David Cage gets heavy

David Cage, head of Quantic Dream and maker of Heavy Rain doesn’t want your money. That’s not why he got into video game development. He wants to build that brand that is ‘David Cage’ and create brand new IPs rather than revisiting existing ones. In an interview with Develop, Cage spoke of how there definitely won’t be a sequel to Heavy Rain, despite selling so well and being an unlikely poster boy for some of the first Move supported games. He said that he wasn’t in the business to make money and wrote Heavy Rain because he was excited about the idea and wanted to tell a that story. Now the story has been told, Cage sees no reason to go back to it and prefers instead to focus the energy of Quantic Dream into making ground-breaking concepts.

On release, Heavy Rain was a fantastic showcase for Sony and the PS3, with stunning graphics and a story that was truly mature, tackling subject matter that wouldn’t normally be found in a video game. The plan was to support the game with DLC furthering the story and the characters personalities but only one was actually made available as the studio was persuaded to develop Move functionality. Sony didn’t seem to bothered but the halt of Heavy Rain and nor does Cage who once famously said (and now claims he was mis-quoted) that you should only play Heavy Rain once and live the the story and consequences you chose the first time around. As tempted as I have been to go back to it, I’ve only ever played it though the one time and agree with Cage that there really is no reason other than a wallet-padding to go back to that world.

Cage added how he sees himself as more of an author and regardless of him celebrating his 42nd birthday this year, he hasn’t lost the spark or passion for game design and isn’t yet worried about concentrating on making money in order to fund his family. Maybe Cage should have a chat to his colleague Guillaume de Fondaumiere about the money making abilities of Heavy Rain. Just this month, Fondaumiere criticised the second-hand market for losing him and the studio upwards of €10 million in royalties because a rough estimation showed that 2 million people bought Heavy Rain whereas 3 million actually played it. The way I saw it, a further 1 million people were exposed to the work of Quantic Dream, potentially expanding the audience for whatever they make next.

Back in March, Cage’s talk at GDC caused quite a stir when he begged for the industry to make games for adults, not teenagers and forget the preconceived ideas of how to make a game – boss battles, levels, points, shooting, missions etc – and think of games in a totally different way. This latest chat with Develop echoes these sentiments but also adds even more pressure for the next Quantic Dream game to be as forward-thinking as Heavy Rain was. The fact that it’s not Heavy Rain 2 is a very good start.


Second hand rain

There’s nothing new about the used game market. I frequently bought second hand SNES and GameBoy games as a child because money wasn’t something I had a lot of back then. In the last few years I’ve opted to purchase my games new mainly because of the incentives offered and because I’m an inpatient git but the market for pre-owned titles is certainly not a shrinking violet. It’s huge and many publishers don’t like that one bit. Quantic Dream co-founder Guillaume de Fondaumiere is one of those not overly keen on the idea of his products being re-sold without his team receiving any money.

In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz Fondaumiere said how around 2 million copies of Heavy Rain had been sold worldwide but looking at the PS3’s Trophy system, the number of people who played the game is somewhere in the region of 3 million. One thing he didn’t take into consideration are households with more than one account on a PS3. The extra million players may not all be from second hand sales but siblings and housemates passing on Heavy Rain or even game rentals. Still, the annoyances of Quantic Dream remain the same:

“On my small level it’s a million people playing my game without giving me one cent. And my calculation is, as Quantic Dream, I lost between €5 and €10 million worth of royalties because of second-hand gaming.”

While this may be true, another way to look at it is that a further 1 million people played Heavy Rain meaning around 3 million people experienced the art and story Quantic Dream wanted to tell. The company may have lost an estimated €10 million but also may just have gained a further million followers. Put like that, pre-owned sales are actually helping expand the potential audience for future Quantic Dream releases.

Fondaumiere wants the industry to address what he feels causes gamers to go the second hand route; the high price of video games. He states how he’s always believed games are too expensive and there must be a happy medium where all parties – consumers, publishers, developers and retailers – are content with a game’s price tag. Until then, the industry is “basically shooting [themselves] in the foot,” leading to either an end to retail-sold video games are exclusively move to an online distribution model. But this looks to be where platform holders are taking the industry anyway with a greater emphasis on downloadable content that aren’t just additional content but full games. One of the biggest problems right now is the throttling of bandwidth internet service providers have on consumers. All the while people are fighting to up their download caps and speeds, they’re unlikely to accept the exclusivity of digital distribution. So maybe that talk Fondaumiere wants to have to find a happy place for gaming should include ISPs as well.

