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I, Robot: David Cage on Kara, why PS3′s not done yet

Thursday, 8 March 2012 16:33 GMT By Nathan Grayson

David Cage’s Kara demo was always going to be GDC’s headline. Nathan Grayson grills the French maestro on life after Heavy Rain.

“I’m very interested in all human topics in one way or another. You know, I don’t think Kara is really about sci-fi. I think it’s just a background. I’m more interested in the emotional questions Kara asks. It happens to be used in the context of sci-fi, but it could have taken place in the past, future, or present. All the stories I tell are about characters and emotions.”

Quantic Dream boss David Cage marches to the beat of his own drum. OK, that’s a tremendous understatement. He takes the drum, meticulously re-forges it in his own image, and then uses it to launch a precision missile strike on gamers’ tear ducts. Sure, he may goof up from time-to-time (see: Fahrenheit’s entire final act), but his company takes chances that’d drive other triple-A developers to immediately pick up the phone and tearfully tell their piggy banks how much they love them.

So then, what’s Quantic Dream’s next big investor nightmare? For now, Cage and co are keeping things under wraps. However, during a recent GDC session, Cage gave fans a tiny, tech-flavored taste of what’s ahead with the undeniably impressive “Kara” demo. No, the brief yet emotionally charged tale of a robotic girl who nearly ends up in the scrap heap for developing emotions isn’t a snippet of a new game, but it does showcase some damn impressive mo-cap tech. Also, many awkwardly placed instances of near nudity, because Quantic Dream, you guys.

I caught up with the fiercely independent, surprisingly soft-spoken developer after his presentation wrapped and quizzed him on everything from his curious decision to build yet another PS3-specific engine, Journey’s success and its impact on story in games, David Jaffe’s tirades against story in games, Cage’s not-quite-love-affair with sci-fi, and tons more.

VG247: Right off the bat, you mentioned that the Kara demo was running in real-time on a PS3. It looked very nice, of course, but why not embrace the hypothetical next-gen like, say, Unreal Engine 4?

David Cage: We’re really focused on PS3 right now. And it doesn’t do to have a generic engine, because the [next-gen] hardware could change so much that we’d pretty much have to rebuild from the ground up based on hardware. We really want to have the best possible engine.

There’s a time for everything. We have this close relationship with Sony, and we just wanted to work on PS3 because this is a console that everybody has at home today. We just wanted to push the envelope on this console and show that it can actually go much further.

So you’re saying the PS3 still hasn’t fully been tapped yet?

I don’t think so. You can do much more with this console. And Kara just shows that we can do more than what we did with Heavy Rain, and hopefully, what we show in the future will prove we can do much more than what Kara did.

And that was a year-old version of the demo, correct? Why did you opt to show such an early take instead of something more recent?

This was a proof-of-concept. It was a technical showcase a year ago, and it’s great that we could find the time and resources to work on this production. Then we said, “OK, this is done,” because we got it to work in-engine. So we were happy enough with it a year ago, and then we looked at it recently to decide if we wanted to share it with other people. It still works. It’s definitely not the best my studio can do, but it’s still good.

I really enjoyed the whole motif of the Kara demo. The robot-human distinction and the idea that she’s merely one of hundreds of carbon copies are both extremely interesting topics that games haven’t really covered. So Kara’s not your next game, but would you ever be interested in exploring these themes in a full game?

I’m very interested in all human topics in one way or another. You know, I don’t think Kara is really about sci-fi. I think it’s just a background. I’m more interested in the emotional questions Kara asks. It happens to be used in the context of sci-fi, but it could have taken place in the past, future, or present. All the stories I tell are about characters and emotions.

Even so, your recent projects have all taken a plunge into sci-fi’s nanomachine-enhanced waters. Why is that your backdrop of choice?

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve really come to like having our reality, but with a little twist. Because if it’s just pure reality, it can be boring. But if you add just a tiny little fragment, it becomes something that’s acceptable to audiences, it doesn’t take the focus away from what you’re trying to say – but at the same time it creates some kind of distance.

