We recently sat down with David Cage, director of the upcoming Playstation 3 exclusive Heavy Rain, the spiritual sequel to Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy). As always he had plenty to say on the state of the industry. Are game developers drug dealers and who the hell is Cliff Bleszinski. This and much more is revealed in this exclusive interview.
If you had to compare yourself with someone else, are you more like Cliff Bleszinski or David Lynch?
- I know who David Lynch is, but who is the other one?
You know, Cliff Bleszinski. Cliffy B. The Cliffster. The guy behind Gears of War...
- Hmm... I don't know. I think I am closer to a traditional movie director than a traditional game designer. For instance I have no background as a programmer. I am not in this industry because I love the technology. I am here because I try and explore new directions and new media. I love to explore and do things I have never done before.
I have the feeling that there are many similarities between making a movie and the manner in which you work on Heavy Rain. What do you...
- Yes and no. There are still many things that are very typical for our industry. We polish and adjust and evaluate all the time. Especially gameplay. Every week we go through the gameplay as we try and improve upon it and develop it further. This is not something you do in the movie industry, it is fairly typical of our industry. Here at Quantic Dream we find ourselves somewhere in between. We work a lot with story, we work a lot with actors, but we also have a lot of aspects of normal game development. Because that is what we do. We make software. So it has to be a bit of both.
What do you think of the term "next generation"? What does it mean to you?
- The first thing you think about is that it means more polygons, more textures, better physics and improved artificial intelligence. The manner in which I try to think about next generation is - okay, we have this much horse power that affords us this many polygons, and that is fantastic. But can we invent a next generation concept? That is what I am more interested in. We have the technology lying there, but what is the point with good technology if you don't use it to make something new and different? Technology is the pen that writes the book, but its not the story of the book. It is only a tool you use to write with. So if you have something interesting to write, and a beautiful pen - great - but the pen won't write the book on its own.
Is there someone you feel have done this exceptionally well?
- I think I have to answer ICO. It is one of the very first games that showed us that we can create other feelings, such as empathy, a very complex feeling to create. It is easy to induce anger, fear or frustration, but empathy is something very hard to provoke, and ICO did a wonderful job with it.
What is the greatest advantage games has as a medium, and how do you use that advantage best?
- The unique thing with interactivity is that you can change what is happening. You are not passive - you are a part of the experience. I often get asked by people from outside the industry if I think that games will replace movies in the future. Clearly they won't. Movies are a completely different experience. Sometimes you just want to be passive, you only want someone to tell you a story. But games - here you have the chance to participate in the story and be a part of what takes place. It is a different experience, and it is fairly unique, and can also be strong. And it will most likely be even stronger in the future.
What do you is the greatest challenge for the games industry to be accepted as a "serious medium" (along side books, music, movies, etc)?
- Oh my God... That is very hard and painful, to be honest. In our industry we know games, we know the business and we feel that it is cool and fun and all that. But outside of our community - oh my God, what people think of games! They think it is about violence and sex and that people who play games go mad. People who play games stop eating and die. Hello? That happened to one Korean who was playing a MMO or something. It was only one small incident, but in people's imagination it is very real and dangerous. And people try and create scandals that has to do with games, just to gain attention and for the media to have something to write about. On TV for example they only talk about games when there is something sensational to say. If someone has killed someone right after playing a video game, or done this and that - then it is of interest. But people don't think there is enough excitement in what is happening in our industry from a cultural perspective. We have a growing influence on the society and art in general. We create new technology, new forms of interactivity, and we don't get the respect we deserve as an industry. And we are partly to blame for this ourselves, because from time to time we do things completely wrong. We give people reasons to hate us.
It is a long road to travel, but I am not surprised. When movies first came it had to do the same thing. Movies were shown in specific places, and people just thought it was a trend. "Yes, it is fun to watch, but it will blow over. It is nothing compared to paintings or photography. In a year it will be forgotten." That was a hundred years ago. When you consider the reality of movies today, and the cultural impact movies have on our daily lives... I think we are walking down the same road. We will get the respect we deserve when people realise we aren't drug dealers. We are game developers. We try to come up with ideas and create worlds, feelings and characters. We are not drug dealers, but we are often treated like ones.
Until media finds something else to point their finger at and blame all of our problems on...
- Yes, exactly.
In retrospect, what do you think about Fahrenheit? Did it turn out the way you wanted it to?
- Hmm... It was an interesting first attempt. I think. I get the feeling that people - and you probably get this feeling with everything you have created yourself - but I feel people were a bit unfair. The game received good reviews, but people criticised the ending, and that is fine. It doesn't reach the same level as the rest of the game. But then they are forgetting everything the game had achieved up until then. It was completely story based, introduced a brand new user interface, it had many new ideas, there were some interesting moral choices, and the concept of "bending" a story. You could influence how the story was told. There were so many new things, and I think it is a bit sad that people only remember the things that didn't work. But if I have to give a verdict I would say - Hey, nice try, but we will go even further next time. I think we have discovered something. We just have to make it better. Keep what worked and improve or change what didn't. And that is exactly what we are doing with Heavy Rain. Better story, better characters, better technology, new ideas, new concepts, new mechanics, and hopefully it will work out this time.
And it is also very important to choose the right publisher to be honest. Vivendi and Atari were fantastic at the time, but they didn't really fully grasp what we were doing. And perhaps it really wasn't the right place and time either, to be honest. It was hard to tell what we were attempting, because there were no references. It wasn't an adventure game, it wasn't action, and it was almost not a game, because there were no weapons! What kind of game is that? When it was finally released and people got to try it, a lot of what we were aiming to do became clearer. But the support from a publisher like Sony is something entirely else. We have time, we have means and resources, we have support, and we only work on one platform. It is a relief for us. Everything is in place this time around. If we fail... we will have to learn from it, and improve for the next time. But everything is in place to make a fantastic game.