Changing The Game: The Quantic Dream Heavy Rain Interview Part TwoBy Billy Berghammer - Posted Aug 28, 2009
During GamesCom 2009, I had the unique opportunity to talk with Quantic Dream’s David Cage and Guillaume de Fondamiere at length about their upcoming PS3 game Heavy Rain. We’ve broken up the interview in two parts, but before you dig into this interview, I implore you to check out, the latest trailer for the game, my hands-on preview and my full report of the latest demonstration Cage showed of Heavy Rain – to give you more backstory of what Heavy Rain is all about.
For over 45 minutes, Cage and de Fondamiere discussed how they went about in regards to Heavy Rain showing a demonstration that barely showed action, how to market such an unconventional game, and the casting process for their digital actors, and much more. Click here to check out Part One of our extensive interview!
G4: I look at Sony’s downloadable titles for PSN versus what Microsoft is doing -- and even games like Heavy Rain versus Halo -- and Sony seems to be taking a lot of chances that other companies aren’t. Even more so than Nintendo’s motion control. Is that why you guys wanted to go with Sony on this title?
Cage: That’s one of the reasons. There were many to be honest with you. The first one is that after Indigo Prophecy, they came to us. When you’re a developer, it’s always a pleasure to have Sony giving you a call and saying, “Hey, we really like what you do. Can we come visit and talk?” Sure! I mean, okay, that means something already. So, they came and we talked and they really enjoyed Indigo Prophecy and they wanted to know what we would work on next. And, we told them about this Casting demo and they said, “Okay, we love the idea. If it’s good enough, you’ll be on the Sony booth the year of the launch of PlayStation 3 at E3.” Well, when you’re a French developer you say, “Hey, wow. That’s cool.” And we’ve done it, and we were in their booth, and the feedback was extremely positive and here we go.
Also I think we loved the platform. Honestly, we love the PlayStation 3; we think it’s definitely the best console out there, by far, and it’s more than a console. It’s really a media center in many ways, and it’s a very interesting platform. Yes, there is a tradition of trying new ideas, new things, and trying to get creative studios. Phil Harrison did a great job with this, and titles like LittleBigPlanet, for example are really interesting. Look at Flower. It’s really new. Look at Ico – fantastic game. Shadow of the Colossus…There’s a real tradition of trying to push the envelope and discover new things and new ideas. Yes, I think this is a Sony property probably more than others because maybe it’s a more adult brand in a certain way. They have games for kids and teenagers and families etc., but I think they want to be cutting-edge on many things, and that’s really a good idea. We’re happy to be a part of this family.
G4: So, one of the things that grabbed me – and I asked you this question last year at Leipzig – one of the things that grabbed me about Indigo Prophecy was the music. And I’m a big Twin Peaks fan, so when I listened to the music in Indigo Prophecy, I was like, “Something sounds familiar,” and I looked in the credits and “No, sh*t. This is awesome! They used Angelo Badalamenti!” Are you going with the same composer or are you switching it up? Who’s doing the music for this game?
Cage: I can’t announce it right now. It’s going to be someone else, someone famous and talented. We record the music next week in London at Abbey Road with a symphonic orchestra.
G4: Do you have plans for a soundtrack?
Cage: We’d like to. We’d like to, yea. Sure.
G4: So, now that you’ve shown each of the four characters, you’ve given kind of the premise of what’s going on in the game. Where do you say, “No, no, no. We have to stop. We can’t show anything more. We don’t want to spoil anything.” Are you planning on showing anything more or is this it?
Cage: In matter of scenes, I think that’s going to be it until the playable demo -- if there is one. In matter of teasers, I think there are some plans to show more, maybe based on the characters. Some things are still in discussion.
G4: How do you choose? Where do you draw the line? Where do you go, “If we show this, they might figure this out,” that sort of thing?
Cage: That’s not so much the issue. The issue is that you want to show enough people so that they can understand the scope of the game – it is really huge – and at the same time you don’t want to show too much because you don’t want to give away the game, basically. And then when people play the game, “Yea, I’ve seen this. Yea, I know that.” You know? You still want to keep the surprise, but we have so much stuff to show that it’s difficult to draw the line between - that’s enough to convince people, but that’s too much. So, we try to figure out where that line is.
G4: Are there plans for behind-the-scenes making-of showing off the processes you went through in creating Heavy Rain?
Cage: Yes. Definitely. We’re working on the “Making of” and show you how we build the stuff because it’s been a big adventure, a really big adventure from day one. What I like the most, personally, is the images from the casting. When you see how the guys were cast, the first time we didn’t know them. They came in a room and sometimes it’s obvious. Sometimes it’s “Of course that’s Ethan Mars!” and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes you say, “Uh….wait a minute.” That’s the part I love the most.
