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Interview: David Cage of Quantic Dream and Heavy Rain

Kevin Kelly
May 27, 2009

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We recently had our precipitation-sodden paws all over Heavy Rain: The Origami Killer, and then chatted with David Cage, a man who wears plenty of hats at developer Quantic Dream. In addition to founding the studio, he's also the head game developer, writer, co-CEO, director, and chief bottle washer. So, who better to walk us through the trippy thriller that goes where Indigo Prophecy feared to tread?

Read on to find out some new tidbits about the game, how Fight Club inspired the interface system and why his favorite ending to the game is when all four characters die. Plus why, like Guillermo del Toro, he believes that the interactive entertainment industry is long overdue for a Citizen Kane (or in Cage's case, a Slumdog Millionaire) of games.

Gallery: Heavy Rain | 79 Photos

Let's jump right in and start hammering you with questions. We have seen a lot of this new character, Jayden. He has specific tie-ins with gadgetry, with the Augmented Reality interface and so on. Will the other characters have similar gadgets or will they each have their own focus?

"There will be four other characters like this. Each one is very different. People will be very surprised by who they are."

Each one has their own focus. I mean it is not like everyone has a gadget. Again, what you see with Jayden is not the template. There will be four other characters like this. Each one is very different. People will be very surprised by who they are.

They will each have their own strength or what they are known for? Their gameplay will be intrinsically different from the previous or the next person?

There is no real archetype in like those sexy games were you have the sexy girl, the strong guy and the fast guy. It is not that way. Each one is just a different character with a different background, different personality. They can do what makes sense given who it is.

Although having said that, we see Madison in her underwear in the teaser. Her ability is not just to appear in her underwear?

No, you will be surprised.

So what was the inspiration behind the game? It sort of feels a bit like the X-Files. You have the CSI tie-in with the evidence that Jayden can detect.

There is no supernatural element to the game. It is really grounded in reality. There are no aliens, no zombies, nothing special. There is just real people in real life in real situations.

So the inspiration really comes pretty much from ... it is always difficult to say really where it comes from. But what I know is Heavy Rain is probably the most personal thing I have done so far, which is maybe not apparent from the scene you have seen this morning.

But the real topic of Heavy Rain is in the tagline, "How far are you prepared to go to save someone you love?" That is really the real subject and is something that is really personal. And I think that will talk to players as individuals and will push them to ask questions.

When you were loading the demo it was at like Act 38, is there going to be a really high number of acts in the game? You said that was about midway through, right?


And that still ties into the 8-10 hours it may take an average player?

"We are trying to stay away from a really slow and boring experience."

The scenes are really short to be honest with you. They are really short. We are trying to stay away from a really slow and boring experience.

We were wondering about the moment we saw where Mad Jack and Jayden were fighting. Will that be the same each time if you play that level? Will they fight or scramble around the same way, the scripted moments like that where you are following the instructions? You know, dodge, jump left, etc?

The controllers are scripted because they relate to the move that is made. We really want to have a real connection between what you do on the controller and what is happening on the screen. But at the same time, the result depends on what you do and you have different branches that you can go into.

It's pretty bold to have a character with a drug addiction in the game. Is there going to be some sort of ultimate payoff with his drug struggle or will there be an anti-drug message, or do you battle it throughout the game?

Yes, you need to battle with it and it will give you some very strange scenes because there is some kind of very strange interaction between the ARI and the drug.

Is that a drug that you can take at any point in the game or is it just keyed in specific moments? Like where we saw he was confronting Mad Jack and he started having the symptoms. His nose was bleeding ...

No. It is triggered at certain moments.

Okay, so you can't just take the drug. How does he actually administer it? Is it an injection?

Actually, it is through the nose. It's in a tube.

Ah, hence the nose bleeds.

Right. Obviously.

You mentioned that his drug use, there is an element of hiding it from people he knows or his co-workers or something like that. Is it possible to get caught using it and have a different ramification on the main story?

Your actions have consequences. I don't want to say too much, but ...

So, if a character dies, do you lose that character and the game continues on and you just don't get that one character's perspective or those two characters' perspectives? I am guessing that would affect the overall length of the game. Does it?

"You cannot die in the first one fourth or so of the game."

Yeah. In fact, you cannot die in the first one fourth or so of the game. It wouldn't make sense if in the first scene Jayden dies. I mean what would happen? But what we really do is we build empathy for these characters. We want to give you the feeling that you really care for them. This is really the feeling that we tried to create. So when you really care for his life, when he dies it is going to be a shock for you. So yeah, this is really what we tried to create.

Will the story continue if all four of them are killed?

That will be the conclusion of the story. It won't be a game over like you are starting and you know what happens. It will be the conclusion of the story.

Like some level of closure? You will see something.

Yeah, definitely. And to be honest that is my favorite ending.

A lot of developers are shying away from Sixaxis controls, and are not including them in the game. You guys definitely seem like you are going to be including them. Was that a specific choice or is that something that is still fluid right now and might change when the final game is done?

Well, we are still in the process of polishing the game so this is something that might be slightly adjusted based on the kind of feedback we receive. Personally I like it. I mean I wouldn't use it every single second. You know, we wouldn't want you playing like this all the time.

But as we are trying to create a sense of identification between you and your character, we do that with the system when you are controlling interactions on-screen. You really unfold the move and you really control that with the right stick. When you need to kick or punch something, having to do this (shakes hands) with the controls makes a lot of sense.

I guess it really depends on the type of game you are doing and where it fits in the general gameplay. You don't want to agitate your controller all the time.

Did you guys receive feedback from the last demo of the interface that caused you to change it?

Absolutely not.

It was just something you guys did?

Yeah. I was really happy with the demo. All the people who saw the demo were really impressed. In Leipzig, we presented it to 300 journalists in two days, and we were loaded at every single session. We said, "Well this is the first time we had seen that. That people are liking it so much and responding to it."

"I was always a little bit frustrated with the interface because I thought it was a little bit old fashioned."

So the feedback was fantastic. And what people saw on stage was a 40- or 45-minute demo playing. It was real-time 3D, second to second. I was always a little bit frustrated with the interface because I thought it was a little bit old fashioned. This idea of having a 3D environment with glass on the top with symbols, and when you want to know how to interact with it you need to look at the symbols, look at what you need to do. "OK. I need to do this in order to interact with that."

It was silly in a way. So I wanted to find a solution. It is funny because you were talking about inspiration, to be honest with you, it came from Fight Club. There is this scene in Fight Club with the IKEA furniture and stuff, and everyone was so amazed when they saw that movie and said, "Wow, that is so cool!"

We wanted to find a solution. I thought again about Fight Club and I thought that this could be the solution. We wanted to find something that would be clear but that would not interfere with the environment. So that was difficult. We made many tests, but we are quite happy with the results.

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