Friday, 22 August 2008

Heavy Rain: The Origami Killer and narrative drives

I stumbled over a short piece on the CVG website which was previewing some early footage of a forthcoming PS3 adventure game, Heavy Rain: The Origami Killer (Quantic Dreams), which seemed very interesting. The game places the player in the position of a female investigative journalist who discovers the house of a suspected murderer.

There were two major things mentioned in the article which piqued my interest - how the player negotiates the game world and how the narrative progresses in relation to the former.

Apparently the game has a lot in common with classic titles like the Sega Dreamcast's Shenmue, in that the player has a great deal of control over how their avatar negotiates the game world, with multiple approaches to numerous problems and encounters they face. The degree of interaction with the world afforded to the player is supposedly unparalleled:
The whole game places emphasis on choice and making true-to-life decisions. For example, when you approach the house you get the choice of whether to knock or ring the doorbell. Speech appears around a SixAxis-shaped icon and you can choose to speak as you knock by tilting the pad in the direction of the phrase you want to say.
One sequence features a scenario where the journalist penetrates the killer's house and makes a grisly discovery, only for the killer to return home. The outcome of this scenario depends on how the player tackles this situation. Should they decide to make a run for it, then the killer may hear and give chase, or should they decide to tackle him, then a fight may ensue. They could even kill him there and then which would typically lead to the conclusion of a typical narrative adventure, however,
The real interesting thing is that Quantic Dreams promises that, no matter what happens, the story will progress, whether you kill him, escape or are killed yourself. Yes, even the main character can be killed and the story will continue, says Quantic.
Now, an immersive environment is one thing, but this type of story developemnt points to what might be a unique experience, and has an ally in the forthcoming game, Far Cry 2 (Ubisoft). The CVG article suggested that the developers of Heavy Rain were remaining tight lipped at the moment although "the whole plot is effected by every scene that you play, and your actions have consequences on the entire story" which bears a striking resemblance to some of the claims made about Far Cry 2. Michael Abbott post an interesting article on a similar theme recently and is well worth reading.

The potential for games to create new forms of immersive storytelling are looking brighter and brighter. This is another game I'm going to have to keep my eyes on in future.