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Beyond Heavy Rain: David Cage on Interactive Narrative

May 25, 2012 Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next
 

Heavy Rain was a bigger success than David Cage anticipated. Where next? At GDC this year, the developer showed off a tech demo that may or may not represent the studio's next game. Entitled Kara, it tells the story of a sentient android caught in the process of manufacture -- and demanufacture -- as the operator of the plant realizes she's self-aware. It's gripping and emotional, and it's also very impressive from a technical standpoint.

Heavy Rain may have had plot holes and it certainly was hated as intensely by some as it was loved by others, but it also marked a meaningful step forward for interactive drama -- and was a surprising commercial and critical success.

In this interview, Cage reflects on what it is, precisely, that he wants to do with games. He looks back on what Heavy Rain meant -- both to him, the team at Quantic Dream, and its players -- and looks forward. He discusses both the technology the team is developing and also the creative mission which drives them.

You go right for the emotional punch right away, very strongly. Is that the goal of your studio?

David Cage: Oh, yeah. I want to create many cool experiences for a mature audience. That's my entire thing: I want to make games for a mature audience, and I think you need to go for stories, characters, and emotion. That's what talks to everyone. There are so many games out there where you shoot, or you run, or you jump. The industry doesn't need one more. So, yeah, try to create something emotional.

We saw that with Heavy Rain, no doubt. I remember, with Fahrenheit (Indigo Prophecy), you had put in some supernatural elements, and you said that was something you thought you had to do because of it being a video game; to cater to the audience expectations. You shied away from that with Heavy Rain. How confident are you now to step away from any of the conventions or the expectations of the game audience, now that you've found success with Heavy Rain?

DC: Heavy Rain gave me a lot of confidence in that field, because I realized the audience is comfortable with that. In Heavy Rain, the heroes didn't have a gun. They didn't need to shoot anyone. There was no monster, no supernatural power. And that was fine. It was not an issue for anyone.

I think what really matters is to create characters that the audience can resonate with. As long as you have characters that you like, and when you feel they are part of yourself in there, you get interested in what is happening to them, and then it resonates with you. That's the most important thing. And you don't need to shoot or kill anyone. There are other ways of interacting that are just as interesting.

It's my understanding that Heavy Rain performed better than Sony's expectations, commercially.

DC: I think it performed better than anyone's expectations, including ours, to be honest.

What does that tell you?

DC: [Sigh] Again, it gave me really a lot of confidence in exploring this new direction in showing there's enough room in the industry for different types of experiences. Not everybody has to do the same thing. The audience is more open than we think, in general. And, yes, they want first person shooters. And, yes, they want action/adventure, and they want all the genres, and that's fine.

But I think if you come with something that is really sincere, that you truly believe in, there's a place for you. It was the case on Heavy Rain. That is the case for anyone who is interested in trying something different. I think we are an industry in desperate need of innovation, so we need more new ideas and more silly concepts. Trying new things is very important.

What have you learned as a studio from the success of Heavy Rain and from the way people reacted to it -- good, bad, and indifferent?

DC: We suddenly learned a lot. One thing we discovered that was a bit of a surprise... We were surprised by the success. We were also surprised sometimes by some of the reactions that were sometimes very negative.

There were people becoming very defensive about what Heavy Rain was. Because it was not a game about challenge, it was not a game about shooting, then for some people was not a game at all. As if destroying zombies or killing monsters was the ultimate definition of what video games should be. And I think no, that's just a part of what games can be, but it's certainly not games in general.

Games is a really wide genre where you can do very different things. You can do puzzle things, or you can do Call of Duty, or you can do Heavy Rain. You can do many different things. There should be a place for all. The market wants that to happen, and people want that to happen. But it was surprising to see how aggressive some people can become because they felt that were touching their holy grail. I don't see any reason in that.

What about the positive reactions, though? Were they more than you expected?

DC: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I was really amazed. Recently, there was a survey in the industry about people's favorite game on the PlayStation 3 cycle. And they asked this question to major game designers in the game industry. And Heavy Rain was mentioned very often. That's an honor, just to see talented people really enjoyed this game and thought it would have an impact on their work. So, yeah, it's really an honor.


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Comments


Cary Chichester
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"Because it was not a game about challenge, it was not a game about shooting, then for some people was not a game at all. As if destroying zombies or killing monsters was the ultimate definition of what video games should be."

