The Gameological Questionnaire

Steve Jaros, creative director, Saints Row IV

Steve Jaros, creative director, Saints Row IV

If future space aliens want a violent video game with plenty of Jane Austen, they know where to look.

By Ryan Smith • June 13, 2013

Last week, we asked Gameological readers to submit questions that we could pose to developers on the E3 2013 show floor. We picked five of our favorites; those questions constitute The Gameological Questionnaire.

Saints Row IV, as I noted in my preview yesterday, is a delirious, over-the-top open-world shooter in which the leader of the Third Street Saints Gang becomes president of the United States, fights off space aliens, and gains superpowers—in that order. True to the anything-goes nature of his game, Saints Row IV’s creative director, Steve Jaros, was especially game for our readers’ questionnaire.

The Gameological Society: If your game had a super-deluxe version that cost $1,000, what would be in the box?

Steve Jaros: Here’s what I would like in it. It would work well in Europe, and you’d have to get carded in America, but I’d like a bottle of Johnnie Walker Purple, and have a purple label. A 25-year-old single-malt whiskey—actually, make it a 30-year. Make it even better because it’s so much beyond blue. It is the purple label. I’d have that in there, and that’d probably be $300 in the box. So, what, $700 more to play with? The single-malt scotch would be there. I think I would have a compendium of the complete works of William Shakespeare. Our villain is erudite, a lover of literature and the classics. I think I would probably would go and send it off with tickets for Wrestlemania, because I love wrestling, and a mixtape of show tunes that I find enjoyable.

Saints Row IV

Gameological: Sony and Microsoft have new consoles coming out soon. What are some exciting things you can do on those machines, in terms of game design, that you couldn’t do before?

Jaros: I think both consoles are really exciting. It’s always fun when you get new things to play with. One of the biggest things, it’s not flashy, it’s not sexy, but one of the things we always fight with on Saints Row is memory limitation. There’s so much stuff that we have—because we don’t have a pre-baked character, more memory gets eaten up because we have a customizable character who can own all these different looks. And we have to account for two of them in co-op. So having more memory to play with, that alone for me is—especially in open-world games, we value player customization. That’s so exciting actually for us to see what else we’ll be able to play with. And how we’ll be able to push that. We’re kind of pushing the limit for what we can do already with the audio. We had to pull lines from the game. We hit an audio limit. We had seven player voices with so much different content in the game. We’ve hit a limit for what we can actually do. It’s kind of great to now be at a point where we have more options and keep on pushing ourselves even further. So as an open-world developer, I’m fucking stoked to have more toys to play with.

Gameological: If an alien species discovered your game as the only remnant of human civilization, what would they learn about us?

Jaros: Holy fuck. That’s a great question, and I’m so happy that you asked this. Because if they find Saints Row IV, they are in fucking luck. Because this thing is, oh my god, you have no idea. So, Saints Row IV is so delightful because it not only embraces beautiful dadaist culture, but they’ll learn about politics, they’ll learn about executive branches, because our villain is an erudite man. There’s different special nods to classics and classic literature in there that you can go hear about. There’s pathos and drama. They can learn about love because you can romance people. It’s so fucking great. I hope we’re a time-capsule game. And bonus points, just for you, fans of The Onion, I wanna let you know that the entire first chapter of Pride And Prejudice is on a radio station. So they will have an embracement of culture. They will get more fucking Jane Austen than any other M-Rated game they could possibly buy.

Gameological: What wine pairs best with your game?

Jaros: Malbec. Like that.

Saints Row IV

Gameological: What’s the weirdest idea that came up during production and didn’t ultimately make it into the game?

Jaros: See, that’s really tricky because—Saints Row is interesting because we can get away with so much. A lot of times, the things that get cut aren’t a matter of too crazy, it’s a matter of, “Oh, we just can’t.” We had a dragon prototype that we were trying, a flyable dragon breathing fire, and it was awesome. We were trying to get it into the game, but ultimately it was a matter of the animation time. To go and get the dragon flying well, to get the mounting and getting off of it look right. There’s a lot of time that was taken away from other aspects of the game. We loved the dragon, but it’s just not right for all the time it would take to put it in. The dragon is fond memories, but that is one of them.

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  • Ryan Smith

    Postscript: I almost wish we could post the audio version of Steve answering the “alien species” question, because it was the most enthusiastic answer to a question I’ve ever asked in my entire career.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      Okie doke

      • Ryan Smith

        God bless you, sir.

      • NakedSnake

        Haha, he sounds like a character in a Kevin Smith movie.

      • http://www.facebook.com/andy.tuttle.79 Andy Tuttle

        That audio clip made my day!

  • Everlasting_Godstabber

    I appreciate how sincerely excited this guy is about his game. I’ve never played any of the Saint’s Row games before, but hell ass goddamned if I’m not going to give one a try.

    • dreadguacamole

       That’s one of the things that won me over in Saint’s Row 3; you could feel the enthusiasm and glee the team put into it. Really looking forward to this.

    • aklab

      Yeah, me neither, and me too!

