EG Expo 2009: Quantic Dream's David Cage Finished
It's the last day of the Expo! But we're going out with a bang. Earlier today Quantic Dream's David Cage presented Heavy Rain in our first Developer Session of the afternoon, and we reported live on what he got up to. See below for the full transcript of events, including an interesting Q&A session in which the French developer discussed difficulty levels, player choice, sex in games and his experience scouting for locations in Philadelphia.
Once you're done with that, why not see what we made of the Eurogamer Expo 2009 Heavy Rain showfloor demo in our Heavy Rain hands-on preview? The game itself is due out exclusively for PlayStation 3 next year.
Our live coverage has now ended. Here's what you missed: Updating...
Hello and welcome to the Eurogamer Expo! Although if you're reading this you're probably not actually here. But you know.
Just been chatting to Eurogamer TV's Johnny Minkley. He's going to be on Radio 1 some time after 1.30pm today, chatting about TEH GAMEZ with Jo Whiley - so make sure you tune in.
He'll also be bigging up TEH EXXXPO, of course.
Also had a chat with David Cage. He's going to show us a scene from Heavy Rain today, and walk us through it with commentary.
Here's hoping it's the nightclub scene so we get to hear David say "panties" again.
The person sitting next to me has just asked if this is the sequel to Chubby Rain.
David Cage is sitting on the edge of the stage with a headset on, looking for all the world like a white French male Janet Jackson.
His stage name, of course, is Cage David. Today he's going to talk about how he had the idea for the game on Monday, hired a team of programmers on Tuesday, they were making the first level by Wednesday, and on Thursday and Friday and Saturday.
They chilled on Sunday.
The audience is in now and it's packed. Johnny's saying something to Cage David. Perhaps he's asking for a rewind.
We can just see the red fin of hair belonging go Sony PR man Hugo Busstops (possibly not his real name) at the back.
And Johnny's on the stage. "In all the four floors of gaming fun we have today, arguably the game you're about to see is causing the biggest stir." Less ladies and gentlemen, Heavy Rain. Or in the original French, Evvy Renn. Cage David all over your FACE.
The man himself is speaking now. He's describing Heavy Rain as "an interactive thriller" about four characters whose lives are intertwined by the Origami Killer.
"It's not about shooting, or driving; there's no puzzle... Each scene is really unique and totally different."
"It offers a different type of gameplay, different characters and environments, and all these scenes put together tell a story."
It's about love, emotion, who these characters are and the day to day difficulties of running a leisure centre. Maybe not the last one.
There are four main characters. First up is Norman Jayden, the profiler from the FBI. He's been called up to help the local police investigate the Origami Killer case.
He has special glasses that display pheromones, fingerprints and the like. He's also addicted to DRUGS. Bit like Warwick in CSI then. [Allegedly - Ed]
Then there's Madison Paige, a young photographer who can only sleep in motels. She doesn't know why. Hasn't it occurred to her she might be a bit mental?
Scott Shelby, meanwhile, is a private detective working for the families of the victims. He's looking out for clues the police missed.
The last character is Ethan Mars, who lost one of his sons in a car accident. He feels guilty.
His second son is kidnapped by the killer and he has just four days to find him alive. Not Seven Days, Cage David?
"Enough talk, let's have a look at this scene." OK!
Looks like we're seeing a scene called Hassan's Shop. Everything will be in real-time 3D. It's starring Shelby, the private detective.
"All these actors are real people. We didn't invent them. They really exist." This guy has been in Luc Besson films, worked with Kubrick and was in The Usual Suspects.
We are indeed in a shop. Looks a bit like the Londis on Lordship Lane where they filmed the video for Kid Cudi's Day n Nite.
Shelby is looking round the shelves of the supermarket. There is amazing detail on all the products.
He's talking to the shopkeeper now. "I'd like to ask you a few questions." "My son is dead, Mr Shelby. I have nothing more to say."
