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Heavy Rain - Playing a Story 217

Posted by Soulskill
from the drops-of-realism dept.
Edge Magazine is running a piece about Heavy Rain, a thriller by Quantic Dream that's been in development for a few years now. Edge spoke with David Cage, the game's writer and director, about using graphics technology not simply for breathtaking landscapes or realistic lighting, but to bring the characters to life and make them more believable. Cage walked the folks at Kotaku through a demo, and they provided details on how the controls will work. From Edge: "'We worked very hard on motion capture, especially facial motion capture,' explains Cage. 'As you know, eyes are incredibly hard to do: the minute movements they constantly make mean you can tell whether something is human or not. We created a technology to motion-capture that from actors.' The shaders applied to the lead character's eyes and the skin that surrounds them also conspire to nudge Heavy Rain's characters closer to believability. The 'deadness' that so often afflicts such digital mannequins has been significantly chipped away, and we are presented with Madison, a character whose facial features, though attractive in an expectedly unnatural sort of way, also carry blemishes that succeed in breaking down her artificiality."
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Heavy Rain - Playing a Story

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  • Short summary; (Score:5, Informative)

    by B5_geek (638928) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @12:06AM (#24869407)

    PS3 only. Good quality visuals. It is a detective story/game.

    • It's a shame they aren't developing it for PC as well, since PCs have the potential to always outdo a console, even the PS3. It might take one heck of a system (see Crysis), but PC > Console for graphics. Hopefully they will at least port it over and add to the console version.
  • by MosesJones (55544) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @12:07AM (#24869423) Homepage

    All this realism stuff gets on my nerves. Sure it looks more realistic but is it actually a better game? Are the graphics on the Wii "realistic" hell no, they are basically cartoons but the games play well and I don't care about the graphics. So the eyes flicker around in this new game like the eyes of people in a meeting just waiting for it to finish, flicking to the clock, back to the notes and then gazing out of the window in a day-dream before flicking back into the room in case they are asked a question.

    Realism isn't always the best way to convey the most emotion and impact, look at the finest paintings from the likes of Rembrandt, and its that impact that games companies should concentrate on rather than on yet another way to make a dull game look pretty.

    • "Realism isn't always the best way to convey the most emotion and impact"

      Emoticons work much better.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by click2005 (921437)

      The games industry is becoming more and more like Hollywood. They think pretty pictures, famous names & loud noise will make up for a lack of story.
      Games were more playable on the 8-bit computers & consoles than on today's supercomputers/superconsoles. Yeah the graphics were shitty at times but you still got more immersed in the game than you do these days. Its hard to get too involved in an 'interactive movie' with a few decisions/actions.

      • by Chandon Seldon (43083) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @01:51AM (#24870125) Homepage

        It's not that games were somehow better back then, it's that you were younger and had more time to spend selecting and learning to play video games - and that you're comparing random games from today with your best memories of the best games of the past.

        My best memories of, say, Deus Ex are much better than Crysis was... but I'm sure they're much better than Deus Ex actually was too.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by quadrox (1174915)
          I have to respectfully disagree. While I will admit that the nostalgia effect you describe is real and affects me too, it is not the whole explanation.

          Far too many games have way too bland gameplay nowadays. Anyone having played assassins creed will know what I mean, although the story was quite intriguing. F.E.A.R. also suffered from shoot-the-same-guy-a-hundred-times-in-some-hallway-syndrome. Absolutely boring rubbish, although the paranormal events made it quite intriguing at the beginning. Half-life
          • Wait... Assassin's Creed had bland gameplay? Did you play the same game I did? The gameplay in AC kicked so many levels of ass, it wasn't even funny.
          • by Kelz (611260)
            What exactly was it that was better? The only game I hold in such high regard is TIE Fighter and some old adventure games; TIE Fighter just because you could do interesting missions in full space, and adventure games because of the story and because they made me laugh.
        • Deus Ex was an outstanding game because it had good storytelling combined with interesting gameplay. The different ways the player could build his character and achieve his goals were definitely above the norm for a shooter.