      • George_Liquor

        ibid!!

    • His_Space_Holiness

      I have Saints Row 2 sitting on my shelf, which I bought on a whim a few months ago via a Christmas gift certificate, and it’s just moved to the head of my queue.

    • frogandbanjo

      SR3 was probably the most sheer fun I ever had in an open-world game before sinking into the inevitable existential crisis that such games instill. It was a love letter to all of the ridiculous shit you could do in earlier GTA games, and it was sincere as fuck about being that (and pretty much only that.)

      Skyrim, by way of contrast, felt like I was on a pointless quest to break a game that was already broken, but I’d be god damned if I was ever going to play it again, so, 150 hours of fetching stuff and navigating through circular dungeons, because it cost 60 fucking dollars, god dammit.

      • Everlasting_Godstabber

        I hear you on Skyrim. I think the blacksmithing system is a good example of that too: so exciting to sit around and buy up all the daggers in town so I can feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from raising my blacksmithing number! Any time spent playing the game with less than optimally smithed equipment will not be any fun!

  • Pyrrhus_Crowned

    This was magic. Kudos to Steve Jaros for playing along and having a lot of fun with the questions.

  • Fluka

    Jane Austen AND pairs nicely with a Malbec?

    Mr. Jaros, you just made another goddamn sale.

    • Electric Dragon

      I’m glad to see that they actually found a developer who actually drinks alcohol (or at least is willing to admit it in public).

      • Zach_Annon

        Is it just me, or did Mr. Jaros drop a wine glass right as he was saying his answer to #3?  It seemed fitting if that was what happened.

      • Effigy_Power

        Yeah, but he didn’t inhale.

        • HobbesMkii

          Well, come on, he is our first “black” developer. He can’t openly admit to that stuff.

    • neodocT

       And the answer to the $1000 dollar question was whiskey and Shakespeare. It’s like they know me!

  • lokimotive

    Some people complain that Saints Row has sort of breached the thin line between absurd and tedium: that Saints Row 2, was a great illustration of the limits of this very peculiar genre, because it was anchored just enough by a story line that seemed to try to take itself seriously, but everything surrounding it was so off the wall that it transcended the trappings of games like Grand Theft Auto… and that Saints Row 3 lost something but just running with that entirely…

    But I think it’s indisputable that the developers have a hell of a lot of fun.

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4

       Well, as long as *they* are having fun.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tomstone Thomas Stone

      Broadly speaking I like GTA better than Saints Row, but Saints Row 3 is a better game than GTA 4- the mechanics aren’t quite as good, and there’s less depth overall, but it makes up for it by letting you do virtually anything you feel like doing, and making a little mission for it. Yeah, it’s self consciously zany, but unless you really care about the story- in an open world game where you spend 80% of your time mowing people down and blowing shit up because you feel like it- is that really a problem? The whole thing is absurd regardless.

      • Fist Beefchest

        I rarely care about stories in games, but I think the tone makes a difference. While I love SR3, it’s basically a cartoon, so all the mayhem and violence you inflict has very little sense of weight or consequence. By contrast, GTA4 and even SR2 take place in worlds that bear at least some resemblance to reality, so mowing down a whole sidewalk full of pedestrians has more of a visceral, forbidden thrill, like what you’re doing has some actual impact.

        • frogandbanjo

          You know, I’ll actually back that to a degree, but I feel that SR3 really encouraged the player to consciously embrace the mindset of a murderous lunatic who would derive a pure form of joy from doing those things. GTA’s mechancs and worldbuilding subtly nudged you in that direction sometimes, but SR3 sold it.

        • Fist Beefchest

          I appreciate that SR applauds you for being a maniac, and that the protagonist is as much of a gleeful sadist as the player, but I’ve always found there’s a bit of extra fun in doing things you’re not supposed to. In GTA4, killing people feels both illegal and against the wishes of Niko, and because I’m such a rebel I enjoy the feeling of stepping outside the set parameters of what the game wants me to do.

          That said, SR2 is my favourite of the games in question because I think it strikes the best balance between verisimilitude and zany hyperviolence.

  • http://www.facebook.com/deejaytaufiq Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi

    I might gonna check it out, but to be fair nothing would beat President Michael Wilson from METAL WOLF CHAOS!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oN2EE3oFe9g

    • Toparaman

       YES!  I still can’t believe that game hasn’t been released stateside yet. 

    • Nudeviking

      Mike Haggar is a pretty bad ass video game politician as well…though he’s just a lowly mayor.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kevin-Johnson/501651 Kevin Johnson

        I smell a future inventory! 13 kick-ass politicians in video games.

        • Boonehams

          Please someone write this.  I wanna read this SO HARD.

  • Nudeviking

    Whiskey, $300, some wrestling tickets, Shakespeare, and a mix tape of show tunes? Sold!

    • Electric Dragon

       In fact, forget the video game.

  • Toparaman

     There’s Jane Austen having sex in this game?

    • Effigy_Power

      You can probably make your protagonist look like Jane Austen and then run around town naked, hitting people with giant dildo-bats and making fart-noises.
      That seems like a good first effort.