As fantastic an experience as Heavy Rain was, I don't think it's something that I would personally want to call a game. I think the reason many people would sooner label killing monsters as a game than Heavy Rain is because one is centered around having fun and the other is focused on telling a story and delivering a different experience. People have used the word "game" for a long time to describe something that is fun, challenging, or competitive, and it's not been that long since we've used the term to describe a storytelling medium that can make you feel a variety of emotions.

Mass Effect 3 had a great system for their different modes, those being Story Mode, Action Mode, and RPG Mode. With that system, they could offer an experience to people who expected action and challenges in their game while still having the option for an experience that focuses on story. Heavy Rain only offers an Easy, Normal, and Hard setting which alters the challenge that is offered; however the challenge isn't what people take away from the game, it's the choices they make in the story and those moments outside of the game when players recall how long it took them to finally make the decision to sever an appendage. I think if we stop calling these experiences "games" (and replace it with interactive stories/dramas/entertainment or something similar) or stop treating them like games (defining the experience as easy, normal, or hard) then the audience will stop looking at narrative-driven experiences as a negative thing.

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Nick Harris
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Perhaps, it is time that the industry started calling these products 'Adventures' removing the expectation of competition and only applied the term 'Game' to something abstract like Bejeweled:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bejeweled

Kelsey Hart
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Games aren't necessarily supposed to be fun. A game can be as simple as drawing straws. Sometimes it can even be the opposite. In the movie series Saw (just using as an example, I hate the movies... most of 'em at least), Jigsaw asks them if they want to play a game. Obviously, this is rhetorical, but still it technically is a game. If they can find their way out of the trap, they win. Their reward is their life. If they fail, they die. No game over.

These concepts of game overs were introduced with arcade games to get people to put more coins in. It became a matter of pride. Some people don't have that pride, and don't feel like they should have to go through hell to get there (looking at you, Crash Bandicoot). They just want to experience the adventure in all its glory.

In the case of the example you gave with Mass Effect, if Heavy Rain had taken the same approach, one mode would be considered a game (according to your definition), while another would be an interactive experience. That's ridiculous. If I want to talk about the game Heavy Rain. I shouldn't have to know what mode you played and then be like, "Hey, what'd you think of that game, Heavy Rain?" or "Hey, what'd you think of that interactive experience, Heavy Rain?" just so you don't feel like they're cheating the concept of games (which again is just according to your perceptions).

This industry is still trying to feel itself out. Its in the midst of growing pains, I see nothing wrong with calling these experiences games because I know just how broad the term "games" is. But I understand that there are a lot of people who do not recognize games like Heavy Rain as games because of what other types of games they grew up around. In that case, I wouldn't be opposed to changing the name. Such a thing would only be a formality however because technically all current games are interactive experiences as well.

That was the point Cage was trying to make. He was referring to all sorts of different games. Games where you can shoot people (Call of Duty), games where you can jump (platformers), games where your goal is to get the highest score -- these are all interactive experiences.

My favorite games are ones that affect me the most. Games like Shadow of the Colossus, Ico, Uncharted 2, Mass Effect, Digital Devil Saga 2, Persona 3, Alan Wake, etc. These are games that tugged at my heart strings, made me feel something more emotionally resonant than any manner of pride could from achieving the highest score or 1st place on the leader boards.

I suppose I should thank Rock Band for that realization (I think it was the original). I managed to break the Top 10 on a particular song over five years ago. I thought I'd be excited, ecstatic, anything. Instead, I was dead inside. It meant nothing to me. I didn't care. In fact, it made me sick to see that I was only separated from the next highest by 10 pts. In a game where each song you should be scoring tens of thousands of points. It's insane to think people actually compete that hard with such little difference... for those couple extra points, and for what? Bragging rights? That's childish.

In my opinion, those kind of games need to die in a fire. It's the kind of mechanics businesses used to get kids hooked on games, feeding an addiction. We're better than that. Games shouldn't be about pissing contests. If you play Rock Band to compete, you're playing for all the wrong reasons. It's a far better gaming experience when you're jamming with your mates on a favorite song. That's where the real joy comes in.

I despise arcade games, which is what I call game-y games with little other point than becoming the best at something. The focus should always be on the experience. And like Cage said, you need to design story and gameplay at the same time. They work hand-in-hand. Well, I'd expand it to say narrative and gameplay because I think story is just one way to explore a narrative while games like Journey, Limbo, and flower take other approaches.

