Once upon a time there was a little game available for $10 via the Sony PlayStation Network called Calling All Cars!. What's important for this story is that it featured online multiplayer up until earlier this week when the floundering game was shut down due to general inactivity. It now lives on only as a local multiplayer title, but designer David Jaffe isn't letting it pass into that good night without offering a few parting words. He eulogizes the PlayStation 3 title over at his blog.
I'm a little sad, naturally, to see the online aspect shut down. This was the first online game I'd ever done and so it was a HUGE learning experience. And it was my first step away from the more story based games I'd been working on (Twisted Metal: Black, God of War) and my first step into the arcade, play mechanic experiences our new company is focused on now. I loved working on it and many on the team did as well. My biz partner Scott Campbell often says this was the most fun he ever had making a game. I don't know if it was- for me- the MOST fun but it was indeed a damn good time.
Even playing tonite after 3 very, very fun matches full of shouting and overtimes and comebacks, I was done. I didn't want to play anymore. I think we did a really good job making a fantastic piece of bubble gum that was sweet and jam packed with sugar and had a hell of a bang when you put it in your mouth. But for some reason I still have not totally figured out, the flavor faded VERY fast. You could come back to it after 2-4 weeks and have that same great experience, but it was always a really short ride. Some folks say leaderboards and trophy support would have helped. And they would have, for sure. But the core game was lacking something that kept people coming back...I think most likely in our attempt to create a fast, furious, pick up play party game that reminded us of the classic SNES and arcade games we grew up on, we neglected the depth. I know you can have both in this kind of game...hard to know if Calling All Cars doesn't have the depth because we were so focused on short term play goals that we simply forgot to put it in or because it never occurred to us to put it in in the first place (i.e. we thought the moment to moment fun would be more than enough)...
I never hear anybody talk about playing Calling All Cars! (and I'd imagine I certainly won't hear about it now). Still, it's interesting to hear Jaffe give some final remarks about the game and it sounds as if the development process provided a nice learning experience for everyone involved. It almost sounds as if Jaffe understands why the game failed in the longevity department and how it might be fixed. I wouldn't expect a sequel that implements these solutions, but it's an interesting design thought exercise.