Is David Jaffe Crazy? - D.I.C.E. 2012

Twisted Metal creator David Jaffe gives a presentation on why games shouldn't tell stories.

David Jaffe thinks developers shouldn't tell stories in their games, and he spent his D.I.C.E. 2012 session explaining why. He called the combination of cinematic storytelling and gameplay two great tastes that don't taste great together, something like chocolate and tuna fish. The original God of War designer got into games specifically to do that, but he eventually came to think of it as a dead end and ultimately dangerous path to pursue.

Jaffe talked about his years with Sony and the electronics giant's efforts to support storytelling advances in games. In fact, Jaffe's Santa Monica studio was at various points involved with the development of Team Bondi's L.A. Noire and the cancelled Six Days in Fallujah specifically because of those titles' storytelling aspirations. Despite that, Jaffe has come to the conclusion that developers in the industry "have let our gameplay muscles atrophy" in pursuit of story.

As for who's doing it right, Jaffe pointed to Deus Ex designer Harvey Smith, saying his grasp of intertwining player-authored stories is the best way to handle things.

Jaffe thinks you think he's crazy. Do you? Let us know in the comments below.

The D.I.C.E. Summit (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) is a once yearly conference dedicated to exploring approaches to the creative process and artistic expression as they uniquely apply to the development of interactive entertainment. It is organized by the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences and hosts the annual Interactive Achievement Awards, which celebrate the best games of the past year, as voted by AIAS members. Comedian Jay Mohr will return to host the awards show, which takes place on February 9.

For more, check out GameSpot's coverage page, which will feature full video of every panel and keynote address from the 2012 D.I.C.E. Summit.

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Discussion

24 comments
Reaverking
Reaverking

I hate this guy. He always comes off as a disrespectful prick He needs to show more respect for his peers and what they want to create

anticusho1984
anticusho1984

that's not true, there are some games like mario that don't really have story and are good but it's the minority, look assasins creed II which I think it's the best was successful because of it's story, first dead space didn't have cut scene just some moments were somebody will talk to Isaac and it had a story, that's what give you the reason to keep playing wonder what would happen next

mystic_knight
mystic_knight moderator

He is a little bit of a fool. He said deus ex did it right... but that game has a story... :? I would love to see an rpg excel because of game play and no story... sorry but it will never happen, simply because it doesn't work that way, i played twisted metal and the gameplay is now worse than its previous titles and it has no story. So he should focus on his projects more than talking trash about his ultra zealous without good intent beliefs.

real_shengar
real_shengar

And, I do really hate people whom said "if you want story, read books or watch movies". really guys, are you that shallow? Do you really think that all happened in inFamous, Red Dead Redemption, Grand Theft Auto can be packed in 2 hours length film? Can words in book acurately describe the physical form, and emotion of Niko Bellic, Big Boss, and John Marston? Can words really gives the same experience to us of what Chief have gone through in HALO game? no. That's why game aren't bad storytelling medium. They have picture and animation of movies with length of books. If you don't like game with cutscene, then don't play. It is as simple as that.

real_shengar
real_shengar

Of course he very crazy. Many games are memorable because of their story. Because story can also be the source of fun as well, not only the gameplay. Of course I did not justify that a game's gameplay should be hindered just for story. It is named GAME afterall. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy game with no story whatsoever like PvZ but try to generalize that every should be like that, That what I called mad and crazy. Davi Jeffe should shame of himself since God of War have rather okay story.

deviant74
deviant74

I think he said he doesn't want story, or going for realism, to get in the way of fun. I for one don't like cut scenes making to many choices for me, or telling me why my friend died, or why I couldn't kill someone. I don't like walking some place and looking around and notice this would be a great place for an ambush. So I try to go around, just to hit invisible walls. Why can't my story go and Deviant74 wasn't a dumb s***. There is still lot's of places for cut scenes and story. At the start of the game, Any time I'm going out just to have a good time, love making, any time someone is asking me to do something.

