Gi Live London graphic

Connect with the UK Video Games Industry

Buy Your Tickets Today
Gi Live London graphic

God of War, Twisted Metal designer David Jaffe pursuing free-to-play project

Jaffe tells us why he hates certain parts of F2P and how he hopes to create F2P that won't piss gamers off

It was roughly four years ago that David Jaffe formed Eat Sleep Play. Earlier this year, he decided to leave the studio to pursue a different kind of project at a brand-new game company he's building in San Diego, but he was staying on to finish up Twisted Metal. Now, however, he's officially confirmed that he's no longer an employee at Eat Sleep Play. The big question is what he's working on next. Jaffe confirmed to GamesIndustry International in an E3 interview today that he's working on a free-to-play shooter.

Jaffe described his thinking in great detail and why he settled on free-to-play, and he also talked at length about wanting to change the typical free-to-play model so that core gamers will be more likely to embrace it.

"I had probably 10 concepts and I wasn't sure which one I really wanted to focus on, so a lot of my time has been spent whittling that down and finally saying, 'This is the one.' So I'm fleshing that out and generating assets for a lot of concept art... kinda just getting up a rough prototype, and then just figuring out who the team exactly is going to be. That's what a lot of my meetings have been about today [at E3]. From that spectrum of games I had [in mind], I had people saying, 'Hey Jaffe, we want you to come work on this big triple- or quadruple-A next-gen thing' and the kind of team you need for that is very different from what we're ultimately doing, which is a free-to-play, browser-based, third-person shooter," he revealed.

"You can listen to developers all day long tell you it's not pay to win, but you know, it kind of is pay to win... one of the things they like to say is pay with your time or pay with your money. Well both of those are really shitty"

David Jaffe

"I hate free-to-play but I love aspects of it. I love the instant-on, I love the low to no barrier of entry to get all kinds of people to jump in and play, I love the fact that you're sitting there at lunch and can play for five minutes or you can get sucked in and play for three hours. You don't have to sit there and power up your f***ing machine and go through legal screens and load screens and load the game. I know that sounds kind of petty but when you think of all the distractions and fragmentation of entertainment today, for me that's kind of a pain. I'll choose to do other things rather than sit down and load up a triple-A game unless it's super, super special," he continued.

For Jaffe, gameplay is king and the gameplay in browsers or on phones can be just as good as on consoles, he asserts.

"When I started thinking about it with regards to pure gameplay, the games that I can get on an iPhone or iPad or something that's simpler or quicker to access, I'd say are 90 to 95 percent as good or better - just in terms of game mechanics - as what I'm playing on next-gen. That next-gen stuff 5 to 10 percent of the time is worth it because you're getting great gameplay, amazing spectacle, bleeding edge graphics and that's wonderful but most of the games that come out and put themselves in that $60 box, I don't get enough that I stay away from my other devices these days."

The biggest thing for Jaffe now is figuring out how to build a successful free-to-play product that's successful and isn't "pay to win."

"So while I love parts of free-to-play, I hate other parts. I hate how it's like the tail wagging the dog and it's the business model and all about getting people to pay [with more micro-transactions]. You can listen to developers all day long tell you it's not pay to win, but you know, it kind of is pay to win. I'm not saying they're evil or they're lying - but one of the things they like to say is pay with your time or pay with your money. Well both of those are really shitty," Jaffe commented.

"Let's take a shooter - if you think about what's happened with shooters, so much of what makes shooters today work (and it's unfortunate that sometimes it's the only thing that makes them work besides graphics and spectacle) is sort of the morphine drip of powering up and leveling up. So if you're saying pay with your time, you're saying have sort of a crappy time because we're stretching out those morphine drips really long because we want to motivate you to pay. And if you pay immediately and get the really cool stuff, then suddenly you don't have that meta desire for a while to go back to it and to want to keep playing," he added.

At this point in time, Jaffe's company and project is very much in a nascent stage, so he simply wants to ensure that he's working with people on a team that will share his vision for free-to-play: "For me it's about starting a company and finding the right group of people that really believe in this vision that there's great stuff about free-to-play but we want to make it genuinely for gamers. And I know a lot of people say that, but what they mean is we're making games that are thematically and mechanically appealing to gamers, but then we're going to f**k it all up with a business model that kind of pisses gamers off and keeps gamers away."

"So there's nothing original in my saying I want to make free-to-play for gamers. It's really about how we're going to execute our version of what that means. So that's what I'm extremely passionate about and what we're building."

"While there are people who love the stuff I've worked on and I love that they love that, there are probably an equal number of people who just think I'm an asshole"

David Jaffe

In terms of funding and publishing, Jaffe said that working with a publisher is an option, venture capital is an option and even Kickstarter is a possibility. Jaffe remarked how he spent much of a party the previous night talking with Tim Schafer and Ron Gilbert and Jenova Chen, and hearing from Schafer all about Kickstarter was enlightening for him.