G4: A lot of developers have websites that have community forums - that sort of thing. There’s going to be a lot of water cooler moments with this game because everybody’s going to play it very different. Are you planning on having some sort of forum message board or do you not want to do that because it could spoil the adventure for some people that check that out?
Cage: There’s no plan – on our side – to do anything like that. I like the idea that we work a lot to explain the game before it’s released, but when it’s released, the game should speak for itself, and if not, then you have a problem, but I’d like to become silent once the game’s out because it speaks for itself.
G4: So, as a studio, what were some of your inspirations to make games like Indigo Prophesy and games like Heavy Rain?
Cage: You never know exactly where inspiration comes from. It comes probably from everywhere – from things you’ve seen, things you’ve liked in the past. But at the same time, it comes more and more from things I lived in my personal life, and I think that’s an interesting step for me, as a writer, because you can always spend your time writing about things you don’t have a clue. You’re like, “I’m going to write about a rookie in the Second World War.” You know what? I don’t have a clue what it is like to be a rookie inside a World War because I’ve never experienced that. So, I think there is an interesting step for industries for people to start writing about things they know or they lead themselves, which is very common in movies, very common in books. It doesn’t mean that you need to – if you write about a serial killer, you need to have been a serial killer in your personal life to be able to write that, but I’m just saying it should start from something personal – a story that you need to tell – that you absolutely want to share - that you know you have to write, in a certain way. Instead of coming from a marketing guy coming in the room and telling you “You know what? Last year this is the title game that worked. You should try something like that.” “Yeah, okay, thank you, I can do this.” But I would like this industry to give more power to authors and to see real creative writers coming with new crazy ideas and creating new crazy games, instead of doing the same games over and over.
G4: At the end Heavy Rain, does the story end or is there potential for Heavy Rain 2?
Cage: I’m not really into sequels. I know this is very common in videogames, but…(sigh) …very often, my games correspond to a certain period in my life and who I was at the time. When the game is finished, that’s like, “Okay. It’s done. I said what I had to say. Now I want to move to something else, and see how it progresses, how I mold what else I have to say. With Indigo Prophecy, they were some discussions, at some point, to build Indigo Prophecy 2, but I had nothing more to say about it and this character isn’t about this story. I really enjoyed writing it. I’m very proud of what I’ve done, but at the same time, it corresponded to a certain period of my life and now that this period is over, Heavy Rain is something else now. So, I don’t think there will be Heavy Rain 2, and I didn’t write the end to think “Okay, maybe I will want to do a sequel, so I better do this or that.” No, it’s a self-contained experience and by the end it’s finished, and we’ll move to something else.
G4: Do you know what that something else is?
Cage: Ah….I have a pretty good idea. Yes.
G4: Same kind of game?
de Fondamiere: (laughs) It’s a secret.
Cage: (laughs) There are projects for both. There are projects for both, but whatever I will do next, there will probably be very strong ties with Heavy Rain because when you start exploring more, deeper emotions, the more subtle emotions, it’s very difficult to go back and say “You know what? I’m going to make a game where you jump and shoot. It can be difficult. I think – in fact, Indigo Prophecy really changed my vision of games, and I will probably never go back to the old way. There are so many people doing that very well in this industry, they don’t need one more. So, I continue to explore different things. I’m interested in the motion above all. So, at the moment, I do it a certain way. With Heavy Rain there are many ways it can be done, but I like stories, I like characters, I like emotions. I’m going to continue to explore that way like Heavy Rain or in other ways.
G4: Would you like to explore making a game using Sony’s new motion tech?
Cage: That’s a possibility. On Heavy Rain, the interface is already really based on the movement. All the things with the MPAR (the name of the unique control scheme in Heavy Rain), and the stick and how the moves unfold. So, that’s a possibility. We really like the device. We think the technology is really interesting and promising and we have prototypes at the studio and we will start playing with that. I don’t think all games in the future should be jumping on your couch because some people just want to, ya know, sit and relax and just enjoy it. What is interesting for me in this is that motion control has been used so far from family entertainment and casual games. I would be interested to see if it’s possible to use it for more serious experiences, and to discover what it adds to the experience.
G4: Who do you think Heavy Rain is for? Who’s your audience?
Cage: (sighs) I know what many developers say that about their game, they say everybody. I think people can experience Heavy Rain at different levels, but the first comparison that comes to my mind is Pixar movies, in a very different way. I think that everybody can enjoy Pixar movies. If you’re a kid, you can just laugh and see the toys and find it very fun, but if you’re an adult, you have a different layer that you can really enjoy. I think it’s really movies for everybody. With Heavy Rain, I think anybody who likes this type of story, who likes thrillers, should be able to enjoy the game. I think hardcore gamers will be attracted by the visual side. It’s quite appealing visually, that it’s new, that it’s based on tree branches and decision-making, so you can really change the experience based on your actions. So, I think they will probably enjoy that, and all the fans of Indigo Prophecy will probably, hopefully go to Heavy Rain. So, I think there’s a lot of stuff for hardcore gamers and there’s also a real sense of challenge in the game, if you want to, although the game is not based on achievements, but much more on the emotional journey. All the hardcore gamers looking for something new will be interested in this experience.
