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Beyond: Two Souls – death comes to us all

Thursday, 16th August 2012 12:48 GMT By Dave Cook

Beyond: Two Souls isn’t a game trying to be a movie or some attempt to bridge the divide between them. Quantic Dream view it as a convergence – a third new form of entertainment that puts its actors fully to the test. VG247′s Dave Cook goes behind the scenes to learn more.

David Cage is a to-the-point kind of guy. He’s entirely committed to the idea of games being spawned from a single vision and sticking to them throughout the project.

We’re not even five minutes into Cage’s Beyond presentation before he shares his vision by reminding the crowd that while they’re all very different people, they all share something in common:

One day we will all die.

That fear of the unknown, the stomach churning realisation that all of this will disappear once we die is enough to make blood run cold, and that is a very powerful emotion indeed.

Cage wants you to feel something while playing Beyond, and the only way to do that – he says – is to employ talented actors to deliver on his vision. Ellen Page was Cage’s first choice for lead Jodie Holmes.

Beyond’s script is at least 2,000 pages long – that’s longer than three or four movies, Cage tells us – and it was based entirely around Page playing the lead. Although the actor wasn’t officially on board or aware of the game, Page accepted immediately and was officially on board.

That was then, but some twelve months of constant, daily shooting later Cage firmly believes that his ensemble cast have grown as actors, and that the decision to use full motion capture techniques – rather than standard mo-cap – is a significant step for the industry a a whole.

Standing at the front of the conference room, Cage explained, “We gained another dimension in the performance because with full performance capture, we had body language. If you look at me as I say this, you can see how I’m saying it. You lose that in motion capture.”

In regular motion capture, faces, voices and body movement are recorded separately, and this often jars when all three components are melded together. This is how Heavy Rain was shot, but with Beyond Cage wanted to up his standard.

With Beyond, Cage’s cast of 160 people were acting out everything at once on almost non-existent sets. There are very few props, meaning each actor had to simply imagine they were running down a grassy hillside while being chased by cops, or fighting on the roof of a train.

It wasn’t easy, Cage explained, but this illusion and need for imagination is part of the creative process. As a voice over on the studio footage explained, “We take the real world and make it fake. Take the fake versions of the real things and make them real again.”

While it sounds like a silly, roundabout and costly way to do business, Cage revealed that Beyond’s budget is roughly the same as Heavy Rain’s, purely because of full performance capture. There is very little in the way of post-capture animation. Most of what you see in-game has been acted out by the actors.

Cage explained, “Beyond has been in development for three years, but the budget hasn’t been crazy as we’ve tried to be very smart. Everything must be planned precisely so that everything is where is should be, limiting the amount of post-animation.”

This straight-forward process was achieved by scanning in the actors’ bodies before filming began. Cage explains that – while a lengthy process – doing this gave Quantic Dream life-sized avatars of each actor, precise right up to a millimetre.

Every NPC has been played by an actor who wet through this same process – be it young toddler sitting on a park swing, a young girl playing with her dolls, or Jodie and her family sitting down to enjoy dinner. It’s a remarkable effort that pays off well.

We see Ellen Page and an actor playing a currently unknown character talking in the studio. As Jodie, Page talks about the spirit Aiden than has been hounding her since she was a child:

“He’s always decided for me. It’s time I make my own choices”, Page says with the same determination and grit we’ve seen from Jodie in Beyond’s previous trailers.

It sounds like Jodie is in for a rough time in Beyond. We were shown Page acting out more of her lines on set, shouting at her parents for keeping her indoors all the time while her friends go out and play, weeping over the body of a dying friend, and being hunted by police like a dog.

On that note, Cage opened up the floor to questions, but not before reiterating his mission statement for Beyond, “What I’m interested in my work is emotion. How do we trigger emotions in the player? ”

“Games try too hard to trigger adrenaline by letting you just shoot someone, but they overlook smaller emotions that are more complex to trigger, but at the same time are rewarding,” Cage added.

