Paranoid androids: Quantic Dream's Detroit

Guillaume de Fondaumière discusses how mundane gameplay and logical consequences can be tools to immerse players

"It has to do with humans trying to play god, to a certain degree. To recreate something in our image," says Quantic Dream COO Guillaume de Fondaumière.

He could be talking about the development of video games but we're actually chatting about the fascination humans have androids, AI, and machines developing their own emotions. This is the subject matter of the studio's latest game, Detroit: Become Human.

"I think there is a very powerful drive for human beings to give life, that's something that's in our instinct. We know how to do children, but I think we're at the point in the evolution of technology where we understand that we can possibly create machines that can live beyond our own children. The possibility to have machines that are going to obey us is also very interesting."

"You set the world, you set a strong context and you give players enough information about the characters for them to care about them."

In a way Detroit has already developed a life beyond its original purpose. It started as a tech demo called Kara, showing a "defective" android exhibiting human emotion. The premise was clearly just too tempting to pass up for a studio known for tackling emotionally complex subject matter, and a full, techno-noir thriller was announced last October.

The hallmark of the Quantic Dream game, perhaps, is emotion. Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, demand more than just fine tuned motor skills or logical thinking; they want a tiny piece of your soul. I asked how the developer inspires an emotional investment from its players.

"The first thing is that we're trying to do games that are meaningful and emotional, so we want players really to dive into the game world we create and understand the characters," explains de Fondaumière, and I think of setting the table in Heavy Rain, or attending an awkward party in Beyond.

"We try to really immerse players as much as possible into the intimacies of the character and that's why we have certain scenes with very mundane gameplay where you really see the character in their environment and what their motivations are and then hopefully, you make them your own. Then you're going to try to do the best for the characters that you're controlling," he continues.

"I think this is how you create the emotion. You set the world, you set a strong context and you give players enough information about the characters for them to care about them. I think if we get this setting right then players will be invested in the characters."

But as with any medium, surely there are some players that just aren't going to make that connection? They're there for the gameplay, not for the heartache, and they just need something that works mechanically. How do you make the game work for them?

"If we do it right, it's going to be satisfactory whatever you do because it's going to be logical step after logical step"

"It is difficult, but that's the challenge. That's the beauty of it, I think. What we are trying to do is make sure that every play-through, regardless - there's nothing right or wrong that can be done - you just play it as you are. It's very important that whatever you are, whatever you do, your choices and decisions, it needs to have a logical consequence it. You have to live by your decisions and bear the consequences of your actions," says de Fondaumière.

The demo we saw at E3 showed a mix of forensic game play that was very CSI:2070 and a dramatic hostage negotiation. It was high on tension, difficult choices, and Blade Runner influences.

"That's what we're trying to do and particularly in Detroit, we're trying to make the story very, very flexible, to give the players as much choice as possible because we know that gamers are very different. You're going to have one approach, I'm going to have a different approach, and we try as much as possible to offer a great diversity that is going to lead to different stories.

"If we do it right, it's going to be satisfactory whatever you do because it's going to be logical step after logical step."

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Latest comments (1)

John Karageorgiou consultant 3 years ago
Absolutely brilliant, on so many levels.
I enjoy the games from David Cage - he tries to do something different, i) explore human dynamics and relationships in gaming, ii)explore gaming as more than an interactive medium, iii) explore non-linear game designs where nothing is ever assured, not even the survival of the main protagonist in the game.
There is also a certain originality to his games that confront the interface between "Life in Games" versus "Games in Life" and the parallels are very interesting.
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