          Also, the graphics had reached a level I consider sufficient to support a good game:
          -full 3D engine
          -Characters and items were clearly recognizable, not reduced to a crude bunch of pixels like in DOOM due to limited computing resources
          -the supported resolutions allowed to check out things

          • by Hatta (162192)

            Also, the graphics had reached a level I consider sufficient to support a good game:
            -full 3D engine
            -Characters and items were clearly recognizable, not reduced to a crude bunch of pixels like in DOOM due to limited computing resources
            -the supported resolutions allowed to check out things at a distance, where earlier games (DOOM again) would make things unrecognizable because they shrinked to a few pixels.

            So 2d graphics are insufficient to support a good game? I can think of a [sourceforge.net] few [nethack.org] exceptions [scummvm.org] to that. Even i

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by AP31R0N (723649)

          The Rose Tinting Effect of Memory. You remember the games/movies/albums you liked in those days, and tend to forget the rest. The signal to noise ratio has always been the same, you're just forgetting the noise. Also, your tastes and standards change over time. As a kid, Tron was orgasmic to me. Watching it now i could see more flaws and not be as entertained by this or that.

          Wish i had mod points for ya.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Das Modell (969371)

        Games were more playable on the 8-bit computers & consoles than on today's supercomputers/superconsoles. Yeah the graphics were shitty at times but you still got more immersed in the game than you do these days.

        Really? Wolfenstein 3D immersed you more than Crysis? Yeah, ok...

        Its hard to get too involved in an 'interactive movie' with a few decisions/actions.

        What are these interactive movies that you're referring to? I haven't played an interactive movie since the mid-nineties when they were still being

    • by Dripdry (1062282) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @12:18AM (#24869539) Journal

      Agreed.

      However, looking at the development of art history, the masters first worked toward realism. Caravaggio with his tenebrism (dramatic shading, where 3D games begin to take off with better shading and lighting) really began to bring things to life. When they reached that pinnacle of realism, other forms began to emerge. I imagine gaming will do something similar as we become bored of perfectly realistic games, even if they are masterpieces of both art and game design.

      Anybody else with a more extensive art background have any other comments on this?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I think that's a helluva good point and one I've never considered before. I've got to admit, I like games primarily for the graphics... though I'm not much of a gamer, so I suppose I'm probably the typical eye candy gamer.

        However, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I love technology... I like to watch it advance before my eyes... and in no other place is that quite as startlingly evident than video games.

        Of course, I can get hooked on a good video game with ok graphics (I LOVED Alpha-Ce
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Compuser (14899)

          Quote: "the obvious place to push the envelope is graphics"

          The main problems in games is not graphics. Good 3D models and high resolution textures are common and realistic lighting is being pushed more and more.
          The two main problems are lack of detail and lack of realistic physics. The lack of detail is evident in just about any game. I am not aware of any game for instance where dust is modeled as individual particles. Outside scenes are even worse. Roads are often textured rather than modeled meaning that

          • by emj (15659)

            Everything you state is in the realm of graphics, you had to solve things to be able to get quake graphics on a 90MHz PC in the same way you have to solve things to get dust to settle in an artificial environment.

            It's just effects, but it has come a long way in the last 30 years since Zork was released.

            • by Compuser (14899)

              I personally think that the domain graphics is confined to the rendering engine. Figuring out how muscles work can be biology, anatomy, physics, but graphics it is not. Likewise, more details means more work for the level designers not engine designers.

              • by emj (15659)

                You are talking about things that have little effect on the game mechanics, but more on what you see so I would call it graphics. Or fluff. Or Photo realism.

                I see graphics more as effects..

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mckinnsb (984522)
        Titian is often considered the master of "old school realism". In the end, however, realism gave way to Van Gogh, Impressionism, and alternative "representations" - which ultimately culminated in abstract art, and afterwards, representation became mixed. Indeed , the choice of representation became art itself. It is similar to how we had a realistic push in gaming for a few years, and then suddenly cel shading became very popular. I don't think we have come full circle yet, however.
      • Agreed.

        However, looking at the development of art history... I imagine gaming will do something similar as we become bored of perfectly realistic games, even if they are masterpieces of both art and game design.

        Anybody else with a more extensive art background have any other comments on this?

