Ideally closing a circle, which saw us accompany Detroit in first person from the announcement to the release, we exchanged a few words with David Cage. A lot of interesting material came out of it.
Holygamerz had already come to a degree of separation from Hideo Kojima. After interviewing David Cage, we can say the same thing about David Bowie and Willem Dafoe as well.
But first things first.
Just over a week ago, on the occasion of the Milan Games Week this year, the writer (assisted by Stefano Calzati in the unpublished role of human microphone) had the opportunity to participate in a so-called roundtable. The purpose? Burying questions David Cage, Guru - as the guest of honor is defined - of the Milanese event and recently returned to the shelves with Detroit: Become Human.
Believe it or not, whether you consider Cage a visionary or yet another overrated author in this industry, the end result has left us lots of food for thought and various considerations that risk ending up in some upcoming special.
If you want some insight into the next Quantic Dream project or want to hear Cage admit that he has swept the Matrix, you have clicked on the right article
With Detroit you have explored the darkest aspects of the human being. What will be the next steps of your study?
I don't know if I explored the dark side of humanity with Detroit, I feel I have also brought to light its brighter aspects through the androids - which I still consider human beings, different from the "old" humanity that has become more selfish and dependent. from technology.
I believe that Detroit is a title that primarily deals with the dangers we are facing and the risks we run from that point of view, but my hope is that somehow we will become similar to my androids, open-minded people who fight against racism and segregation.
To learn more:
Detroit: Become Human - The Dan Brown Effect
As for where are we going with Quantic Dream… It's a really complex question! You know, I'm 49 years old and I created my studio 21 years ago, so I went through different historical phases of the industry, moments in which they told us according to the trends "you have to do an MMO", "you have to do something in VR", " you have to do this and that ”. We obviously have always done what we believed in, and 21 years later we are still here talking about a video game that is somehow different. My hope is this, to keep making games that are always different, is the most important thing for me.
In 2013 you presented a tech demo (The Dark Sorcerer, ed). Have you ever considered making a video game out of it / is there something in the pipeline?
When we do these short demos we usually have nothing in mind. I know I said the same thing for Kara - who later evolved into Detroit - but we didn't have any plans at the time. But then we fell in love with the actress, the themes and the characters and we realized we had to make a game of it. We had a lot of fun making The Dark Sorcerer, making something fun is very difficult - I don't know if people found it fun, but we certainly do. I can say that there are currently no plans to make a video game out of this demo, but never say never. We will always try to surprise you and do something you would not expect.
There has been a surge in popularity of gameplay videos and live streams in recent years. Does this have a positive impact on the narrative titles or does it cause damage, for example by prompting many people who have watched the title played by others on Twitch instead to buy it?
This is a really interesting question. Actually in the days of Beyond: Two Souls there was a bit of frustration about it, we saw people making millions of hits with the game we created. Visits that they have monetized and we have not, as many have said "oh, no, now I know the story, I don't need to buy the game".
It's like people are stealing your job.
But with Detroit we saw a change, maybe because the game was different or maybe because the times were different. So many people have watched videos on YouTube or Twitch, but the game has so many branches and a video can only show one path. So we've seen a lot of people say "oh, this game is interesting but I want to be able to choose, so I'm going to buy it". This time they were allies, more than enemies. […] We are very interested in this type of interactions and mechanics such as Crowd play [the mechanics launched by Telltale that allows you to vote your choices in real time, ed] that we have not yet experienced, there are many things that can be done.
Have you ever changed a scene because it was inspired by the actor's performance?
What is particular about our work is that due to the ramifications of the game it is really difficult to improvise, everything is written upstream and to make everything work we need to shoot only what is established. What we can do instead is discuss with the actors before the shoot, about the dialogue and reactions of their characters, making small adjustments based on their feelings. It is a pleasure to work with talented actors because of them really become the characters, greatly simplifying the management work since they can understand them as much as I understand them or even more.
Is there an actor you would like to collaborate with in the future?
No, I don't dream of working with a particular actor. There are so many talented ones, some famous and some not. A lot of people had never heard of Bryan Dechart [Connor of Detroit, ed], in the popularity chart on IMDb he was about 13000 before the release of Detroit. After a week, thanks to the game - and of course his skill - he was in the top 100.
I'm not interested in fame: I'm not looking for names to print on the covers, but the right actor for the role.
So compared to Beyond, has there been a change?
No, no change. I picked Ellen Page because she was the right person to be Jodie Holmes, same for Willem Dafoe - she was the perfect embodiment for the role. I'm not saying I don't want to work with famous people, as I said before I want the right actor, regardless of fame. Indeed, I will tell you one thing:
Working with famous actors is sometimes more of a problem than an advantage
There is a reason why an actor is famous, and it depends on their skill, but often in people - journalists or users who are - in these cases the idea arises that the casting is done based on marketing. It is as if they believe our message is "look I have a great name on the cover, forget that the game is bad". We have never thought like this, when we work with big names it is because we believe in them. I wouldn't change anything I did with Beyond, working with Willem and Ellen was a wonderful experience and their performance was one of the best I've ever seen in a video game.
