatch of certain play mechanics within the settings/worlds in which those play mechanics exist?

Why spend 2-10 million dollars on cut scenes whose power only super rarely comes close to the non interactive media choices we already have on television and at the movies? Wouldn't that money be better spent on more levels, more weapons, unique play mechanic experiments, extra development time to tune and polish the title until it shines? Wouldn't that money be better NOT SPENT AT ALL so the developer and publisher breaks even faster and bonuses and royalties flow into the pockets of those folks who busted ass to create the game to begin with?

I'm not an idiot. I like IP, I like game fiction, I like stories in SOME of my games. I get all that. I get and enjoy the value of all that. But not when it comes at a substantial expense to the very thing that makes the medium great to begin with: gameplay/interactivity.

Also, this whole thing just seems odd and wrong and broken at a gut level. I mean, check this out:

You don't see folks who love traditional paintings going on and on about how their favorite medium needs to step up and get better at doing car chases and action scenes.

You don't see folks who love reading books going on and on about how books need a symphonic score that plays while you read (and changes based on the page you are on) in order for literature to reach its full emotional and artistic potential.

So why with games can't we just love games for what they are and always have been?

And doesn't this strike you as a bit odd: The core idea/point of/power of a story was painted 35,000 years ago on a cave wall in Europe and that core idea of what a story is still survives to this day (in books, summer blockbusters, indie films, short stories,etc.) Yes, details and specifics about narrative structure and the like have changed (a bit) over time, but the core idea of what a story is and is supposed to do is the same.

And isn't this odd: the core idea of what a game was for/what a game did well was created and embraced over 5000 years ago with ancient titles like UR and Mancala and today that same core idea of what a game is still survives.

The same applies to music. Granted, the tunes played on the oldest musical instrument discovered (35,000 years ago!) would be a far cry from the stylings of Jay-Z, Kanye West, and Arcade Fire. But the core essence, the core idea of what music is and music's core purpose has not really changed in all that time.

So this idea of a story/games/meaning/art mashup seems very odd to me because in all of the time we've had games (analog and digital), if games COULD have been 'about' something and could have easily supported both narrative and play mechanics as a single unit, don't you think at least a FEW of those older, analog games from the past 5000 years would have AT LEAST hinted at such a thing? And in all that time, if STORIES could have used more interactivity to make them more meaningful to readers, don't you think at least a handful of stories (beyond CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE books) would have hinted at this? Don't you think readers from thousands of years ago would have naturally come to this conclusion/desire?


*Not to go off on an even larger tangent than the one I'm currently on, but this issue is strikingly similar to the debate between scientifically minded atheists/agnostics and certain evangelicals. Many hard core religious folks claim to already know many of the secrets of the universe (why we are here, what we're supposed to be doing, what happens after death) and they suggest we should just settle in and enjoy life by using an instruction book that was written- by MANY, MANY humans- some 2000-4000 years ago. In their minds, the case is closed, the day is done, the mystery is solved...let's eat! But to most scientifically minded atheists/agnostics that sort of thinking- and the insistence that others buy into that sort of thinking, many times at the expense of science-  is the very thing that STOPS man from getting closer and closer to life's currently unanswerable mysteries, as well as discovering new ones.

Friday, March 11, 2011


I love's me some Apple products, ya'll know I do. And I fucking think Steve Jobs is this generation's Willy Wonka/Walt Disney. I continue to be inspired and pushed and excited by their amazing work. All that said, the Apple Store in La Jolla can go fuck itself.

Great weekend ya'll!


ps. by the way, just to be 100% clear: in the above video when I say "I'm a fan of kicking your ass" or whatever it is like that that I say, this in NO WAY should be taken as me making a threat against Apple, ANY Apple store, ANY Apple employee, OR the Apple Store in UTC/LA JOLLA. I would not harm a fly unless the fly attacked me physically first.

I KNOW this is obvious from viewing the video but in this day of sue happy mother fuckers who either a) can't process things in proper context or b) CAN put things in context but choose to clog up the courts with bullshit lawsuits, I figured it made good sense to point that out. Thanks! :)

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Hey- peep my new video blog if you're into such nonsense :)

Mostly talking about remaining design decisions for Twisted Metal DeathMatch/Team Deathmatch.  Also chatting a bit about my GDC talk and hey: meet my new dog, Austin! 

Plus a preview of the next video blog (aka Kayne and Divorced Moms). So check it out! :)

Talk soon- hope all is well!