“I’m not a failed movie director who couldn’t make it in films and that’s why I’m a game director,” Cage continued, “I am just passionate about the way this medium is moving. I’m interested in how you can tell a story through interactivity, where you are the actor.”

Cage concluded by saying, “The most challenging part of my work is to redefine what interactivity means. Look, you can turn on the lights in a scene and it can mean something, you can choose to shoot someone and it means something, but you can choose to do nothing, and that too can mean something.”

Interactivity versus cinematics – It’s an issue many developers have struggled with over the years, perhaps most famously Hideo Kojima’s love for over-long cutscenes that wrench control from a player’s hands.

Pitfalls like this don’t fly with Cage, who firmly believes that Beyond will place you as an actor in the vivid digital world he has created. He also believes that going into the next generation of hardware, we will see more studios adopt this trend.

Whatever happens, Beyond: Two Souls is shaping up nicely, and the apparent quality of the end product does the painstaking work of its actors justice. But will it be enough to make the rest of the world sit up and pay attention?

Beyond: Two Souls is heading to PS3 exclusively at an unconfirmed date. Keep an eye out for our full David Cage interview soon.

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24 Comments

  1. Da Man

    Beyond: Two Souls isn’t a game trying to be a movie
    Sure it is. Annoying ‘cinematic’ camera angles, plaguing many console videogames. As if there was a lack of them on PS2/Xbox or current gen.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Phoenixblight

    I call these games interactive movies. Because they focus more on telling a story through cutscenes and dialog and less on actual gameplay. The gameplay being centered on simon says or just simply moving around. I liked Heavy rain but just felt it wasn’t worth the 60$. I should have waited until it was 30 or less to get it than I wouldn’t have had such a bitter taste in my mouth.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. Gadzooks!

    #1

    It’s just a badly scripted, hammily acted movie really, that you have to press a button to continue with once in a while.

    Calling what Cage makes ‘games’ is just wrong. In the same way Dragons Lair needed to be prefaced: ‘laserdisc game’, Cage’s ‘games’ need some nomenclature to differentiate them from actual games with, you know, gameplay.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Dave Cook

    @1 and 2 it isn’t like Heavy Rain btw. Ever play Ghost Trick on DS? It’s like that :)

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Phoenixblight

    No never played that but I had watched of the gameplay for Two SOuls it seemed very much like heavy Rain with some movement and a shit load of cutscenes and little to no gameplay. Yeah you can possess some of the NPCs but you can’t do anything with that besides interacting with more movies. Warped a simple puzzle platformer does more with possession than this game.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. _LarZen_

    I just love these type of games, cant wait to try this out.

    Haters gonna hate, and should take a screwdriver and stick it in the eye.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. Dave Cook

    @5 that’s perfectly reasonable man, those kind of games aren’t for everyone :)

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Phoenixblight

    I will be playing it for sure I am just not paying the full price for it. I will either wait for the price to come down to at least half way or I wlll gamefly it.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. Da Man

    Oh wow, #6 careful with the vaseline there.. Good grief, reminds me of rock star fans willing to kill over an album.

    GZ +1

    #9 2 years ago
  10. ManuOtaku

    #4 Dave Ghost trick was great, good use of the stylus, if thats the case that this game remind you of Ghost Trick, now is on my radar, more so than before, due my perception that this game would had too much heavy rain similarities.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. OrbitMonkey

    Hopefully this will be as unintentionally hilarious as Fahrenheit and not as po-faced as Heavy Rain.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. HeavyD-Love

    Loved Heavy Rain experience. Unique. One of a kind. That’s what everyone complains the industry needs these days, then when QD delivers….people still complain.