Casual gamers, if they are looking for something, again, new, appealing visually, but also they like thrillers, and adult content, they will want to try this. The game will adapt its difficulty to their skills, and if you’re a non-gamer, and you just bought the PlayStation 3 because of the Blu-ray player, maybe you’ll want to try it out because maybe this is your entry door to games, and to see that games are not only for kids and teenagers, but there is some different content that you may enjoy. And females…did you play Indigo with your wife?
G4: I’m not married.
Cage: You are not married, that’s why! (laughs) Because all the people who played Indigo, played it with their wife.
de Fondamiere: Did you play it with your dog?
G4: Uh, my cat. My cat was all about it. (laughs)
Cage: (laughs) It’s incredible. A lot of people played Indigo with their wives. They were holding the controller, but their wife was enjoying the experience and they were sharing all this “Do this. Do that. You should be careful.” They were really enjoying like they were watching a TV series together, and I think it’s going to be even more significant in Heavy Rain, because I think the story’s better, characters are better, technology’s better, and this is really the kind of experience that you can enjoy as much watching than playing. What we would like to achieve on this is that maybe the husband can give the controller to the wife this time because the game can become very easy depending on the difficulty level. So, you can get rid of the difficulty with the controller, making it really easy to manipulate. So, I would really like women to start playing it and enjoying it.
G4: Would you like to make a kid’s game to try to appeal to a child’s emotions?
Cage: I don’t know. That’s a good question. Why not? I’m really jealous of Pixar, to be honest with you. I think they’re really the model. They succeeded in everything. They could create an experience that is really for everybody and that anybody can enjoy, but that’s very difficult to do, very difficult. I really admire them. So, I don’t know if I would be capable of doing this. Maybe I still have to learn doing different experiences for adults before I can really use this experience and say “Okay, I’m going to do something for even a broad audience, including kids.”
G4: Since your game is so untraditional, how are you using trophies in the game or how would you even figure out where the hell to put them?
Cage: Well, um, initially were not supposed to, but we had to figure out a way of supporting the trophy system and we understand that this important for some gamers because it’s a part of their identity, I guess, online to say “Look, this is who I am.” So, we found a way. What we really wanted to avoid is to be in a very emotional scene and suddenly, “Bing!” That would have been fantastic! Yes! You made her cry! Congratulations, you got the trophy! So, that was not possible, of course. So, we found a way and we decided to put the trophies during the loading screens between scenes. So, when you’re in the scene, you’re in the scene; you’re not distracted by anything. We tried to be creative about how we deal with trophies because it’s not about how many enemies you kill or how many points you get. It’s more about what branch of the story you unlocked, etc. I think it’s interesting. I’m happy we’ve done it and we’ve found a way because I understand it’s part of the experience for many people, so why not?
G4: Since the story branches in so many different ways because there’s so many ways to play the game, have you done focus testing and found an average of how many times people played through the game?
Cage: You know, personally, I would like people to play it once.
G4: That’s it?
Cage: That’s it because that’s life. Life you can only play once. When you make choices, you rarely have a chance to go back and say “Hey, what if I was doing something else?” Well, you know what? You made the choice; that’s it. I would like people to have this experience that way, but the game allows you play as many times as you want, of course, and I’m fine with that, but the right way to enjoy Heavy Rain is really to make one thing because it’s going to be your story. It’s going to be unique to you. It’s really the story you decided to write, and that will be a different story from someone else. And, again, I think playing it several times is also a way to kill the magic of it. Well, anyway, people will play it the way they want.
G4: Can people still go back to a previous save?
Cage: They can. The interface doesn’t encourage that, though, but you can easily do it if you want to, but, again, I would really encourage people rather to play it once. Bear with the consequences of your actions. The game is never unfair with you regarding this. Like it’s never, you’ve done a choice, you didn’t exactly know what you were doing. You just took the left door because you thought it was okay, and then game over and you died and everything is terrible. It never happens that way. The game is always fair with you, so I would like the player to be fair with the game. Bear with the consequences of your actions.
G4: Is there any thought of having a game mode where, if you chose to start the game this way, that no matter what you did there’s no going back?
Cage: No, because at the same time, when people buy a game, you don’t want to restrain them. People are –
G4: But giving them the option.
Cage: Yes, but people are allowed to play the way they want to play. I had to give them the option. They paid for the damn thing, so, again, enjoy it, don’t be frustrated with it. I’m confident that all the people, all the fans, will probably play the way I would like them to play because they understand that it’s part of the experience as it was designed.