However, if you guys would rather use a different name, by all means. I'd like to hear some suggestions as to what it could be. One word though, because terms like "interactive experience" is a mouthful and "experience" is just way too broad (movies, books, and music are experiences too). Also, remember, different mediums often have multiple names. In the case of movies, you also have films, flicks, and cinema. Back in the day, people often refer to songs as records. In fact, Academies still do, at least for singles. And, of course, with books there are many different terms, each mean a different thing, a short-story/novella, novel, etc.

Also, something worth noting. A lot of early films often captured nothing more than brief actions. For instance, a train running along tracks. That was considered a movie. It might only last five minutes. But it was still considered a movie back then. Nowadays, we'd have a hard time grasping the concept that such a thing could be a movie, that people literally huddled under tents to see a screening of this five minute flick. Yet, it still is/was a movie. Technically, now we call them shorts, but still the point remains.

And I realize I've been rambling a lot now, so I should probably just stop, but just know that this is something I'm really passionate about as I myself would like to become a future game designer someday.

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Saul Alexander
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A wise man once said: "novels aren't novel, most films are no longer on film, and many comics are not at all comic."

In other words, names of media forms are generally historical accidents, they're not something we get to choose. Try if you like, and let me know how that goes for you. I think we're better off trying to change perceptions of the word we have than trying to change them by changing the word.

Marcelo Martins
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“Many people played with their wives.”

I did.

She loved the game and she’s not interested in any other games I play. I think this is another proof that there is a mature audience hungry for different approaches to interactivity.

Brian Devins
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I played Fahrenheit with my wife. We'd take turns playing and watching the other.

David Cage is a real innovator. Even though Fahrenheit had a lot of silly stuff as well as combat, it was the small touches like pouring a glass of wine or exercising that added a touch of immersion and made the whole experience more meaningful and cohesive. Fahrenheit was the game that made me appreciate dual analog joysticks - it made a gamepad feel more like a tangible extension of the game than the Wiimote ever did.

Boon Cotter
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What is the point of imposing entirely arbitrary - and entirely artificial - limitations on games? So they fit your narrow personal (and entirely subjective and unquantifiable) definition?

Heavy Rain was every bit as much a game as Tetris, Gears of War, or Chess. It had rules which the player understood, and it had a win condition. I'm not even positive that both are required to qualify something as a "game".

Certainly, being interactive and entertaining should be more than enough. Artificial limitations do absolutely nothing to advance the medium. If anything, they hold it back. I've worked with enough industry folk who insist on imposing these poorly defined restrictions to feel bothered by the pervasiveness of the attitude.

Thank God there's people out there who don't listen to it. Kudos, Quantic Dream.

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Boon Cotter
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Does visiting a museum have a win condition? Baking a pie? Maybe if you play with semantics.

Spinning a top is play. It could easily BE a game, if a win condition was applied. "See who can spin it the longest".

Artificial restrictions are the perfect way to guarantee "undiscovery", and are why the games industry continues to export Call of Duty clones en masse.

Who are you (or I, or any individual) to militantly dictate on the value of authorship and user experience in something such as Heavy Rain (or Tetris, or Chess) in ANY capacity other than entirely subjectively?

A choose-your-own-adventure interactive YouTube video can have authorship and a captive audience. And it's every bit as valid a creative expression as whatever arbitrary example of gaming someone wants to throw at it.

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Boon Cotter
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Is "Heavy Rain" an experience that has obstacles to overcome? Of course it is. It's chock full to the brim with motor-coordination and reflexive challenges. I'm not sure what you're implying... That a challenge must be cerebral to qualify as worthy of being called a 'game'? There are plenty of games, both practical and electronic, that do not require wit (or at least not to a greater degree than reflex) to 'win'.

And of course the line between a game and, say, a DVD-Menu (as an interactive electronic medium) exists SOMEWHERE. But my complaint is that plenty of folk within this industry utter the phrase "not a REAL game" as some kind of admonishment, as though lacking THEIR set of expectations for rules and mechanics, in some way they always refuse to explain, results in an inferior contribution to our art form.

And that, quite frankly, is bullshit.

Your final sentence: "But because games are so broadly termed without concern to the content they aren't changing to become greater experiences."... Are you saying that we need restrictions in order to improve upon our understanding of what games are and can be? If so, I would appreciate some clarification: Why do you think this?

