If you've followed interviews with French developer Quantic Dream over the past few years, chances are you've heard some of co-CEO David Cage's greatest hits: making games for a mature audience, exploring new forms of interacting with a controller, telling bendable stories without relying on cars and guns, etc. It's certainly interesting stuff, but for this week's Heavy Rain cover story, I wanted to pose our questions from a few different angles, starting today with a look at Cage's personal history and the origins of the company.
1UP: How did you get your start in the game industry?
David Cage: I was initially a professional music composer, [working] for various record companies before starting to work on video games. Then I wrote the soundtrack of different games on Sega Genesis, SNES, and PC. As I was also a gamer, it was quite an easy step for me. As I was working with developers on different projects, I started to understand the roles and processes, and I made a couple of good friends in the industry.
I quickly had it in mind to create the game I was dreaming of playing, a game where the player would be free in a huge and living realtime 3D city, where there would be a story and the possibility to drive vehicles, to fight, and use weapons. This is how I wrote Omikron, my first title, entirely at night and on weekends, not having a clue about what the technology could really achieve at the time or what development constraints were.
I ended up with a 200 page game design that I showed to a couple of friends. They were all impressed by the weight of the game design -- I still like to make them heavy... -- and by the fact that the game was totally impossible to make. I managed to convince them to leave their jobs to work on a prototype. We started from scratch and worked really hard for six months in one of my sound studios -- totally soundproof with no windows! We signed the game with Eidos the last week before I [would have run] out of money. From the six people who started the company with me, three are currently at Quantic.
1UP: What's something you think most people don't know about Quantic Dream?
DC: Mmm...like a trivia type of question? OK, here are a [few] tidbits:
The very first name of Quantic Dream was "Extreme Studio." It sounded so bad that we had to do something about it. This is how I came up with Quantic Dream, referring to quantum physics, which seemed to me a mix of science and unexplained magic.
Before we signed Omikron with Eidos, we started developing a prototype on PlayStation 1. We presented it to a certain major publisher at the time who was very interested -- we had a city in realtime 3D running on PS1 in 1995. We did not sign the game with them because their CEO told us that PlayStation 1 would be dead in six months and that they would rather develop on PC. We were stupid enough to listen to him and work on a PC prototype that became Omikron. The CEO left the company a little bit later -- and this publisher left the industry... A good example of visionary people in the game industry. With more foresight, we maybe could have delivered the very first open world city in realtime 3D on PS1 years before GTA3.
I wrote the soundtrack of many games, including Speedy Gonzales for Sega on Mega Drive -- Mexican music with an FM synthesizer. I had two weeks to discover the hardware and the tools and to compose the soundtrack...an interesting moment in my career. But hey, we have all done things we are not proud of.
1UP: Your most recent games have taken place in the United States. Is there a particular reason you've chosen to set games there?
DC: I guess [because I've] worked on thrillers, which [come from] an American cinema genre, the natural setting was the US. France is a fantastic country for food, history, nature, culture and art, but I guess it is easier to write about another culture you feel familiar with but that is not yours.
For Heavy Rain, we spent time in an east coast city for three weeks with cameras, and it was a real shock to see the poverty, the ghettos, the abandoned factories, and the sense of danger that the social disparity creates. When you live in Europe, the US is most of the time depicted as the country of success, power, money, heroes saving the world, and sexy girls. Discovering the social side of America that you rarely see in movies was something absolutely scary. I came [across a particular city coincidentally], not really knowing what I was looking for, but I found the exact background I needed to tell my story, and I must say it really fed the writing of Heavy Rain.
1UP: Any desire to make a game set in France?
DC: I don't have any specific desire to write a game set in France. I guess most American people would see it as a nice postcard with the Eiffel Tower, the Camembert, the French bread, and Amelie Poulain on a soundtrack with an accordion. I don't have enough distance with my country to be able to tell something interesting about it...for the moment.
1UP: Do you have any unusual traditions at the office for whenever you hit particular milestones or anything along those lines?
DC: Well, yes we have a couple. A funny one is called "la coupe du boulet" -- the idiot cup. It is a real trophy we put on the table of the person who made the stupidest thing of the day in the development. A couple of people often had it on their table.
1UP: Has there been anything big in your career that almost happened, but then changed at the last second?
DC: Oh yeah, we were close to dying a couple of times...but finally survived. We also were about to raise more money in 2000, but at the last minute one of the investors decided games were a risky business and we only raised half -- which was still a significant amount of money that allowed us to develop the company.
We were also close to signing with a certain publisher a couple of times...but didn't in the end. They changed their mind on Indigo half an hour before we were supposed to sign the contract. After three months of intense negotiations, we told them we changed ours on Heavy Rain half an hour before too...[so] I guess we are on par [smiles].
1UP: Have you ever worked on a game that got cancelled partway through development?
DC: No. Given the level of personal involvement the team and I put in our games, it would have been a real drama. I think it is difficult for people outside the industry to understand how developers can be so emotionally attached to their game. For most of us, it is not just a job, but a part of our lives that can be killed any time for reasons that are not always related to the quality of the game itself.
1UP: Do you know how to create origami?
DC: Absolutely not. It makes them even more fascinating to me [smiles]
Autor: Matt Leone
Source: 1UP Heavy Rain minisite
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