That said, he does have some concerns about going the Kickstarter route. "There are so many cool things we could do with this on Kickstarter... but most Kickstarters are 'give me $15 and you get the game' but we're free-to-play. What's great about this - and why I hate that free-to-play has gotten such a bad rap - is you should be able to strip away the entire business model of free-to-play and what's left is just as good as any other game. That's thing thing - I want to be able to know that if I go Kickstarter, I want to be able to properly communicate to people that the game underneath is meant to be a great game outside of the business model," Jaffe emphasized.

"So if you donate a certain amount and get access to everything, that's not f***ing it up. You're getting a great game without having to pay more than what you might pay with free-to-play [under the typical business model]. I can't even articulate it yet; I just don't want to disrespect people and say 'oh it's free-to-play and give me 15 bucks' because as a gamer I'd go 'it's f***ing free-to-play dude.'

Jaffe also wondered aloud about how perceptions of himself amongst gamers and business folks could affect the project, especially if he goes with Kickstarter.

"The other part that fascinates me about it is if I go out to the world and I go to Sony and VC guys and publishers, and I say I want to do free-to-play but I want to change up this business model... I don't know if they're going to be like, 'Dude, f**k you, World of Tanks works, Battlefield Heroes works, so thanks but no thanks.' So if that's the case then maybe the Kickstarter audience would be a great way to go... so it's absolutely something we're thinking about but I haven't made a decision. I'm kind of scared to go Kickstarter, truth be told. Because I'm kind of divisive," he acknowledged.

"Schafer's not only known but he's loved. Who doesn't love Tim Schafer? He's a super nice guy and has given the world great entertainment. And while there are people who love the stuff I've worked on and I love that they love that, but there are probably an equal number of people who just think I'm an asshole. And I'm not but because of the way I present myself... I don't make a conscious choice to be outspoken but I do think a lot of people walk around being too buttoned up and I think it's not healthy. I think there's a balance - I'm not saying just say anything that comes to your mind but I think as a society we should let ourselves shine through a bit more. But my point is that I'm more polarizing than Tim Schafer and if I go out there with a Kickstarter and it doesn't work, a) it sucks, and b) what message does that send to someone I might go to in order to raise money from a VC guy?"

It would certainly be an interesting test of Kickstarter and perhaps a measure of Jaffe's popularity with gamers. We'll bring you more on his company and project as we hear it.

Gi Live London graphic

Connect with the UK Video Games Industry

Buy Your Tickets Today
Gi Live London graphic

More stories

Minority Media becomes Meta4 Interactive

Papo & Yo dev rebrands as it focuses on VR development, metaverse content creation, and location-based entertainment

By Jeffrey Rousseau

EA: Publishers have a responsibility to demystify video games for parents

Samantha Ebelthite discusses EA's awareness campaign with Internet Matters and her new role as vice chair of UKIE

By James Batchelor

Latest comments (4)

One thing that bugs me about F2P is - surely there must be a model whereby you can complete the whole game without ever having to contribute towards purchasing upgrades, but optionally any purchases should be either cosmetic or enhance gameplay but NOT vital towards enjoying the game in its entirety.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 9 years ago
The current model works on addiction, plain and simple. If you broke it down and told a user: "You can pay $40 and get the entire game experience, start to finish for free, but it won't include special goodies like gold underwear and flaming hairpins OR you can get the first five hours or less for FREE, but pay as you go for new levels and content, which will end up costing you dozens to hundreds of dollars. Pick one." I bet the $40 game would win out among a smart consumer who want to play at his/her own pace and explore the game as the prefer.

But those gold underwear and flaming hairpins and levels that should have been in the game proper ARE always too damn tempting to pass up once you're hooked and need your fix, I guess...
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Roberto Bruno Curious Person 9 years ago
Here's usually my problem with F2P games: while I can understand that they are supposed to be free just as a trial version and they aim to convince the player to pay money, which I'm totally fine with, they usually have a monetizing model based on exploiting the player's addiction, pushing him/her to spend insane amounts of dollars for trivial gains.

Let's take Vindictus as an example: of course it offers for free pretty much all you need to play, but if by any chance you decide that you like the game and you are willing to pay for the extra features, then you have to face ridiculous things like "ten dollars for the skin of a leather jacket, other five dollars for a hat" and so on.

What about a free2play model where if I decide that I'm fine with buying your game, because I like it enough to care for the extra features, skins, etc, then I can do it at a reasonable price, with an all-included package and without feeling an idiot who's throwing away his money in the process?
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (4)
Brian Lewis Operations Manager, PlayNext9 years ago
P2P is about getting the money up front. Once they have paid, they get the game, but unless they pay, they dont get anything. This usually results in standardized pricing (and discounting over time).

F2P is about getting the money on the back end. They get the game up front, and have to be convince to pay extra for stuff. The more options for payment, the greater the chance that they will pay something. This results in a huge range of pricing.

If only 10% of F2P customers every pay anything, then those smaller numbers have to pay more to reach the same sales figures as P2P, where no one gets to play for free.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Brian Lewis on 11th June 2012 4:15pm

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.