Heavy Rain has been released after an extended period in development. We met with Quantic Dream's David Cage to talk about the development and reception of the game.
Game developer often start out with a very ambitious concept, just to remove elements as the development progresses, and the final result is often a result of compromises and ends up quite far from the original idea. How much of the original concept for Heavy Rain is present in the finished game?
- As far as concept goes it's 100 per cent what we aimed for. When it comes to the script, we ended up cutting out three scenes. That had to do with the pacing of the game; these scenes did not contribute to the progression of the story. But we haven't had to cut anything out, we have made the game I envisioned.
It is obvious that you have put a lot of resources into the story. Did the story evolve during the development, or was it cut in stone from the beginning?
- Throughout development you must have a finished script that doesn't change. There is so much that needs to be produced; hiring of voice actors, shooting motion capture for more than a year, and so on. So unfortunately there is no room for improvisation or deviation from the script along the way. I wish it would have been possible.
You wrote the story, but how much have you been involved with the rest of the development?
- After finishing the story, which took me one year, we had only just started working on the game. I was involved in the whole process from there on, finding actors for the different parts, designing the interface, and so on. When you see the end product you may think that it has a simple interface, but designing it was a long and hard process. Trying things out with different symbols and designs to find what works best.
The manner in which we have implemented the controls can appear pretty disturbing for many. In video games everything is usually about, learning to master the controls, pushing the right button, and gain experience enough to beat your friends. In Heavy Rain I want the interface to be what ties the game and the player together, but its not the focus of the the experience. The gaming experience is in your head - what you feel and what you see - and the interface should never interfere with that.
Project Natal and Sony's Motion Controller will change the manner in which we control games. To me Heavy Rain seems perfectly suited to these new means of control. Have you thought about making a new version of Heavy Rain for Sony's Motion Controller?
- As a matter of fact the first concept for Heavy Rain four years ago was based on motion control. The plan was to have a Dual Shock controller that was to be held vertically with an extra widget attached to it that the Eye Toy camera could track. We designed the whole game with this in mind, but Sony were of the opinion that it wasn't commercially sound to launch such hardware at the time, so we had to re-design the game and adjust it to the Dual Shock. But all the ideas to implement all the movements the characters make in the game has been preserved. Now the Motion Controller is a fact and we find it very interesting. We are considering different options of how to use it in a near future.
The first time you showed the game two years ago, some critics questioned the gameplay and drew comparisons to Dragon's Lair. Do you feel that you have silenced these critics with the finished game?
- Well, the embargoes to review the game have run out, and the first reviews have come in and the game has an average of more than 90 thus far on Metacritic. It seems as if there is consensus in all regions, from Norway to America to Japan to Italy and Spain. Reviews in all countries are similar. I'm very happy, not just with the scores, but also with the contents of some of the reviews.
Many reviewers have noted that this is something new, something they hope will become successful and change the games industry. We at Quantic Dream aren't saying that all games should be like Heavy Rain, we just think that there is an overdose of action games aimed at teenagers. Why not make something different in addition to these games? Not everyone is interested in slaying monsters for hours and hours, but look for different experiences.
Are there other developers that are as occupied with furthering story telling as you are with your games?
- There are other developers that think along the same lines as we do, but with different end results. For instance, Fumito Ueda, with games like Ico, Shadow of the Colossus and the upcoming The Last Guardian. He works in a different way, but with the same goals as we do; he wants to make games about something other than killing. But I also feel that experiences such as Flower has similarities. It is a completely different experience from Heavy Rain, but similar in that it doesn't involve killing or jumping, but rather to take the player on an emotional journey.
Independent developers are doing well with smaller titles on Xbox Live, Playstation Network, Steam and so on. Will Quantic Dream join this wave, or are you more comfortable making big budget titles such as Heavy Rain?
- I dare say that Quantic Dreams is the most costly independent game developer in the world. We are making indie games, but with triple-A budgets. It is a very favourable position, because you can be as creative as you want to be and take chances with the support of a publisher like Sony backing you up. I feel very attached to the indie scene, and I have the urge to be apart of it and contribute to the creative environment that flourishes there.
Sony has historically been quick to grant their support for alternative and innovative games, such as Ico, Little Big Planet, Flower and so on. Do you feel there are other big publishers who are as open to new and innovative titles?
- Few, very few.
Do Sony interfere in the creative process?
- Not at all. I have made exactly the game I wanted to make. There was never anyone from Sony who came to the studio and told me what I ought to do. That would simply not have worked. When you are creating an experience like Heavy Rain it is very difficult to come in the middle of production and suggest changes. Sony doesn't work that way, but it is hard to get to work for Sony, as they are very selective in choosing developers to make games for them. But once you have been chose, you have their full trust. Unless you totally screw the development up, they will back you.
The first reviews of the game have arrived, has it been a nervous wait to see how they were?
- The last few weeks have been hard on me, I have been very nervous. In the end it is a game; and you can give it anything from 1/10 to 10/10, it all depends on your experience with the game. And I was very happy to see this many 9's and 10's. It means a lot to me. It is not that important that the reviewers write that the graphics are great and that the technology is fun, but it is important that they felt something when they played it.