    I’ll be getting this day 1.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. ManuOtaku

    #12 dont get me wrong i did like a lot heavy rain, and kudos to QD, the thing is that having played omikron and farenhait, i did thought this game will have some sort of more traditional gameplay inputs, of course i knew the story will be the heavy focus, but they also put heavy focus on the QTE, which in my eyes put the game behind their previous two works, and if i may say so, i now compare it with asuras warth, also a very heavy story-cinematic game, but it did had more traditional gameplay input, i think heavy rain would benefit from being like Asuras, in that particular regard, but to sum things up like i said i did like the game, just that more traditional gameplay was needed IMHO, a good critic is needed to polish a good game into a great one, i hope that is the case with their newest game, and i will be getting their next game, just to give them the benefit of the doubt, they deserve it.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. Beta

    Awesome, I loved Heavy Rain despite it’s flaws (E.G. Acting :P). I’m quite a fan of cinematic gaming so I’ll definitely be picking this up :)

    #14 2 years ago
  15. Dave Cook

    @13 there are no QTEs in Beyond mate. It’s like Ghost Trick by Capcom. Ellen Page’s character gets herself in a predicament, and you control the spirit Aiden to help get her out of it.

    The bit we saw had her pinned down by cops, and you control Aiden to help her escape. The spirit can interact with matter, and so it grabs a petrol pup fro a petrol station, sprays petrol everywhere, and then tears down a neon sign that sparks the petrol and burns tons of cops alive.

    It’s all about chain reactions and using Aiden’s power over matter to escape. He then possesses a chopper pilot and nosedives it down onto the street, killing more guys.

    I dunno, it seem cleveer. I think if you check out Ghost Trick it’d give you a good idea :)

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Dave Cook

    @13 there are no QTEs in Beyond mate. It’s like Ghost Trick by Capcom. Ellen Page’s character gets herself in a predicament, and you control the spirit Aiden to help get her out of it.

    The bit we saw had her pinned down by cops, and you control Aiden to help her escape. The spirit can interact with matter, and so it grabs a petrol pump from a petrol station, sprays petrol everywhere, and then tears down a neon sign that sparks the petrol and burns tons of cops alive.

    It’s all about chain reactions and using Aiden’s power over matter to escape. He then possesses a chopper pilot and nosedives it down onto the street, killing more guys.

    Then more things, like throwing cars around, ripping objects in half and battering down doors blocking Jodie’s path.

    I dunno, it seems clever. I think if you check out Ghost Trick it’d give you a good idea :)

    #16 2 years ago
  17. Dragon246

    These games are not made for everyone, but people just try to shit on something they dont like.
    Typical internet flamers and xbots.
    For them , anything except shooting someone in the face is not gaming. Good luck to them. I for one, value story over gameplay in such kind of games and video games provide a way to give players multiple endings which is just not possible with non-interactive media.
    Haters gonna hate.
    @14,
    Exactly my views. Cinematic gaming definitely has a place in today’s industry.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. hypeb147

    Why does he keep making all these games about the supernatural? That kinda stuff gives me the creeps. I was so happy Heavy Rain was a good plain old fashioned thriller.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. bitsnark

    @16

    BZZZZZT!

    HOLD THE FUCKING PHONE.

    It’s like Ghost Trick you say? Just how interactive is it; are there certain things that you’re guided toward or are there multiple ways to solve the situation.

    If its the former, rather than the latter, I can’t say I would be that impressed in all honesty.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. speedxl01

    I think some gamers miss the point of this game, it’s about the history and how it is presented, the multiple options you have, they want you to feel emotions and care about the character, sure gameplay it’s not traditional but for me it doesn’t matter.

    I really like this kind of games.

    #20 2 years ago
  21. Dave Cook

    @19 there are many ways to complete each scenario David Cage told us. Many, many ways :)

    #21 2 years ago
  22. Clupula

    I’m very excited for this game. Loved Heavy Rain. In fact, I’ve even been able to get people who never played games before to start playing them after letting them experience it. I’m happy to see something unique being made in this day and age of Call of Duty shooters being shit out ad nauseum. Can’t wait for this.

    #22 2 years ago
  23. Dannybuoy

    They must be doing something right. No one’s started banging on about graphics yet!

    #23 2 years ago
  24. ManuOtaku

    #24 Erthazus is busy playing his vita :), so dont invoke him please

    #24 2 years ago

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