In March 2019 at the Game Developers Conference, Quantic Dream announced that it would be releasing Heavy Rain on PC via the Epic Games Store on June 24, where the game would be exclusively available for a year.
For many, the return of Quantic Dream to PC was a real event, because before starting to develop exclusives for the PlayStation, the French studio and its founder David Cage managed to win the audience with his “interactive movie” in the person of the mystical detective Fahrenheit.
Immediately after the release of Fahrenheit in 2005, Quantic Dream announced two new projects: Omikron 2 and Infraworld. Both titles never saw the light of day, although it was revealed in 2011 that Sony had trademarked “Infraworld”, hinting at a future game of the same name.
Despite the fact that Fahrenheit, which was released on PC, PlayStation 2, and Xbox, was something to scold, the title quickly amassed an impressive fan base. One of the fans turned out to be a representative of Sony, who in 2006 organized a meeting with Cage to discuss possible options for cooperation.
Interestingly, even before Sony, Microsoft was going to work with Quantic Dream, but in the end decided not to get involved with a project that tells about the kidnapping of a child.
“Microsoft was delighted with Fahrenheit, but feared that Heavy Rain would provoke some kind of scandal. So after I described the idea, they quickly made it clear to me that there would be no cooperation, ”said Cage.
By the time they met with Sony, Cage and company had already come up with the Heavy Rain concept, but before starting development they wanted to put together a tech demo called “The Casting” to test the new engine and a more detailed level of animation. Quantic Dream wanted to make sure that modern technology would allow their characters to display complex human emotions.
Sony liked the idea, and the company invited Quantic Dream to present their demo at the PlayStation 3 presentation, which was supposed to take place at the upcoming E3 in 2006.
There was only one catch – there were only three months left before the exhibition. However, Cage decided to take a chance. In this short time, his team had to write a script, learn how to use the PS3 engine, find a suitable actress for a demo, and also shoot animation using motion capture. Luckily, in the end, everything went well. Audiences at E3 were blown away, and Sony gave Quantic Dream the green light to make Heavy Rain.
“By deciding to work with us, Sony took a serious risk. I want to note that the publisher trusted us from the very beginning, despite the fact that we created a strange game that looked terrible until the last months before the release, ”recalls Cage.
First of all, the game needed a smart script, which took Cage about a year to write. It was not uncommon for him to work on dialogues for twelve hours a day. As a result, the designer, as in the case of Fahrenheit, received a 2000-page script that tells a dark detective story with four main characters. Especially Cage tried to pay attention to the image of the killer and his signature style.
“I have read quite a few books written by serial killers. They write amazing things, although, of course, they are not themselves. Often in their texts you can find a lot of logic and even poetry. It intrigues and frightens at the same time,” Cage said.
After learning that his favorite director, Night Shyamalan, made films in Philadelphia, Cage also chose Pennsylvania’s largest city as the setting for the game. The game designer even gathered a small team and went with her to Philadelphia to study the future setting of Heavy Rain. Upon arrival, they hired a special guide who introduced them to the city’s poorer neighborhoods filled with abandoned buildings, not to mention the countless drug addicts lying on the sidewalk.
“Poverty was everywhere in Philadelphia. The streets were packed to capacity with people wandering aimlessly back and forth,” Cage recalled.
With Heavy Rain, Cage wanted to offer an adult audience gameplay based on real emotions. At the same time, the game designer decided to go against most of the traditions of the video game world, trying to reduce the use of the same patterns to a minimum. When designing Heavy Rain, Cage hoped to answer the question of whether it was possible to tell a complete story through the continuous actions of the characters, rather than through a series of cut-scenes.
“In fact, I never really tried to do exactly “interactive cinema”. My focus has always been on the emotions of the player. Yes, I used a certain kind of storytelling, strong characters, and script to achieve my goals, but with that, I hoped to give the players emotions that they are not used to getting in video games, like empathy or sadness that threatens to turn into depression.
By the way, justifying the name of the game, in Heavy Rain, Cage used rain as a separate character that helped set the necessary mood. If a slow rain evoked calmness, then a downpour could add cruelty and aggression to the atmosphere.
