1UP: I heard you mention at Games Convention that Heavy Rain is "everything we learned and did right on [Indigo Prophecy] done 10 times better, less everything we've done wrong." What are some examples of things you did wrong in Indigo Prophecy that you're staying away from this time?
David Cage: After [Indigo Prophecy], we spent a lot of time reading reviews and players' feedback on forums. We also had our own ideas about what worked and what didn't. First and foremost, I think we have a much stronger script in Heavy Rain. Although it was more complex to write, I think the characters have real substance, and the story should be emotionally involving. I also tried to evoke themes rarely used in games, which should be one of the challenges of the game, but also one of its more interesting aspects. It's an important test for me to see if we can tell more subtle stories and trigger more complex emotions in a game or not -- something we already started to experiment with in [our] The Casting demo.
We also continued to develop our concept of "bending stories," allowing players' actions to have consequences on the story. We pushed this idea further, in a more constant, fluid, and effective way. We also entirely redesigned the way action scenes work, something that was one of the weak aspects of [Indigo Prophecy].
We also spent a lot of time and energy in developing a solid engine, graphics tools, and pipelines. I think gamers can already judge the graphic quality from the first playable demo we presented. Many people seemed to think that this pre-teaser was prerendered and not interactive, but it's entirely real time and fully playable.
We really improved the experience at all levels, with more interactivity, new gameplay mechanics and interfaces, high-quality sets and virtual actors, a new technology of facial motion capture, better animations, and many, many other surprises I cannot reveal now. But, believe me, what we've shown so far is nothing compared to what we're currently working on for the full game.
1UP: You also mentioned at Games Convention that the taxidermist scene you showed won't be part of the game's main story. Will it still appear in the game, and if so, in the exact same way we saw it? Or perhaps with changes, such as how Konami showed Metal Gear Solid 2 scenes in their marketing with Snake as the main character -- even though he never appeared in those scenes in the real game -- to avoid spoilers?
DC: Not showing a part of the game was really important to us. We believe story is a key component of the experience, and we didn't want to spoil it. We haven't decided yet how this first playable will be used. Maybe as a bonus scene that players will unlock in the game, or maybe as extra downloadable content.
1UP: You warned against reading too much into the taxidermist scene, but does that scene suggest Heavy Rain's themes might be more rooted in reality than Indigo Prophecy's?
DC: Definitely. We tend to believe in our industry that we need to tell simplistic or spectacular stories, where the hero saves the world, destroys evil, or has supernatural powers. This is because the videogame, as a medium, has been too immature to tell complex and subtle stories. I made this mistake myself at the end of [Indigo Prophecy], where I felt my story needed something spectacular because all I had so far was normal people leading a normal life. I realized that the "normal" part was the one that worked the best, and that it wasn't necessary to save the world to tell something exciting anymore. Heavy Rain will be about normal people in real life, and I believe it'll be much more emotionally involving, as gamers will easily relate to the situations and characters. This is a new approach. In Heavy Rain, you won't be a superhero or a gangster. You'll just be someone real.
1UP: How have the button-pressing minigames in Heavy Rain evolved from those in Indigo Prophecy?
DC: Of course, we were not satisfied with the way PAR (this is what we call these sequences) were implemented in [Indigo Prophecy]. We bet on the peripheral vision of the player, and it didn't really work. Having said that, we didn't want to throw away everything just because we did it wrong. There are some very interesting aspects to PAR: There's no limit to the types of actions, animations, and cameras you can offer, which makes every single action and scene unique. These scenes are very spectacular, fully contextual, and easy to understand and play. They're also more and more common, as they've been used in games like Shenmue, Tomb Raider, and God of War.
So I started again from a blank page and tried to keep what I liked about PAR while getting rid of what I didn't like. I think we found an interesting new solution by integrating symbols in 3D in the set and in animating them with the character or object they relate to. It's much less disruptive for the visuals, better integrated -- and, if well tuned, can be interesting to play. We also changed the pacing of the action, asking for fewer symbols but on a fast pace. PAR segments are just used in certain sequences for certain actions, of course; they don't constitute the main component of the experience.
I know there's always a strong reluctance from some hardcore gamers for this type of sequence, but we hope to convince them by the way we're going to implement them and by how we'll make these sequences really enjoyable and spectacular.
1UP: How do you determine which actions players will perform with the right analog stick and which they'll perform with physical controller movements?
DC: We use the Sixaxis motion controller for violent actions requiring you to push, hit, or kick in general. Our approach to interface is really based on emulating the character's moves on the controller. We want to make the player feel the same way as his character onscreen.
1UP: Will players use the PS3 controller's face buttons for anything?
DC: We don't use them for the moment, apart from action sequences. We don't feel we need them for the moment.
1UP: In a recent interview with Develop magazine, Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida said, "One focus that has been, and will be, key is how we use the online technology and PlayStation Network to involve more consumers in participating.... That's the major common theme that we are trying to enforce with all our projects." Might we see any online features in Heavy Rain?
DC: Heavy Rain's an experience about interactive narrative and emotion, and we really wanted to focus on making these core elements right. The game will support the Trophy system and may offer some kind of extra content online, but Heavy Rain is a single-player experience.
1UP: What's the biggest development challenge you're currently facing?
DC: The biggest challenge is probably about the overall level of detail and quality we need to reach in all areas of the game. Any detail may break the illusion and stop the suspension of disbelief. In most action games, the player can accept that dead bodies disappear after a while; this kind of thing would break the experience in Heavy Rain. All characters have to move and behave right, all elements in the environment that the player may want to interact with must be interactive, and the story must behave in a logical way, always offering the player possibilities that they'd reasonably expect. Maintaining this level of quality and consistency through the full game is definitely a challenge, especially because each scene is unique, and most of the time offers a specific [type of] gameplay.
1UP: Is Heavy Rain the only project in development at Quantic Dream, or is the company a multiple-game studio at the moment?
DC: Quantic Dream's been a single-project company for years. We put a lot of energy and attention in our projects, and we never wanted to compromise the quality. The company has now reached another stage where we're ready to have two and soon three projects at the same time, with the same desire of ambition and originality. We want to continue to pioneer emotion and narrative in games in the future, but also apply what we've learned to different formats and different genres. Online is definitely going to be one of our next steps. This industry changes quickly, and online is going to be a key component of not only gameplay, but also of distribution in the near future. What gets me excited is to work on new ideas and new challenges, and I think we have some very unique concepts in the pipeline.
Autor: Matt Leone
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