NOW Gamer: David Cage Interview

We talk to David Cage, writer and director of the upcoming PS3-exclusive Heavy Rain

So, where did the original seed of the inspiration of Heavy Rain come from?

David Cage: In my personal life, actually. You must have had a pretty strange life then. Well, yeah. The first thing we wanted to show, we wanted to be easy to understand. Easy to grasp. For example, you get a lot of combat, and a lot of action, but this is not what the game is all about. The way we’re promoting [Heavy Rain] is a little bit weird, actually. We’re showing you stuff that is individual to each scene.

How do you feel the three things you’ve shown so far? The Casting, The Taxidermist and this level are related then?

I felt that Fahrenheit really was the basis of our work on virtual actors, The Casting really showed what we wanted to do with them. The Taxidermist was more about how we could play with expanding stories. Mixing action and exploration. This is about the interactions in general: the result of three or four years of technical stuff.

You mentioned Fahrenheit as being a part of Heavy Rain’s process. Was that a kind of tech demo for Heavy Rain?

Oh, not really. We had no plan for Heavy Rain at the time. I actually thought Fahrenheit would be a disaster. It was so weird. We’re going back five years here, and at the time I was talking about emotions, interactive storylines, no guns and no cars. As I was pitching the game to journalists they were saying, “There’s no gun, no puzzles, no enemies? That’s not a game.” I tried to explain again and again, but no one could get it. I mean try to explain the concept to someone who hasn’t played the game. It’s hard. It sold really well, and got scores of around 85 per cent, it was at the top of the UK charts for a couple of weeks. We made money from it, for sure.

What games influenced you?

Honestly, only Fahrenheit. I don’t take my inspirations from watching games, because I try to think of a different way of interacting. I think people have used the traditional game conventions as much as they can and there has to come a point where there’s not much more you can do with it. When each button has a specific action and animation and depending on where you are, something happens – what kind of story can you tell with that? What kind of game can you produce apart from shooter games? You can play around and try to produce some nice cut-scenes, but can you really rethink entirely what games are about? No! I thought I had to go away and rethink the interface into something entirely contextual. I wanted an infinite amount of options, and I wanted to tell a story through gameplay, not cut-scenes.

How close is Heavy Rain to the original concept?

I think it’s quite close. In fact, it’s probably a little early to tell. We’re still at the alpha stage and there’s a whole lot of work to be done. There’s so much fine-tuning in the game left to do. Everything has to be perfect. If there’s one thing wrong in a scene, it’s the only thing you’ll see. There are many things that don’t work right now. We need to have everything in place, from facial animations, to score to work out the final result.

What do you think the response to Heavy Rain will be? What are your greatest fears and hopes for it?

My greatest hope is that it will be copied. I know why Fahrenheit wasn’t copied: it was so difficult to write and produce. Just in terms of the amount of data is insane. Everything you do has a success and a failure and a result on the rest of the story. It’s not just in writing, but it affects the art direction, the lighting, and everything to do with the game. To give you an idea of how crazy we are, we do specific lighting for all the dialogue, like in movies, we give you the best angle and light. We’re the only company to do facial motion capture.

We shot about a year of motion capture, every day. That’s about the same as three or four movies. We worked with 70 actors, we spent a year doing casting sessions and interviewed over 300 actors for the roles, because we wanted real actors and we wanted to use everything about them: their face, their body movements and voices.

Back to your question, my greatest hope is that people will see this as a possibility for this industry. I’m not saying everything would be like that, but for some to say, “Okay, this is a game about emotion, and storytelling for a wider audience.” I want to open the door for other publishers and developers and make them see the opportunities.

My greatest fear is very basic. Mostly that people may not like it. When you try to do something different, you can’t please everyone. If you do something like a shooter, you can make a game better than the other ones. It’s obvious and everyone can have their opinion. When you try to do something that’s a bit different, you’ll have people that love it and hate it. I always feel people can be a little unfair sometimes because we are very sincere about the way we make games.

We’re not here for the money, we spend three or four years of our lives doing something we strongly believe in and trying to share our vision. We’re not trying to make the same games over and over again. It’s always a little cruel when people just slash you sometimes without even thinking. Look at Fahrenheit – it did many things wrong, but there were a couple of new things and ideas that people should look at.

What feedback from Fahrenheit was applied to this?

After Fahrenheit we spent a lot of time reading reviews and talking to gamers and trying to work things out. Also we had a lot of things that within the team, we wanted to change. The quality of the story was one of those things. The first two thirds of Fahrenheit went very well, and at some point I became a little overwhelmed by the technique of writing – the fact that you need to step back and get some inspiration. At some points I was managing the team, directing the game and producing it, and I didn’t pay as much attention to the story as I should have. With Heavy Rain it was different. We got script doctors from Hollywood working on it, asking me for changes and suggesting things to improve characterisation, which has been very useful.

We learned the importance of the story, and to be careful of the ending. The main thing I learnt was that you don’t need to have supernatural powers to tell a story. The parts that work the best are the parts that are grounded in reality. The scene with Tyler Miles in Fahrenheit where you wake up, take a shower, drink coffee and chat to your wife was one of the greatest inspirations for Heavy Rain. You don’t do anything spectacular, you’re just living someone’s life. I thought with Heavy Rain that you don’t need to save the planet to do something meaningful.

We were also frustrated with the technology on Fahrenheit; it was on three platforms, it was our first console game, so we had a lot of work and no experience. Here we’ve got the time, on one fantastic platform and all the proprietary technology is really dedicated on this platform, so it’s a big change.

For the full interview with David Cage check the latest issue of Play, out now.

Autor: Play Magazine
Source: Play Magazine
Language: English

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NOW Gamer: David Cage Interview Thursday, June 11, 2009

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