What I think is cool about it is you can start the game with four players. We went with four as the maximum because, again, this is super polarizing for some people, but the idea was — usually shooters have 16 or 32 players, some even have 64 on the field. We wanted to be sure that it was a deeper experience, where you could pay attention to who you were fighting and what their tactics were. Does this character that I’m fighting have a pro or a con against the one I’m using?
We started with eight characters in development. Whenever we had more than four, it just felt too chaotic. We said, “Let’s get the very best version of the game that ticks those boxes, making a hybrid shooter-brawler.” Four is where we ended up. What I love about it, if someone drops out as you’re playing, the level changes. It gets smaller. The rule set changes. It’s constantly adjusting based on how many players are in there to give everyone a good time.
This is the core death match that unlocks after unranked. It’s about making defense matter in a game like this. Usually it’s just, fuck it, kill things, and if you die you respawn and go back in. In this one, every time you lose a point, and it’s the first to five. It forces you to play defensively. It forces you to learn where the health is, not just run and gun the whole game through. All of these decisions move toward building an experience that will hopefully engage in the player in that moment to moment, on the field battle, more than a lot of shooters might.
GB: Have you thought about letting players draw their own things into the game?
Jaffe: Kind of? We’re not launching with it, but — I’ll show you our taunt system in a second. All the characters are able, in the lobby, to text taunt, as well as to give taunts. These are taunts you can unlock in the game. Down the road it’s possible that we will give players the ability to make their own.
We had looked at the idea of in-game user-generated content. The problem is, thematically the wrapper works for us, but the minute we start giving the player that level of expression — which I think is very creatively fun – it does pull away from the story of the world we’re trying to tell. Even in that last one, there’s stuff where he talks about his parents’ divorce. I’ll show you some of the skybox stuff, where you get a sense that he’s been sent to detention, and why. If we open the door up for everyone to put in crazy stuff, our worry is that it de-legitimizes the fiction we’re trying to express.
Here’s the detention slip. This is stuff you have to go out of your way to find. What’s in the sky box? There’s notes between him and the girl in class. This tells him about dealing with this kid in class who’s being a dick to him. There’s all kinds of little gags in the game, things to discover.
GB: [One character has a monkey on his back, pooing and throwing his poo]. A monkey on his back.
Jaffe: Exactly. This is a freezing homer. If someone’s leaping in the air — let me see if I can land that. That’s a grenade you can have, the defense grenade. You throw it and it creates a barrier in the level. But she’ll also poop out a bomb sometimes. She has very powerful attacks, but it comes at a cost.
This is the shax, which is a mix between a shotgun and an ax. If you get close enough to someone and do enough damage, you see these blades. Now I have two of them. You play this little mini-game here, and when you win it, these blades do a huge amount of damage if you can score a hit.
This is a mode called organ donor, where if you kill people, they lose hearts. You collect the hearts and bring them to these bases that are moving around. Some of them that move slowly are worth only one point when you deposit there. Other bases are worth more points, but it takes longer to deposit. This character has blood in the water, so she can tell when someone’s close to death. Here’s Uncle Joe, who can fire this dude in a coffin.
I’m on this gun. If someone was down there and paying attention, because we put a really good health pickup over here, there’s a lot of mechanics in the level themselves. Someone can come down here — in this case I could shoot the gun if somebody was on it. It fires and does an instant kill. There’s all these little gimmicks and gags hidden in the level for players to explore.
It’s very much inspired by great Nintendo games, in the sense of — everything in those games where you thought, “I wonder if I could do this,” and it pays off. Even though this is a much more bawdy, R-rated version of that, we wanted to build in that same joy that comes from — like, if you shoot the slot machine it’ll spin out a pickup. It could be good or bad, depending. All the levels are filled with those different kinds of secrets. If the other guy doesn’t know this secret location here, you’re good, but he happens to know it. There’s a lot to learn, a lot to take in.
The main thing to take away, or at least I hope so, is that there’s a lot to this. There’s a lot of mechanics. She’s got a defense move where if you’re running and you do a normal jump, it’ll do a back shield. You can also do one that does a rotation. If you have a weapon lined up, it’ll flip you around and you can hit somebody chasing you.
GB: Do you feel like this part of a David Jaffe genre in some way? Is it similar to your past games?
Jaffe: I don’t know. That’s for someone else to decide, really. It’s the evolution — it’s not lost on me that it’s probably a very difficult game to demo for people. That’s why I brought these, because at least this helps visualize the level of variety and complexity to the characters, and hopefully some of the weapons. It’s a hard game to sit in front of someone and not think you’re overwhelming them. I get that.
I would say it’s a continual evolution of my love affair with mechanics. I started out in games wanting to do more storytelling, and relatively quickly I realized that’s not what I love about games. I love interactivity. I love the mental engagement that comes when you’re into a great game, whether it’s the new Zelda, or Hearthstone, which is one of my favorite games. This is a representation of my take on the meatiest, mechanics-heavy game I’ve made.