1UP: Looking Back at Indigo Prophecy

David Cage reviews his first attempt at the interactive drama genre, and reveals why he doesn't want to make a sequel.

Though the universes aren't connected, you'd be forgiven for thinking Heavy Rain was a sequel to developer Quantic Dream's previous game, Indigo Prophecy. Hell, we assumed as much in our database description on 1UP for a couple of years before correcting the error, and the two share enough similarities that it's hard for me to look at one without thinking of the other. Perhaps the best way to describe the new game is that it's a gameplay sequel with a from-scratch story.

So I figured it made sense to dedicate one day of this week's Heavy Rain cover story to looking back at the game that came before it, and get director David Cage's take on it now that he's gained a few years of perspective.

1UP: If you were to review Indigo Prophecy now, how successful would you say it was?

David Cage: Indigo Prophecy was the first game entirely based on narrative and characters, not using any standard game mechanics but only contextual actions and decisions affecting the story. It demonstrated to me many very important points: it was possible to create a game without weapons, a car, or puzzles, and it was possible to tell a story through player actions, not through cut-scenes. The game explored new ground working with three main characters at the same time with apparent opposite goals -- one was the murderer, the two others the investigators -- and changed my understanding of identifying with a character in a game. It made me work on interactive storytelling for two years, a luxury that few game designers have, trying to find new writing techniques -- creating the concept of bending stories, for example -- and discovering all the difficulties of trying to tell an interactive story.

From a consumer standpoint, we were happy the game was both a critical and commercial success, being reviewed worldwide in the mid-80s on all platforms and spending several weeks on the UK charts, for example -- a country that did not have a narrative game in this position since Myst, maybe.

From a company standpoint, we developed proprietary technologies on three platforms, and our team gained a very unique experience. We put in place our motion capture pipeline, invented a new approach to realtime directing tools, and utilized many other innovative technologies.

Last but not least, Indigo was definitely the game that got Quantic Dream on the radar of the industry, thanks to the interest raised by the press and fans worldwide. Many publishers played the game and saw what we tried to achieve, which allowed us to sign with a console manufacturer as prestigious as Sony.

After this long answer, how could I say Indigo was not successful to me? It did some things right and certain things wrong. It was definitely not perfect, but we felt it was original and different.

1UP: Are there any specific scenes in the game that you think worked best?

DC: The first scene that comes to my mind is the one where you control Tyler Miles, a cop, as he wakes up in the morning. He looks at his girlfriend still asleep, takes a shower, and puts his clothes on. Then he goes to the kitchen. He drinks the coffee his girlfriend prepared, they talk, and he leaves for the office. I remember when I wrote this scene, I thought it would never work. There was absolutely nothing happening, nothing spectacular, just a guy waking up and going to work. When I played the game for the first time, I had this unique feeling of sharing the character's intimacy, playing his life with him. It is definitely the scene that convinced me that it was possible to think differently about interactivity.

I also liked the scene at the lake, where the hero is confronted with a moral decision, saving a little boy about to fall in a lake but taking the risk of being arrested by the police, or just leaving. The choices were presented in multiple windows and the player had to make a quick decision with moral consequences. The scene worked quite well, although being quite simple, but many people told me they left and felt really bad for a long time after [playing it].

One last scene was the one where the hero's ex-girlfriend comes back to his apartment to get some stuff, and the player can be nice or tough with her, trying to seduce her again and potentially get intimate. Someone told me he was usually a nice person, so when the girlfriend came back, he was as nice as possible with her. When he played the game again, he wanted to play differently to see what would happen...but when she came, he could not be tough with her and played exactly the same way. I love this story, because it means this player saw this program moving a bunch of pixels on screen like a real character with emotions, which means that we reached our goal.

1UP: Do you think if Indigo Prophecy was released today, you would have an easier problem including the game's sex scene in North America?

DC: To be frank, I don't know yet. I think there is still an atmosphere of paranoia around video games. Some people seem to think games have an incredible power because of interactivity. Even in our industry, some decision makers are convinced of that, although all studies I know demonstrate games don't have more influence than movies or books.

Graphic novels were at the same stage 30 years ago, because laws were made by people who did not read graphic novels, so they thought it was dangerous. I think times will change and interactivity will get more and more accepted in our society. Game creators are getting more mature and in many cases are telling more meaningful stories in games.

As a creator, I like to be free to create the most realistic interactive experience possible, and sex and violence are parts of our lives. Not that I necessarily want to promote those aspects but it is an element of human nature that I believe people can connect with in the games we do.