How much have cinema and literature influenced your creations?
At the beginning of my career, I did what all newcomers do: I tried to emulate the things I liked best. Fahrenheit is my version of the Matrix ee Heavy Rain is my Seven. As you grow up you try to find your voice and express what you want to say: Heavy Rain was my real beginning, it was still influenced by the iconography of the genre but inside there is a lot of personal.
A French director once said that no matter where the ideas come from, it matters where you get them. It's an interesting statement, but at the moment I'm trying to add something of my own, to become an inspiration for future writers myself.
Have you ever thought about producing sequels or spin-offs of your games?
No, we've never done this in 21 years because making this kind of video game is tiring. For four years you wake up thinking about the game, the story, how to improve it and how to solve problems.
For four years the game is your life, there is no room for anything else
When the work is finished, one needs to close the book and reopen a different one. This is what we have experienced so far. I have nothing against sequels, as long as you have something new to say.
What was it like working with David Bowie?
Do we have two hours? [laughs, ed] It was a dream come true. When you work with such an idol, why him it was practically God, you never know what to expect. Actually David was one of the kindest people on Earth. Incredibly helpful, incredibly humble, straightforward and professional, a person a dream. He didn't act like a rock star, he was a really good person.
I have many memories of the time we spent together; we collaborated for a year in total and for a whole month we were together every single day. He came to Paris and we met every day and I showed him where we were with the game, we discussed the artwork and the design, the story and the ideas we had.
Meeting David Bowie every day for a month was certainly the most interesting moment of my career
It is truly amazing to be able to get so close to someone like him, a true iconic of global pop culture, a living legend. I will always remember what he said to me when we started working together: he asked me "By when do you need the soundtrack?" and I gave it a random date, like November 3rd. And on November 3, a year later, he hands me the soundtrack exactly on the agreed day. Before he did he phoned me, and it always makes me laugh to think of someone saying "David Bowie's on the phone", and you think "Yeah ok, right". Yet it was true, he told me the soundtrack was complete and asked me to tell him what I thought. I thought "you're David Bowie, what can I tell you?".
At the time, I really loved The Heart 'Filthy Lesson, a song he composed for the closing credits of Seven, and I loved that soundtrack madly. When we started working together he asked me what I had in mind for the score and I told him that something like The Heart 'Filthy Lesson would be wonderful.
He simply replied "Mh-mh".
When he handed me the soundtrack, it had nothing to do with The Heart 'Filthy Lesson, it was totally different. But do you know? It was great, brilliant! I was expecting something cold as the game world was cold and bleak but he told me something really interesting: "You don't want the soundtrack to say the same thing as the images, so if the images and the story convey something, then the soundtrack sound should add something else to the title ”. And this is a concept that I will always remember and that I still try to apply to my product now.
Do you think it's possible to make a game with multiple Detroit branches without affecting the quality of any branch?
What we have tried to do the Interactive Drama, from the beginning, it was to emulate life.
Life is something wonderful because you have to make choices, make decisions and deal with the consequences, good or bad, without the possibility of changing what happened. If I treated you badly now, you would get upset and leave and I would have to face the consequences of this gesture. We have tried to emulate these kinds of situations in our games, allowing players to make decisions and deal with their consequences. It is the choices we have made in our life that make us who we are. You chose who your girlfriend or boyfriend is or will be, you chose what job you wanted to do, you chose to put that jacket on today, all these choices you made made you who you are. When we create Interactive Drama we try to think the same way, but in real life there is an infinite number of possible ramifications and we can't reproduce them all, it's just too complex. Now, can we do more than what we've already done?
Working in Detroit I felt that we have reached the limit of the genre as it is.
Our main goal is to tell a story that is consistent no matter what choice is made, we want the same quality of writing, acting, lighting, staging and musical commentary in all possible narrative ramifications. We did it in Detroit, but it was a huge challenge that took us two years to write and four to produce the full game. Can we do better? I am inclined to say I don't know. We will try, we will try to do better, otherwise what is the point of creating another game that is simply the same thing? It would be boring. As can we go further? I have no idea, but I'll have to find out.
Do you define yourself more as a director or a video game creator?
I've never really given myself a specific name. In the credits I appear with the words "written and directed by David Cage" in the absence of a precise deadline. What I do is definitely write, but the term "directing" seems to me only suitable for Hollywood directors, even if what I do are basically the same duties as a director, only brought into the world of videogames. I work with the actors, I try them, I rehearse with them, I feed them, I collaborate with the cinematographer, with the composers and I am responsible for the final results of the project. So yeah, from a certain point of view the term director covers pretty much everything I do. But I prefer the term Game Director if we really want to specify.
