Last week, we asked you--the reader--to participate in this Q&A by submitting your questions in our comments section. Thanks to a quick turnaround time by David Cage at Quantic Dream, here are the answers to your important questions. Be sure to also check out our updated impressions today to get some more info about this highly anticipated thriller. Thanks to everyone who participated; unfortunately, we could only ask a handful of questions so here are the ones that we chose.
GameSpot: How is the development of the game coming along? Can you comment on the delay and why it was pushed back to 2010?
David Cage: The development is (fortunately) coming to an end. We should have our master ready to be submitted for approval by the end of this year. It's been a very demanding project--quite exhausting for the team--but we are very pleased with the result. It is exactly in line with our initial intentions, which is never a given in a three-year-long project with a team of 200 people. The feedback we got from the first gamers who played the full game also seems very positive with a very strong emotional response, which was really our objective.
We have never announced the game as a 2009 launch, so this isn't a delay for us but, rather, a strategic decision to avoid the mess around the Christmas period with major titles--most of the time being sequels--being released in a very short period of time. It can be quite difficult for a title with an original IP based on a new concept like HR to get attention in the middle of established IP and well-known concepts. Unfortunately, many games had the same idea, and it seems we now have a second Christmas period in February and March. But anyway, it gave us more time to communicate about the game, evangelize, and also have more time to polish the game. All in all, I think it was a good decision. It is a new concept, and I think it really needs to be explained properly, which takes time.
GS: What was the inspiration for Heavy Rain? Where did the concept and ideas for the game originate or progress from? Has the game turned out the way you expected it to?
DC: I was thinking recently of the initial pitch we made to Sony. I think that the final product is exactly in line with what we described at the time. We wanted to create an emotional experience for an adult audience based on interactive storytelling and personal involvement. It is also a real pleasure to see people playing the game shouting, being surprised, sad, shocked, excited, impatient…just watching their faces as they play the game is the best reward I could dream of. It really seems people feel emotions as they play, which was the number one item in my design specs. So, yes, the game really turned [out] the way I imagined it. I don't know how people will perceive it, but whatever happens, HR is what I wanted it to be, for the best or the worst.
Concept ideas for the game came from the will to create a game for adults and not for kids based on a wide palette of emotions and not just stress or fear. I am also a firm believer in storytelling [and] in the fact that this is the most universal and effective way to make people feel emotions and that interactivity can reinforce immersion.
Regarding the story, inspiration came, of course, from my personal background…the movies, television series, books I enjoyed and I am sure that people will find many references in the game. But it is also the first game I wrote that is really based on my personal experience being a young father. Having kids really changes the way you see life. It is the first time someone loves you without expecting anything in return. Your kids just love you because you are their dad; they count on you, and there is nothing worse than disappointing them. I wanted to write about that and see if I could imagine a story that could talk about relationships, love, guilt, redemption. I know it sounds quite ambitious to talk about these subjects in a video game as some people may even think that it is even out of place. I believe that if games become mature one day, they should be able to talk about anything, not just about superheroes saving the world from hordes of zombies.
GS: Why did you decide to have four main characters instead of one?
DC: I wanted to create an experience based on several points of view. I played with this idea since my first game, Omikron, where you could get reincarnated into another body when you died. I explored this idea under a different form in Indigo Prophecy, and I wanted to go further in Heavy Rain. I believe that a part of the pleasure you feel playing comes from the fact that you are someone else. In Heavy Rain, you see the story through the eyes of four very different characters, with different voices, different personalities, different ways of moving [and] behaving, with different backgrounds confronted to different situations. It also helps the pacing of the experience by never letting the player know whom he will control next and what will happen to him or her. People initially thought that it would be an issue for identification, but I discovered in my past games that the identification process could work with several characters at the same time with no problem, as demonstrated by literature, cinema, and TV series for a long time.
GS: Many North American gamers are concerned about censorship. Will there be different versions of the game across the regions?
DC: Censorship is also my major concern, and it is something extremely frustrating when you develop games with sincerity and a creative ambition. Censorship for games is probably the strictest in all the entertainment industry. When you watch movies or television, you dream of having the same liberty as a game designer. Rock and roll was perceived as satanic music, perverting youth in the old days, and so were comics (in France, there was a very strict rule about "youth protection" against comics in the 1950s). All this is seen as quite ridiculous today. I am sure that once society has a better understanding of what games really are, mentalities will quickly change. In the meantime, trying to create a mature experience for a mature audience is a massive challenge because every single country has a different understanding of what could be perceived as shocking.
But I know the title is still in evaluation in different regions, including in the US, so I am still not sure what the final version will look like.
GS: Will there be any supernatural elements in Heavy Rain, like in Indigo Prophecy? Can we expect a twist?
DC: No, Heavy Rain will be entirely based on real people in real situations. There is no supernatural event of any kind, but you can expect many twists in the story.
GS: There are multiple ways of completing your objectives in a chapter. Will there be multiple endings based on the player's choice? How many different variations can we expect to see?
DC: More than many endings, there will be many paths and variations leading to different endings. I cannot really count them because there are variations in almost every scene that can have local or long-term consequences. Some consequences have dramatic effects on the story, like the death of the main characters, for example. So it is impossible to say how many variations there are exactly, but from the user tests we have done so far, it seems different players get very different stories.
GS: How long is the game? Will there be any downloadable content or unlockable content?
DC: The game takes between eight and 10 hours on the short side, but depending on how you play it and the decisions you make, it could be much more. We haven't made any announcements on DLC or unlockables yet.
GS: Can you discuss trophies? Will they be included and how do you plan to integrate them without ruining the immersion?
DC: There will be trophies in HR. We understand that this is something important for many gamers. We tried to be clever about how to implement them [and] to make sure it is not something disruptive in the experience. They will only appear between scenes and will be based on a player's decisions rather than skills.
GS: Heavy Rain appears to be a project that has the potential to redefine the entire medium. Do you believe other developers will try to emulate the game's mechanics and narrative structure after it is released? Could we see "drama" as a legitimate genre in the medium?
DC: Everything depends on how successful Heavy Rain will be. If it is well reviewed and if it sells well, [there's] no doubt other developers will want to give it a try, and I would be very happy to be in this situation. I fight to make our medium evolve and move to a more mature form. It can only happen if many studios in the world believe in it. There are many developers more talented than we are who have exciting experiences to create, original stories to tell, who are bored making the same games for the same audience over and over again, [and] who are just waiting for a sign from the market saying it is now ready for something different. Of course, I hope Heavy Rain will be this sign, but if not, I hope that it will come from somewhere else very soon because I am tired of playing the same games again and again. Something new needs to happen now.
GS: Release date? Please!?
DC: First quarter next year. Development will be completed by the end of this year, but the final release date is in Sony's hands. I think we are all impatient to hear what players think of the game, so we probably won't wait too long to put it on the shelves.
GS: Thank you for your time!