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Quantic Dream

Review: Beyond: Two Souls

Oct 08 // Jim Sterling
Beyond: Two Souls (PS3)Developer: Quantic DreamPublisher: Sony Computer EntertainmentReleased: October 8, 2013MSRP: $59.99 Beyond: Two Souls, is about a girl called Jodie, played by Ellen Page, which is important to note as Jodie is also every character Ellen Page is typecast into playing. She screams, and is sarcastic, and does that half-smile thing, and that's more or less all there is to her personality. She also has more personality than almost every character combined, including the criminally misused Willem Dafoe, crammed as he is into the role of Jodie's dreary paranormal doctor/caretaker, Nathan Dawkins.  Dawkins has charge of Jodie because she possesses dangerous powers -- or rather, the invisible creature inextricably linked to her does. Jodie is bound to an otherworldly being called Aiden, over which she has limited control. He is unwieldy, fiercely protective of her, and is the reason Jodie spends most of her life in a laboratory, under constant surveillance.  While Beyond has a cast of archetypal and terminally uninteresting characters, it has to be said the writing is noticeably better than it was in Heavy Rain. Dialog is slightly more believable, scenes are less awkward, and there are fewer glaring plot holes or embarrassing pseudoscience. However, the story is presented awfully, in a nonlinear fashion contrived to evoke the movies of Godard, Altman, or Tarantino. [embed]263180:50813:0[/embed] There's nothing wrong with the use of disrupted narrative, but it's a technique that requires more care than Beyond even comes to close to providing. One moment, Jodie's a child in a secret lab, the next she's a homeless adult, then a teenager, then a child again, then a member of the CIA. The narrative breaks seem arbitrary and deliver nothing of value to the actual story. Disjointed and only vaguely connected sequences occur without adequate lead-in, and regularly deliver moments that would have had far greater impact had they been presented in a linear story, where the appropriate amount of pacing and build could be achieved. Instead, we're supposed to deeply care about characters who have been barely introduced, while following at least three stories, and a handful of non sequiturs, that have very little to do with each other.  Even worse, the application of the nonlinear narrative comes off as a lazy excuse to put Jodie in situations without having to adequately explain them, which gives the entire game a fractured, pointless atmosphere. Indeed, there seems no real point at all in having broken up the story, other than to mimic those films Quantic Dream perpetually crawls in the shadow of. As such, an attempt to look clever has come across as little more than clumsy pretentiousness.  This is to say nothing of Beyond's total lack of character development. Its frequent time hopping does little to help the fact that there's nobody to root for, and even less to remember. One character, for example, is introduced in an early scene as a cold, unlikable hardass, right before we skip to Jodie falling in love with him years later. She tells us -- through Aiden -- that he's so funny, and great to be around, but we never see any evidence of this. The best he becomes is a generic love interest with no distinguishing features. If we have to be told what a character's personality is, without the character ever exhibiting a single trait pertaining to its verbal description, the writing has failed completely.  Admittedly, there are some decent scenes, but those are mostly thanks to tried and tested narrative tropes seen dozens of times before. The scene in which Jodie is bullied at a party before Aiden wreaks violent revenge is stylishly done, but it's nothing Carrie didn't do better. Likewise, Jodie's barely meaningful adventure in the Navajo Desert is Beyond's best sequence of events, but it leans heavily on well-worn and practically gauche Native American stereotypes to make it work.  I've managed to go a long while before mentioning any gameplay, and one gets the feeling Quantic Dream would like it that way. Essentially following in Heavy Rain's footsteps, Beyond is another spiritual successor to Dragon's Lair, with even less agency and some awkward controls thrown in for good measure. As Jodie, interactions are restricted mostly to walking around, opening doors, engaging in restrictive conversations, and indulging in the occasional quick-time-event sequence. For much of this, the player's input is almost entirely optional. QTE action sequences can be completed without needing to even pick up the controller, as Jodie will survive all encounters if you fail every single button prompt. She'll get hurt a bit, and the story might have a slight temporary diversion, but that's about it. Even dialog, if you don't choose a response, will eventually play itself out.  