        Interesting thought, but not one that persuades me. Many games have already made a virtue of deliberately non-photo-realistic visuals. Molyneux [lionhead.com]' games, for example, have cartoonish visuals not because he doesn't have the graphic sophistication to go for near photo-real but because he chooses not to.

        I think the visual aesthetic has a lot to do with the entire experience the director is trying to impart. I really love The Witcher [thewitcher.com] (my review here [jasmine.org.uk]) for its immersiveness, and part of that immersiveness is the beautiful visuals which are clearly aiming towards (although not, at least on my hardware, quite achieving it). You really can, in The Witcher, just stop and watch the moon rise and be blown away by the beauty of the scene.

        Photorealism also suits stories which build on the 'film noir' genre, as it's clear that Heavy Rain does - but black-and-white might work better (it's noticeable that the palette in those Heavy Rain screenshots is pretty subdued).

        However, in the game I'm trying to work on I want to end up with a 'charcoal and wash' visual - very little colour and not a lot of detail. I don't - yet - know how to do this - near photo real would be a lot easier and may be what I eventually end up with. But the reason for that choice is partly to make the game look distinctive, but it's also to comment on the culture of the people I'm trying to tell a story about.

      • I thought that the move away from realism wasn't due so much to having hit a pinnacle of realism in painting, but more as a reaction against photography, which provided cheap, easy, and quick realism. The painters then went after things the camera couldn't do.

        • by Dripdry (1062282)

          I decided to check wikipedia (though not that from it should flow all Truth)
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Realism_(arts) [wikipedia.org]

          It seems that Realism grew as a result of photography, though I'm sure the reaction to it was eventually toward the abstract.

          However, the other side of this is that Realism grew up, so to speak, in the mid 19th century.
          Titian was alive during the 15th and 16th centuries.

          As my art history knowedge has dimmed over the years, I don't really remember what happened in the interim.

      • At the end of the day,its all about entertainment.

        Suppose I really enjoy a well played game of checkers. A sparse and simple presentation that allows me to focus on my next move would be preferable to some realistic immersive presentation playing against uncle Joe on the porch of the old general store with the sounds of boots stomping up the steps behind me and old Zeek creaking back and forth on a rocking chair.

    • by thermian (1267986)

      Realism isn't always the best way to convey the most emotion and impact, look at the finest paintings from the likes of Rembrandt, and its that impact that games companies should concentrate on rather than on yet another way to make a dull game look pretty.

      The desire to turn an easy profit will win over the desire to make a better game for some companies after the first few companies start exploring a new area in visualisation methods.

      Seen TF2? Awesome cartooning, quality abounds, its a whole new look for games of that type, and it works really well. Seen the new Battlefield? a cheap imitation, graphics wise which looks unpolished (Well, awful in comparison to TF2), but close enough to make people think it's breaking new ground too..

      • TF2 was not the first shooter game to have that kind of visual style. XIII [mobygames.com] was released in 2003, and Killer7 [mobygames.com] in 2005. There are probably even earlier examples. TF2 also doesn't hold a candle to Eternal Sonata [mobygames.com].

      • Seen TF2? Awesome cartooning, quality abounds, its a whole new look for games of that type, and it works really well.

        I've seen TF2, but ironically, this is a counterexample to me of the "gameplay > graphics" argument. I hate TF2's graphics. I think they suck, I think that Valve's developers are, quite frankly, idiotic for marrying such crappy graphics to a good game. Because my hate for their graphics is so strong, I don't play TF2, even though it's a good game otherwise.

        So, I would have to disagree that TF2's style "works really well", because their graphics choices actually drive me to not play the game.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      All this realism stuff gets on my nerves. Sure it looks more realistic but is it actually a better game?

      Sometimes, yes.

      I don't care about the graphics.

      Yes, you do, you just don't realize it.

      I've said it before, and probably better, but every part of the game affects gameplay, and can make a game better or worse. More realistic graphics can, in fact, make a game better.

      Now, granted, Crysis was mostly about pretty pictures and who's got the bigger dic^Wvideo card. But that doesn't mean this particular game is going to be another Crysis.

      Realism isn't always the best way to convey the most emotion and impact,

      Not always, but sometimes.