It’s raining BAFTAs

Quantic Dream took quite a risk with their new approach to video game design and story telling in Heavy Rain but it was one that paid off both financially and critically. At last night’s BAFTA’s, David Cage’s melancholy drama left with three awards; Best Original Music, Best Story and Technical Innovation. Not bad for a game whose overall credibility is still being debated. Though I whole heartily agree with all three victories and like many other fans find it even more frustrating that we’ll probably never get to explore the world any further by way of DLC.

Back in June 2010, Guillame De Fondaumiere of Quantic Dream spoke of the three planned DLC, known as Chronicles, were to be put on hold while the team focus on developing PlayStation Move controls into the game. Later, David Cage revealed how the DLC was no longer on hold but effectively cancelled because revisiting Heavy Rain would have delayed their next game.

Implementing Move into Heavy Rain hasn’t really done wonders for its sales figures. Before the patch (and re-release), the game had sold over 1.5 million units worldwide and now the estimated total is 1.65 million. It’s difficult to gauge the profitably of DLC but the potential would have been 1.5 million customers downloading three add-ons for, say, £4-5 each. That opportunity is all but gone now though so no real point moping about it, just hope that after such success, Sony will convince Quantic Dream to find some time and finally develop the add-ons since they persuaded them to focus their attentions to Move. My breath is not being held, however.

The Heavy Rain movie you’d want to see

A while back there was talk of NYPD Blue and Deadwood creator, David Milch being given the scripting duties for a Heavy Rain movie which Hollywood are said to be fast-tracking development on. Why a game so dependant on player interaction to further an incredibly personal story would be considered for a straightforward movie is beyond me. It may have something to do with the success of last year’s Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time film which had a less than stella story, based on a game with a very ‘gamey’ plot. Heavy Rain has raised the bar (whether gamers and designers choose to accept it or not) with video game narrative so Hollywood are no doubt hoping to make that all encompassing flick appealing to both gaming and non-gaming folk.

Whether it’ll work or not is another question altogether but I’m sceptical as to how anyone will be able to capture the unique journey Heavy Rain pushes people towards. A good way of doing it is to stick as close to David Cage’s vision as possible with graphics, acting and directing pulled straight from the game, which is exactly what YouTube member GamersGlobal has done (via Kotaku). The video lasts for almost three hours (and why I haven’t posted it above! Click here to see it), chock full of spoilers if you haven’t played Heavy Rain but then if you never will, it’s a great way to see what all the fuss is about.

The best games of 2010: Heavy Rain

This is an easy choice for me. Heavy Rain was so very different to other video games and treated its story as if it were the star instead of using it to justify game mechanics. Add to that some frankly stunning graphics and a true feeling of choice with every action you do having a purposeful effect on the narrative. There were a lot of mentally challenging scenes that presented me with mature adult situations, the likes not common in gaming. Do I kill an unarmed lunatic? Or drink a vile of poison for the final clue to the whereabouts of my kidnapped son? And how does someone react when watching a child drown because of the incompetence of adults? The best and most touching moment was taking control of Ethan Mars after picking his boy up from school. A scene that could have so easily have been the epitome of boredom became like a test for my own fatherly instincts, making sure my kid is fed and trying to discuss the death of his brother. And as quick time events go, Heavy Rain doesn’t do the usual button-press sequences. The process you’re going through to get the playable characters to respond tries to be representative of real life. Mars’ awkward traversal of an electrified maze is mirrored on the PlayStation pad by a finger-bending combination of button presses making the inclusion of QTEs a necessary one. All this brilliance, only sullied by a peculiar wrap to the story, had to make it into my top games of 2010.

Heavy Rain’s deleted scenes show a more surreal side

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Psychological thriller Fahrenheit (or Indigo Prophecy in the states), was bordering on genius until the last hour of storyline took a very surreal and jarring turn. The spiritual successor, Heavy Rain, could have almost succumb to the same fate if these deleted scenes (shown above) weren’t discarded by director David Cage. It reveals what was meant to happen during Ethan’s blackouts (which would have been a playable segments) why Madison Paige can’t sleep and the killer’s last victim.

If you haven’t played Heavy Rain, you should, it’s awesome, but you may want to give the video a miss as it has some major spoilers inside. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Heavy Rain, a Move in the right direction?

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Heavy Rain creator David Cage may have been surprised at its retail success but I wonder how many more gamers will pick up the game once it gets patched for PlayStation Move? If this demo footage is anything to go by, I’m guessing not many.  Tweaks do still need to be made and the code is by no means finished but the unresponsive hiccups and over-waggling is slightly worrying. The chap in the background seems less than impressed and the demoed scene where Madison is attacked in her apartment – a highly intense moment of the game – loses almost all of its spectacle when a glowing blue sphere is waving all over the place. Granted, you’ll never really know unless you get some hands-on time with it so given the benefit of the doubt, this could be the kind something wonderful, only realised when played… Then again it could be the exact opposite.