David Jaffe: Console Design Is "Annoying Customers"
Sometimes all you want to do after a hard day of work or school is go home and spend a few hours playing your favorite games. There are also times when you pre-order a game and pick it up early just so you can get in a quick gaming session before heading off to your daily routine. Many of us hate popping a game in and having to sit through lengthy install times, tedious loading screens, and the ever-constant software update. So does God of War and Twisted Metal creator David Jaffe. During a short speech at GDC, Jaffe voiced his frustration with modern hardware design choices, naming software updates, game installation, and other such waiting periods as flaws in today's game and console design. "For me, there are times I've wanted to play a new console game but I just don't because I don't want to deal with all the ramp-up time," stressed Jaffe.
The founder of Eat Sleep Play mentioned that while games on consoles are certainly enjoyable, the waiting period from when you start up a console to the moment you open your save file is driving gamers toward mobile, handheld, and online gaming, especially since those formats have made considerable progress over the past few years. "Portable game time is going way up, but why? Those of us in the console space are actually making choices that push our customers away," said Jaffe. "The gap of time from pressing 'on' to actually beginning to play is getting longer and it's annoying customers."
Jaffe specified that if he can get instant gaming from a portable device such as a DS, PSP, or iPad, he'd much rather dive into a game immediately through those machines rather than waiting upwards of 15 minutes to actually start playing, especially when wanting to play in short bursts. The game designer mentioned a number of solutions, such as the ability to go from a console's main menu straight to the game save, skipping load times and logos at the start of a game. He also talked about the implementation of a sleep function for consoles, so that gamers won't have to boot up their systems every time they want to return to a game. Lastly, Jaffe made a comment regarding software updates, receiving huge applause from the GDC crowd in the process. "Hardware manufacturers, I feel, should only allow one to four updates to the software per game every year," said the designer. "And none of them should come in the first one or two months of the game shipping. When I first started in the business, the games we shipped was our last chance off the bat."
Jaffe also discussed making shorter games, as opposed to purposely lengthy titles that justify a high price tag, as well as smaller, more personal online gaming experiences. It's hard not to agree on most of these points. Lengthy load times and software updates put a damper on the gaming experience for many consumers, and while games with extensive play times are certainly welcome, developers need to focus on keeping the entire experience fresh in order to avoid serious overkill. Jaffe's statements make you wonder what design choices will go into the upcoming Twisted Metal when it launches for PlayStation 3 later this year.