I saw Kara’s robo-heart beating. It was – digging deep into the realm of pure thesaurus gold – icky. It made her feel incredibly vulnerable and powerless, though, which is something you don’t often see in this day and age of military men, space marines, and my own upcoming social game, KillVille. Do you think games could stand to explore that idea more? After all, games give us control, so what happens when it’s taken away in a truly meaningful fashion?

I think that having a character who’s just strong and has all the skills and is supposed to be invulnerable is just boring. I think very few movies and books do that because they discovered a long time ago that having a character that has a wound somewhere – that is vulnerable and fragile – is much more compelling because it resonates with the audience. We all have a weakpoint. We’re all fragile and vulnerable in one way or another.

So it helps when creating a character to identify these things. You know, I don’t see myself as someone with big muscles who’s gonna kill whoever. My son is 11 and he loves that. But I’m 42. I’m too old.

Your engine’s journeying into the deepest reaches of PS3 territory right now, so do you think PS Vita – a machine of similar power but wildly different architecture – would be conducive to the type of experience you create?

I think they could work very well on Vita. We’re built on story-driven experiences, so we’d need to think of an experience that’s really tailored toward the Vita. But it could work just as well. Maybe it would be shorter or episodic or downloadable.

Meanwhile, on PS3, Journey’s had the whole gaming industry buzzing. Mere words can’t describe their excitement, so they’ve taken to the language of bees and cell phones. But I digress. Journey evokes a huge emotional reaction by letting players create their own experiences in tandem with a colossal world and other players. In that respect, it’s sort of on the opposite side of the spectrum from your work – which is also very emotional, but highly directed. Would you ever consider crafting a more minimal story like Journey’s?

Oh yeah, I’m totally fascinated by what they’re doing with Journey. I don’t think that it’s on the opposite side of the coin from us. We do the exact same thing; we just use different means to achieve them.

I’m not all about story. Rather, I’m all about emotion. And there are different ways of achieving or triggering emotion. You can do it through storytelling, or you can do like thatgamecompany did with Journey or Flower. Or, say, Okami did it in a different way. All these games try to create an emotional space that resonates with the player, and they do it in different ways with different styles. That’s great! It makes the medium rich and diverse.

Recently, David Jaffe’s been taking to his soapbox to decry story focused games – or at least play up a focus on mechanics first and story forty-second. How do you respond to his oftentimes vehement rejection of the types of things that have gotten you where you are today?

You know, different people, different tastes. But I’m a little bit surprised that Jaffe takes this view, because when I look back on God of War, I thought it was a good action title – but what really made it stand out were story and characterization. If you take those out, you just have another action game. And I’m sorry that David Jaffe doesn’t see this.

While the EAs and Activisions of the world duke it out with same-y sequels, you take your wildest ideas and run with them. In the triple-A scene, Quantic Dream’s definitely an exception – not a rule. From a perspective of wider industry health, is that disheartening to you?

We are in a strange position, because we are an indie developer in many ways, but with the financial means of a triple-A developer. So it’s a strange mix, because we have total creative freedom to do whatever we want, and – at the same time – we have the financial means thanks to Sony’s support. So it’s a very fortunate position we’re in.

Now, I don’t have to judge what other people do. I mean, it’s a business for a lot of people. They need to make money, and there are many risks involved. At the same time, you cannot blame them for trying to recoup their money and make more. Thing is, I don’t think making money and milking the cow is in my company’s DNA. We’re really serious and honest about what we’re doing. We’re really passionate about all this. We want to be pioneers – to take risks, discover, and fail. As long as we learn, progress, and explore.

My work is about exploring. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m wrong, sometimes I find something. That’s the beauty of it. That’s what makes it interesting. Yeah, it would probably be more reasonable to do Heavy Rain 2, 3, 4, and 5. It would make my life easier and I’d make more money. But that’d probably boring in a way, so it’s great for me to do Heavy Rain, then have time to work on Kara, then work on something else.

Exactly how much of it is really you, though? You’re a very outspoken person, so naturally, attention tends to focus on you. What about your team?

Well, people see my face, but there’s really a very talented team behind me. Without them, there would be no game. And they’re not just people who are paid to do a job. They’re really as passionate as I am about what they’re doing.

I have the vision. I write the script. I’m the director. But everybody contributes. Everybody tries to share vision and talent and bring something to this project. But at the same time, someone needs to make a decision. Someone needs to say, “It’s going to be this way.” And maybe I’m wrong, but we need to decide. So that’s me.

