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Tense Questions: David Cage On Heavy Rain
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Tense Questions: David Cage On Heavy Rain

March 26, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 4 Next

Speaking of that part and also the part when the police are asking Ethan what was Shaun wearing, and what time you were at the park, I didn't expect to have to retain information. It seems stupid to say that, because that's the kind of information you would typically retain in real life, but in a game context I'm going to be more worried about what the challenges are. I wasn't expecting to have to remember those things.

DC: It's funny that you mention this because that was really something about role-play. It's not something if you give the wrong answer everything will collapse and game over and this is it. It's just, if you can't even remember the clothes of your son, it really means something about you as a father.

Really, you didn't pay attention, and it was a way to reinforce guilt for the player as the father. This is just role-play, and this is something I used a lot: not every single action in Heavy Rain has huge consequences. Sometimes it's just about the role-play, putting you in the shoes of these characters; making you feel bad or making you feel guilty or whatever. I really like this kind of stuff.

Me too! I was talking to someone last night about this scene towards the beginning where you have custody of Shaun and you have the schedule on the chalkboard, and I did everything.

I got the Good Father trophy. It's a "Ding! You're a good father." And I talked to someone else who's like, "Yeah, I just let him watch TV; he threw a temper tantrum, and I gave up on it." I'm like, "Huh."

At the time, obviously, I felt that, as a player in the role of Ethan, I wanted to be a good father; I wanted to help his relationship with his son. But there was also a part of me that was the gamer that was like, "I want to try to achieve the most that I can with this scenario." So it worked on two levels.

DC: (Laughs) That's one of my favorite scenes, by the way, in the game, because this is an anti-videogame scene in many ways -- because there's nothing really to achieve in this scene. You don't kill anybody; there's no explosions. It's not spectacular. It's just a father taking care of his son, or not, with time elapsing and night coming and stuff. I really love when the house becomes really dark in real-time.

There's something deeply depressing in this scene, and I was really pleased with the results, especially when we showed it for the first time. We were really nervous because we though, "Oh my God. What are people going to think about this scene?" Because, basically, you don't do anything really spectacular.

And the feedback we got about this scene was just amazing because, with some people -- I remember a journalist who was raised by his father because his parents divorced, and he was like Shaun, moving to different houses with crates that were never opened because they were moving out. He felt so depressed about this scene because it truly resonated with his own personal experience. When you can do that, as a game creator, this is the absolute holy grail -- that's what you're looking for.

Chris Hecker has said that in movies the easiest thing to do is shoot a scene of people having a conversation; in games, that's the hardest thing to do.

DC: That's true.

I think that you're aiming at that.

DC: Dialog in games is usually something very difficult and challenging because, when characters talk, the first the thing the player wants to do is skip, and "Okay, give me control again. I want to play; I don't want to listen to people talking."

We tried to find solutions to this by first making these dialogs in real-time, which means that you cannot stay forever without knowing what to say, because the dialog continues without you if you don't choose anything; and also by trying to create, in some scenes, what we call "dynamic dialogs", the fact that you're in control as your characters talk.

That was the case in the scene at the sleazy place where we go with Scott Shelby and meet Lauren for the first time, and you can explore the apartment as you talk to her. I thought it was interesting because it allowed the player to become an actor, and to participate in the performance.

Depending if you want to sit on the bed with her to talk to her, it's going to create this strange feeling of proximity and being close to her and trying to be nice to her. At the same time, if you just look around and take pictures, it really means something different. Again, it's about role-play.

And it's kind of at a subtle level, because you're not really tracking at that granular level, and it's not having an effect on the consequence of the story or anything. It's just about how you feel as the player.

DC: Exactly. But that was the main focus: it's how you feel as the player. I don't believe that every single action has to have tremendous consequences. Sometimes, just changing the psychological state of your character and feeling what he feels -- we did a lot, for example, in one of the first sequences to make sure that you feel responsible for what had happened to Jason when he died. You lost him -- you as the player. You didn't pay attention; you lost him in the crowd and couldn't save him. This strange feeling of guilt is something that we really build.

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