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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 3 of 4 Next

There's this one part I love in that crappy office in the police station, and there's a part where he's in withdrawal from Tripto and the room stretches. It's a film technique, but since it's a game you can actually make that a concrete thing, whereas in a film it would have to all be through camera tricks; but with this you can actually change the geometry of the room. We're very good at aping film's tricks, but we can come up with our own psychological tricks, our own sort of vocabulary; we construct this world, so we can break it if we want to, too.

DC: Interactivity is a very powerful medium, and we did very little things with it so far: pretty much always the same thing. Often I use the analogy with the movies. The first movies, the graphic quality was very low; there was no sound; they were black and white; the frame-rate was really low. All they could do with it was "the attack of the train" and "the attack of the bank" because it was big and spectacular, and that was fine; but, as the technology evolved, movie makers were able to tell more subtle things.

So they started maybe with a movie like Metropolis, and then there was Orson Welles and more and more subtle emotions in movies, also because the technology evolved and also because movie makers discovered how to use this technology to treat your emotions.

This is pretty much where we are, I think. We are at a stage in the industry where we can stop making the attack on the train or the attack on the bank; we can move to something more subtle now. We should create our own Metropolis and our own Citizen Kane, probably.

Were you surprised by the success of the game? I'm not an analyst, but I have certain gut feelings about games; I thought this game would be popular, but I did not expect it to debut at number one in the UK. It debuted in the top 10 in Japan; it debuted in the top 10 NPDs in a month against things like BioShock 2. Were you anticipating this?

DC: Yeah, the NPDs for February, and we just had one week in February, which is great. No, I didn't expect it to be that popular. I was quite used to having critical acclaim and commercial mid-success. This is honestly what I was expecting for Heavy Rain. I think that no one even at Sony was expecting this. No one even in the most positive reviews we got -- all the critics were saying, "I loved it. I just hope it's going to sell, because if it doesn't it it will be a pity."

But I think the success took everybody by surprise, including Sony, because the game was sold out in the UK in two days; so you couldn't find it on the shelves. You couldn't buy it, pretty much, after two days. So it was really a shock. And same thing in Japan, which is even more of a surprise: the game is sold out. You can't buy it. And that's great; I think it means a lot.

It means something because during the development of Heavy Rain, we said, "This game, whether it's a commercial success or a commercial failure, is going to send a very strong message to the industry about how interested the market is in innovative concepts and games exploring new directions.

If it's a failure, it's going to mean that, for the whole industry, 'Don't change anything! Continue to make the same games because this is what the market wants, and if you try something else you'll fail.' But if the game was a success, it would mean that the market was eager for something deeper and something new."

And I said that last year, before knowing the reviews and before knowing the sales. So now I can say, "Look! The market wants innovation." So this is what we should concentrate on now, and Heavy Rain is a very strong message to publishers to take more risks and support innovation.

And support something with a different texture. I like it for a lot of reasons, but it offers just a totally different texture than other games, both from a gameplay and from a narrative perspective.

DC: Many critics wrote that it was the first game for adults, and, yeah, I take that really as a very strong compliment because most games are for kids and teenagers. Most games are about feeling powerful and killing monsters and doing spectacular things and just feeling strong.

My son is nine years old, and he loves these games, because he's at the stage where he needs to master his environment; he needs to become stronger and take confidence and stuff. These games help him in order to do this. But when you're an adult, this is not necessarily what you want to play because you're beyond this stage. You expect something else. I hope that there will be more games dealing with a major audience. We shouldn't make only games for kids and teenagers.

Sega's Yakuza

The first game I thought was really for adults was -- Sega has a series called Yakuza, and they're gangster dramas. I would put the story on par with Heavy Rain, but the main game part is a punching, kicking fighting game: beating guys up. It's a fun game, and as a gamer I like it, but I think that you have a hard time reconciling those two parts.

DC: The most important thing for me with Heavy Rain was not to put violence at the center. Violence can be used as a narrative device when it supports the story or the characterization, but it's not the end goal; it's not the core of the experience. In Heavy Rain, that's the big difference, because in most games what you do is kill, destroy.

In Heavy Rain, you make choices, and these choices could be to kiss someone or not to kiss someone; it could be to help someone or not to help someone. It could be just to make a decision affecting your psychology or how you feel about your character. I think that was the most important thing.

An analyst wrote that, before the game was released, no matter how good the game would be, it would never sell. He said the reason for that is that gamers don't want to think when they play. I thought that was the most horrible thing to write and to say because that's so totally wrong. People playing games are just people!

And you're thinking all the time when you're playing games!

DC: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It's absurd; thinking and feeling is a pleasure. When you go to a movie theater and watch a film, you really enjoy thinking and feeling and trying to guess what's going on. It resonates with you as a human being, and I see no reason why videogames should be any different.

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