Adam Williams, Detroit: Become Human's lead writer, visited Lisbon Games Week to discuss the next Quantic Dream project. Under the guidance of David Cage, the studio is building a new narrative experience, playable from the perspective of three protagonists, and as in Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls before it, player actions and decisions will have a tremendous impact on the story, which deals with a number of adult and even uncomfortable themes.
In the Paris Games Week conference, Sony showed one of those uncomfortable sequences, focused on family abuse, although this wasn't received positively by everyone, and some criticism surfaced about how Quantic Dream addressed this topic. We took the opportunity to ask Adam Williams if he thought this criticism was fair, and if it would have an impact on the rest of the development cycle.
"Our ambition with Detroit is to create a meaningful and impactful story," he responded. "While taking place in the future, we wanted to use androids to explore social problems that exist today in our society. Social inequality, and the impact of technology, for example. A character like Todd [the girl's father in the Paris Games Week demo] is mad because he was replaced at his job by a machine, and this is something that has happened to several professions over the years, not with androids, but with robotics."
"When we started working on Detroit: Become Human, we didn't just decide to create a sequence like the one we showed at Paris Games Week, but that's where the story took us. We are telling something with depth, and if a movie or a book wouldn't shy from exploring these themes, then we see no reason for a game to shy away either. We believe that games are a medium that should explore adult themes, as long as we take our responsibility as creators seriously, on what we should or should not show. It has never been our intention to promote or glorify these themes."
"I can still assure you that we continue to remain true to our vision, and to David Cage's vision, of telling an honest story with real impact. We won't shy away from where the story takes us, as long as it's consistent with our values as game creators. We would never tell a story that glorifies any kind of violence or social issue, but we believe the game would not have the same impact if something uncomfortable never happened, or there were no serious consequences to the player's choices."
Almost all Quantic Dream games are narrative experiences that the player can influence, and Detroit: Become Human follows that same formula, but with some big differences, as Willaims explained:
"If you think about the principles of Beyond: Two Souls and Heavy Rain in terms of intuitive gameplay and engaging narrative, and compare them to Detroit, you will realise that this is a quantum leap in those two fields. Detroit is considerably broader and allows for a level of player freedom that Beyond and Heavy Rain never could. And the gameplay is also considerably deeper. Each of the three playable characters has special abilities, and these abilities offer different gameplay opportunities."
"Connor, for example, is an android detective who hunts down rogue androids. Connor has the ability to reconstruct a scene by analysing the available information, a gameplay opportunity that is not available for the other characters. In terms of personality, they are also very different, and Connor is much more focused and objective than the other two. Another difference between Detroit and the previous games is that Detroit focuses on social issues and society in general, while Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls told very personal stories. The decisions and actions the player takes in Detroit will not only affect the closest characters, but also the world itself."
Unlike previous games, the location itself - the city of Detroit - will also be of great importance to the story. We asked Williams what led to the choice of this American city (and by the way, it's not because of RoboCop).
"We chose Detroit because it was once the capital of the car industry, with Ford Motors," he said. "During the first industrial revolution in America, Detroit became one of the major cities in the country due to most cars being built there. When the industry moved on to other cities and countries, the companies abandoned Detroit, and the city shrank and suffered from it. Huge areas where these factories were are now empty. So, in our view, Cyber-Life, which is the company that manufactures the androids in our world, chose Detroit to settle in. And just as with automobiles in the past, in our universe Detroit has once again become the pillar of the second industrial revolution of the United States of America and the world."