David Jaffe isn’t interested in growing up if his latest game is any indication.

At Sony’s PlayStation Experience fan event in Las Vegas earlier this month, the God of War and Twisted Metal director finally unveiled Drawn to Death. It’s a four-player free-for-all arena shooter with an art style that the developer described as looking like a 13-year-old’s notebook. I went played it, and the game felt solid, but it also felt early. And that’s because it is still very early on in production, and Jaffe says that tons of things could change. In fact, one of the reasons he was excited about attending PSX was to talk with people to see what they liked and what they hated.

Jaffe spent the full two days of the fan event holding focus tests to ask players for their thoughts, and I butted in with a few questions to see how he was feeling.

“I think it’s going great,” Jaffe told GamesBeat. “It’s nice when we have fans coming by.”


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As I talked to Jaffe, he gestured to group of four people talking to members of his development team, The Bartlet Jones Supernatural Detective Agency. The members of the studio who showed up to help asked gamers things like “would you want more players”” or “did you prefer shooting or melee?”

After more than a day of talking to people, the team had already put together a list of 700 items they want to address.

“We’re going to take the top 20 things from that list and just start hammering away,” he said. “We want to continue making what we already planned, but now we also want to address these issues 20 at a time.”

Out of the 700 issues, gamers brought up three or four multiple times. When I went through and played, our focus-test session was very unhappy with the melee attacks and understanding what the powerups did. It turns out that was a common theme for Bartlet Jones.

“There’s a lot of obvious, low-hanging fruit,” said Jaffe. “Like ‘this pickup doesn’t explain itself very well.’ But then there’s more philosophical challenges. The biggest thing being that people seem to appreciate the depth of the game, but we haven’t put a lot of work into educating players how to swim in the deep end. And we also need to make sure that the shallow end is fun enough that they are willing to get to that deep end. That’s terrible right now in the game.”

As an example, he embarrassingly explained that people were asking for a melee button.

“But there is a melee button,” he said shaking his head. “We just did a terrible job teaching you that.”

As rough as the game is in some aspects, Jaffe is not surprised that players are having difficulty with ideas as simple as melee. The game is “pr-alpha.” It will go into alpha soon, and the developer hopes to open it up to everyone on PlayStation Network.

This brought us to the topic of potentially releasing the game as “Early Access” on PSN. That’s the concept where developers release unfinished games at a discount and use those funds to complete production. The Bartlet Jones website even mentioned “early access” for the game, but Jaffe says that was a misunderstanding.

“I would love for PlayStation to do early access, but what we meant is that if you sign up on our website, you’ll get early access to the alpha or the beta,” he said. “It’s not like Steam Early Access. I’ve read that Sony is thinking about Early Access, but we’re not involved in it.”

Instead, Drawn to Death will go through the typical alpha- and beta-testing phases, and the company won’t sell access to that. He’s also insistent that his game is in a real pre-alpha state.

“I saw someone online get all cynical and say something about how alpha is just another word for demo,” he said. “And I was like, ‘No, you fucker.’ We get paid when we hit milestones. One of our milestones is alpha, and we’re not even there yet. I assure you this is prealpha or else I’d have more money in my bank account.”

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