1UP: We're seeing the evolution of many of the ideas from Indigo Prophecy in Heavy Rain -- the new button-pressing minigames, the story approach changes, etc. -- though clearly the story, setting, and characters are new. Did Heavy Rain ever start out in your head as an Indigo Prophecy sequel?

DC: In fact, yes. After Indigo, I wanted to work on something different because I thought the game would be a commercial disaster. It was really different from what the industry was doing and there was absolutely no hype about emotion or narrative. But when we started talking to publishers, many of them told us they loved Indigo and they were interested in publishing the sequel.

So I started thinking of Indigo 2 but I quickly realized I had nothing more to say on this story and these characters. I really enjoyed the time I spent with them, but they were attached to a moment in my life, and I had moved on. I wanted to write something more personal, deeper, more adult, with no world to save and no supernatural powers.

Indigo opened the way to a different type of experience, giving all the bricks any author would need to tell any kind of story. It was the first time I could only think of what I wanted to tell, what I had to say, and not about what technology to use or what button to press. It was definitely a huge change of paradigm. Sony came to us quickly after Indigo because they enjoyed the game, asked us what we were working on, and we told them about The Casting, this technical demo of a virtual actress in realtime 3D. They offered to give us PS3 dev kits and to present the demo in their booth at E3. Heavy Rain was voted the most anticipated PS3 title after the show, just based on this demo -- and I guess [based] on Indigo -- which definitely proved to us gamers were eager for a different type of interactive experience.

1UP: I've heard you guys say you agreed with complaints that Indigo Prophecy didn't stay grounded in reality towards the end of the game. Have you given any thought to how you would have ended the game had you not gone the supernatural route?

DC: What was definitely wrong in Indigo was the fact that the end was not built enough and came as a series of disconnected events. We put so much effort to reach the end that we could not accomplish all we wanted [at the end]. It was supposed to be supernatural from the beginning, and I think that was OK with the kind of story we were telling. But we've learned many lessons since then and realize we should have paid more attention to resolving the end.

1UP: Can you share some behind the scenes trivia about the game that we might not know?

DC: are some:

  • I was the actor for most of Lucas Kane's [motion capture] animations in the game. I thought it would be faster to have the director and the actor as the same person. I learned a lot doing this and it definitely helped me directing actors on Heavy Rain, but this is not something I would do again, because it is quite time consuming and only fun on the first day.
  • When we met Angelo Badalamenti for the music, we spent about four hours in a taxi that got lost not finding his place (he lives in the countryside around New York). I don't want to remember how much we paid. Then we worked on the music, and spent the rest of the day drinking wine, talking about how he found the theme of Twin Peaks and how it was to work with David Lynch.
  • All facial animations were done by a puppeteer triggering animations with a mocap glove. He was listening to the dialogue, and then he moved his hands in the air to animate the face of the character, one shape per finger. He did that in all languages...
  • The original game title was Fahrenheit, but it was renamed in the US because someone clever in the marketing department was scared that the game could be confused with Fahrenheit 9/11, the movie from Michael Moore, and that it could hurt the sales.
  • Indigo sold out on Xbox in most countries on the first week. The publisher significantly underestimated the sales on this platform.
  • About four versions of the game were released: the European version, that was the original version I wanted that was released uncensored; the American version, which had some changes regarding sex; the Japanese version, where all women had to have their chests covered; and then the last version was a director's cut version released only in the US, and that was in fact the European version.
  • We were working on Indigo during the Hot Coffee scandal. There was some kind of paranoia at the time that some genius teenager could extract graphic assets involving sex from the game, so we had to go back and cover the private parts of all characters present on the DVD, even if they were not shown in the game, just to make sure no one could extract them from the program. This was probably one of the most time consuming and, to me, weirdest things I've had to do in my career.
    The part of the story that was grounded in reality was definitely the one that worked the best. It convinced me that it was not necessary to have magic powers or to fight aliens to tell an interesting, interactive story. Our media has now reached a level of maturity where real stories with real people can be told, which is definitely a good thing.

    1UP: Are there any secrets in Indigo Prophecy that to your knowledge have yet to be discovered by players?

    DC: Yes, there are still a couple of Easter eggs, but let's keep them secret. Maybe fans will jump back in to the game now to look for them.

    1UP: Will hardcore Heavy Rain players notice any nods or subtle references to Indigo Prophecy?

    DC: Maybe. There was one about Omikron in Indigo.

    Autor: Matt Leone
    Source: 1UP
    Language: English

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    1UP: Looking Back at Indigo Prophecy Wednesday, May 20, 2009
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