Because I think the exact opposite: I think that artificial limitations impose an expectation on our game developers to deliver tried, tested, and ultimately uninspired formulaic works. I think admonishing a creative individual or group for producing work which doesn't fit those narrow-minded standards shows a lack of creative vision and is the reason this industry is stagnating.

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Boon Cotter
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I think we might be arguing slightly different points here.

I agree with almost everything you just wrote. I agree that we too rigidly define our genres by the mechanics they employ (FPS, MMO, Puzzle, etc.) rather than the thoughts, debates, or emotions they evoke (which is ultimately the primary purpose of any art form).

But I am arguing that while you or I discussing the "line" in this way is simply talking academic definitions, there are a large number of folk out there - gamers AND games industry professionals - who turn their nose up at work which doesn't fit their personal definitions.

We can argue till Christmas about degree of permutations, emotional engagement, style versus substance, challenge, systems of rules and mechanics... We can argue how all of these things push and pull on that defining line in an ACADEMIC way, and that's a *great discussion to have* because that in itself is a means of exploring possibility and potential in games as a valid form of artistic expression (or even purely as a commercial entertainment craft).

But arguing that Game X is NOT a "real game" and therefore is not worthy of respect or admiration or consumption because it - in some intangible, indefinable way (other than subjective rambling) - doesn't conform to a set of arbitrary criteria, is not just pointless, it's harmful.

I think at this point you and I might be doing the first thing, while my original complaint was about people doing the second.

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Kelsey Hart
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I'd love to see games do away with genres in the sense of RPG's, Simulation, Racing, FPS, etc. I'd much rather see broader classifications that don't rely on mechanics and instead on emotional appeal: Drama, Comedy, Documentary, Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, etc. These matter more. Creators need to realize we don't need strict gameplay mechanics that fit a certain market, but rather explore. Make your mechanics around the vague and abstract (the mood/feeling of the game).

Actually, mechanics in the strictest sense, are bad. I agree with Cage. There shouldn't be limitations. Artists should be free to explore what best exemplifies the character's emotions and what bit of interaction will help you identify with them the most.

Tadhg Kelly
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Quite honestly my biggest problem with Heavy Rain was nothing to do with whether it's supposed to be a game or not (I'd argue it mostly is), but simply that it proved very dull.

While creators of games like this can expound to their hearts' content about the creation of emotion and how it is supposed to feel, the lack of substance in activity really lets them down. It creates a dissonance between what the screen is trying to tell me versus what amount to often quite feeble mini-games, and those start to become annoying pretty quickly. How many times must I sway the joypad back and forth to placate the baby? Or execute right-stick quarter turns to open doors? Before it just starts to feel like interaction for interaction's sake? Or to put it another way: filler.

Some players may be more tolerant of that kind of interaction because they are enjoying the story more, and they are welcome to their enjoyment. Personally, I am not. Much like with point-and-click adventure games, where the gameplay often boiled down to fetch tasks, what these games actually prove is the power of tech demos and graphics to inspire possibility, but the experience invariably proves hollow. (See also: LA Noire)

What I would love to see is Cage and similar designers marrying their writing ideas with actual game design rather than persistently fobbing off the lack of depth in their games as somehow being sophisticated. There is more potential in creating meaningful experiences when developers try to do that (for example: Journey is a far better example of how games and storysense can work together than Heavy Rain) than in avoiding the question.

Adventure games faded because more action-filled games caught up in terms of graphics and proved far more substantial. When the tech demos and trailers stop being so impressive, this current round of joypad adventures will do likewise. They're simply not strong enough to bear the weight of their claims.

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Roger Tober
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"Adventure games faded because more action-filled games caught up in terms of graphics and proved far more substantial."

I would argue that they were less substantial, catering to a younger crowd that thought finger twitching was more important than solving puzzles. They started out as adult games and became teenage games. The "stories" in action games are rot. A hero grows more and more powerful and defeats that baddest bad guy. Choice is so important in games because they are all about narcissism. The rewards have to be the shortest possible term. They aren't games, they are drugs.

Adam Bishop
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"How many times must I sway the joypad back and forth to placate the baby? Or execute right-stick quarter turns to open doors? Before it just starts to feel like interaction for interaction's sake? Or to put it another way: filler."

One might also say:

"How many times must I move the mouse pointer to a different part of the screen and then click the left mouse button a couple of times? Before it just starts to feel like interaction for interaction's sake? Or to put it another way: filler" to describe a first-person shooter.

