No, no, don’t talk. Just, watch this.
That was Kara, a tech-demo from the team at Quantic Dream, who previously made Heavy Rain. Yes, it was taken from a PS3, but no, it isn’t the developer’s next game, no matter how much you want it to be.
Fans may recall a similar demo created by the team in 2006. It was called The Casting and acted as a sort of precursor to Heavy Rain, displaying some impressive motion (and emotion) capture. Having wrapped up work on Heavy Rain, the team decided to develop this demo to show us where their next game might go, and how much they’ve grown on a technical scale. It shows.
“We really wanted to move forward and push the envelope on the new game,” studio boss David Cage told Eurogamer. “There were many things that we couldn’t do on the old engine, so we decided to build a new one from scratch. Kara’s the very first thing we’ve done with this brand new engine, so it’s not optimized – it’s got 50% of the features that we have right now, as Kara was done a year ago.”
New engines are nice and all, but to capture performances like that you need more than just a great animator. “What we call full-performance capture is shooting the body, the voice and face at the same time,” Cage continued. “Most studios right now in the game industry use what we call split performance, which means you shoot the face and voice on one side and then you use the body, and not in one take.
“It works okay – there have been some great games made using this process, and Heavy Rain was done this way. But we felt that if we wanted more emotion, and more performance from the actor we needed to have everything from the same take, and we needed to shoot everything at the same time.
“So we invested a lot in our motion capture studio. Heavy Rain was shot with 28 cameras, and we’ve upgraded the studio to 65 cameras. Now we can shoot several actors – their body and their face – at the same time. It’s not a small change, but at the same time this is how Avatar and Tintin were shot, and it’s how the CG industry works because they know how much you gain from shooting face, voice and body at the same time.”
To bring everything Cage just mentioned to life, Kara was portrayed by Valorie Curry from Veronica Mars.
“In the past I was the main actor,” said Cage. “In Fahrenheit I was Lucas Kane – I did the motion capture myself, but I’m not a very good actor. In Heavy Rain the quality in what we were trying made that impossible. We needed real actors, because we needed people with talent because the technology’s reached the point where you can tell if someone’s an actor and someone’s not an actor.
“In Heavy Rain that was definitely the case. In Kara, you can’t imagine the same scene having the same impact as someone who’s not a talented actor. Technology becomes more precise and detailed and gives you more subtleties, so you need talent now. I’m not talking about getting a name in your game – I’m talking about getting talent in your game to improve the experience and get emotion in your game.”
So could the developer’s next be a sci-fi title? “I’m interested in exploring anything that’s human,” Cage reasoned, “Whether that’s in the past, the present or the future, it doesn’t matter. It’s all about human beings and emotions and relationships, how we feel how we love and how we hate. That’s what I want to explore – everything else is just a background.”