Vividnightmare
Vividnightmare

Is he crazy? no way. Is he over killing the detriment of story? Oh yeah. The fact is games are an art form, which means it can be anything the artist wants. Be it hardcore game play or epic stories. They both have their place, if Jaffe wants to make storyless games then let him, if his games are good and fun then they'll be great. Twisted metal is an obvious example, the overall story doesn't matter you just want blow things up, which is awesome cause so do I. But at the same time some of my favorite games of all times are FF7, Dead Space, Alan Wake and Silent Hill. With a worthy mention of McGees Alice series and the Batman Arkham series. These games combined awesome game play with interactive stories that let's face it, should make hollywood ashamed. But even after spending hours playing MGS4 and watching it's endless cut scene and having a blast, I still enjoy going back to something like Geometry Wars and just blowing up everything too. There is no all or nothing answer, saying that all games should be storyless is idiotic, but so is saying that all games should be deep and dramatic. Why with all the extremism people? Games can be anything the creators want, they don't ALL have to be the same one way OR another.

keech
keech

@Renunciation I think his point was more that when a game stops being a game in order to tell a story, It's not a good thing. He kind of lost his focus on the speech and that idea was spread a little thin, but I don't think he's wrong exactly. ----------------------- All too often when I play games that have fantastic stories that I can't wait to get deeper into, the gameplay feels like more of an annoyance. Mass Effect is one of my favorite examples, love the story. But all too often I just wanted the actual gameplay segments to end so the story could continue, because frankly the gameplay wasn't very good. The fact that Nintendo has never lost sight of the fact that their games are in fact games is respectful. Do you see Zelda having crazy scripted linear set pieces like Uncharted? So you see Mario struggling with the guilt of having killed thousands of koopa troopers and goombas? You don't because Nintendo realizes it detracts from the actual experience of PLAYING the game.

monco59
monco59

Yes, Jaffe is crazy. Gameplay has not suffered because of story, but rather, because of graphics. Most AAA titles today have sub-standard storytelling, but most, if not all, sport a 10+ million dollar budget for graphics and marketing.

b09boy
b09boy

Video games are coming to a stage where developers are beginning to realize it's not just about gameplay. They are slowly coming to find that this form of media offers more than action or platforming. Video games are unique in that they offer people the opportunity to interact with a world, whether that be through story or combat. Is story strictly required? No. There's a place still for the story-less games. But is gameplay strictly required? No. Because there's also a place for interactive stories. In the end, the overall quality of a game comes from the overall experience. Gameplay is big in that, but there are subtleties in music, atmosphere and, yes, stories, which makes games more enjoyable. What would Metal Gear Solid be without its wide array of memorable characters, if it was just a stealth/action title? What would Ocarina of Time be without the cheery Castle Town music, haunting Malon's Song or epic Overworld theme? What would the ending of Mass Effect be like without the scale of what's happening around you? What's Bastion without the narration? Games are an experience, not limited to simply how polished the controls are and how not stupid the AI is. Every aspect tends to matter. This doesn't mean developers shouldn't make games based purely around gameplay, but it's more doubtful people will pay full price for such a game. Such games certainly have a place, though. They are the innovators, without which the fuller titles wouldn't be able to steal ideas from.

thereal-15-cent
thereal-15-cent

Not every game needs a good story... But c'mon, some of the best games in the last several years have all had a great story. The Mass Effect series, Metal Gear, GTA, RDR, Halo, F.E.A.R., Heavy Rain, and the list goes on. Personally, I'm not a big fan of Metal Gear's 10 minute cutscenes... I like Mass Effect's player choice type of story. They need to make a game where the player has control over almost the entire storyline...