What do you think of Telltale's bankruptcy?
It is difficult to comment on the situation of another company. I don't know exactly what happened. I can say that in Quantic Dream we set out to place the bar as high as possible from the point of view of quality, technology, visuals and storytelling and we always thought that, in some way, was the best strategy.
Whether we want it or not, people compare our works to films and therefore we want to offer them an experience with which they can connect and from which they can perceive a sense of creativity and a sense of direction similar. I must admit that we have been really lucky because we have managed to find partners who have always supported our vision and meet the high expectations that our titles manage to create, primarily Sony, which has been supporting us constantly for twelve years.
So yes, success it is also partly a matter of luck, especially because we had the luxury of having the opportunity to spend two years simply writing the history of our title, an opportunity that very few people have in this industry. When you spend so much time on a story, you definitely have a better chance of getting something interesting than those who only have three months to write something.
Therefore, mainly because of this luxury, we have been really lucky with Quantic Dream in these 21 years and I hope we can continue like this.
Will we ever see your product in VR?
We are very interested in Virtual Reality, we have all the VR systems in our studio, do a lot of testing and play a lot of VR games. But considering the type of securities we make, we have two big doubts about technology: the first is that if you want to create a game in VR you have to drastically change the way you write, it's simply not possible to take a great story for an Interactive Drama and adapt it. There is a need to write something for VR, you have to design it with that technology in mind from the very beginning and this is still a big challenge for us, it is a totally different language and requires a different approach.
To be honest we believe that we have not yet discovered everything about the way in which "normal" video games are created and that we can still improve
The second thing is that in our opinion, VR she is not ready yet for the market. Maybe the hardware isn't fully mature, it's great for some experiences but limited for others. It's still heavy, wired and it still has limitations, like motion sickness. There are still some things to fix regarding the hardware itself, and the designers
they still have to work on this. But the platform itself is really interesting, unique and offers an incredible level of immersion. What I love most about VR technology is what is called "Sense of Presence", that is when you are in front of a character in a VR video game and your brain is deceiving you and thinking that there is really someone next to you ... at least until your hand passes through it.
In your games, the design of small daily interactions such as preparing a meal, dressing up or looking after a child is very present. How are these segments developed?
I've always been interested in and emulate life, not just exceptional events such as zombie or alien invasions, but everyday life. And I've always thought that if you put yourself in the role of the character and live his everyday life, you feel more immersed and emotionally involved when something special happens to him, precisely because you have shared his everyday life with him.
I had already experienced this direction in Omikron, but it was only sketchy since I didn't even know exactly why I was doing it.
The real change happened with Fahrenheit: I wrote a scene where Tyler Miles, the black cop, gets up in the morning, kisses his wife, takes a shower, chooses what to wear, drinks coffee, listens to music, greets his wife. and then leaves the house to go to work.
Nothing else happens: no big drama, just his life.
I wrote this scene because it seemed natural to me, is a scene that I would put in a movie, but I sincerely feared it would never work in an interactive gaming experience.
Instead we noticed that there was something really fascinating about sharing this moment of intimacy in the life of one of our protagonists. By giving players the ability to wake up as that particular character in the morning when something extraordinary happens to that character, players they will feel more involved and he will care more about his fate as he is a character they will have bonded with.
I thought this it was a suicidal choice as a Game Designer, but I decided to do it anyway, because I wanted to try and I wanted to propose something different.
The game received excellent feedback at the time on this very element and I decided I wanted to check if this positive reaction was just a coincidence or if it was a system that could work and therefore in Heavy Rain I decided to do the same thing, showing the game start every morning action by Ethan Mars.
Part of the industry found these parts funny, writing things like "Heavy Rain is an orange juice simulator" and at the time I thought they were very unfair judgments, made by people who they didn't understand the goal of that scene: to get players to bond Ethan Mars, showing him his life as a happy man and father before he was struck by several dramatic events.
From that moment I understood that it had become a “system” and it had also become our way of telling stories, even if I don't want this style to become a simple recipe to be repeated always and in any case in the same way, quite the contrary. In Detroit I enjoyed playing sneaky with these scenes of normality. In fact, for me in Detroit it was really important to make the players perceive the fact that in the "everyday life" of that world, the Androids were slaves. The players are Androids and therefore must obey orders: if the protesters throw them to the ground because they hate androids, you cannot react, with Kara you are forced to clean the house and do the housework even if you are mistreated.
Are you already working on a new project?
Yes. [Applause in the room, ed] I can't say more, but I can assure you that what we are working on is fuck, totally unreasonable and probably impossible.
But that's always the case when we start a new game.
We had the same feeling when we started working in Detroit, but we said let's do it anyway! And right now we are experiencing exactly the same sensations.