My creative writing professor at university once told me that “good readers make good writers”; it always stayed with me and it sprang to mind as I prepared to interview David Cage, the writer of Heavy Rain. It’s a game that, more so than most, will be judged on its storytelling. So, one writer to another, I asked him what he likes to read.
David Cage, writer of Heavy Rain
“I had quite a classical upbringing,” he said, “and I read Shakespeare, a lot of French writers from the middle ages and the Greek classics, as well as quite a lot of sci-fi. I’m quite eclectic in my tastes. One of the things that makes Heavy Rain’s storytelling unique is that it’s the first thing I’ve written that relates to my personal life; I don’t know any serial killers, of course, but the real topic of the game is how far you’re prepared to go to save someone you love and that’s something I really wanted to talk about.”
“Each time you start a project you want it to be the best thing you’ve done, but as Heavy Rain is the beginning of a new genre – we’re calling it interactive drama – and we’re the only team doing anything like this, there’s a lot of expectation around the story, so we’ve given it more attention than we would have if we were developing a more traditional shooter.”
He then introduces me to the stage he’s allowing people to play here at E3, called Mad Jack, where a detective must examine a car wrecking yard for clues leading to a murder.
“Norman Jayden is an FBI agent who has arrived in the city to help the local police force,” he told me. “He has a special piece of equipment called ARI – Artificial Reality Interface – consisting of glasses and a glove allowing him to scan his surroundings for clues such as fingerprints and pheromone samples in the air, and transmit them for analysis later on. His weakness is his addiction to a drug called Triptocaine and the player will have to deal with this because if he goes too long without a dose he will get sick and his vision will blur, and if he takes too much he risks dying from an overdose.”
Someone back at SCEE HQ once told me, having seen an early demo of Heavy Rain last year, that they thought it would be the first game to make people cry. David laughed when I told him this and explained that he wants this game to be a more emotional experience than any other.
“I think it will be one of the first games to bring out a full palette of emotions; we want people to feel empathy, happiness, sadness, rather than just excite or scare them. I don’t know if people are going to cry but there are a few scenes that are very impressive on a psychological level.”
Another unique aspect of the title is that there is no such thing as game over, and David was keen to elaborate on this.
“We felt that ‘game over’ was a very frustrating thing from a narrative point of view because all it means is that you didn’t play the game how the developer wanted you to play it. We got rid of that so if your character dies then you lose them and the story continues accordingly.”
“This game isn’t about challenges or counting points; it’s really about the journey, so the idea is that you shape the story as it unfolds.”
It’s great to see such mature storytelling in a PS3 game and every time I see more of Heavy Rain, some aspect of it gets me thinking in ways I never have before in my 20+ years of gaming. I can’t wait to spend a weekend with it once it comes out, how about you?