Have there been any times where you were playtesting something and the players just totally didn't get what you were trying to do, and you had to change something?
GdF: Thankfully not, but there's been a lot of little adjustments that have been done, and this is really, again, what we're saying about detail. I don't think that what's been written at the beginning was totally wrong; there's really small things that we added, small things that perfect and make the whole experience believable, because this is really what we want.
What can you do to keep -- or maybe you can't -- people from kind of ruining the mood by screwing around?
GdF: There isn't, to be very honest, there isn't. I think at the beginning of the game there is a certain kind of a pact between the game and the player. We're setting a context; we're setting a story; we're setting characters. We're giving you the choice of doing a number of things.
The sets are very interactive; you can talk to people... I think we're trying to make sure that, whatever the context of what the player has to do, we're giving an awful lot of choice to players so they can really go their own way. But of course, if someone wants to just ruin the experience -- but who would want to do that?
In Fahrenheit, when it said that I shouldn't combine alcohol and painkillers, well, it was the first thing I did, and I died immediately...
GdF: But this is giving you a possibility. We didn't even have to warn you about that -- well, in this particular case we do -- but sometimes we don't even warn you about that. It's just a choice. You can have this possibility, but of course it's like in real life. If you do something that you shouldn't do, there is a consequence.
I think that this is a central theme of Heavy Rain; you have to bear the consequences of your actions. I think that what's really interesting and pretty much unique about Heavy Rain is that your choices have consequences and you can see what happens when you make a choice.
When I talked to David and he did a postmortem for Game Developer, he was disappointed with how the combat worked out. Have you come up with some solutions for this game?
GdF: Totally. On Fahrenheit, we had a system that was more a success or failure system, to start with, and we really wanted to get rid of this. In Heavy Rain, the combat sequences are -- or I would more say the action sequences, because sometimes it's combat; sometimes it's driving; sometimes it's dancing. So we have a system that enables us to offer all kinds of actions. It's really not a success or failure mechanism, so you don't have to try and try and try again.
Simply depending on your actions, something different is going to unfold; something different is going to happen. So we came up with a system that I think is perfectly, from a graphical standpoint, totally immersed. We don't have a big Simon Says thing like we had in Fahrenheit in the middle of the screen; no, it's totally integrated within the scene.
Also, the moves that sometimes you have to perform, because we're not only using the four buttons, we're also making use of the analog sticks, so you really have to unfold the animation. You really have to do the movement that the character has to do on screen. That all works far better now, and we're very happy about that.
How many conditions or results can you have for actions like that? Say, if you're dancing, I can imagine that it would be most likely the results of your partner being disappointed or neutral or happy, or something like that. How much gray area can you have between these?
GdF: I think that's a good example. It's a little bit like in real life, and this is really what we wanted. If you're dancing with someone -- let's say, imagine there is a scene in the game where you have to dance with someone. If you do the correct moves, you're going to dance nicely, and you're going to engage in a more interesting dance.
Stepping on the foot of the other person, he's going to start looking awkward, and at one point he may tell you, "You know what? I'm not so much into dancing -- let's do something else." And this is exactly what would happen in-game.
So again it's not the failure-success mechanism; we're trying to think, "Okay, if I would be in this situation, what would happen?" and we're trying then to create all the animations. I couldn't give you a straight answer how many different possibilities there are in the action sequences; there are so many, in the thousands!
Let's say per sequence.
GdF: There's no rule. There is no rule. Take, for instance, the combat in the mud between Mad Jack and Norman Jayden. You have multiple possibilities in this particular scene to die, but you have a number of possibilities to overthrow him; to continue the fight; to succeed over him.
We try to be as realistic as possible. If you're getting five, six punches that look deadly, you must die. This is it; we always ask ourselves, what's realistic? How much leeway do we have? And the same applies actually to dialogue. It's the same basic mechanism: giving choice and seeing what consequences you have.