"Righto. 20 Benson and Hedges then please." Maybe not the last one.
Shelby is explaining he has four days to find the kidnapped boy. "No one did anything to save my son," says the shopkeeper.
Shelby asks if the chap sells inhalers. The shopkeeper directs him to the back of the shop. He crunches over a spilled packet of crisps.
A chap in a beanie walks into the shop. He pulls out a gun - "Give me what you've got in the register." F words.
The robber hasn't seen Shelby. We can see Shelby on one half of the screen, while the other is a split-screen security camera view.
David is making Shelby creep up to a shelf and grab a bottle. He creeps down the aisle and almost knocks a pack of washing powder of the shelf, but catches it at the last minute.
Cage gives the controller a swift downward thrust and Shelby hits the robber on the head. "I hit him with the Sixaxis. This is the interface."
The shopkeeper's more willing to talk now Shelby's foiled the robber - he gives Shelby a shoebox. Inside is a piece of origami. "Maybe it will help you find the other little boy," says the man. It'll look lovely on the mantlepiece regardless.
"I had thought there was no good in this place, now I see that I was wrong," says the shopkeeper.
The scene ends - but that's just one way to play it, says Cage. "I'm going to show you how different the scene can be" by playing it again.
We're back at the point where the robber is robbing and Shelby is hiding.
This time he doesn't grab a wine bottle. He steps on some spilled crisps, the robber hears and turns on him.
Now the robber is demanding Shelby puts his effing hands up or he'll shoot. "He's rude," says Cage.
Words like "calm" and "haven't a chance" waver around Shelby's head. They're approaches the player can choose to take in conversation.
He tries reasoning with the robber by asking if he has kids. "Yes, I have a little girl." That's lucky.
Shelby says, "Look, it's not worth it. Put the gun down and walk away." The robber doesn't take kindly to his advice.
Now Shelby's telling the man to put the gun away and walk out of the store. "What do you say?"
The robber's beanie makes him look a bit like Craig David, come to think of it.
It worked! The robber is leaving. The shopkeeper thanks Shelby for his help, and it's over.
Cage explains you can discuss what happens in these scenes with your friends and compare experiences. "So playing the same scene can be done in many different ways."
"You have earned a trophy - Negotiator" appears on the screen.
We're seeing the scene again. This time Shelby picks up a frying pan. Is he going to make an omelette?
No, he's going to batter the man over the head with it, looks like.
Except he went too fast and the robber spotted him. He's turned the gun on him. Curse you, robber.
This time Shelby's going to be aggressive, says Cage. He tells the robber the cops could turn up any minute. "They'll shoot first and ask questions later." "That's American police of course," says Cage.
Shelby can choose INDULGENT, CALM or REASON as options. "I think you're making the biggest mistake of your life," he says. REASON then.
He tells the robber to drop the weapon. It's the same line we heard in the previous scene.
The robber's not biting this time though. Shelby tries to wrestle the gun off him, and an X symbol appears on screen. Looks a bit like a quick... never mind.
The scene ends. "There are really many different ways of telling the story," says Cage. "That's what's special about Heavy Rain."
He could have stayed in the back of the shop and let Hassan get killed - then he'd never have been given the shoebox. Or he could have been hit. "Dying in Heavy Rain doesn't mean it's a game over situation and you lost. If Shelby dies, he dies. You will lose his part of the story, but maybe you will get something else in exchange - maybe you will see scenes you would have missed if he was alive."
"Unlike in many other games, you never play twice the same scene."
"Even if Shelby dies here, the story moves on."
We're being shown the Ethan Mars trailer now.
We've seen this before - I think it's on EGTV, actually. Ethan is playing with his son in the garden. His son who's going to be DEAD. And the other son. Who might be DEAD. Later on. Or not.
Ethan and his surviving son look a bit miserable. Cheer up, X-Factor's on later!
GO JEDWARD. Anyway, lots of rain now. Ethan searching for his missing son in a dingy old building. Jumping out of the way of a truck.