As with Heavy Rain, the potential for thrilling chase sequences and action scenes is mercilessly dashed against the rocks in favor of an experience so arrogant, it cannot bear to throw up a barrier between you and its allegedly brilliant story. Once you cotton on to the fact that your personal input is almost meaningless, and the impact of your inaction is frivolous, your only real incentive for "playing" is to humor the game, and it does indeed feel like you're patronizing it when you decide to play along with the fantasy of player agency. Nowhere is this more typified than one sequence in which I could choose to speak up in order to stop something bad happening to another character ... and I didn't say a word. It didn't really matter if the bad thing happened (there was only a cosmetic change) and I simply didn't care about the bland, superficial plot vehicle whose lifeless idea of life was in my hands.  There's no tension, no sense of investment, no pleasure to be derived from getting personally involved. Just a plodding, methodical march towards the game's warbling conclusion.  At almost any time, you can switch to Aiden with a press of the Triangle button, but like with everything in this game, any sense of choice and freedom is a mere illusion. As Aiden, you may move through walls, knock objects around, and possess or choke characters, but his skills all amount to one big waste of potential. You only need to be Aiden when the game specifically tells you (or forces you) to be him, and you only interact with the tiny handful of objects available -- all helpfully labeled with bright blue dots. If, for example, Jodie is under siege by a SWAT Team, you can only possess one or two of the arbitrarily predetermined targets, as each scene has a specific way in which it wants to be played. This, of course, opens up a few plot holes, when you start wondering why Aiden only seems to possess certain characters, and why Aiden can only knock over a few objects, and seems to forget these useful powers when the plot decides to invent a sense of threat out of whole cloth.  It's also not very enjoyable to play as Aiden, despite what promise he has. The floating controls are awkward, sluggish, and disorienting, while the way in which you interact with the world -- holding down buttons and moving the analog sticks about -- is ungainly and alienating. It shouldn't feel boring or bumbling to be a wrathful poltergeist, but Aiden manages to be both. In fact, he may not even be the wrathful vandal he's portrayed as. After five minutes in the steering wheel, one could reasonably assume he's just drunk.  There's really not much else to say about the way the game plays. Whatever it tries to throw at you -- whether you're avoiding beastly entities from the cringingly named Infraworld, taking cover to shoot at terrorists because of reasons, or delivering a baby in an abandoned building, you're really just performing the same somber actions, pulling analog sticks and pressing buttons when commanded like some Pavlovian experiment gone wrong. This is not a game to be played, it's an instructional video to be followed, in order to further unlock a story that isn't very good, a story spat at the viewer in shattered, tattered pieces.  Visually, Two Souls is okay to look at. Yes, the uncanny valley faces are impressive on a technical level, but the frequent texture pop-in and robotic bodily animations swiftly defecate on the magic. The game is prone to brief freezing, and loading times are fairly dreadful. Environments are bland, and overall the visual quality fails to stand out in this day and age. Still, if you're curious to know what Ellen Page would look like with every hairstyle ever, you'll find yourself adequately sated.  At least the soundtrack is beautiful, and it does a good job of making certain scenes more compelling than they'd otherwise be, while the acting is a huge step up from Heavy Rain. Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe do fantastically, given the mediocrity they have to work with, while the supporting cast is fairly solid too. It's a shame much of the dialog still makes me want to cover my eyes and scrunch my eyes up tight, but at least the delivery is convincing enough.  For all the complaints that can be leveled at Beyond -- and they can be leveled in feckless abundance -- the overwhelming problem with it is that it's just plain boring. Like a sociopath, Beyond: Two Souls knows how to act like it has a heart, while providing nothing of the emotional depth required to connect with an audience. Its characters can smile, and cry, and tell us they're feeling all of these feelings, but their paper-thin presentation and the frequent narrative dead ends prevent any of their pantomime from becoming too convincing. And that's all Beyond: Two Souls is -- a pantomime. A childish play at being a meaningful journey, a vapid illusion of passion and poignancy. Nothing but a pantomime.  A perishingly dull pantomime. 
Beyond reviewed photo
Show a little soul
It's hard to divorce David Cage, the public figure, from the games Quantic Dream makes. He is, after all, a man who put himself in Indigo Prophecy's tutorial, immortalized as the movie director he's always dreamed of being. T...

