Inside Indigo Prophecy with Quantic Dream’s Guillaume de Fondaumiere

In my opinion, true originality in video games comes from developers and publishers who really strive to bring gamers worlds and experiences they’ve never had before. While quirky viral marketing gimmicks and multimillion-dollar hype machines can help games fly off store shelves, the more memorable games are those that go beyond repetitive gameplay, clever writing and in-joke placement. One of the games we’re looking forward to here at BonusStage is Quantic Dream’s Indigo Prophecy, published by Atari. Rather than falling back on tried and true gameplay mechanics, the cinematic thriller breaks new ground in interactive adventure games, no small feat these days.

When the opportunity arose to interview Guillaume de Fondaumiere, Executive Producer of the game and Chief Operating Officer of Quantic Dream, I couldn’t pass it up. Amusingly, I caught him as the team was wrapping up production on the game and he was about to take a well-deserved holiday, but he was happy to spend time answering a few questions about the game.

(Note: In a few instances, GDF refers to the game by its official European market title, Fahrenheit- we’re leaving this as is for our overseas readers)

Greg Wilcox: In terms of originality, Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy is remarkable in that it combines elements from a few genres and challenges the player to do more than just run, jump, and shoot. Was this a deliberate decision from the start of development, and how tough was it to "sell" a publisher on the gameplay?

Guillaume de Fondaumiere: Oh yes, it was deliberate, indeed ! We wanted to create an interactive drama, a video game experience that would be like none before. This is a huge challenge : when you start saying : "I want to do an interactive movie", publishers tend to scream and run. They think "a boring adventure that will be very cinematic with little action and interactivity". It is, of course, not what we intended to do, but selling Fahrenheit’s concept was a true challenge.

GW: The game has been in development for some time now. As there is a decidedly more cinematic approach to storytelling throughout, were there any particular films or directors that influenced the story or overall design?

GDF: Movie directors David Fincher, Orson Wells or Alfred Hitchcock were in the mind of David Cage, the writer and director of Fahrenheit throughout the creative process. Fahrenheit is a paranormal thriller, so movies like Se7en were a strong inspiration. However, the story is original and, to our humble opinion, stands on its own.

GW: As each player is responsible for "directing" his or her own version of the game’s events, how important was it to keep the gameplay as fresh as possible?

GDF: Our obsession was to keep a fresh approach to the game design, controls, interactivity and more generally, to the whole experience. We wanted to demonstrate that a video game can offer much more than repetitive puzzles or limited game play mechanics that you replay again and again, level after level. The challenge was to design this innovative approach in such a way that after 5 minutes of playing a tutorial, you would play as seamlessly and intuitively as possible. We wanted players to forget about the interface for them to delve as deeply as possible into the story.

GW: For those players more accustomed to action-based titles and
hesitant to give something new a try, explain the various gameplay and control options Indigo Prophecy offers and any differences between the console and PC versions.

GDF: I guess I can’t do much for those who never want to give something new a try ;-), but I believe those people are, in reality, a minority. Most people are keen to experience new things, but the experience must be as strong as the promise. With our game, and that would be my best argument in front of the more skeptical gamers, we promise "strong" and deliver what we say: a very strong story that evolves constantly through player’s actions, highly diversified gameplay and action sequences. It is a very complete experience, part adventure, part action, and to a certain extent, part RPG. There are little differences between the PC and console versions. The experience of the gameplay with a controller is replaced by mouse/keyboard control on PC (or gamepad if the player has one). And the PC version has better graphics resolution, of course.

GW: In terms of story progression and replay value, is there a way for players to keep track of the choices they’ve made, or will the game rely more on them mentally storing and remembering elements they’ve already seen?

GDF: The game saves automatically when you progress. As such, you can continue any time you want from the last played position, which is very useful. However, your complete progression is stored and through the "Chapters" menu, you can at any time go back and replay from any given point in the game. You can also change your log in name so that different paths can be stored easily. Since most actions have an effect on the story, this gives you the possibility to experience something new and live a different adventure. As such, the game offers very good replay value and not only different endings, but truly different stories.

GW: As for the music, how did you get Angelo Badalamenti to work on the game and how important was it to get him for the project? Additionally, was the game scored from the script or game sequences (or both) and did having Badalamenti aboard have any effect on the rest of the game’s sound design?

GDF: First of all, I would like to point out how easy and joyful it has been to work with Angelo. He is a wonderful, generous person, and is such a talented musician! David Cage and I talked to him over the phone to start with and eventually we convinced him to be on board. We "fed" him progressively with information on the game. We then met in New York for a full day. That was one of our most memorable creative experiences, trust me! We showed the game in length to Angelo and Normand Corbeil, who did all the orchestrations and additional music and who regularly works with Angelo. We discussed a lot for a few hours. Then, Angelo sat down at his piano, and started to play the themes. It was kind of magic, and beautiful... Angelo continued to work alone for a few weeks to finalize all the themes and main sequences, then Normand Corbeil took over, adapting the themes to write each and every sequence in the game. We decided together on which sequences should be orchestrated and Normand conducted in Montreal.

GW: Developing for multiple SKUs is always a challenge, especially with the most popular console being the least powerful on the market. What were the
biggest hurdles in keeping all three versions as close as possible in terms of visual quality?

GDF: Our choice was to go from the PlayStation 2 version to Xbox and then PC. In other words, we wanted the maximum possible quality on the PS2 and then "boost" it to obtain a high graphics resolution on the two other - more powerful -
formats. It is of course a challenge, and not only in terms of graphics. The PlayStation 2 is a console that is scarce in memory, with a very demanding architecture. But we create or our engine and tools at Quantic Dream and since multiple SKUs were on the menu since day one, we had prepared accordingly. Releasing all masters within the same week however, you are never really prepared for, but we managed to do it ;-)....

GW: If Indigo Prophecy is successful, would Quantic Dream consider a portable version or some sort of side story/follow-up featuring characters in the game at some point in the future?

GDF Indigo Prophecy will certainly have a sequel, but I can’t tell you exactly for sure which form it will have...

GW: Speaking of follow-ups, I’ll admit to being a fan of Omikron: the Nomad Soul, warts and all. Any plans for a remake or follow up, or will Quantic Dream continue to develop all-new material?

GDF: We have started to work on KARMA, which can be considered a kind of prequel to Omikron. More information will become available later this year, we can’t divulge too much for now.

GW: What’s the overall impression you want players to come away from Indigo Prophecy with?

GDF: The same impression they have after having read a great book or seen a grand movie : we want them to "leave" with its story (stories) and characters in their heads for a while, so that Indigo Prophecy becomes part of their life experience.

GW: Finally, does the name Quantic Dream have reference to anything in particular? It’s interesting that one can look up both words for added depth, yet come away with any number of potential meanings.

GDF A Quantic Dream is one that has a different dimension than we usually envisage or expect..

This, interestingly enough, brings us to the end of this interview and precisely describes Indigo Prophecy as a game experience. Many thanks to Guillaume de Fondaumiere of Quantic Dream for his time and patience. Indigo Prophecy hits U.S. stores on September 20. We’ll have a hands-on preview of the PC version shortly and a full review of the console version around the time the game ships.

Autor: Greg Wilcox
Source: Bonus Stage

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Inside Indigo Prophecy with Quantic Dream’s Guillaume de Fondaumiere Sunday, August 21, 2005

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