In terms of gameplay, here Cage admits that the quick-time events in Fahrenheit didn’t work out the way they should. This is especially true for action scenes. The player’s attention was focused on pressing the right combination of buttons, the images of which sometimes obscured what was happening on the screen. In the case of Heavy Rain, the studio decided to take a different path.
“We decided that every action in the game should be initiated by the player himself, responsible for its timing and using the entire controller. It was important for me to ensure that the players immediately saw the consequences of their decisions, ”Cage explained.
Even the developers tried to make the interface in such a way that it helps to immerse yourself in the plot, and does not distract with its nuances.
“If you’re developing a game and you want people to buy it, it’s very unprofitable to disappoint your audience.”
The most difficult part of the development was the facial animation. Cage did not want to use key frame animation, so his own motion capture studio, built back in the days of Fahrenheit, was used to the maximum. According to Cage, for six months every day there were filming sessions in which a total of about eighty actors were involved.
“Our team did a huge amount of work with animation so that the player can easily read the emotions of the characters, because this was our main task. The players had to be able to empathize with the main characters.”
Heavy Rain was tested by 70 people, and according to the game designer, none of them guessed the identity of the killer in advance. Considering all combinations of playthroughs, there are 23 different epilogues available in the game.
The game was released on February 23, 2010, but in the weeks leading up to its release, Sony ran two small promotional campaigns on the internet to raise players’ expectations.
First, the site “Precinct 52” was launched, where you could play a small game to find key clues. If successful, players got access to the Heavy Rain demo a few days before the official release.
In addition, on the official website of the title, for three weeks, you could complete challenges related to the plot of Heavy Rain in the game Four Days: The Heavy Rain Online Experience.
When Heavy Rain finally saw the light of day, it garnered rave reviews from players and critics alike. The game was criticized for not the best acting in the voice acting, inconvenient controls and some holes in the plot, but basically the audience remained fascinated by the process itself in its interactivity. Most players agreed that Heavy Rain leaves no one indifferent, which is exactly what Cage wanted. By 2018, Sony had sold more than five million copies, earning over 100 million euros from the title.
Initially, Quantic Dream planned to release a series of additional short episodes, revealing the game’s key characters. The company was going to name the resulting collection Heavy Rain Chronicles. The first of the episodes, The Taxidermist, was shown at E3 2008 and released in 2010 as part of the PlayStation Move version. Unfortunately for the players, the matter did not progress beyond the first release.
By the way, the rights to release the film adaptation of Heavy Rain were bought by New Line Cinema back in 2006. However, since 2011 there has been no news regarding a potential move to the big screen.
According to Quantic Dream, in each new project, the studio is looking for new ways to interact with the audience. Heavy Rain was the next step in this direction after Fahrenheit.
Although in the eyes of the players, Cage is most of all a storyteller, he does not consider himself to be such a storyteller. According to the game designer, he is not tied to the narrative, but to the emotions that it can evoke in a person.
“There are enough games that I get bored after a couple of hours because I don’t understand my character’s motives. Now I’m not 20 anymore, and I’m trying to get a more meaningful gaming experience for myself than the routine transition from level to level in an ordinary shooter. I need each of my classes to leave its mark on me, make me think about something meaningful.
Cage divides all games into two categories. He refers to the first one the titles that play the role of ordinary children’s toys, offering to just have fun without thinking about anything. Another category invites players to encounter meaningful and original art.
It’s no secret that as part of its deal with Epic Games, Quantic Dream has also decided to release Beyond: Two Souls on PC with the recent Detroit: Become Human. While the first will appear on the Epic Games Store on July 22, the exact release date for Detroit is not yet known.
As for future releases from the French studio, so far it has not announced any projects that are not related to the transfer of already released titles to PC.
“Together with the creation of Heavy Rain, we tried to develop a certain format,” concluded Cage. “We wanted to come up with our own language that would allow us to tell stories of any length. Who knows, maybe with the same interface and storytelling tomorrow we’ll bring you a comedy.”