Beyond: Two Souls SE photo
Beyond: Two Souls SE

Beyond: Two Souls special edition bonus looks like Portal

Beyond: TWO Souls... Portal TWO... Coincidence???
Sep 30
// Steven Hansen
The special edition of David Cage and Quantic Dream's Beyond: Two Souls comes in a nice steel book case. Also included in the package is a soundtrack and exclusive making-of videos starring Cage as well as actors Willem Dafo...
Beyond photo

Beyond: Two Souls is getting a demo in early October

Hey kids!
Sep 05
// Jordan Devore
Up to this point, I've been unintentionally avoiding Beyond: Two Souls. Perhaps that'll work out for the best. Despite the fact that none of Quantic Dream's prior titles have done much of anything for me, Beyond has piqued my...
Microsoft & Heavy Rain photo
Microsoft & Heavy Rain

Microsoft turned down Heavy Rain because of kidnapping

Didn't want to rein in any possible controversy
Sep 04
// Steven Hansen
It seems Microsoft turned down PS3 exclusive Heavy Rain because it featured the kidnapping of children, according to developer Quantic Dream's David Cage, speaking at the BAFTA Annual Games Lecture in London, Polygon reports....

Quantic Dream's 'Dark Sorcerer' E3 PS4 demo

Creepy Old Man Head gets a body!
Jun 11
// Jim Sterling
Quantic Dream continued to make me wonder how much it's angling for a job in movies last night with its Dark Sorcerer tech demo. This looked genuinely incredible at the beginning, before devolving into something I felt was a...

