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Heavy Dreams: Pushing Interactive Narrative


November 30, 2009 Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next
 

Quantic Dream made a major splash with its 2005 game Fahrenheit (also known as Indigo Prophecy.) It certainly had its flaws, but its interactive drama was not quite like anything being done at the time, particularly on the major consoles. Quantic Dream's upcoming game, Heavy Rain, eschews the supernatural themes that marred Fahrenheit's realism and explores the incipient dramatic/interactive form further.

Recently, Gamasutra had a chance to speak with Guillaume de Fondaumiere, co-CEO of Quantic Dream and executive producer of Heavy Rain about the game. What is it? What is the intent behind it? And how do the design decisions support this intent? These are important questions for a company that sees itself trying something new, and de Fondaumiere answers them frankly.

Heavy Rain has been much feted by the press; it was the subject of a dramatic announcement by Sony and remains a flagship exclusive title for the PlayStation 3. "If you want to drive cars and run and shoot people, then you shouldn't buy Heavy Rain; this is not a game for you," de Fondaumiere says.

On a platform where the majority of commercial successes revolve around that activity, can Quantic Dream find commercial and artistic success?

Do you officially call the game an "interactive movie"? I thought that I had seen that.

Guillaume de Fondaumiere: Actually, it's always difficult for us to brand what we're doing and to explain what Heavy Rain is about. I guess that the best short-form definition we found was "interactive movie", which is a double-edged sword quite simply because it reminds people of those games at the early '90s when you were basically in a movie and you had the choice between going to the left or opening the door to the right -- which of course Heavy Rain is absolutely not.

But to a certain degree, it is an interactive experience in which your actions have consequences on the story, and, because it's so cinematic, I guess calling it an "interactive movie" is probably the proper definition.

Do you feel that games approaching reality is a good thing?

GdF: We didn't set out to develop specifically realistic games. However, we thought that, with the story that we had -- it was really grounded into reality -- we wanted to create something that would not necessarily mimic reality but look relatively realistic. It's also because we wanted to create an experience where players would really be immersed in the environment, and I guess it's easier to immerse them in an environment that they understand and that they know.

This is why we went this route. But that shouldn't necessarily be the case... with the new technologies that we have today, with the capacity to create realistic characters, I guess you are going to see more and more games that look pretty much like real life more and more so. But I hope that developers are not only going to develop highly realistic games; our studio in particular -- we can do different types of games and venture into different graphical [territory].

The immersiveness of realistic graphics is something that David [Cage] and I have argued about before because the more realistic the graphics become, the more the human mind will judge the results against their perception of reality.

High-end graphics make you scrutinize the entire world much more; since it looks like reality, you check it against your own reality, so that it puts the script and the production design and the scenario under a microscope. Do you know what I mean?

GdF: Um, yeah, maybe. I think what was very important for us was to create the means to be realistic. We set a very high bar in terms of graphics, and I think we set a very high bar in terms of scenario. David and his team have been working for many months on writing a story that would be at the level of some Hollywood movies. I think, in my personal opinion at least, that we're doing a pretty good job on this.

What kind of measures do you take to overcome that challenge? Have you had a lot of, for instance, playtesting with different demographics to see how they react and how they feel -- like, is this realistic, or is this plausible for me?

GdF: First of all, that's work that we've done on the script. We've had scriptwriters who helped us. David wrote the entire story and the entire script, but we had a couple of scriptwriters who were really doctoring the script, so that was very interesting.

Now, of course, we're using also playtest to see what people's reaction is, and we're perfecting this game for many months now; and it's going to be perfecting up until we release. All elements are scrutinized both from a graphical standpoint and from a story -- a dialogue standpoint. So it's a lot of work.

Attention to detail is one of the essential elements in this game. Of course, because of the technology, because of the graphics -- and this is why I totally understand what you mean -- we need to have a very high standard in all compartments of the production. That's a real challenge, but this is what we wanted to do.


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