Beyond Heavy Rain: David Cage on Interactive Narrative
May 25, 2012 Page 2 of 4
Something I really liked about Heavy Rain -- and I wrote an editorial about this -- is that because the abstract controls perform every action, whether it's in combat, or tucking in your son, or whatever, using the same control method, everything has equal weight. And I'm very curious if that was your intent with that.
DC: Oh yeah, definitely. I was always more interested in what happens in your mind than what happens with your thumbs, to be honest with you. But having said that, we always felt that having some sense of mimicry in the controls would be something very powerful, because the goal with Heavy Rain was to put you in the shoes of your characters, make you feel what they feel, and make them play their daily lives -- so that when something important happens to them, you're on board, you're with them, you're part of them. And I think the interface played really an important role in this mechanism, to work together.
Why go into games, and not film, if your primary goal is to tell stories?
DC: My primary goal is not exactly to tell stories. My primary goal is to make you feel something. And I think the most exciting thing to do it right now is to do it through interactivity.
So I'm not a frustrated movie director who cannot make movies so he makes games. That's really not how I work. I'm in this industry because this is really what I want to do. I think there are so many things to invent based on interactivity. And you can tell stories. There's nothing wrong. It's like you're doing a sin if you try to tell a story in a game.
I don't like game mechanics as such. I don't think that's the only way to create interactivity. There are other ways. Destroying or killing is not the ultimate definition of interactivity. Changing something in your environment, talking to someone, feeling something, making a meaningful decision -- this is interactivity, too. And it's just as meaningful and interesting. So, again, there are different ways of doing things. We just try to explore different directions.
But you do have a focus on a cinematic style of storytelling.
Why is that?
DC: Because it's the most efficient way, I found, to trigger your emotions. There are other people in the industry triggering emotions not using storytelling, and I'm really impressed with what they do, and how they do it. Somebody like [Ico creator Fumito] Ueda-san, for example, doesn't use story the way I do it. He uses a sense of poetry in a totally different approach. Or the guys doing Limbo. There are many different people doing different things. Or Flower, for example. They created emotions maybe not using storytelling, and that's fine.
But I like storytelling since I was a kid, and I always liked stories. I thought this is a very universal thing. You can tell a story that means something to a Japanese guy, or an American woman, or a German. No matter where you come from or how old you are, you can understand a story and feel something watching Kara and sharing how she feels. That's my thing. It's something I believe in.
Prior to the interview, you said the way you handled Heavy Rain's performance capture, I think you said you retained 50 to 60 percent of the performance.
DC: Yeah, that's my take.
So, why do you feel that? What was lost?
DC: The body language. Because it was not shot at the same time as the voice. The actors just try to mimic on top of the audio. So, that's fine. It works. I mean, we did it, and we're happy with the result. But at the same time, all the subtext is lost. All the things that you say through your body, not your words, are lost. And now, thanks to this performance capture technology, we can get this back. We can get some nuances, some subtlety, in the performance, in the subtext, in the body language, that we never saw in a video game before. Now I have the confidence that we can get that.
With your new engine that you discussed, was it primarily constructed for performance capture, or is that only one facet of what you tried to achieve with that technology?
DC: There was one thing that I forgot to mention, that this demo is actually one year old. We did that a year ago. So, what you saw is the engine where it was 12 months ago. So, it's now 50 percent of the features we currently have. It's the first thing we shot in performance capture. We improved the technology. We improved the rendering. Everything looks so much better now, a year later.
But what it brings... We wanted to develop our own technology, rather than using existing technology from the shelf, just because we have very specific needs in the types of games we make, especially regarding virtual actors. We want very realistic tears, skin -- skin shaders, in general.
We have a specific approach to lighting. Lighting is so important when you start working in this area, with very close shots of the characters. You want perfect shadows and stuff. And you want to use the light to tell something. It's not just, "Oh, I need a light." You want the light to tell you something about the character and the moment and the emotion. So, we developed specific tools to create specific lighting for close shots, to use performance capture, to use facial animation, all these things.
We keep on improving again and again. Most of the engines that are on the shelves right now are focused on huge environments where you can shoot and do different things. We really focused on the cinematography of the engine, how we can create real cameras, having a weight, and having real lenses, and all this stuff.
Yeah, that was going to be my next question, honestly. Cinematography is an integral part of how movies tell stories, but cinematography tools in games haven't necessarily been as advanced. So it sounds like that's what you're really focusing on.
DC: Yeah. We learned from cinema for certain rules, but at the same time, we don't make cinema. When you play Heavy Rain, you don't watch Heavy Rain. You play Heavy Rain. You're in control pretty much the entire time. What it means is you can be inspired by the rules and the grammar of cinema, but you need to invent a different one, taking interactivity into account. So, you really need to invent a new grammar visually, and in narrative storytelling. And you cannot just totally copy what movies do, because we don't do movies.
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