      Look at film. Certainly, there's a place for anime, and it often does a better job

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Das Modell (969371)

        Now, granted, Crysis was mostly about pretty pictures and who's got the bigger dic^Wvideo card. But that doesn't mean this particular game is going to be another Crysis.

        This is really just a myth. Crysis has very good gameplay, and the narrative is quite engrossing too. The large environments and foliage aren't just there for appearance, they actually affect the gameplay. Enemies can see you from far away, and you can hide in bushes and behind trees, and crawl through tall grass to remain unseen. There's al

        • Fine. s/Crysis/Doom3.

          I'm basing my criticism of Crysis largely on this comic [penny-arcade.com] -- is the narrative actually better than that?

      • "More realistic graphics can, in fact, make a game better."

        Of course, but not always. Heroes of Might & Magic 5 is IMHO a counter-example: full 3D when you're not supposed to be immerged only get in the way of the game interface and when zooming out enough to see a reasonable area, gold and ore would almost look like the same. That game is not that bad per se, but it would have been far better if done in 2D.

        "But that doesn't mean this particular game is going to be another Crysis."

        From the trailer I hav

    • Normally I'd agree with you, however, from what I just read this is more like a book or a movie than a video game. And with that in mind context gameplay goes right out the window.

      What helps make a book or movie more enjoyable is willful suspension of disbelief, and greater realism will help exactly that.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DrXym (126579)
      All this realism stuff gets on my nerves. Sure it looks more realistic but is it actually a better game?

      Why don't you wait and see? Producing a compelling game is a fine art and it might suck for a multitude of reasons, but I fail to see why you pour hate on it because it strives for realism and a strong narrative.

    • Just because graphics don't matter in Wii Tennis doesn't mean they don't matter in an adventure game. Advanced graphics can only be a good thing for adventure games. Sounds to me like you're just pretending to be some sort of pseudo-hardcore gamer by performing the same old routine about how graphics are the devil and we should all go back to Pong.

    • by Nursie (632944)

      "Are the graphics on the Wii "realistic" hell no, they are basically cartoons but the games play well and I don't care about the graphics."

      Which games are these?

      I have yet to find anything on the Wii I enjoy, other than the initial "Sports" game. The fact the graphics are primitive is a minor incovenience compared to how bad the game library seems to be.

      • Tried Metroid Prime 3? I find it to be an extremely fun game that makes excellent use of the Wii controller.

        I also think Mario Kart and Smash Bros Brawl are excellent games, but they don't really utilize Wii controls, so they're not great examples. Great games, though.

  • by nawcom (941663) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @12:09AM (#24869443) Homepage
    ?ho immediately thinks of the production of "Chubby Rain" from that Steve Martin/Eddie Murphy comedy Bowfinger? heh. Off topic. Mod me down.
    • If I had mod points you'd get a +1... that was exactly the same thought I had, only I couldn't remember the exact name of the movie!

    • by bareman (60518)

      No.

      It was my first association as well, but I promise not to show it to the laker girls.

      Happy premise #3: Even though I feel like I might ignite, I probably won't.

  • Hard Rain? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Dripdry (1062282) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @12:24AM (#24869577) Journal

    Good lord, when I first saw the title of this thing I thought of that movie with Christian Slater from about ten years ago, "Hard Rain", and thought they were making a game out of it. It was at that point that I cried out in fear and pain, thrashing my keyboard into the wall and curling up in the corner, a whimpering smudge of a geek. "Make it stop...." was all I could be heard to say...

  • by DragonTHC (208439) <Dragon@gamerslas ... .com minus berry> on Thursday September 04, 2008 @12:55AM (#24869817) Homepage Journal

    Most of you won't remember, but Quantic Dream is the studio that brought us Omikron: The Nomad Soul. That game had a soundtrack with David Bowie on it.

    They also brought us Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy.

    I'm a fan of their immersive adventure style games. Hard Rain ought to be a knockout.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Hey I hadn't heard of Omnikron. Turns out it's on the Dreamcast of all things. Sweet!

    • by MrSteveSD (801820)
      The Nomad Soul was an amazingly immersive game. I'm sure they were talking about a sequel a while back.
  • This is so cool. An article about an adventure game on /.. Adventure games are not dead, as everyone thinks. They're getting more and more mainstream.

