There are few forthcoming PlayStation 3 titles that are quite so keenly anticipated as Beyond: Two Souls, the latest project from Quantic Dream – the idiosyncratic French developer behind acclaimed 2010 adventure Heavy Rain. Following the story of young Jodie Holmes (played by Hollywood starlet Ellen Page) and her mysterious supernatural companion, Aiden, it lit up E3 earlier this year with its stunning reveal trailer.
We’ve not heard too much since, so we caught up with Quantic’s founder, David Cage, at Paris Games Week for a quick progress update.
We’ve not heard too much about Beyond since its E3 reveal back in June. Is development going well?
David Cage: Development is going very well. Indeed, it’s nice to go to all these shows but we also have to make the game! We’re advancing – we’re now a few weeks off the alpha version. It’s always a very critical moment in the development of a game since it’s the first time all the game data is assembled in a complete version. This first version is often not very playable, but it’s the first time you can see the “complete” game as a whole. After that we’ll move onto the beta version, which is when the game really starts to look like the final version.
Just how different is the gameplay and user interface from your last title, Heavy Rain?
David Cage: The game is very different from Heavy Rain, probably much more than people can imagine. The first obvious difference is that there will be two characters to control: Jodie and this entity that is Aiden. We can do some really interesting things with Aiden: fly, walk through walls and interact with matter or characters in a rather peculiar way. What we showed at E3 was in fact a working version based on the same interface as Heavy Rain, but it is not the final interface of the game.
The first elements of gameplay shown were focused on action. What else can we expect?
David Cage: It’s a balance that will be a little different from Heavy Rain, where we really aiming for the atmosphere of a psychological thriller. Beyond, of course, will also have these components of emotion, depth of characters, strong moments, but there will also be a more epic, dramatic dimension.
All this will be part of a story with a logical narrative following the philosophy that each scene must be unique and different. Take the forest scene for example. This is the only scene like this in the game. We will have more epic scenes and other action scenes, but they will be radically different and have nothing to do with each other in terms of environment and the type of action involved.
Our goal is not to release a game that will just please the fans of Heavy Rain and that we could say, “Ah, yes, it’s like Heavy Rain but a little better”. The idea is really to surprise players and show them that we can actually go much further with the concept of Heavy Rain.
Do any elements of Beyond: Two Souls echo your personal life?
David Cage: Absolutely. It’s a phenomenon that I’ve had with Heavy Rain when I became a father and I discovered the unique relationship one can have with their child. On Beyond, I’m drawing on another experience – one that’s less pleasant – because I lost someone very close in my family. This is what started it all – the desire to imagine that there may be an “after”.
Beyond is, of course, about death. But it is also about more positive things, like growth, change and learning to accept ourselves as we are. With Beyond, I really wanted to create a trip – something epic, emotional, and strong that the player will remember long after the end of the game.
Have you had much time to keep an eye on the competition? What games have you been playing recently?
David Cage: I loved a game that has not been discussed much – for anyone who loved Heavy Rain and is seeking different games made by authors trying to express something that goes beyond bam-bam-boom-boom, it really is a game to try. I found it amazing, surprising and deeply moving. You can feel that there is a real author behind it – someone who has something to say. It is a game that really touched me.
Have you ever considered tackling something like this – a smaller scale PSN title?
David Cage: I have a huge problem. Every time I start writing… everything I do turns into an incredible historical epic. It depresses the team – they say they will finally be able to make an “easy” game and at the end they don’t! I dream of being able to make a PSN game, but I couldn’t do it even if I really want to.
Are you ever tempted to try your hand at shooting a movie?
David Cage: Quite honestly this is something that I do not feel capable of, and it’s not something I’m looking for right now, despite the few opportunities I have had. I’m happy to do what I do in video games. I’m not here by chance – it’s been 15 years since I chose to be in this environment. And even after 15 years, I do it with great pleasure, happiness and passion. To get up, go to work and to be with my extraordinarily talented team – year after year it still amazes me!
Do you have a message for prospective players of Beyond? How would you like them to approach the game?
David Cage: I think there should be no preparation for Beyond. You must go into the game trying to learn as little as possible!
Like other game creators, I wish I could say nothing and show nothing, and put a plain black cover on the shelves so that players start the game completely blank, with no information from trailers. This is something that is obviously not possible, unfortunately!
For people who trust us and who loved Heavy Rain – we will surprise you, we will give you something you expect without even knowing that you were expecting it! I think it will be a real experience. We believe in it and we’re working hard for it. We are really surprised every day to see the game being born on the screens; it’s a real treat and a real surprise. I hope it has the same effect on the players.