Heavy Rain got some criticism. There are whole train of thoughts that either praise or slam Quantic Dream’s experimental PS3 game. Some people love what it tried to do in terms of how play mechanics and plot continuation when certain characters died. Other players hated the way it tried to tell its story. When Beyond: Two Souls showed at the Tribeca Film Festival recently, I asked designer David Cage what he took from those critiques and try to address in the next game from the French game development studio. His answer? “You never design in reaction to critiques otherwise you create a product.”
“I’m not creating products,” Cage followed up. “I’m trying to create experiences. I try to be sincere in what I’m doing. Yeah, we heard a lot of good things. We heard a couple of bad things. Good, let’s move on. Let’s try to do something better next time and maybe something else totally different.”
“The only thing I didn’t want to do was a sequel to Heavy Rain,” Cage continued, echoing sentiments he had voiced before. “Like, ‘Oh let’s just do the same thing. Fix a couple of things here and there and just release the same game pretty much.’ We started from a blank page [with Beyond: Two Souls] and we tried to create an experience that would be different, that would play differently.”
Whether it’s correct or not, people see film and games as being similar. I asked Cage if how he would tell the story of Beyond’s heroine Jodie without the interactivity of video games. “I wouldn’t have written the same story knowing it would be a film,” he answered.
“First of all, my story is more than 10 hours long, so it would have had to be shorter. Honestly, you really write for a specific medium. If you write a TV series, it’s totally different than if you write a game. It’s different than if you write a film or a stage play. I don’t really know how to answer because I don’t think I would have written Beyond as a film. I would have written probably something different.”
Let’s say some production studio wants to option Beyond: Two Souls, “We love this! We want to make it a 10-hour mini-series.” What does he tell them? “Good luck,” Cage quipped. When I joked that he’d gladly take production studio money, he said that “it’s not a matter of money.”
“It’s challenging to adapt,” he elaborated. “When [a story is told in] a game, people see how close it is to films. But, actually it’s very different from films by essence in nature. It’s not like an easy transition to say, ‘Oh, just take Heavy Rain and here, I got the movie.’ No. You need to rewrite it pretty much from scratch, which, in essence, means it’s truly a game. It’s written like an interactive experience and not like a film.”
The stories that Cage and his co-workers have told have always been very grounded, avoiding the more fantastical elements a lot of video games thrive off of. But what if he were trying to tackle a science fiction game or a super hero game? What could he bring to those genres that he hasn’t seen so far?
“The more it goes, the more I’m interested in people and their emotions, and less in powers, and that kind of stuff,” he demurred. “I’m interested in people. I’m interested also in people getting games back into society in a way. I would like games to talk more about real people rather than living in this fancy world where we can imagine whatever but there is no real relationship with the life we lead.”
“Sometimes you just want to be somewhere else and live something else. You can do it with sci-fi. There have been some fantastic films or TV series talking about our world, although sci-fi was in the background,” he said. “But I think games have something to say about the real world. This is what I want to continue to explore: real conflicts, real emotions, real relationships. That’s what I’m interested in.”