Right. But that’s still quite a bit of power. Off the top of my head, only Hideo Kojima strikes me as another triple-A developer who exercises that tremendous level of control. Do you think the industry could benefit from more coherent, passionate visions?

For many reasons, the industry tends to fear careers when it’s just one person. Some of them are divas and difficult to manage, but also, it’s a risk for investors. “OK, if something happens to David Cage, what about the project? Where are we going?”

So you need to convince people that there’s a reason to do it that way – that it makes sense and is best for the project. There’s a captain on the boat, but it’s difficult to convince people. They prefer when it’s 10-15 people are collaborating. But if one person leaves, you don’t have the project anymore.

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9 Comments

  1. Johnny Cullen

    Can’t wait to see the next proper Quantic project. Hopefully, it won’t be as long as the gap between The Casting and Heavy Rain.

    I’d also like to see, considering his recent comments on gameplay over story first in development, what Jaffe thinks about the remark that God of War would just merely be “another action game” without the story. That would be interesting.

    #1 3 years ago
  2. fearmonkey

    I thought the demo graphically wasn’t anything we haven’t seen before on a 360/ps3.
    The demo itself though was outstanding, I admit it hooked me emotionally.

    edit – The note about Jaffe, I highly disagree with Jaffe’s take that the story is 2nd, but as cage says, different tastes……..

    #2 3 years ago
  3. Erthazus

    Fantastic interview. Thank you.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. brotherhoodofthewolf

    that last question and answer were very good. nicely diplomatic of david there.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. TD_Monstrous69

    I’m with Erthazus, a fantastic interview. David Cage is one person in games that I have immense respect for, and I can’t to see what Quantic Dream’s next project for Sony will be.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. manamana

    The teasertrailer is really outstanding, goosebumps. Great interview.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. Dragon246

    Companies and people like Quantic Dream and David Cage are rare in this world. Most people work for money, few work where their passion takes them. Its great to see and hear people like that, irrespective of the field they belong to.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. Zana

    I have exactly the same feeling as him about David Jaffe. This guy is such a loudmouth.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. mojo

    great interview, great views, but excuse me:

    when I look back on God of War, I thought it was a good action title – but what really made it stand out were story and characterization. If you take those out, you just have another action game. And I’m sorry that David Jaffe doesn’t see this.

    thats just wrong.
    He made the mistake and propably played the game on a too easy difficulty.
    On harder modes God of war just starts to shine in its full glory and then the gameplay of the series is just one of the best in the entire industry. yes on normal its just button mashing.
    Everyone who disagrees never played that game to its fullest.

    #9 3 years ago

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    A remastered version of the Journey Collector’s Edition is coming to PlayStation 4 from ThatGameCompany. According to Gamespot, the trilogy will contain PS3 titles flOw, Flower and Journey on one disc, and it will run in 1080p at 60fps. A standalone version of Journey will arrive close to the trilogy’s release on PS4 through the […]

  • Here’s a few screenshots of PS4-exclusive Alienation from Housemarque

    Screenshots for Alienation, Housemarque’s four-player co-op PlayStation 4 exclusive, have been released and you can have a look at them in the gallery we’ve posted. Announced at gamescom 2014, the game features three main character classes, weapon customization, and various team set-ups. The game has players shooting at things with twin-stick gameplay with a top […]

  • Star Wars: Battlefront website notes November 17 release, teaser video and first image hit

    The first Star Wars: Battlefront image has been posted, and apparently it appeared on the official website at some point this morning. The game will also be released on November 17, according to the official website’s source code. The release date is noted in the code located in the image below. Props to Gematsu for […]

  • Mortal Kombat X is the fastest selling entry in the series to date

    Mortal Kombat X has sold faster than any other game in the series to date, making it the “biggest launch” in Mortal Kombat history, according to creator Ed Boon. Speaking in a series of tweets, Boon said both the mobile and console versions have “literally millions of players getting online” resulting in the servers being […]

