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David Cage and the future of cinematic games

David Cage and the future of cinematic games

August 20, 2013 | By Christian Nutt

Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls developer David Cage is often asked why he doesn't just make movies instead of games. "This is the wrong question in many ways," he says.

"No new medium has been created from scratch, never in the history of mankind. No art form has ever been created with no reference to what's happened before," according to Cage. Photography was at first influenced by painting; film by theater. It took time for these media to evolve their own identities.

"I'm saying it loud and clear: We should learn from films. We have many differences, and gameplay and interactivity is the different thing, and it's very crucial, but at the same time we have a lot of things we can learn," Cage says.

Innovating Cinematography for Emotional Impact

He hopes to innovate in cinematography -- and in his talk at GDC Europe, he demonstrated Quantic Dream's engine, which was used for Beyond: Two Souls and the Dark Sorcerer demo from E3:

Cinematography will help "get the player emotionally involved," says Cage. "If you have no emotional involvement you're just watching the pixels on screen."

While some argue against storytelling in games, he sees it as essential: "We want to keep the player's interest from the first minute to the last and storytelling is an amazing tool... and a way to tell a story is to work with virtual actors and emotions."

The Future of Games Will Be Meaning

"I believe that the future of games will be meaning. You will hear a lot of people telling you it's technology, it's more polygons... I have been claiming for years that the future of games is emotion."

Cage hopes that by imbuing games with meaning, developers can start to tackle more serious questions: "Can we create games that have something to say? Can we make games that will change you, even a tiny bit? Or at least make you think?"

He thinks gamers are already on board. It's developers and publishers that need convincing. "We need to decide that this is important -- this is the biggest challenge out there. Convincing people, not so much gamers, they have interest -- but convincing teams themselves, publishers, and press that this is something important."

And while he advocates borrowing cinematic techniques, he wants to see them evolve into something totally new in the context of games. "The other major challenge is to merge cinematography and interactivity," says Cage. "You have cutscenes... and gameplay loops based on violent actions you repeat. You can achieve cinematography without cutscenes."

Interactivity is not just about actions like combat -- traditional gameplay mechanics, Cage argues. "I think that's a misconception of what interacting means -- it just means changing something in your environment. It can be anything that has meaning and makes sense in context."

"We need to find a way not to have cutscene/action/cutscene/action. We need to blend these and have an experience where cinematography and interactivity are totally interlaced and you don't tell the difference."

The Future of Cinematic Games

Cage sees a future where games are almost indistinguishable from films -- very soon, perhaps in the coming generation. "I don't know if we'll get to the point during this cycle where you can't tell the difference between a film and a game but we will get very close," he says.

Already, it has used its performance capture technology to detach the recording of the performance from actual camera angles, allowing its developers to change the look and feel of a scene on the fly. But software could take that further, he argues.

His studio has begun experimenting with technology to exceed the capabilities of Quantic Dream's current cinematic tools. "We've been thinking seriously at Quantic Dream [about a system] where we could have a program where we could film some parameters into the program and have it adapt, and we may at some point have an algorithm that will have a first pass on the directing... even an algorithm that will film based on [the styles of] Stanley Kubrick, or Orson Welles, or Coppola."

And the human equation will change as games merge with cinema, too, he thinks: "We are going to see new types of jobs appearing in games. I'm thinking of a director of photography, for example... we are going to need DOPs. We've started working with them to learn how we can improve what we do."

"Directors are also something that's going to be pretty important in the coming years," says Cage. "In film, it's one person who deals with everything and holds the creative vision. In the coming years we will need directors who hold the vision."

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