Or maybe "How many times must I press 1, then 4, then 2, then 4, then 7 against the same tiny digital bear? Before it just starts to feel like interaction for interaction's sake? Or to put it another way: filler" to describe an MMO.

And yet millions of people enjoy doing those things. We don't even have to stick to video games. How about "How many times do I have to move a single pawn one space forward and then sit around waiting?" to describe parts of chess?

Virtually all games sound repetitive and bland when described at the level of physical interaction. Where games really occur is in the mind. If you buy into the mental/emotional engagement of the experience, the experience will probably work for you.

Christian Nutt
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I'm not sure I like the implication that anybody who enjoys playing Heavy Rain is simply "tolerant" of its gameplay. As I wrote, I think it's quite interesting from a design perspective and while it doesn't provide the same kind of enjoyment as a very gameplay-focused title, "tolerate" isn't the word I'd use.

Nor, for that matter, are many of the "gameplay-focused" titles I've played in the last little while that leap to mind as examples of games that have a lot to say with gameplay necessarily that directly comparable either.

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Tadhg Kelly
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Adam, the difference is that one is token while the other actually tests your abilities at doing something. Whether that's in terms of getting better at a physical action (FPS) or in the service of a strategy, your unscripted actions. Heavy Rain is nothing but scripted actions where you neither test your skills or build toward something. All you do is trigger the next bits of David's story.

Christian, it's quite interesting for about five minutes.

Roger, I mean substantial in terms of the ability of players to do things and see clear results, and then build on it. RPGs often have as much story as adventure games ever did, but the difference in game type sees the player simply doing a lot more (building their avatar, completing missions, completing more abstract tasks).You're talking about thematic substance, which is different and (in my opinion) unrelated.

Roger Tober
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"Roger, I mean substantial in terms of the ability of players to do things and see clear results, and then build on it."It's just imaginary. You aren't building a character, it's a script. You aren't getting better, the character is leveling up according to your actions. You aren't doing anything but pressing buttons and the game makes you feel as though you are doing those things. A strategy game, you are actually doing something. There is a small amount of strategy in an rpg, but not really worth mentioning. All the other things are ego petting, or what I call coloring book creativity. If that does the job for you, fine, but don't glorify it. In an adventure, you are figuring the puzzles that were set up by reading clues. It's the difference between watching a "whodunnit" movie, and actually being in it figuring out the clues yourself rather than watching a character figure them out.

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Tadhg Kelly
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Roger,

The key is whether you feel that you are making a difference or not though. There is a gap in game design between the perception of self-created change and the actuality of it, and a great game is one that delivers the former even if the latter is totally gamed behind the scenes. It's always all about what the player perceives to be true, not what is actually true.

So going back to Heavy Rain, my point is that it is pretty obvious from the first scene or two that really there is no self-created change. You, as player, do not actually feel as though are really doing anything other than pressing Next on a long-running story, like turning a page of a novel.

Roger Tober
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" You, as player, do not actually feel as though are really doing anything other than pressing Next on a long-running story, like turning a page of a novel."

I haven't played Heavy Rain, so I can only speak about adventure games in general. You are confusing this coloring book creativity from rpg's with gaming in general, thinking that's what games are all about. It's not. There are strategy games, puzzle games, many games. It's like thinking all games have to be like dress up Barbie where you get to choose which clothes she wears. Like I said, the thing you are doing in an adventure isn't causing an illusion of creating a story as in an rpg, it's using clues to solve puzzles and move the story forward. I don't color in coloring books, never have. I never saw the reasoning behind it, and I can only play rpgs for a few hours at the most before it feels like a coloring book. I finish quite a few adventures because the puzzles and story are interesting. I don't even like branching stories in adventures because it starts to feel like a coloring book.

Adam Bishop
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@Tadhg
"You, as player, do not actually feel as though are really doing anything other than pressing Next on a long-running story, like turning a page of a novel. "

*You* as a player may have felt that way but *I* as a player did not. I felt as though my actions in Heavy Rain had a significantly greater effect on what occurred over the course of the game than in most other games I've played.

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Boon Cotter
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There's a lot of subjectivity being dressed up and presented as objectivity in this discussion.

Tadhg Kelly
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@Adam

A key example of the game's lack of agency/substance for me (spoiler alert) is the sequence where I (as the FBI agent) and my partner go to visit a suspect, it all gets tense and the suspect grabs a weapon. He puts it to the partner's throat and you as the player are invited to talk/shoot/something out of it.