"Everything I did, I did for love." Perhaps Bryan Adams is the Origami Killer.
Cage is talking again now. "It's quite a big game, it's very diverse, you never do the same thing twice, each scene is really unique and different."
Time for the Q&A now. "Only nice questions, OK?"
The first questioner asks how many different ways there are to play the game. "That's difficult to answer because the game is not written with ways or paths in the story." So there aren't just three ways to play the Shelby scene, for example.
Um. A fire alarm appears to be going off.
"Or it's a mobile phone, you should change your ring," says Cage. It's stopped now. Phew.
"Some actions don't have consequences, they just change the scene, the characterisation but don't have dramatic consequences."
Next question: do you believe games can be considered art? Do they have the potential to be?
Cage: "OK then we start the controversial part of this presentation." Fire alarm again.
"My personal belief is there are two ways of thinking about games. You can think of games like toys or entertainment, where you want to spend some time having fun. That's fine and there's nothing wrong with that. On the other hand you can start to think about games and interactivity as an art form, at least a creative platform... In this situation the goal is not fun, it's to make you feel something, even if it's not fun." Golden Balls for the Wii made me feel something. Does that mean it's art?
"A good movie is not one where you laugh or get excited all the time, it's something that makes you go through different emotions." Is Heavy Rain art? "Honestly, I don't care... I'm just trying to do something different." He doesn't care if people call him an artist.
A question about Trophies now. "I'm not sure I want people to play the game 10 times. I know that's weird to say for a game creator, but I like the idea you play it once and you never know what would have happened if you'd played differently, because that's what life is about."
But yes, if you play all the paths you'll probably end up getting all the Trophies.
"I'm sure gamers will talk to each other and will want to replay the scene" to see all the bits. "There are some sex scenes, I'm sure everyone will want to see them." Too right.
A question about the sex scenes now: the media tends to fixate on sex in videogames. Mass Effect ref. How are you preparing to divert the media attention from the sex?
"As a game creator I have one very simple rule, everything is allowed, no limits, as long as it makes sense in the story and is not gratuitous," Sex and violence for the sake of it is "not right", says Cage.
"So Heavy Rain is so much not about sex and violence, it's about characters and emotions... Even if Fox News comes and plays the game and says it's about sex, the whole community of gamers, I'm sure, will stand up and throw stones at them. That's what I hope. I count on you guys."
"This is a ridiculous situation. I'm working on an 18-plus title. When you are 18... You won't be shocked for the rest of your life because you saw nipples." Quote of the show, no questions.
"If I was a movie director I could do pretty much anything, but being a game creator I got so many limits... Society in general thinks games are for kids... They don't get it."
"Then you start to discuss about parents don't know the ratings system, but there are porn movies on cable - if you don't pay attention to your kids, they may end up in front of a porn movie."
"Some games went way over the top in a very vulgar and stupid way and we all pay the price for that. Each time a developer wants to do something... He will be confronted by people thinking videogames are about getting prostitutes and getting a blowjob and putting a bullet in her head afterwards."
Well, some of them are about that, to be fair.
Question: What's the main thing you took from Fahrenheit?
"Do we have two, three days for the answer?"
At first publishers didn't want to know about Fahrenheit. "After that, I got some phone calls from people apologising." They said now they played Fahrenheit with their wife - a huge percentage of people played it with their wife. Weird.
"The technology has evolved... Releasing Fahrenheit was considered a miracle, internally. With Heavy Rain the situation was different, the technology was better from day one."
"In a certain way we see Fahrenheit as the prototype for Heavy Rain, and Heavy Rain is hopefully the real thing."
A question about the difficulty options now. Cage doesn't want to alienate casual or hardcore gamers. So if you're in hardcore mode, you will use the whole controller in action scenes - buttons, sticks, motion control. Depending on the difficulty level you will have less and less control, until in the very easy mode you play with just one button during action sequences.
