EDGE: VideoGame Culture David Cage Interview

cage_faq.jpgEvery Friday, Edge Online speaks to a videogame luminary and asks them to answer 20 fixed questions about themselves, the games they play, and their thoughts on the industry.
This week we talk to David Cage, founder of Quantic Dream, and director of both its released titles: Omikron - The Nomad Soul, and Fahrenheit (E154, 8/10), which proved rumours of the adventure genre's death greatly exaggerated through fresh application of literary and cinematic technique, emotional depth, and console-gamer sensibility. He is currently working on the company's next-gen projects, including the tentatively titled Infraworld, and Karma, a semi-sequel to Omikron.

What was the first game you ever played?
Pong (original, eh?). But, the first game that really impressed me was probably Psygnosis' "Barbarian" for Atari ST. I remember at the time it was the only game available in the shop, and it was quite expensive. The same shop now has a full floor dedicated to video games. Things have changed (but games are still quite expensive).
What was the first computer/videogame machine you owned?
Oric 1. I remember spending afternoons typing in program code you'd find in magazines, which never worked because you mistyped one letter out of the 10 pages. That's the part of the "good old days" that I really don't miss.
What was the first thing you ever created for a computer or console?
A very simple text adventure game in Basic. Not very impressive, but it was my first program. Just lines of text with a choice at the end to decide how the story should continue. I discovered two things doing this: 1) when you want to write an interactive story, avoid having tree branches on tree branches on tree branches, because after a while, you get a little bit lost, and 2) if I wanted to make video games one day, it would definitely not be as a programmer.
What was your first job in the games industry and what was the first thing you ever designed?
A Mexican-style banjo soundtrack for the Sega game "Speedy Gonzales" on Megadrive (I started in the industry as a musician). I remember having to program all my instruments with the built-in FM synthesizer and playing them with a soundtracker. It was... interesting.
What's your favourite game ever, and why?
It is impossible to answer this question. I don't think I have one favourite game, but different games I've really liked. ICO, for its unique dreamscape and emotional experience (and ending!), Day of the Tentacle for its wonderful design ideas and sense of humour (as well as all the Monkey Island games, of course), Tekken 3 for being a very addictive, technical and well-designed combat game, PES4 for the same reasons, Civilization for its great epic moments and its ability to make you forget what time it is, and probably many others.
What was the last game you played and what did you think of it?
I play games almost every day, sometimes just for ten minutes to understand how they work. I'm currently spending some time on Civilization 4, but the last game I played last night was Katamari Damacy.
What upcoming game are you most looking forward to?
To be honest, there isn't a game I'm really looking forward to. I just hope there will be some big surprises - some people trying things that no one expected, and turning them into a major commercial success. In general, I hope to see more innovation and more creativity in upcoming games, especially on next gen consoles.
How many hours a week do you spend playing games?
I try not to spend more than 10 hours a week. At some point, you need to find the right balance between playing games and making games.
What's your favourite book/album/film of all time?
It is really impossible to answer this question. There are so many books, albums, films, comics, games that influenced me that I can't name just one. In movies, I love Hitchcock, Kubrick, Orson Wells, Scott, Fincher, Tarantino, Shyamalan and many others. In comics, I'm a big fan of Alan Moore and Frank Miller. In music, I listen to a little bit of everything, between pop, rock and some "intelligent" techno. With books, I am a big fan of Chuck Palahniuk, Dan Simons, James Elroy, Bret Easton Ellis, Philip K. Dick and others. I also read a lot of science, physics, genetics, biology and more (this is where I borrow a lot of ideas). I recommend a book that really struck me called "The Selfish Gene" by Richard Dawkins. In general, the kind of books that make you change how you see life.
Of all the games you've been involved in, what's your favourite, and why?
By this point of the interview, you probably understand that I don't really have favourites. Each game has something special that makes it unique in my mind.
Nomad Soul will always be special to me because it was my first game, my first collaboration with a great artist (Bowie), and it was the game that made me exist in this industry.
Fahrenheit is also really important to me, because it was a very unusual game, entirely based on my belief that emotion would become more and more important. Betting everything you've built for years on an intuition requires a lot of faith (and madness?), but Fahrenheit is a game I'm really proud of.
What game would you most liked to have worked on?
I respect the work of a lot of people, but I've never felt like I would have liked to work on another game.
What projects are you working on at the moment? What stage are they at?
We're working on two new projects for next-gen consoles. One will continue to explore the Interactive Drama format we initiated with Fahrenheit, pushing it much further in concept, game play, narrative and technology.
The other one will be a very ambitious Action/Adventure/RPG title called Karma, which is kind of a spiritual sequel to Nomad Soul.
What new development in videogames would you most like to see?
If you're talking strictly about technology, I'd like to see more technologies related to living characters (body and facial animations, skin, eyes, clothes, hair, etc.) - all the little details that make the difference between a living character and a bunch of pixels. I'd also like to see more technologies related to emotional development, whether related to virtual actors, interactive storytelling, directing or AI.
If you are talking about concepts, I'd like to see real next-gen concepts on next-gen consoles. I hope publishers will understand that we can't continue to make the same games over and over again. We need to explore new creative possibilities, and bring some ambition and originality to our industry if we want to expand our market (and eventually become a respected industry).
What annoys or disappoints you about the industry?
The lack of courage, the lack of ambition, and the occasional dictatorship of blind, short-sighted marketing over creativity and long-term vision.
What do you enjoy most about working in the industry?
The feeling of being a pioneer exploring new lands. The fact that there is everything to invent.
Whose work do you most admire?
Fumito Ueda (the creator of ICO).
What new platform are you most looking forward to making games for?
What excites you most about next-gen?
Next-gen concepts. Technology is just a tool.


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EDGE: VideoGame Culture David Cage Interview Friday, November 25, 2005

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