  • Shadow of the Beast reboot resurfaces with some new screenshots

    The Shadow of the Beast reboot, which was announced in 2013, has show its face once more with early screenshots. Screenshots of the Amiga classic remake show off the Karamoon’s desert and the main character, Aarbron. According Matt Birch, CEO and founder of Heavy Spectrum, the team is currently hard at work on the “core […]

  • Halo: Spartan Strike arrives on Windows 8, iOS and Steam today

    Halo: Spartan Strike is now available on Windows 8, Steam, iOS devices and Windows 8 phones. The mobile top-down shooter will run you $5.99. Halo: Spartan Strike tells a new story in the Halo universe set during the events of Halo 2 on New Mombasa in 2552. Those playing on Windows 8 devices can compete […]

  • Final Fantasy 15 video shows highlights from the Episdoe Duscae demo

    Square Enix has released a Final Fantasy 15 video which shows highlights from the Episode Duscae demo included with launch editions of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD. FFT0 has shipped over one million copies worldwide, and a player feedback survey is available for the Duscae demo until May 19. Final Fantasy Type-0 HD is available on PlayStation […]

  • Bloodborne has sold over 155,000 digital units since release – SuperData

    PlayStation 4 exclusive Bloodborne has sold over 155,000 digital units since it was released on March 24, according to SuperData’s latest report. The figure produced by SuperData is worldwide and comes on the heels of the one million units sold announcement earlier this week. “After the release of the beautiful but terribly short game The […]

  • Nintendo US eShop update: Mega May returns, Super Smash Bros. update, Mii Fighter costumes

    Nintendo has updated the North American end of the eShop with a Super Smash Bros. update and the StreetPass Mii Plaza games Battleground Z and Ultimate Angler. The update is rather detailed, and a bit larger than normal, and you may wish to pay special attention to the activities listed. Here’s the full update: StreetPass […]

  • Here’s your first look at Sony boss Shuhei Yoshida in Super Time Force Ultra

    Sony Worldwide boss Shuhei Yoshida is a playable character in Super Time Force Ultra, and today, Capy Games has provided a couple images of the man himself in the game. Yoshida was announced as a playable character in the game during Sony’s PlayStation Experience event back in December 2014. The PS4 and Vita version will […]

  • The wait is almost over – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has gone gold

    CD Projekt RED has announced the news we’ve all been waiting to hear: The Witcher 3 has gone gold. This means Geralt’s latest, and possibly last, adventure has been sent to the factory to be pressed into lovely gaming discs. “We worked so damn hard over the past three years to bring you this game,” […]

  • Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is a “couple weeks out from beta,” new trailer

    Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture is just a “couple of weeks out from beta,” according to development studio The Chinese Room, and a release date will be announced “shortly.” To give you an idea of how development has been coming along since it was announced at gamescom 2013, the team has released a new trailer […]

  • GTA 5 on PC looks incredible, but I can’t recommend it to console players

    As much as Matt Martin loves GTA 5, he can’t recommend upgrading from console to PC just for a slick editing suite and even prettier graphics. “This is the third time in as many years that I’ve bought GTA 5.” I have a Grand Theft Auto 5 obsession, as I’m sure you know if you’ve […]

  • The Forest engine updated to Unity 5, major graphical and gameplay improvements made

    The Forest’s latest patch added substantial improvements to the game. The Forest version 0.16 is now live on Steam with plenty of new additions. The game has been ported over to Unity engine version 5. The plant and skin shaders have been replaced or rewritten. Many other visual tweaks have been made, such as model […]

  • Star Wars: Battlefront banner leaks from Star Wars Convention

    EA has been setting up the Battlefront booth at Star Wars Celebration, and one leaked picture shows what could be the game’s main art. Someone on Reddit posted a picture of the game banner at EA’s booth. Here it is: Lots of things happening here. There’s a Star Destroyer in the distance, TIE Fighters and […]

  • Get GTA 5 working with Oculus Rift using this tool

    There’s a way you can play GTA 5 in VR if you own an Oculus Rift Dev Kit and have a bit of cash to spare. VorpX, the go-to program for adding VR support to games has received an update recently to support GTA 5. This is far from perfect, as it only translates the […]