      • SonjaMinotaur

        If you could wear fancy empire gowns while using superpowers to fight off aliens… I would be even more excited about this game than I already am.

  • vinnybushes

     That was amazing. Also amazing: Anthony John Agnello photobombing this Smash Brothers presentation. the rest of the video is unwatchable. http://www.gametrailers.com/videos/q9gg4y/super-smash-bros–e3-2013–mega-man-first-fight-gameplay–cam-

    • http://gameological.com/author/derricksanskrit/ Derrick Sanskrit

      Ha! That’s the third angle of the same footage I’ve seen AJA in, but damn if he wasn’t all up in the spotlight for that!

    • caspiancomic

       AJA was pulling a move I like to call the “Andy Millman.”

    • http://www.facebook.com/andy.tuttle.79 Andy Tuttle

       ”Ohhhhhh, flash blast!”

  • Mercenary_Security_number_4

    the entire first chapter of Pride And Prejudice is on a radio station.

    I’m still not buying this game, but that’s the funniest line I’ve heard tonight.  Right up there with “and I definitely don’t want to die at James Franco’s house

    • Marozeph

      Speaking of James Franco: I’m kinda surprised the 1000$-Edition is devoid of any dildos.

      • mizerock

        Surely there will be a different iconic melee weapon in SR4, no? I’d have the purple dildo as a bonus-unlockable late in this game, if I put it in at all.

        Then again, you can’t argue with success.

        • frogandbanjo

          Dildo jackhammer and dildo power drill seem like obvious choices, but I think they should edge out of their comfort zone and include an oversized fleshlight. Lots of interesting melee possibilities there.

  • Enkidum

    But what I want to know is, is the villian erudite?

    • http://twitter.com/closedmouth Annabelle

      No, he’s eriadite.

    • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

       That’s a typo.  He’s actually crudité.  You fight him by sticking him with toothpick and dipping him in ranch dressing.

  • TailWagsDog

    Although Saints Row will never be as good as GTA, at least they know what they are. GTA IV was bullshit because they tried to make it too edgy and forgot the history that made the GTA series so good. I’ll definitely be playing Saints Row 4 but I’ll be hanging out for GTAV. Rockstar had better get it right this time!

    • tyler eli

      I actually enjoyed Saints Row 2 much more than I did San Andreas

  • http://gameological.com/author/derricksanskrit/ Derrick Sanskrit

    This right here. This is the best. You, Steve Jaros, get it. I am officially two to three times as hyped for this game as I was pre-interview. Way to play along. Thank you, Ryan.

    • The_Misanthrope

       That is what is nice about these questions:  it provokes developers to get off their talking points. 

    • Effigy_Power

      I officially forward this guy’s nomination to be the federal head of video games. Just for not only knowing the word fun, but living it.
      To be honest, if the makers of Saints Row would have been some tongue-tied corporate suit-filler, I would have been insanely disappointed.

  • Cloks

    I’d buy the 1000 dollar edition. Saints rule.

  • stakkalee

    This game seems like delirious fun; I’m looking forward to it.

  • duwease

    Phew.. I was worried that reading the answer to the “What was too weird to put into the game” question for this game would violate the terms of my probation.

  • War Is the H-Word

    As long as they still have the cockney voice actor, I’m in for SR4.
    You shoulda never fack’d with the Saints.

    • Zach Snoga

      lol I read it in his voice

  • His_Space_Holiness

    It’s definitely nice to hear someone talk about video games with all the joy and excitement of an eight-year-old who’s just gotten one for his birthday. I was worried about the escalating insanity of this series being an empty gimmick but nooope. Congratulations, copy of Saints Row II that I’ve had on my shelf for months: you just jumped the line.

    • http://tmaiblog.wordpress.com/ Chalkdust

       He’s also the only one who answered the “new consoles” question in a way that is honest, sensible, and actually makes me interested in what they’ll be able to do in this generation that they couldn’t before.

      • TaumpyTearrs

        And the memory limitations thing actually has a major impact on this type of game. Its not another case of “this will add X number of polygons and frames of animation you probably won’t notice”, its actually more options to customize your character, more content (the audio cut from this game), and the ability to have bigger missions and cause more chaos without slowing down the game or having it disappear behind you.

  • Sanford Abernethy

    I’m surprised that nobody that’s talking about this game is mentioning the mod tools. Granted, they’re not being made in-house, but that’s part of what makes them so cool. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/andy.tuttle.79 Andy Tuttle

    I want to hang out with this guy.

  • Baramos x

    I’m glad this video game series has evolved from a GTA clone to…whatever this is.

    • HobbesMkii

      Oh, it’s still a clone, but it’s one of those clones that has two extra arms, is more suave and confident, and can run faster and further than the original.

  • http://www.facebook.com/martin.mills.90 Martin Mills

    all hail steve jaros

  • Zach Snoga

    Am I the only one that’s just a lil disappointed that The Penetrator isn’t back?

  • http://www.facebook.com/Heavy.Railseeker Clovy Hevy

    not creating my caracter?