  • Judging from the screenshots, the 3d characters are no more believable than Alyx from HL2. And that particular game is already 4 years old.

    • I actually find the (gfx depiction of) characters from Call of Duty 4 much better than those in hl2 (even the more "modern" hl2-ep series). But you're right Alyx is a hottie (errr, or so I hear).
  • Immersive story/puzzle games are nothing particularly new.

    Remember Phantasmagoria? Spent weeks finishing that one.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phantasmagoria_(computer_game) [wikipedia.org]

    This seems to be doing the same thing better with much more realistic reactions and interface (of course Phantasmagoria had no choice as it used filmed section on 7 CDs) - and what is really noteworthy is that they are moving away from forcing the character down set pathways and decisions and allowing the player to choose their
  • Quantic promises a whole lot with the titles that they hype, and ends up giving very little beyond what they shine up for demo releases. They did it with Omikron, they did it with Fahrenheit (though anyone familiar with 'indigo children' might have suspected the clusterfuck that the story would turn into), and they've done it with their other adventure titles.
  • by Zaphod-AVA (471116) on Thursday September 04, 2008 @08:34AM (#24872145)

    All that work for nothing, because the game will be terrible. How can you tell? A focus on 'quick time' events. This type of game play is not even remotely fun. Please developers, stop using this aged and pointless game mechanic.

    • ...they actually had something to do with what's happening in the game.

      In Indigo Prophecy, QTEs were frequently completely disconnected from any of the onscreen action. The protagonist might be talking to someone, trying to convince them of something, and to "talk better," the player would have to randomly follow a pattern with the analog sticks as if it were Dance Dance Revolution.

      If I want to watch a movie, I'll watch a movie. If I want to play a rhythm game, I'll play a rhythm game.

      What's the opposite of

  • Heavy Rain, he told us, was an adventure game devoid of traditional "interactivity"

    Almost word for word the same sales pitch they gave for Indigo Prohesy. I expect this one will fail too.
    • by grumbel (592662)

      How did Indigo Prophecy fail? It of course didn't do every detail perfectly, but it was hardly a failure. In fact I would call it the best thing that happened to the adventure genre since Maniac Mansion, because its gameplay simply was radically different from pretty much every other game.

      Also David Cage has written a fantastic post mortem [gamasutra.com] on Indigo Prophecy, analysing pretty much all the small mistakes the game had, but again nothing even close to 'failure'.

  • The phrase "numerous Dragon's Lair-style reflex focused button presses" was all I needed to read about this game to know that the developers have no idea what makes for a satisfying control scheme.

    If people wanted to play "Simon" they would still be doing that. Canned sequences that are basically "Press A, B or C to see the cut-scene" is just idiotic, and in direct opposition to their "WE'RE SO REAL! LOOK HOW REAL WE ARE!" hype.

    People seem to forget that this company seems to have made... one game. They hav

    • by grumbel (592662)

      The phrase "numerous Dragon's Lair-style reflex focused button presses" was all I needed to read about this game to know that the developers have no idea what makes for a satisfying control scheme.

      How else do you propose to handle these scenes? Just plain old cutscene? Sorry, but those are crap, if the 'hero' does something, the player should control it and those QTEs are so far the best the game industry has come up with, they might not be perfect, but you will have a hard time figuring out a better way to do these sequences interactively. Not every game can be reduced to aim&shoot controls.

      People seem to forget that this company seems to have made... one game.

      Omikron: The Nomad Soul, Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain in the making, thats more then one.

      I love well rendered characters and backgrounds but these guys are basically creating a very nice looking version of the old Gabriel Knight games and passing it off as paradigm-breaking innovation.

      They are not, if you

  • Okay. It's like this. . .

    You've got this. . , I don't know, say a city, right? Picture it as some kind of SIM City kind of arrangement for now. We'll let the art and design departments bring it up to today's standards. You know, so that it looks cool. Okay. . .

    So you've got this digital city. And it's set in, say 1920 America. Okay, and you have control over it in some way. Either you are a character walking around in it affecting things, or you're a hovering cursor playing civic engineer. I'll lea

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