  • FIFA Ultimate Team: week of April 15 team revealed

    This week’s Team of the Week is now available for anyone to challenge in FIFA Ultimate Team. The team members get selected each week based on their performance during the weekend matches. You can fire up FIFA Ultimate Team on any platform and challenge this squad. You’ll also find some Team of the Week items […]

  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided will let you stealth all encounters, including bosses

    Deus Ex: Mankind Divided will bring back one of the original game’s major features. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is considered by many to be a great game and worthy of bearing the franchise name. One of its grating issues though was its boss fights. You only had one way to fight them: be confrontational. The […]

  • Project Cars PC specs and supported wheels announced

    The release date of Project Cars is inching ever closer and more details have been revealed to answer all your burning questions. Project Cars developer Slightly Mad Studios has revealed the full list of supported steering wheels on all platforms, as well as the minimum and recommended PC specs. Minimum specs CPU – 2.66 GHz […]

  • GTA 5 gets custom FOV mod on PC

    Those not satisfied with GTA 5′s built-in field of view slider can use a new mod to push the number even further. The PC versions of GTA 5 – just like its PS4 and Xbox One counterparts – lets you switch between third and first-person view in shooting and driving. The game has an FOV […]

  • Win! GTA 5 on PC!

    Want to win a Steam key for Grand Theft Auto 5 on PC? Just enter here. GTA 5 released on PC this week and is going down a storm. We like it a lot, which is why we’re giving away a Steam code for Rockstar’s latest. All you need to do is enter your email […]

  • GTA 5 topples Skyrim’s record for highest concurrent players on Steam

    Not factoring in Valve games, GTA 5 is the new king of concurrent player numbers on Steam. GTA 5 is very popular on PC, even more popular than games like Skyrim in its heyday. The number of concurrent players for GTA 5 has peaked today at 301,246. This makes it the only non-Valve game to […]

  • Mortal Kombat X: what does a modern fighting game look like?

    Mortal Kombat continues to evolve as NetherRealm adds RPG systems and daily challenges to a solid fighting game, says Sherif Saed. “Mortal Kombat X takes many cues from games like Destiny, Call of Duty, and GTA Online with hourly, daily and weekly events.” For as many of its familiar facets, Mortal Kombat X has enough […]

  • J-Stars Victory VS+ coming west in June – new trailer

    J-Stars Victory VS+ will make the jump (see what I did there) to the west after all. J-Stars Victory VS+ is the western title for the fighting game which stars characters from a variety of Shonen Jump-published manga. Bandai Namco has announced the fighter will release in Europe on June 26 and in the Americas […]

  • Codemasters F1 license good through 2016

    Codemasters has at least one more F1 game in it. F1 2015 isn’t out yet, so Codemasters is naturally not talking about what it might get up to in the future. We do know what it can get up to, though; Codemasters’ Steven Embling told Videogamer has the option to continue the series. “We have […]

  • Project Cars has pretty deep graphics options on consoles

    Project Cars offers players a wide variety of ways to customise their graphic settings on PS4 and Xbox One. Project Cars is a graphics showcase and all early indications suggest it’s going to be one of the best-looking games out there. Slightly Mad’s commitment to graphics seems to go deeper than making things pretty, though: […]

  • Super Smash Bros. patch nerfs Diddy Kong – report

    Super Smash Bros. 3DS and Wii U is great but Diddy Kong is a beast and must be stopped. The latest Super Smash Bros. 3Ds and Wii U patch seems to have nerfed Diddy Kong, a character so over-powered that serious tournament players generate controversy by choosing to use him. Nintendo doesn’t publish patch notes, […]

  • Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel developer shuttered

    Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel developer 2K Australia has been closed down. Kotaku broke the news, and also had word from an anonymous source, who said that all staff have been let go. 2K responded to our request for comment with the following statement: We can confirm we have taken steps to begin the studio closure process […]

  • Samorost 3 trailer shows Amanita still in fine form

    Samorost 3 looks as delicately beautiful as its siblings. Samarost 3 developer Amanita Design has a reputation for gorgeous, slightly surreal world building. This new trailer for its latest adventure looks just as if not more lovely than the previous Samarost games and Botanicula. Samarost 3 is coming to Mac and PC later this year, […]

