IGNDC visited Quantic Dream's CEO David Cage and learned of a game that could be the next Shenmue.
March 22, 2000 - With only one project, Omikron ? The Nomad Soul, under its belt, you might wonder why Quantic Dream attracts so much attention - especially when you consider that, by the firm's own admission, that PC game had its faults. The thing about Omikron is that most everyone could see what the guys were trying to do, and in an age of unimaginative mediocrity that's pretty important.
With the upcoming Dreamcast game Quark in development, there is a sense of excitement that this ambitious and idealistic development house might be onto something. These guys want to make games that play like interactive movies. Now, before you reach for that Back button, this doesn't mean cheesy video sequences. When Omikron worked, it worked well. And Quantic Dream's CEO David Cage says lessons have been learned.
So, first of all, what the hell is Quark all about? We met Cage in the lovely Mediterranean town of Cannes, and decided to take a stroll on the beach to talk games. "Quark is really an exciting idea," he says. "After Nomad Soul, which was a dark, realistic sci-fi game, we all felt the need for something lighter with more fantasy. I started working on this new game where I felt I could use all the Omikron experience plus new game mechanics."
Quark is set in two parallel universes. The player's actions in each impact upon the challenges that have to be resolved in the other. Cage decided to make both worlds as different from each other as possible. One is a beautiful fantasy world inhabited by strange creatures. The other is a gritty and harsh setting, dropping with atmosphere.
"We wanted to create two worlds that would offer contrasts to one another," Cage explains. "There has to be a balance between beautiful fantasy worlds and the real world to give them perspective. We chose London because we like the mood and atmosphere of the London of Victorian times and although that part of the game is set in the modern world we wanted to give it a 19th century feel."
Quantic Dream says it wants to create a personal and involving experience, so there won't be any significant online or multi-play element to the game. But the coming of powerful systems like Dreamcast means the future could be brighter for this fledgling and much-maligned genre. "I really think that the industry is at the start of a new era, and Quantic Dream wants to play a major role in this industry in the coming years," says Cage. "The two years and half spent on developing Omikron - The Nomad Soul have been extremely important for the team. We had to find answers to an incredible amount of technical and concept problems, and learnt a lot in this process."
He adds, "Omikron mixed different genres, trying to offer a movie-like experience. It means that we faced almost every single problem you can imagine in a real-time 3D world. To me, the part where we succeeded the most was finding new narrative ways inspired by movies but adapted to interactivity. How to manage the freedom given to the hero in a huge 3D world, how to give him the feeling that he is free but to drive him enough to tell an interesting story? We really think that we have found good answers and that we can now built on what we have learnt."
Cage says games like Shenmue or Outcast are the main competitors to Quantic Dream's, adding, "It is very interesting to see that games like these probably started as similar ideas to ours, but with different cultural approaches. Their games are now different. This competition is really good for gamers and developers. It forces us to always go further."
So where did Cage find the inspiration for Quark? "I wrote it when I was in New York to work with David Bowie on Nomad Soul," he explains. "I just sat in a bar with a good view on Times Square, and stayed there all day writing stuff. When the bar closed, I had finished the first rough of Quark's game design."
One element of the game that's attracting interest is the use of animals that offer extra abilities; shades of Banjo-Kazooie or if we really wanted to be mean, Beastmaster. "The two characters in Quark are helped in the game by animals who give them extra abilities," continues Cage. "For example, Una is helped by a dog and a bird, while Waki is helped by fantasy creatures. The two characters actions have effects in each other's worlds, and there is an indirect communication between them. They can see each other in their dreams, but never met before."
Unlike many developers, Quantic Dream believes in keeping the public informed, and listening to their views. "We have plans to continue our Internet diary in an even more transparent way. For Quark and other new projects, we will create a dedicated Internet site where gamers can read the diary of the development every week reported by the Project Manager, but also download movies of the week in RealVideo with the life of the team. Every month, we would like to have a chat where people could directly talk to programmers, graphic artists or game designers."
Cage adds, "We are also considering allowing gamers to become 'producers' of the game. It means they could get access to Beta versions of the game, get goodies, sketches, give their feedback and follow the whole development process all way through in direct touch with the team. This is very exciting for us, and I think that a lot of gamers will be interested."
But will the game go as far as Sega's Shenmue in delivering the interactive movie experience? With a release date of TBA still gracing the title, it's clear that Quantic Dream will be taking its time with the game. We're content to wait and give them all the time in the world to give us the full experience they'd hoped to achieve with Omikron.
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Source: IGN Dreamcast