At any point in the game you can press L2 to hear what your character currently thinks. In hardcore mode you just get the pros and cons and different possibilities, but in easy mode it will tell you want to do, because they don't want non-gamers to get dazed and confused.
"Making Heavy Rain, I didn't want to make a movie. I'm not a frustrated director..." So he never thought about a mode where you let the story play out on its own.
Question: Will there be a tutorial? And will Cage be doing it?
"Please... I got so much problems doing that I will never do it again."
He thought it would be like going to someone's house, them opening the door for you and showing you round. "Some people in the community said oh, he has this big ego, he thinks he's Hitchcock... I don't want the experience to be lost in these kinds of discussions."
"It's about emotions, it's not about David Cage."
How many scenes will there be in the finished product? "Around 70."
Why set your games in the US? "Good question... Heavy Rain has a special story about this. With Fahrenheit, the US is the setting of many thrillers, which was the genre we explored, and it was an easy entry point for gamers across the world."
"With Heavy Rain it's even more stupid than that. Honestly I was in the process of writing Heavy Rain, which took me about a year, and I liked movies from M. Night Shyamalalanalmalanaman, which are set in the US, so I said why not?"
So he and some team members went to Philadelphia with some cameras. "What we discovered was very different from whatever we had in mind."
"I discovered the most shocking experience of my life. We took a movie scout, who worked on the movie Philadelphia, and told him we had this quite depressed story so he should take us to very depressed areas.... We wanted to see the worst part of America. He succeeded beyond our expectations."
Abandoned bridges, barbed wire, garbage in the streets, kids living in houses that were about to collapse, burning cars... "It's scary. he took us to two families... We wanted to meet people and see poor houses. How stupid is that?"
"We were in front of these very poor people and they were very happy to have people from France taking pictures of their homes, and we felt so stupid doing this."
They also went to a poor house where the daughter had just died. "The man had a shaved head and tattoos and everybody was crying and we were there taking pictures, and we felt so stupid - like, what am I doing here?"
"It really changed the way I wrote Heavy Rain, and you will see in the game, the environments are real... These are real people where real people lived."
"People live really across the road from factories. It's something totally insane."
Fire alarm again. Brilliant. [Can we either have a fire or not have a fire, please? This indecision is really irritating. - Ed]
Next question: You said it's an adult-orientated game, so what do you do somewhere like Australia where they have a 15 age limit? Are you prepared to make cuts?
"We haven't had this discussion yet. We have to make some cuts for certain territories, honestly they've been quite minor cuts so far."
"For Australia, at the moment as far as I know, they take the game as it is. So I don't know, but I think we need to fight a little bit for that and evangelise."
"It's really about story and emotion, not sex and violence." Disappointing.
One last question - "Hi there mate. I was quite impressed with the real-time graphics. Will what you achieved with Heavy Rain be possible on any other system?"
Cage sighs. "Whatever I answer, my answer will be suspicious... Honestly, I don't think so. I think it had to be on PS3 because of the hardware, the architecture of the PS3 is extremely powerful... If you make a real PS3 engine, then you can have fantastic performances. If you try to port from another platform it becomes difficult.
"I play PSone, PS2, it's really a part of my culture. The controller is part of my home... I'm not so much into graphics, I don't believe you need ultra realistic graphics to get emotion, but that was the idea. With this approach PS3 was by far the best platform."
"I'm surprised every day how realistic the actors look. I know them personally, and sometimes when I see them for real, they make me think they look like a videogame character."
"The second thing, honestly - I thank Sony and I will never thank them again - enough! not again, enough! - because they take risks. This is rare these days."
"They have tried very interesting new things with LittleBigPlanet, Flower - I love Flower - EyePet.... Different genres, different approaches..."
And that's it. The crowd say Bo Selecta but there's no time for a rewind.
Eurogamer's Oli Welsh is advising people to check out the later sessions. We'll be live texting Valve at 3.30, live text / Valve fans.
See you then!