  • Amnesia dev’s new project SOMA now in beta

    SOMA is nearly here and I am torn between excitement and horrified dread. SOMA is the latest horror project from Frictional, the team behind Amnesia: The Dark Descent. We’re pretty excited to see what Frictional comes up with next, and we won’t have too long to wait, apparently; the developer has announced that SOMA is […]

  • Steam Guard mobile authenticator now in beta testing

    Steam is now testing its latest security measure. Steam helps you protect your account by offering two-factor authentication, a solution so beautifully elegant and effective that it’s astounding every gaming network doesn’t do the same (looking at you, Sony). Valve’s version is called Steam Guard, and it works via email. This isn’t always super convenient, […]

  • Godzilla battles Mothra in new trailer

    Godzilla lets you stomp around cities and battle classic kaiju. I’m in. Godzilla is coming to PlayStation 3 and PS4 in early July, but we haven’t seen a great deal of it since its December reveal. The new trailer below gives you an idea of just what Natsume has done with one of the biggest […]

  • Tales of Zestiria to launch this year – new trailer

    Tales of Zestiria continues Bandai Namco’s delightful new habit of bringing the popular JRPG series to the west before the shine wears off. Tales of Zestiria is coming west in northern autumn, the publisher has announced. That’s not a bad turnaround, given it first hit Japan in January, and localisation of text-heavy titles is expensive […]

  • Project Cars release date locked down, new trailer released

    Project Cars finally has a release date. Project Cars will release on May 8, Bandai Namco UK has announced. We haven’t yet had an update from Namco Bandai’s other regional offices, but its probably safe to bet the racer will release around the same time in the Americas, Europe and ANZ region. We can now […]

  • Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains trailer shows combat, online multiplayer

    Attack on Titan: Humanity in Chains has plenty to offer fans of the anime. Previously known as Attack on Titan: The Last Wings of Mankind, the Spike Chunsoft action game is coming west thanks to Atlus. Gematsu reports it’s due in both Europe and North America in May, via the 3DS eShop. The trailer below […]

  • Bloodborne stamina recovery rate affected by equip weight

    Bloodborne players have unearthed an important gameplay detail not mentioned in the game’s menus or manual. In Bloodborne, players need to manage their stamina carefully for best results. A far more aggressively-tuned affair than past Souls games, Bloodborne does away with equip weight limits, and items have no listed weight details. As far as players […]

  • Street Fighter’s Ryu, Fire Emblem’s Roy spotted in Super Smash Bros. patch – rumour

    Street Fighter’s Ryu is rumoured for future Super Smash bros DLC following datamining of the latest patch. Super Smash Bros. 3DS and Wii U were updated recently, and hacker shinyquagsire23 claims to have found some interesting files while poking around in the 3DS patch data. As detailed on Reddit, the audio files included a new […]

  • Suikoden 3 PEGI rating suggests PS2 Classic re-release

    Suikoden. Suikoden 2. And now: Suikoden 3. Suikoden 3 has been rated by PEGI for PlayStation 3, presumably ahead of an upcoming re-release. Gematsu turned up the rating, and although we have no further information at this time, it’s not much a leap to assume the RPG will turn up as a PS2 Classic on […]

  • Star Wars Battlefront gameplay reveal to be streamed live, new Instagram tease

    The Star Wars Battlefront gameplay reveal will be live-streamed during a panel hosted by EA as part of the Star Wars Celebration festivities this Friday. This is according to an announcement from Verizon and Disney courtesy of MP1ST. The main stream for the event kicks off at 10am PDT/1pm EDT on Thursday, April 16. It […]

  • GameStop to launch retro game and console trade-in experiment

    GameStop wants to get into the retro game and console business, providing it’s a worthwhile endeavor. To test the possibility, it will soon allow customers in Birmingham, Alabama and New York City to trade-in classic consoles and games in-store. Speaking with IGN, a spokesperson for the company said the initiative will kick off on April […]

  • Battlefield Hardline’s first patch addresses five priority issues requested by the community

    Battlefield Hardline’s first patch is in the works, and today, Visceral Games has added Punkbuster and Nvidia DirectX driver fixes to the list of issues to be addressed. Miscellaneous fixes for “the most frequent crashes” will be included in the patch, as well as the following “top five priority” issues voiced by the community. Punkbuster […]