Heavy Rain creator David Cage on how to capture emotion in games

Quantic Dream's CEO David Cage has been a strong supporter regarding emotion in games and is finding new ways of capturing an actor's full performance. During his panel at the Game Developer's Conference, Cage not only unveiled an incredible new tech demo (which you can watch here) that was running in real-time on the PlayStation 3, but he detailed what his studio has been up to since Heavy Rain was completed.

With a staff of 180 employees in Paris, France, Quantic Dream has been busy developing a new 3D engine from scratch, as well as building an in-house mocap studio, sound proof stage and has hired an experienced team to run it.

Using James Cameron's Avatar as an example, Cage wants to be able to capture the full performance, including facial animations, body movements and voice. The problem is that the technology requires that you shoot everything at the same time, there's always a camera in the actor's face, and the whole process is incredibly expensive - well out of a developer's budget.

That's what led Cage to develop a new prototype before starting production on the next game. He wanted to improve upon Heavy Rain and decided to create a tech demo, similar to The Casting to test out all the new ideas and learn more about full performance capture. The goal was to be able to create a clone of living actors.

The tech demo, titled "Kara," is a five-minute short about a subservient android that is being pieced together. But when she balks at the idea of being sold as merchandise and is therefore deemed defective, she is quickly disassembled but is saved by her heartfelt plea. Cage said that he went through 70 actresses and only one fit the part. What's interesting is that the engine is already on version 3 and Kara was created about a year ago.

"Meaningful content is the most thing," said the CEO, who likes to tackle mature themes in his games. Even the subject of Kara brings up thought-provoking questions about our humanity. He reiterated that the demo is not the topic of his next game but that he does want to explore these matters that have no real answer.

As for the uncanny valley issue, he said that he would like to leave the valley at some point and that it was only a matter of time, perhaps years, where it wouldn't matter if his characters looked real or CG.

He also touched upon reaching the mainstream audience, noting that games like Wii Fit and Call of Duty cater to millions, but that are currently three existing spaces in the market: casual, family and hardcore.

"What we believe at Quantic Dream is that there is a space for adult games," he said. "Meaningful experiences for a mature audience. We believe that we can use interactivity to create meaningful games. Games with emotions and virtual actors telling you something. Resonating with you as a human being, giving you food for thought. We don't need to deliver messages or whatever, just need to create a moment in time that will leave an imprint in your mind."

Sophia Tong
Sophia is a transplanted Canadian who loves video games, dogs, poutine, snowboarding, photography, food, and naps.