David Cage is a man on a mission to breakdown the established gaming genres and delivers emotional story oriented gameplay. GamePro is fortunate enough to sit down with Mr. Cage to discuss Indigo Prophecy's unique game engine, theatrical inspired soundtrack, and Mr. Cage's own personal crusade against the mundane game.
GamePro: What was the main idea behind Indigo Prophecy?
David Cage: The idea behind the game is really to create an experience that's based on story telling. In most games story telling is just an alibi to link different action sequences together, but it's never the focus in the game. In Indigo Prophecy, I really wanted the story to be the core of the experience and I wanted the gamer to play almost in the physical sense with the story and the plot and allow them to have real actions which have real consequences on the story. This is the basic ideal which works with the characters emotions. Emotions are really an important element in the game. You don't really play with weapons and cars but play with the characters emotions.
GP: What were the thoughts behind the mental health bar?
DC: The idea behind the mental health system is that your action has consequences and the consequences can be physical but they can be also psychological. The game really tries to set up context for moral choices. It really isn't about black or white, wither you want to be good or bad. It's much more about what would I do if I were in the heroes shoes. It's not really obvious choices, sometimes it's really difficult. We wrote the game at first with all these moral choices, and we felt that it was important that it should be viewable onscreen for the players and not just in there heads. It had to be visual so we added the mental health gauge which is really about the psychological state of you character. Depending on your actions your character can feel good or bad. The character can get really depressed or feel ok, but if the character gets too depressed the character can commit suicide, become mad, or decide to turn himself in to the police. So it's really a graphical representation of the psychological state of you character.
GP: It's really interesting because it actually emulates real life, if you were down, you'd want to do something to pick yourself up. It really connects the emotional experiences in real life with the emotional experiences of the characters in game.
DC: Yes, absolutely. What is interesting is that it can be physical. If you drink a glass of water you can feel a little bit better, but it's the relationships you have with the other characters that matter most. If you break up with your ex-girlfriend rudely you'll feel bad about it. If you save a kid in the park you can feel really good about it. It's really about choices and it's really not necessarily physical. It's just about the relationships and the decisions that you make. I really think it will add a new dimension to the experience.
GP: What prompted you to go with the motion physical action reaction interface instead of a traditional battle interface with traditional button pressing game engine?
DC: The idea behind the design of the interface was to transform what is usually construed as a remote control to move a bunch of pixels on screen. The interface is really apart of the experience. I really wanted to have a physical link to the game through the controller. We do that through many different ways in the game. Most games have an action button that you would just press for results, but here we have a way to involve you physically in the animation and movement while you do it, and really feel the controller vibrating when you touch something. It has all this physical immersion. So, it's kind of inverse kinematics in a certain way, it's really about unrolling the animation in real time and having the possibility of playing with pacing which goes back and forth. It's really a nice thing especially because it's something that you forget in a couple of minutes of game playing and it becomes very natural. It's really simple and not very complex. It's something that makes the experience very fluid. What I like about it is that you're not totally sure what action will be performed. Say you want to interact with a certain object, but you don't know if you're going to look at it, if you're going to touch it, or take it. What is exactly going to happen? It's a nice twist. It's something that has been very well received everywhere. We also use something called "Track and Field". For instance, when your character has to drag a body in the rest room of the dinner your character has to make an effort involving strength or stamina. I want to put the player in the characters shoes do the same actions as the character. I want you, as the player, to feel tired at the same time. It's the kind of physical identification that's really nice.
GP: What are some of the cinematic influences that inspired Indigo Prophecy's story and plot progression?
DC: Well there are many cinema influences. Some are really obvious. The initial idea for Indigo Prophecy came from a movie called "Snake Eyes" directed by Brian De Palma. It was about a murder in a public place and the whole movie was about seeing what happened before the murder from different perspectives of different characters. But regarding the tone and style of the experience, I often had in mind David Fincher's film "Se7en" because of the way the two cops were together and the way they share intimate lives while following the investigation, and the dark tone and really dark atmosphere was really inspiring. Additionally, Fight Club for the way the inner voices were used to drive the narrative was really interesting. And of course, movies like "Silence of the Lambs" for the wonderful story and characters; Adrian Lyne's film "Jacob's Ladder" is a movie that impressed me a lot and was really interesting. I used the idea that your reality could really be deformed and (it can be used to) attack you. I used that a lot for the character Lucas Kane. These are what I would call the real direct influences for Indigo Prophecy but my own personal movie culture (influences) includes people like Hitchcock, Orson Welles, and Stanley Kubrick. There's definitely an influence by these people and hopefully in Indigo Prophecy.
GP: Well you've named many of names and a lot of films. I can tell you're a cinema buff, so what influenced the soundtrack in Indigo Prophecy? In the game the music coexist with the characters and greatly influences the player and their decisions. The treatment of music is definitely different than the traditional videogame.
DC: Absolutely, I'm glad you mentioned that. I fought very hard on this project to get someone called Angelo Badalamenti (exclusive composer for David Lynch). He's the guy who has done the famous theme for Twin Peeks, Mullholand Drive, and all the old David Lynch movies. I absolutely wanted this guy. I was so impressed by his work and what he did for Twin Peeks. I felt that his music was a part of Twin Peeks and that the TV series would have been different without his music. It was so emotional; it was so not about John Williams, Star Wars, or barbarians fighting. It was really about pure emotion--atmospheric things. I absolutely didn't want a video game composer working on it. So, we worked very hard with Atari to get him on board. He's a fairly old guy, about 60 years old, so telling him what a videogame is and how they work was quite an interesting experience. At the same time he shared his experiences with working with David Lynch. Surprisingly he got it, Indigo Prophecy, very quickly. I told him, "Don't do music for a video game. Do music for a movie. Just think that Indigo Prophecy is a movie and write the ideal soundtrack for that." And, he totally surprised me. I was not expecting what he did and I was really amazed by his work. He's so talented and so clever. We did a lot of work on how to implement the music on our side and really tried to have the music tell the story by using themes to reinforce emotions. We gave themes to all characters and we defined the themes depending on the situations. So you have Lucas Kane, which is the main theme, and then you can have a romantic version, stressed version, etc. We also used it depending on the moral state and mental health conditions of the characters. In a nut shell this is how it was done.
GP: In a very big nut shell. So, what are you most proud of about Indigo Prophecy now that the project is completed?
DC: Well, I'm proud that it's completed! That's the truth. This project was an impossible project from the start because when you start talking to publishers and tell them, "Listen, I'm going to create an experience based on story telling, characters, and emotion." It's really a tough sell. The first question they ask was, "How many weapon do you have in the game?" So, you answer, "Well, there's no real weapon. It's not about shooting." And then the publisher says, "Oh, it's about driving cars. How many cars do you have?" Well no, there's no car, it's not about driving. And then the publisher tells you it's not a videogame. This was really interesting because you end up thinking that interacting in this industry means shooting or driving, and if you don't do this then it's not a video game. So, it was really about convincing people that it's possible to create an experience based on story telling, and mature topics. It's not about dragons, queens, trolls, or zombies. It's really about you, me, our world, waking up in the morning and living our daily lives. It was not an easy sell and I'm very happy that people at Atari got it and took a risk to produce this game. It's really an interesting experience. I'm really proud that the game exists. I hope that it's going to show to other people that it's possible to create games differently, and that story should not be the last thing you think about in video game development. It should be at the beginning, it should be at the heart of the game. Story, characters and relationships are very important. This is what makes the game experience so strong. I hope it will give other people the will to explore this direction, and to put their own ideals and sensibilities into exploring this path.
Autor: Rice Burner
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