poster012
poster012

@Renunciation His speech was a little over the top and hard to watch at times, but I completely agree with him. I can't remember the last game that I played which had really good story-telling. Yeah, I played the Witcher 2. It was okay; don't get me wrong it was leaps and bounds above games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, but in the end, nonlinear story-telling is just crap. Total crap. Seriously, when was the last time you read a choose your own adventure book and said to yourself, "that was awesome"? Just like Jaffe said, if I want a good story, I'll read a book or watch a movie. There have been very games in which I enjoyed the story... and they were all linear. The greatest abominations to stories are quests. Nothing makes makes me care less about a story than some stupid task... games like Skyrim and Kingdoms of Amalur. Skyrim was great, mainly because I could ignore most of it and have fun. I did maybe 20 of their structured quests (including the main quest). However, with Kingdoms of Amalur, it's basically a long sting of fetch quests. They obviously put a lot of work behind giving them context and voicing all of the scenes, but at the end of the day, it's pretty much single-player WoW. It's pretty much a action/loot/numbers game; and if they would have focused more on that, it would have been more fun. And that's my point, and I think Jaffe's, too. Games need to concentrate on what they're really about.

AnimeNutJill
AnimeNutJill

@Renunciation Well said my friend. Kudos to you.

AnimeNutJill
AnimeNutJill

I feel like punching this guy's teeth in. All the games that get the honor of being named GOTY and are talked about for decades are games that have the combination of great story-telling & great gameplay. Those are the examples that prove it can be done successfully. The problem is a lot of these developers are too concerned with ratings & making money instead of making the great art that video gaming could be. I'll give him kudos in praising interactive narrative games though cuz those are my favorite types of games.

spiceynice
spiceynice

Dark Souls is the best example of player created narrative and with the online element it's even more dynamic.

Renunciation
Renunciation

To add: If anyone actually listened to the entire broadcast, Jaffe DOES support cutscenes in video games. I won't listen to it again to get the exact quote (I'd rather extract my eyeballs from their sockets with fish hooks), but he clearly has no problem with them.

Renunciation
Renunciation

I can't believe I wasted 23 minutes of my life listening to this dude. Listening to David Jaffe was like listening to a new religious convert: tons of passion about an abstract idea, lots of words, and a deceptively simple message. Jaffe spends 22 and a half minutes describing the "problem", damning the problem, talking about himself and his work and inspiration... and less than half a minute naming games which are good examples of his new philosophy. He damns the idea of making games based on stories, but offers no new innovative ideas for games to progress away from being story-based. While I do see some good sense in his ideas, his ideas just do not work across the board. He names Call of Duty and Skyrim as games which adhere to his philosophy. Both are successful games, certainly. Yet, Jaffe ignores the success and popularity of story-heavy games such as the Metal Gear series, Resident Evil, Final Fantasy, Myst, and (arguably) Grand Theft Auto / Red Dead Redemption. The bottom line is simply this: a game can be great and entertaining whether or not it is centered around a particular story. There is a reason why a "Best Story" category exists in the gaming world, and a reason why games like "To the Moon" win.

LemonSquiggle
LemonSquiggle

Metal Gear Solid was like that; story, story, story, story, story, gameplay, gameplay, gameplay, gameplay, story, story, story, story... for crying out loud, let me play the game already!! Great game when you got to do something. Just don't let the developer's story take over. Simples.

moonlightwolf01
moonlightwolf01

He's kind of right and wrong at the same time, The best implementation of story I've ever seen was the witcher because it tied story so strongly to your decisions that the story became a gameplay element. Cutscenes are the bane of storytelling in most genres because they take the player out of the experience, that why Half-life 2 engages you with its world and story far better than Gears of War. RPG's seem to get away with cutscenes though and that's probably because the stories are player directed, if story is well written and well implemented then it can define a game and make it stand out even among similar titles. Rather than forgetting story and focusing solely on gameplay you should make the story part of the gameplay.

23Jarek23
23Jarek23

It can be great if it's done right like Uncharted.

aganinja
aganinja

GO jeffe you rule man YOU'RE F**KING AWESOME

poster012
poster012

I agree. Most stories in games are crap.

masha2932
masha2932

I agree gameplay should always take precedence over cinematics and cutscenes