Having been playing the game for quite a while at this point and become pretty sick of the busywork interactivity, I simply put the joypad down to see what happened if I just let it ride. And the game chose for me, the scene more or less resolving itself. I didn't even need to be there at all, when it got right down to it.

It's an example of how brittle games like this actually are as games, or even as interactive experiences. What it boils down to is that it's just about David's story and you as player are really just the page-turner, only it lacks pace. That's not avant garde game design, it's just weak.

Luis Guimaraes
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@Christian Nutt

Yet it can be said that people who does not enjoy Heavy Rain are simply not tolerant of it's player tasks.

Somehow I feel like gaming relate in people's lives as either directly or inversely to the way a person treats work. You either follow the same philosophy or want it to be the complete opposite.

I personally hate being micromanaged, in anything.

Adam Bishop
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@ Tadhg

I think the issues you had with that scene are part of what made me enjoy it. A tense situation breaks out, so in order to make it seem believable the events must continue happening in something like real time. You're given the choice to affect the outcome or not affect the outcome, but not affecting the outcome is still a choice. I find that to be far more interesting; I'm tired of games where the entire universe sits and waits for me to decide. I like the idea of being in an environment in which what I do has some bearing on the outcome, but I don't control it directly.

Other games do present these kinds of choices, but they present them in a really inelegant way. If a game requires me to go rescue a hostage within two minutes, I can have the player character hide behind cover for two minutes and not save the hostage. But then the game will just say "Game over, you can't really do what the game just let you do." Heavy Rain, on the other hand says "You don't want to take charge? Fine, this world exists outside of your actions and you'll have to deal with the results." I find that thrilling, not limiting.

Tadhg Kelly
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@Adam

I think the issues you had with that scene are part of what made me enjoy it ... I find that thrilling, not limiting.

---

So here's where I'm coming from:

The ability actually do things and cause change is the basic foundation of all things 'game'. In whatever format you'd care to name, it's about the tension of limit versus the capability, enclosed by pressure. Somewhere in between those two poles you get a dynamic that leads to an interesting game, and that's then the basis for an interesting fiction. That's game design. Not old school or tired game design. Eternal will-never-change-has-been-since-the-dawn-of-dawns game design.

While I'm happy, keen even, to suggest that games are not the only kind of digital art (and cite various works like Dear Esther and The Stanley Parable and The Passage regularly regarding this), I do think that games are the main sustainable version of same because of that tension between agency and urgency.

What you're describing is a little bit like that rationale you hear floating around fashion designers from time to time when they clothe models in baked mud topped with fajita bread and send them onto the catwalk. There is a certain segment of the audience that loves the intended message, the coded communication, and defends it to their dying breath. To most people however it's some poor woman dressed as a falafel.

So to your rationale, I want to stand beside you and say "Oh come on Adam, look it's just a woman wearing a falafel". Yes I mean sure, it's briefly curious in an intellectually exploratory sort of way but that aura of pretention quickly fades, leaving something no more sophisticated than a game of flipping coins, only if you get a few too many heads then don't worry about it. We'll just call those tails.

You're simply dressing it up to be significant, in fact adding substance that is not there, like the fashionistas, to what is no more than a curio. What's genuinely intellectually deep about it? Nothing. What's even emotionally engaging about it? Again, nothing. There is only a sort of rationalised "emperor's new clothes" feeling, that it MUST be important because it seems important.

I've seen more emotionally engaging slot machines, and many more artistically sound games too. Journey is my current favourite in that respect because of the way it marries agency and urgency to a sense of story. But as to this kind of game? It may do very well pitching as a multi-million dollar project, and so get sold through those sorts of hype channels.

But is it significant? Not at all.

John Vincent Andres
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I'd like to point to The Walking Dead: Episode 1 by Telltale as a great example of quality interactive storytelling. It is essentially a revamped adventure game for modern sensibilities. It addresses the requirement of player agency by having an abundance of fail states. This may be a reason why so many games feature a horde of adversaries. A player needs to feel like their moment-to-moment interactions contribute to either a success or fail state at some point in the future.

Heavy Rain was tied to an ambitious design decision to do away with the "game over" screen. There are multiple ways that this decision could have been implemented successfully. Unfortunately, the only way that the game was able to "raise the stakes" for the player was to offer the possibility of the death or survival of its characters. This resulted in multiple sequences where a character's life is in perceived danger that actually end up being vehicles for tension without real consequence.

