Before we start, I must warn you, while I attempt to avoid as many spoilers as I can, this article WILL have Heavy Rain spoilers.
I’ve never actually played my state lottery; I feel that it’s a waste of money. However, I have bought my fair share of scratch-off tickets, and I can honestly say, I have won on well over half of the ones I’ve purchased. People have told me I’m lucky. While that may or may not be true, last week I bought a Powerball: Power Play ticket with a jackpot of $160 million dollars. If I win, I will give half of my winnings to David Cage. Now let me explain why.
In case you don’t know, David Cage, birth name David De Gruttola, is founder and CEO of Quantic Dream, a French video game developer and motion capture studio. The company’s most recent release is the Playstation 3 exclusive, Heavy Rain.
Let’s jump back to the year 2005.I was seventeen years old, walking around my local Blockbuster Video. My eyes were sharp, my reflexes cat-like; I was on the hunt for a new game to play. After failing to find a copy of the latest run-of-the-mill FPS, and not wanting my trip to be in vain, I decided to settle for something else. After about fifteen minutes, I set my eyes on the cover of a game called Indigo Prophecy (also known as Fahrenheit a cross the pond). The cover was the first thing that caught my eye. Cryptic and eerie, it seemed like something worth checking out.
So, I took the game home and popped it into my trusty oversized black box with a green dot on top. The game throws you into the story by showing a possessed man stab a gentleman wearing glasses in a diner bathroom, then putting you in control of said possessed man right after the crime had been committed. One feels the stress and time limit immediately, scurrying to clean up and get out before the cop at the bar catches you. The game goes on to tell the story of a man caught in something he doesn’t understand, and is trying to overcome a situation he knows little about. You play and affect the story from several different characters’ points of view. The story, at least to me, feels very engrossing, and works flawlessly, until the third act.
This is where, without spoiling anything for anyone who hasn’t played the game, the story gets thrown on its head. The game starts with an ordinary guy in an extraordinary predicament. It’s something anyone can relate to, while still adding something new and exciting. It then drastically turns into chaos. The game introduces insane amounts of supernatural elements and events all at once, instead of slowly adding them like it had been for the first two-thirds of the game. And for some reason, the main character you play as seems to know exactly what’s going on all of a sudden. This takes you out of his shoes, and makes you feel as if you are merely watching a story unfold, rather than adding to and changing it, which is what the game achieved so successfully beforehand. The game is still one of my all-time favorites, despite the downright wacky change towards the end. I, along with almost every fan of the game, just feel that the game took a drastic change far, far too quickly.
The explanation given for the game’s drastic change is said to be due to the game’s publisher, Atari, forcing Quantic Dream to release the game earlier than originally expected. This caused the developers to have to cut much of the game out, namely the parts between the second and third acts. This would explain the insane jump in the story. While this was never officially commented on, it is known that Atari did in fact push the release date up halfway through development.
Now let’s jump to February 2010. Finally, after years of being shown and previewed,Heavy Rain is released. Until this, I had been waiting on buying a Playstation 3, swearing that if Quantic Dream’s new release stayed a Sony exclusive, I would give in and buy one. So that is exactly what I did. Playing the game I felt the old familiar feeling of Indigo Prophecy. The wonky controls, the sometimes bad camera angles, and the ability to do things I can do in real life, but in a video game. I was in love. Although the game lacked the freedom of Indigo Prophecy, which wasn’t very free itself, I still thoroughly enjoyed the game. It, just as their previous release, was a nice breath of fresh air to my usual gaming. I did feel the use of French and European voice actors to portray Americans was a bad call, but I can forgive that. The game was just what I was waiting for.
After sitting back and reflecting on the game’s story, I started to question a few things. After further investigation, most of the plot holes could be filled up, but a few still lingered. Why would Ethan show up at the construction site with a folded origami after his blackouts? Most people will say this is merely a‘red herring’, put in the story in an attempt to fool us into thinking he is the origami killer. While this may be true, with the release of the Cutting Room Floor trailer almost a year later, we are given a much different explanation. The trailer shows how they originally planned to have a “psychic link” between Ethan and Shelby since they both experienced a traumatizing event; Shelby even being witness to the death of Ethan’s son. Whenever Shelby kills his victims, Ethan can almost see what he is doing, this triggers the blackouts, and this is why Ethan has nightmares of drowning children. They even had planned for the blackouts to start with water overflowing the areas, triggering a swimming sequence in which you find a drowning child. After finding the child, you awaken at the construction site with an origami in your hand that we assume you folded in your trance-like state. This fully explains the red herring of the game, and I myself feel this is would have been a much better way to go about the blackouts, as well as making the player think Ethan could be the killer.
It has been mentioned that during development of the game, Sony, the publishers of the game, made a clear point to not have the ‘supernatural’ element in Heavy Rain. Although David Cage himself has also said they wanted to steer clear of the supernatural, I can’t help but feel that this was pushed by Sony, due to the bad reception of the story turn from Indigo Prophecy. But as I said before, the strange turn in the story was only due to the fact they were forced to cut most the story building up to it.
But this isn’t my main complaint about the way Heavy Rain was handled. Before and after the release, David Cage was quoted numerous times about the plans for steady, episodic DLC. The first, and sadly only episode, “The Taxidermist”, was a prequel side story, showing some background to the character Madison. This was to be the style of all the upcoming DLC, as small side stories taking place before the original game. But then…how should I put this? Sony happened.
With the recent release of Sony’s latest gimmick, the Playstation Move, Sony thought they could not find a better game to incorporate this technology into. Considering Heavy Rain is ALREADY motion-based, I guess Sony felt it needed to be completely motion controlled. That or they just wanted another exclusive title to throw out and promote their latest investment.Regardless, Sony informed Quantic Dream to drop all the DLC plans, and work solely on an update for Move support. So they did, meaning that either Sony was writing the checks at this point, or they had one of David’s kids at gunpoint. Even Mr. Cage himself seemed annoyed. So instead of supporting the game for months, maybe even years to come, they added motion controls to a game that performed fine with its original controls. The reviews of the Move edition all seemed to agree the newly implemented controls worked great, but it was not a needed change. So once again, a publisher ruined David Cage’s-and his team’s-vision for their game. Seems to me each game they release is usually praised for the most part, but still has a down point- both times being caused by overlord publishing agendas.
Ok, let me come clean. Of course there is no chance in hell of me winning the lottery. It’s statistically more likely that I’ll get struck by lightning twice in the same spot, and while I know some people who would enjoy such things, that isn’t going to happen either. I just feel that the flaws in these two games, of which I hold the fondest gaming memories, were caused by developers not taking control of their ideas. Now I don’t pretend to know how the funding works behind the scenes, or to even understand why decisions were made. What I do know is, it seems we as fans and consumers are getting a butchered product, when compared to what was originally planned. With most developers these days I can just chalk it up to them needing to make money, which at the end of the day, they all want and need. But time after time I’ve watched and read the passion for storytelling in games that David Cage has. If anyone would fight to keep the original vision throughout development, I think he would be the one.
So maybe winning the lottery isn’t the answer. Maybe there is no answer. I know companies don’t have unlimited money. So if David Cage is to read this: I and many others love your games, keep making them, and stay true to what you want to do.
Also, as if it wasn’t obvious enough, I didn’t hit the jackpot. Sorry Davey.