In many people's eyes, Nintendo won 2005 in terms of the really, actually "new" games. But even so, Sony America's God of War was the highest-ranked original game in your Top 50, and number two overall. We couldn't find much to put ahead of it either, and there was a lot of internal debate about its position. In an early draft of our Top 50, God of War was actually behind a couple of games it wound up in front of when all the votes were counted, prompting Kieron - who experienced it in full when he was trying to put Spartan: Total Warrior in context - to bombard us with invective most of which centred on our diminished manhood.
For example, Mario Kart was going to be ahead of it. "Okay. Are we seriously saying this a website where everyone would rather have a mushroom race against Princess Pooble and some manner of immigrant hired help on a handheld toy rather than SNATCH A HARPY FROM THE AIR, TEAR ITS WINGS OFF AND THEN PROCEED TO HOWL A CELEBRATION OF YOUR ENDLESS PUSIANCE AT THE BLOOD RED MOON??!?! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU ALL?" Later we got some more votes that turned things around.
Anyway, we thought we'd send David Jaffe some email about its position. God knows what Kieron would make about his love of Phil Collins.
Eurogamer: God of War stepped into an overcrowded genre using a fairly popular premise, but still won out. You must have been pretty convinced you knew what you were doing...
David Jaffe: I was 100 per cent convinced that we were making the game that I had always wanted to play. I had no clue if others would like it, but I didn't really care. And I didn't care because I didn't know how many more opportunities I would have to have a shit load of cash, a great team, and lots of development time. It seemed disrespectful to that very rare situation NOT to just go for it and follow my gut 100 per cent of the time. That said, I never assumed we would be a hit. There were days I thought we were going to go big and days I thought we'd flop. But even flopping - for me - was ok because I don't want to be in this business if I can't do projects that come from my gut and soul. It's too hard of a job and it doesn't pay enough for you to do it if you are not following your dreams, you know?
Eurogamer: Obviously things went well for you. What gives you the greatest satisfaction when you look back at the game? Have you played it much since it came out?
David Jaffe: No, I have not played it and have no desire to do so. When I see people playing games I have worked on I tend to not even recognize the games... I'm like: is that Twisted Metal? Is that God of War? Because when you make the game, you really throw yourself into it with all your heart and soul and then - when it's over - it's like you want nothing to do with the thing ever again. Maybe when I'm older, I can look back and enjoy the games. But I am enjoying them when I come up with the ideas. When I first think up - or hear about - a cool idea for a game, I get the same charge just hearing the idea as a player does experiencing it for the first time in the actual game. So by the time the game is finished, I'm just so sick of it cause I've already been thinking about it for over a year.
Eurogamer: One of the things that people often comment on is the way the game manages to challenge players without becoming too punishing - what's the secret to creating a game with that kind of accessibility?
David Jaffe: Two things. Lots of play testing. We play-tested the crap out of this game to make sure it was balanced, not too hard, not too easy. We were always looking for that sweet spot where the average player was engaged.
The other thing is I always remember what it was like to grow up with little money and drop 40-50 bucks on a game that sucked. It's just a terrible feeling. And for most people, a game that is too hard is not fun. I know there are the hard core DMC3/NGB fans out there and God bless them. I could never play at the level they play. But for most people, hardcore mastery of a game system is not fun. Instead, most folks are looking or a great, interactive ride. And most folks want to be able to play through the whole game and not get stuck 30 per cent of the way in because the difficulty ramps up to crazy levels. We wanted players to finish and see the whole story of Kratos.
Eurogamer: I think everyone was a bit surprised at just how good the game looked in spite of the PS2's growing age. Were you doing anything differently, or did you just push harder than most people?
David Jaffe: Well I can tell you the team pushed really hard, on all fronts. And we have a very, very talented team. A great lead coder who was a pain in my ass for the whole project (and I was a pain in his) but that tension and desire to make a great game - on both our parts - pushed the game (and the team) farther than we knew we could go. Also, we have amazing artists who not only understood tech limits and how to work within them and - at the proper times - push them... But the artists on our team are also just amazing creatives as well. Oh, and a strong-ass producer who really kept the team from killing each other... and especially killing me. Oh, and Sony giving us lots of cash and time to make the game and to keep pushing.
Eurogamer: Finally - with the exception of God of War, what was your favourite game of 2005, and why was it special to you?
David Jaffe: Shadow of the Colossus because it made me feel like I was on a grand adventure and was literally jaw dropping (no hyperbole here... I actually recall showing my wife the game and going, 'look hon, my mouth is actually open in awe... does that ever actually happen?!?!'... Granted my mouth was open in awe when I said this so it came out kind of funny). And Guitar Hero because it let me - along with many others - live out the rock star dream that I've always had. Now if they would just release an expansion pack with all Phil Collins/Genesis/Queen songs, I would be a happy camper. Oh, and yes, I do love Phil Collins. Yes, I am a total dork.