Having life or death as the success or fail state is a relic of games since the arcade era. It is also what fledgling writers think of first when trying to provide excitement to a narrative. It would have been much more difficult to implement, but Heavy Rain would have been a much more interesting game and narrative had the consequences been more nuanced.

For example, if a character refused to help his wife put up the groceries at the beginning of the game, it lead to a short confrontation about shirking his responsibilities as a father. Or, his interactions with his son affecting the boy's emotional attachment to him. Or, for the game as a whole, delays or the inability to discern clues leading to leads in the investigation being missed and the killer never being found.

I suppose it can be argued that the assumption and thematic core of Heavy Rain is that only death will stop these characters from conducting their search. In that case, maybe the game only needed many more actual fail states where a gun to the head really would have resulted in a character's death. Again, this is also difficult to implement given time and budgetary constraints, but it would eliminate the resentment resulting from fake player agency.

Tadhg Kelly
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John

"Having life or death as the success or fail state is a relic of games since the arcade era."

It's not a relic. It's good game design. Without the possibility of failure there really is little reason to proceed. It doesn't have to be all-encompassing failure (like actual death) but still every game needs some sort of risk component. Otherwise why play?

This is one of the reasons why I wrote this:
http://www.whatgamesare.com/2011/05/all-games-are-about-death-fun
damentals.html

Roger Tober
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"I didn't even need to be there at all, when it got right down to it. "Ha ha, I've been saying that about role playing games forever. The little guys just fight whether I push pause and make a decision or not. As far as your definition of games, doesn't fit for me. I only need to overcome a challenge for it to be a game. Since choosing what direction a player will go isn't a challenge, it isn't a game. Role playing games have a few challenges, but not very many and are just boring choices. Buying, selling, watching little characters fight, none of that is a game because there's no real win solution. I wouldn't find Heavy Rain to be a game unless there were puzzles in it. If there are too few puzzles, it would be like a role playing "game", which doesn't qualify.I think the problem you are having with Heavy Rain is you are seeing Role Playing Games unmasked because you are doing tasks you don't enjoy, so you see it for what it is. It sounds like they just borrowed from rpgs. Don't get me wrong, there are some game elements in rpgs, just not enough for my taste and I don't enjoy the tasks. For me, they are like a nearly never ending game of Monopoly.

Keith Burgun
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>I don't like game mechanics as such. I don't think that's the only way to create interactivity. There are other ways.

This is one of the biggest flaws in this guy's way of thinking. There AREN'T other ways to create interactivity. Anytime you have interactivity, that's a mechanism. Selecting a bit of dialogue is a mechanism.

When this guy thinks he's avoiding mechanisms, he's actually just using shitty, flat mechanisms.

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Alexander Muscat
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Interesting interview.

Looking at the thread of discussion I'd say Heavy Rain is most certainly a game; it has win and fail states, mechanical offerings and features more in terms of consequence and consideration of player input then lets say, Call of Duty.

That being said my oh my the narrative was bipolar in Heavy Rain. It has real strengths in delivery, marred by atrocious writing, character turns and voice acting, this side of an unfolding plot that would be terrible in a TV movie, rather than a game that's taking itself so seriously.

Fahrenheit had similar problems but it seemed to embrace its actual goofiness more, same with Nomad Soul. Heavy Rain was outright po-face to the degree in which it was almost a parody of itself as the plot degenerated.

However I am glad David Cage is making these games, pushing into new avenues and raising mainstream awareness.

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Christian Rivers
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What really annoys me about the above comments is that people seem to ignore the fact that they are not the only people in the world, and their opinion is not the only one that counts. This is a sad fact about gaming, it's full of small minded people who love to criticise.

Personally I loved Heavy Rain, I consider it a game, and I just hope that more games like it are released in the future. Most games do not grab my attention now because it's all been done before.

Also I wish people would stop theorising over what makes a game, just accept it as a game.

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Nathaniel Grundy
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Holy shit, debate, guys. I made it about halfway through the comments before deciding that I'd just read the rest of the interview and form my own opinions. I'm on page 1 of 4, after all.

Christian Rivers
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The board won't let me reply.

@Joshua

There is no fail state, just shittier endings depending on who dies.

My main problem, by the way with the posts here, is that people feel the need to come and shit on a game for no reason. Why hate something so much when you can just ignore it and let those of us who like enjoy it.

That is why I insulted those people, they deserve it.


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