Quantic Dream - David Cage and Guillaume de Fondaumiere interview

Quantic Dream, the ambitious developer of Omikron: The Nomad Soul, is once again promising innovative gameplay and progressive cinematic presentation with their highly anticipated new game, Indigo Prophecy (or Fahrenheit in Europe). In doing so, they are avoiding conventional game genre labels in favor of their own category, "Interactive Drama". Whether the game can deliver on all of its promises is still unknown, but it is without doubt a hot topic on gaming forums, and one of the most coveted games of the year.

Looking for something more substantial than hype, Adventure Gamers asked Indigo Prophecy's Executive Producer Guillaume de Fondaumiere to talk with us at E3. To our surprise, when he arrived, he didn't come alone. He was joined by the game's writer and director David Cage, who enthusiastically added his thoughts and perspectives. It was a unique pleasure to sit with them both for a long talk about Quantic Dream, Indigo Prophecy and their personal views on game development.

(Representing Adventure Gamers are Laura MacDonald and Emily Morganti.)

LM: You two actually represent the best of two companies coming together for this project. Guillaume, before you came to Quantic Dream, you were with Arxel Tribe, correct?

GF: Yes, I founded Arxel Tribe in 1992.

LM: Why the move to Quantic Dream?

GF: It's like anything else. You need time to learn, and I am only 33. However, one reason I joined Quantic is because I saw in Fahrenheit something that I had been longing to produce in a game. I really wanted to have this experience. So I talked to David and said, "David, I want to be a part of this because I think you are the future. This what I have wanted to do for a long time and never had the possibility before. I want to be on board."

LM: That's a very interesting combination -- Arxel and Quantic. Quantic was always very cinematically driven, whereas Arxel had strong narrative depth to its games. What did you bring to the equation when you came to Quantic?

GF: The main thing I brought to Quantic was my publishing experience with adventure games. And possibly some end client feedback, because I know how adventure gamers react to certain interactions. I talked with David at certain points in the game development and told him my feeling about it; where we should maybe focus more.

It is relatively difficult to sell this type of game. You must know that Indigo Prophecy probably is one of the only adventure games that will be published in the United States for the PS2. Generally, for various reasons, Sony does not publish adventure games. They believe that adventure games are not suitable for the target audience. So, we really had to show them that Quantic's work was totally different from any other game that was out there. We also made them understand that we could totally change the controls and still have an experience that was worth playing and could still appeal to adventure gamers.

EM: What do you think there was about this game that appealed to Sony?

GF: I think it has a very strong story and that it brings a complete experience. We conducted focus groups of hardcore gamers, who normally played Halo or such games. What we found out was that this game appealed in different ways. Some people liked it very much. Others did not because there was no immediate action. But it was a refreshing experience and told us the game has a wider market than just adventure gamers. So after all the testing and looking at the game, Sony decided they wanted to have it. And not being shy, I have to say we are happy and a little bit proud.

LM: The music is the first thing that struck me from the start, particularly with that first trailer. This sounds and looks very different from your last game.

DC: Yes, absolutely. You should wait for the final soundtrack by Angelo Badalamenti! He's the guy who did all the music for the David Lynch movies and shows.

We felt very proud to have someone with the talent of Badalamenti on this game and we really felt that in a lot of games you have a lot of "boom boom" type music, and this is exactly what we didn't want. Everything in the design of Indigo Prophecy is driven by emotion. And I was looking for music that would create emotion -- that would be extremely emotional itself. It was a difficult search as I only identified two composers that could bring this quality to this game: Angelo Badalementi and Michael Nyman, who did Gattaca.

LM: The music does convey a more mature ambiance. Was this with the adult themes in mind?

DC: It is really what I wanted to explore with Fahrenheit. I got the feeling that a lot of people had stopped playing games because they couldn't find content for them. I am 36 years old and I don't want to play a game like when I was ten. Most of the games you see in the [E3] booths and on the floor are for kids. I don't want to fight and shoot over and over again. I have played this type of game a thousand times before. People are really looking now for something new, for something innovative. All of my work is based upon an emotional ride. We will try to make you go through different feelings, like if you were in a movie.

LM: This game was in development for quite some time. It seems like almost four years. Is this accurate?

DC: Not actually in true production. It took one year to sell it to a publisher and two years to make it.

GF: When David said it took us three years to sell and develop the game, that was just a part of it. You cannot create a game like this using conventional methods and tools, so we spent the first two years getting the tools we needed to create this experience, then we produced this game.

LM: So you devised the engine, the interface, all of that first?

GF: Everything. We have thirteen hours of full body and facial animation. It has never been done in a video game, a TV series or even a movie. The production process has been completely redesigned to be able to produce such a game. It has a multi-path scenario. Each player is going to have a unique experience. Imagine in terms of production what it takes to create all the assets necessary to have this type of adventure. We didn't have a thirty million dollar budget, so we had to find ways to write the story, in a different manner than is usual. To create something we call "bending stories". They are similar to a rubber band. Basically, you have a beginning, a middle and an end, but you can stretch it so that the story is longer. You can also make parts of it wider or twist it this way, so that you have a story that goes that direction. You also have different endings, because you have a multitude of endings that are possible.

LM: Many games appear rushed to market these days. Do you think the longer development time paid off for this game?

DC: In these type of games, you have no real choice. You need to do what is right. We are really lucky at Quantic Dream to have had the time to do things the way we wanted. The same thing happened with Omikron 2. We really had the time. Often in development you have a publisher who says things like "Oh no, that should be green or that should be blue." It is very difficult for a publisher to try and say something when the design is so complete. The only compromise I had to make was on the U.S. version, because of censorship.

EM: The U.S. version is going to be different than the European ones?

DC: A little bit, yeah, because of the sex scenes. The European versions are exactly as we wanted, but we had to change some things for the U.S. market.

EM: Was that so you could get a certain rating?

DC: Yes, 16+ was the rating we wanted. Otherwise it would be 18+ and people just told us our game would only be available in sex shops with that rating. There is nothing sexual in it that you wouldn’t see in a regular movie. But that is what we were told.

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