This Man Is "Fed Up" With Space Marines

Illustration for article titled This Man Is "Fed Up" With Space Marines

David Cage, director of psychological thriller Heavy Rain and co-founder of French studio Quantic Dream, is not thrilled with the same generic games - noting that many US developers feel the same.

The game designer tells the Guardian, "Developers are fed up – they want to talk about their families, politics, whatever – why not in a game? Why not?! There is no reason."

Cage most recently designed Heavy Rain, which he based on his relationship with his first son and how the kid changed his life. At a shopping mall a few years back, his son wandered away for five minutes — the longest five minutes of his life. "It was something really strong," Cage told Wired back in February 2010. "I guess the story of Heavy Rain comes from these five minutes."

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For him, the game was about how it felt to love someone without expecting anything in return.

"There should be more people trying this," he says. "Don't write about being a rookie soldier in WWII, because you don't have a clue what that's like. Talk about yourself, your life, your emotions, the people around you, what you like, what you hate – this is how the industry will make a huge step forwards. I'm fed up with space marines."

But, is he fed up with bald space marines?

Heavy Rain creator: I am fed up with space marines! | Technology | guardian.co.uk [Guardian] [Pic]

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DISCUSSION

Space Marines are not as common as he seems to think. Yes, there was a Warhammer expansion recently, and yes in 2010 we received both Halo: Reach (which was as flawless a campaign as you could hope for) and Aliens vs Predator (which was a major disappointment) Can't think of a single space marine game beyond that. In previous years, there were a few others, but they're not that absurdly common.

What he's attempting is social manipulation.

It's like me saying I'm fed up with Nazis. It's a statement you can agree with, so you do, which makes you more likely to agree with me in the future, and other things I say, as well as to think I'm an intelligent individual. Never mind the fact that Nazis are essentially a non-entity these days.

Also, he's sort of a shitty fucking writer, not to mention game designer. He makes idiotic claims all the time—didn't he just recently say he invented and owns the adventure/qte genre?

I'm going to put some paragraphs out of order here, but that helps make my point, and doesn't take him out of context.

"Talk about yourself, your life, your emotions, the people around you, what you like, what you hate – this is how the industry will make a huge step forwards. I'm fed up with space marines."

This... I could make a joke here. I could point out that he wrote a serial killer. Onoes!

How about, instead, I talk about how he espouses a lack of imagination? He's saying that we need to have lived what we write. What happens if I want to write a barbarian in hyperborea? What happens if I want to write about a zombie attack (zombies, by the way, are far more prevalent than space marines; why not complain about them?)?

"Don't write about being a rookie soldier in WWII, because you don't have a clue what that's like."

Good writers can write about things they don't know. That's the hallmark of a good writer—someone who tells a story where everything is believable. I just finished reading the fantastic "Manual of Detection," for instance. Dream detection does not exist. Most likely, the author, Berry, is not actually a detective. Does this mean, then, that he can't convey an accurate experience?

No. This is bullshit.

A friend of mine, on leaving the theatre after seeing Saving Private Ryan, stopped to help an old man who was crying. When he asked the guy what was wrong, the guy said something about how it was all so real—how it was just like he was back there on the beaches when it happened. The only thing missing, he said, was the smell.

Do you think Steven Spielberg knew what D-Day was like? What about the actors? Or anyone else who worked on the movie? How about them?

Probably not.

The essence of a good creative is someone who can communicate a story in a way that we can believe. David Cage isn't one of those people. Heavy Rain was laughable schlock, with a few compelling moments; it was the type of fare you'd find browsing cable at two in the morning.

The guy's dead wrong.

Game writers, write what interests you. Tell the stories you have to tell.

The real problem holding AAA developers back is twofold: first, developers as a whole are generally being forced to create games that appeal to huge audiences, by people who don't always seem to have their pulse on the market (oddly, these people are called marketers, and have their degrees in marketing).

The other problem is that people usually start development thinking "hey, we need a love letter to the cRPG. Let's make a classic fantasy game!" or "Man, we need to make a hard-hitting FPS, but nobody buys FPSes without campaigns..." They come at it from a gameplay/genre perspective, rather than a story perspective. Gameplay can fit around story—story can not always fit around gameplay. While good gameplay is paramount, you can't tell a good story without starting from a story standpoint.

It's not usually like some guy shows up and says "hey, listen, what if we made a game set in a 1930s Dieselpunk Paris, about a cat burglar recently arrived from Berlin who uses subtle magic to steal stuff? Also, gas used in World War One turned the dead soldiers into zombies, and the city has become a giant fortress?" and a game designer says "cool! It could be an open-world action/stealth game, like Assassin's Creed meets Thief!"

My point is that some people are brilliant at certain things, and other people are brilliant at others. Not everyone comes up with good ideas. For all I know, the idea I just wrote might not be a good one. I know it appeals to me, and I'd gladly play a game that's like Assassin's Creed but with better sneaking, especially in an original world like that (and it might not be original; if it isn't, I demand you point me in the direction of that story ASAP!).

Bonus complaint! Writers aren't really given the respect that they get in other industries. In gaming, they're more the guys who have to provide dialog and flesh out the world that the concept artists and game designers (neither of whom are great at storytelling) have already come up with. Games really need to be created with a strong story from the very beginning, or you'll end up with something like Dragon Age, where it's just "please get three races to help you defeat the orcs and their dragon lord." It could have been so much more.

Look at Halo: Reach! From a design perspective, it's a nigh-flawless game. The writing, though, could have been handled better. It's really indicative of gaming in general. Very rarely do you get a game with a solid emphasis on story (Alan Wake was ALL about the storytelling experience, as were Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Red Dead Redemption, and Enslaved). Most of the time, it's an afterthought.

Also, Bulletstorm had a great story! It knew exactly what it wanted to be (a big pulpy sci-fi blast), and it never tried to be anything it wasn't. It did pulp sci-fi better than any game I've seen, and had one of the most respectful treatments of a woman in a game I've seen in a long time. Trishka kicked ass and took names, and didn't look like a stripper doing it. It had some flaws (would have preferred free jumping and a better final boss—put that guy in a Ripley-style mech or something, guys!), but was a really solid game, otherwise. From a story standpoint, it's the best game released this year.

You know what? Bulletstorm also hired a real, kickass (read Fear Agent now!) writer to write the script, and worked hard to blend story and gameplay.