Interview by Patrick Garratt.
VG247 recently sat down for a chat with Heavy Rain’s (now self-proclaimed) main man, David Cage. Coming off a strong GamesCom presentation, Cage talked with us about motion controllers, the PS3 price cut, a potential sequel (or lack thereof) for Heavy Rain, a Heavy Rain demo (!) and much, much more.
Tackle this monster interview after the break.
VG247: So how did the presentation go yesterday?
David Cage: Very well. I was very proud to be on the stage and reveal more of the emotional side of the game — trying to reveal a bit more about what Heavy Rain is really about. And also, being on stage with Kaz Hirai is really an honor. It’s a real pleasure to be here.
You showed the last two characters yesterday. And, again, by talking very much about the love and the fear of loss and guilt. Do you really feel that the game is winding up to a point where you’re starting to realize the ambition of being able to get these emotions across to the player?
Well, I hope so. That’s what we’re trying to convey here in Cologne. It’s true that we started by showing scenes that we considered more accessible; it was very simple — investigating, fighting. Very simple things. And the more we get near the release date, the more we want to start to talk about what Heavy Rain is really about: the emotional side and more complex emotions that it tries to trigger. This is the real subject and the real challenge of the game.
Last year at Games Convention, David Reeves said that Heavy Rain was going to be the most important PS3 game of 2009. Obviously, it’s not going to happen in 2009. Are you disappointed that it won’t be out this year?
No, not at all. I mean, it was a common decision with Sony. Sony thought it was best for the game to be released after the Christmas rush, and I can fully understand because, you know, there are so many games at Christmas that would be very good games, but also will be sequels of sequels of sequels. And there are only so many games people can buy at Christmas. And when there are already four, five, or six games that people are going to buy anyway, it would have been pity to release Heavy Rain at this date and to compete in that condition. It’s a new IP; it deserves some space and some explanation and some time to explain the game to people. And it gives us more time to polish the game maybe even more than we initially thought. So everything is positive and we’re fully in sync with Sony.
Are you pleased that price has finally come down on the PS3?
Yes. Like everybody else! I’m really pleased with the new design. Also, I like it, and I think that the price is really the right price now, because when you think about the PlayStation 3, it’s the most powerful console on the market right now, without any competition, but it’s also much more than just a console. It’s incredible — all the things you can do with it. I mean, you can have a video conference. It’s a media center. It connects to your PC and allows you to use your movies and your songs. It’s just insane. I’m not sure when people compare consoles, they compare the same things. It’s a Blu-Ray player. It does so many things. It’s truly a fantastic machine.
And I’m not saying that just because Alex (SCEE Guy) is behind me. Honestly, I really think it.
Heavy Rain is based so much on evoking emotion in the player. Do you think the gamepad itself has become a bit of a bottleneck? Are you a little frustrated that you’re not working on this game after motion controls come a little further along?
No, I have no frustration about that, because I’m happy with the dual shock and there are many things you can do to make the controller more accessible in many ways. We work with the controller we’ve got and we try to make the best use of it.
Now, motion control offers new possibilities, but at the same time, I don’t think that every single game will have to use it in the future. I don’t think it’s the final answer to the controller question. But I would like more major games trying to use motion control — not just casual and family entertainment. Maybe more serious games trying to do this.
So we consider this a possibility for Heavy Rain, so that’s maybe an option.
Maybe Heavy Rain 2?
I’m not sure there will be a Heavy Rain 2. I’m not a guy who does sequels, because, when you work on a story, you have something to say. It’s a response to a moment of your life and what you want to express. But it’s the same reason I didn’t want to do a Fahrenheit 2, because I got the feeling I said what I had to say on the story and the characters. And with Heavy Rain, it’s pretty much the same. I feel the same way.
The way I see Heavy Rain is that it feels very much like you’re working on a novel. It’s kind of reaching a completion. Do you see it that way as well? Are you keen to sort of wrap it up and just leave it?
Yeah. Pretty much. I mean, there are so many great stories to tell. That’s why just doing sequels of sequels of sequels doesn’t make any sense. I know it’s a trend in this industry to do sequels, but we can do different things. We hope to reach a point in Heavy Rain where people will be interested in “David Cage’s next title” rather than Heavy Rain 2. So if people enjoy Heavy Rain, maybe my name will become part of the brand. Maybe I can use it more to do what I want to do, rather than having to do sequels.
Are you excited about the way technology is moving at the moment? Are you happy with this generation. Or are you sort of looking forward to more technological advances?
Well, you know, technology moves faster than minds. So I’m still not sure that we have really found ways to use all that the technology has to offer right now. You know, I’m happy that technology stops for a while — that we’ve got time to catch up. Because if it goes too far, it’s so hard to find new ideas and new concepts, and to develop them — to experience them and demonstrate that they can really work. If the technology goes too fast, you just spend your time trying to catch up.
There’s a lot of new stuff in Heavy Rain. There’s a lot of new concepts — it appears to be something of a mold-breaker. How are you going to allow people to see it, in terms of marketing and demos? Stuff like that? How are you planning on messaging the game?
That’s a good question [laughs]. That’s definitely a part of the challenge. But there’s something we discovered on Fahrenheit, is that people are more clever than we usually think they are. So with Fahrenheit, I heard marketing people saying, “Oh, people will never get it. It’s too complex — too difficult, too different.”
They said that about BioShock as well.
And that’s stupid, because people are clever, in general. So when it’s really new, when it brings something interesting and fresh to the table, they love it. And they let you know.
So what we did is really try to promote the game — try to explain, which is not always easy in the context of trade shows, because you need to pick up one scene and show it on the show floor (which is not the best place to talk about immersion and emotional involvement). But we just continue to evangelize, and some people start to understand what we’re talking about. But I think they will really get it when they play the game. No matter how much you can talk about something, at some point, it’s the game.
Will you actually do a demo? Is there a plan for that?
That’s currently in discussion. So yeah, that’s a possibility. At the same time, though, it’s difficult to find one scene that will represent the game and do justice to it. At the same time, if you don’t do a demo, people will think, “Oh, they’re not happy with the game. They don’t want to show it.” Which is not the case. But it’s really difficult to find one scene that can really summarize what Heavy Rain can be. It’s like asking a movie director, “Can you show me two minutes of your movie that will show what the movie’s about?” Well yeah, I can show you a teaser, but if I show you two minutes from the movie, it’s very difficult to understand the atmosphere and what’s going on.
So yeah, it’s something we’re currently discussing, but that’s the problem. Something that is not really a videogame anymore. It’s fully interactive; I’m not talking about that. But in the matter of format, objectives, and the way it works, it’s not really a videogame anymore. So all the rules that have been defined by this industry to promote games, like trade shows and demos, you have to ask yourself if it’s really the type of thing worth doing.
Alex (SCEE Guy): Just from my perspective, because it’s kind of my area — I mean, everything Dave has said is absolutely right. I think, more from a Sony perspective, we absolutely see it being a mainstream title. It’s not a game that’s going to be promoted to a niche audience. It’s not a game where we’re going to focus just on the hardcore fans. It’s something we very strongly see to be a mainstream title — to be a top-ten game. It’s a complex message to get across, but it’s something we’ve been doing a lot of work on, so I think people should be interested to see what comes of it.