Tuesday, March 08, 2011


As fellow San Diego Comic Con freaks know, tomorrow at 9am hotel reservations open up for the show! Last year I was dying to get into the Omni but my amazing assistant ended up booking me at the Hard Rock hotel. And man, I'm glad she did! What a great Comic Con hotel! Right across the street from the center, all the geeky celebs stay there, and right at the start of the Gaslamp. It really makes for the perfect Comic Con experience!

So tomorrow at 9am we're gonna be REFRESHING our browsers and hitting REDIAL on our phones trying to get some of us Eat Sleep Players into the Hard Rock! Wish us luck! Unless you are competing with us for the same that case: FUCK OFF!!!! :)

So yeah, my brain is totally jonesing for those 4 amazing geek filled days in July! If you've never been, you just need to make the time. It's as simple as that. Nothing else comes close. Although to be fair, I've yet to attend either PAX convention (but I will be at PAX PRIME this summer). But even still, Comic Con is one of my top 2 or 3 fave times of the year.

Hell, I'm so jazzed I ordered this off Amazon yesterday...and it just came! :)

It's a big ol' coffee table book chronicling the 40 years of San Diego Comic Con. Check it out:

Tons of cool art...covers from all the Comic Con programs from 1970 till last year....

And then lots of great candids from the show itself! 

Man I'm digging this book! Makes the wait for July a little less painful!

Ok ya'll- back to work! Hope ya'll are doing great! Talk soon!


Sunday, March 06, 2011


Yes, I'm back. No long explanations, no super secretive reasons. The team and I have just been super busy with the game and so it's been much faster to stay in touch via Twitter. But I'm back now. Got a lot to say these days, lots of cool stuff going on to observe and chat about ,etc.

So let's begin, shall we? 

First up: Twisted Metal made the cover of the new GAMEPRO! Check it out!

Thanks for all the work and support GamePro! Super appreciated by us all! The cover and the article turned out just great!

Also, thanks for the Bunnies idea! If we're fortunate enough to do a TWISTED METAL 2, now I know the FIRST thing I want to propose to the team! :)

And before I forget: to some of the fans out there complaining that we didn't spill any new game specific beans in the article:

#1- I think this is a fantastic and very informative article about the history of the series, some cool behind the scenes stuff, insight into how we make the games and work as a team, a few new pieces of art that shows off what could be coming down the line. 

#2-We know ya'll want new info and I promise: new game related info is coming very soon. It's not my place to go into the PR strategies or give out information release dates but rest assured: the game is coming along GREAT, it WILL hit store shelves in 2011, and sooner than later we're gonna start showing our hand. 

We were actually going to unveil some new stuff at last week's GDC (and the team busted ASS to get the build looking and playing AMAZING!)... but at the last minute we decided to pull it. We all just felt that Twisted Metal is the kind of title that needs more attention and time than we would get by being sandwiched in between some of the MEGATON news announcements that dropped at last week's show.

To put it another way: so many games these days are big, epic, story events and Twisted Metal is PROUDLY and LOUDLY a GAME above all else! So we felt the game's next big reveal needed a little more breathing room than we would get at GDC; away from the bombast of the epic story based games and announcements/displays of next-gen tech. For us, the next time we show off the game we want to really make it clear that- to journalists and fans alike- that we feel we have something really fun and really special in today's market. 

Thanks for understanding! 

Ok- last thing for now:

Here is the AMAZING original cover done by one of Eat Sleep Play's super star concept artists. I'm happy to tell you his name but I need to ask him if it's ok first. Some of the team is happy to do press and put their names out and about while others like to keep a low profile and stay out of the press/spotlight. In the meantime- as Will.I.Am says- check this motherfucker out! 

Isn't that just so cool?!?

We're very grateful Gamepro worked with us at the last second to get Tooth driving his truck in the pic (we didn't want people to confuse the game with a FPS or 3rd Person Shooter vs. the pure vehicle combat game that it is. To people reading this blog, most of ya'll know full and well that TM is all about vehicle battles BUT new fans or fans who have neen away for a while might be confused and we didn't want that). BUT the original image- like the final Gamepro cover-is freaking amazing! And so I wanted to share! :)

And here it is mega big in case you want to- oh I dunno- make it your wallpaper or take it to your tat artist or somesuch :)...

Nice to be back blogging ya'll! Will be tweeting as well so keep following twitter if I've been informing and entertaining you all avec the tweets! 

So that's it for now. We got Panda Express downstairs and the smell of fried rice and chow mein is wafting up the steps. So I gotsta run! 

Take it easy ya'll!