This is not an article about David Cage

Apr 29 // Allistair Pinsof
It's kind of uncomfortable. The Tribeca host who introduced Cage on the stage is now staring at the side of Cage’s face with dead eyes, like a cat high on feed who believes the kitchen wall has something very important to say about cat life. It makes me think of that wonderful Konami E3 press event. Meanwhile, the audience is staring at their answerphones, occasionally looking up to see if that guy ... yes that guy is still talking, well okay then ... In the most long-winded way possible, Cage explains that his latest game Beyond: Two Souls is about a homeless girl on the run and a ghost buddy that helps her out. He says that but with 500 extra words about emotion, art, and thoughts on the future of videogames. I'm just kind of occupied by the press notes I was handed that proclaim him to be the creator of "story bending," an innovative technique that blurs the line between player and storyteller. Tribeca should have also included the rumor that Cage invented the internet. The Cage may leave GDC, but the GDC may not leave the Cage.Who is David Cage? I thought I saw him pretty clear in one moment. Actress Ellen Page, who plays the female lead in Beyond: Two Souls, commends Cage's directing in a really forced, Hollywood-nice way, like you do on a panel in front of 200+ people. Cage just stares at the ground with a goofy smile. Like a shy fat kid complemented by his piano teacher, he's so overwhelmed he can't work up the words. These are the moments Cage lives for. Moments of validation. He's a starf*cker, too, but of a different type. He wants to be a fox skin that David Lynch wears around his neck and occasionally pets. People seem to really dislike Cage around here. It's rare a Cage-related story is posted without the majority of comments ruthlessly tearing the guy apart, staff included. I can't help but laugh at some of these comments because there is truth to them. There is also truth to something Herman Hesse said, "If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn't part of ourselves doesn't disturb us." Reacting to low review scores like falling on a sword, gamers can be overly emotional -- just about every topic online is met with a heated reaction. There is often a desire for validation, wanting film critics and politicians to respect and love our medium as we do. You ARE David Cage (how's that for a twist ending?) OK, I lied again. I'm going to talk about David Cage for five more paragraphs. But know now, starf*ckers, this is not an article about David Cage. It is about the technology, creative talent, and studio that lets Cage be Cage as he approaches a new era of MAXIMUM CAGE with Beyond: Two Souls and his upcoming PlayStation 4 title, of which we only know contains old-man tech. Hollywood olds need love too. Despite being flown across the country, shacked up in a hotel that looks like a futuristic, glass hen house for humans with more money and escorts than they can shake their dicks at (Dear fellow at room 1908, I enjoyed the discussion you and your two female friends had at 2 A.M. about who has the “most perfect tits.” Glad you settled it. Sincerely.) and invited to a game demo disguised as a film premiere, I didn’t actually talk to David Cage. Frankly, I don't think I'm missing much. The man has said a lot. He’s a vocal and emotional speaker who wants games to progress. Whether you agree with him on what a game is or what “progress” really means is not as important as that he is such a visible figure that you can know what he stands for at all. This is a man, after all, who recreated himself virtually so he could introduce the player to his virtual game (see: 2005’s Indigo Prophecy). He stands up for what he believes in, sometimes against gamers and sometimes against ratings boards. I think this is a good thing. So, really, this is an article about everything not David Cage that goes on at Quantic Dream. But, you probably shouldn't take my word for things at this point. Similar to Cage, I too like to pause the dialog so I can seek validation for my interests and hobbies. I spent $40+ on macarons: please let me know if this is agreeable, dear reader. Dat dank motion capture tech I’ve been thinking lately, is it David Cage’s fault that Heavy Rain kind of sucks? Do note I say “kind of,” as I enjoyed the game. The atmosphere, quick-time events that made interacting with controller into a game of Twister, and pace of the script was a bold and refreshing approach to adapting adventure games for current consoles. Mention TellTale's Walking Dead and I'll mention its sluggish pace, gameplay at odds with storytelling (slowly investigating every area of a train for a vague magical adventure game object while in dire straits = double ugh). But like most, I was dumb-founded by the performances and finale of Heavy Rain which is where the "sucks" part comes in after the "kind of." A better question: Is it David Cage’s fault that Beyond: Two Souls is kind of awesome? Like any Cage-related post on Destructoid, there will be comments below saying Cage isn’t even capable of making a movie. Hey poo-brains: Cage has never attempted to make a movie. That is known. What is unknown to most is the bizarre, convoluted performance capture setup Quantic Dream used during Heavy Rain: first, voice is recorded in a sound booth and captured alongside facial animation. Then, body animation is captured while the audio recording is playing. Finally, these two different elements are spliced together. Strangest of all, each performance is done solo. These different performances are stacked together to make a series of awkward conversations on screen. As Cage observantly points out, “All subtlety is lost.” Beyond: Two Souls may not be a next-gen title for consumers, but it may be called a next-gen title for those working on the production. The leap in capture equipment between Heavy Rain and Beyond is significant. Quantic Dream’s new tech lets Cage be an honest-to-God director instead of some sort of magician, miraculously making the most out of amateur French actors playing Americans with stilted dialog delivered through a complicated performance capture process. Now, Cage gets to place up to seven actors in a room that act out scenes in a tiny 20 x 20 theater where performers must wear skin-tight black suits and white balls (90+ on face alone) all over. It’s not exactly a natural setting, but neither is sitting in a make-up trailer for two hours before shooting a film. "At first it was [distracting], you can't physically touch your face if you are crying you have to break everything up," Ellen Page said at a panel following the Beyond: Two Souls screening. "I got used to it. When you shoot a movie you need to do make-up and hair every morning; this was nice because you just put on your suit and you're done. That was actually faded away pretty quickly, but of course on the first day it's unusual." This new capture setup lets Cage, at long last, be an actual director. Free of two-part recordings and isolated performances, Cage can now direct the flow of conversation, action, and (HOLY FUCKING SHIT SNACKS) emotion. The results are good. The performances are natural and, at times, powerful, even when the words are not. "From a tech standpoint, we now have the ability to capture faithfully their performance and present it in real-time 3D," Quantic Dream co-CEO Guillaume de Fondaumière told me in an interview (ostensibly, the 12 minutes that I flew out to New York for -- well, that and the macaroons at Bouchon Bakery which are delicious, especially the lemon). "That wasn’t the case before. To a certain extent, why ask these terribly talented people to bring their craft to videogames if we can’t do anything? Today we can." Can? Sure. How about should? On why Ellen Page will probably never do a game again (it's hard work!) Like their writer, the characters of Beyond: Two Souls are direct, vocal about their feelings, and intensely emotional. Despite a lack of subtlety in writing, Ellen Page and her surrounding cast make it work. Color me surprised. When Heavy Rain debuted in 2010, the term "Uncanny Valley" graced many an editorial. The facial models of Heavy Rain were advanced for the time, but the crude emotional reactions created an unnerving effect -- by looking too human, these characters were suddenly freakishly non-human. Going into Beyond: Two Souls, I expected the effect to be tenfold since these are faces I know very well as a lover of film. Even Rockstar, a developer that played a key role in progressing videogame performances to where they are now, has turned against celebrity actors since the PlayStation 2 days. "When you know the actors, it’s a little more challenging for us, the developer. I think it's still not perfect. but the more tech evolves, the more we are going to have means for faithfully representing the actors," Fondaumière said, "but only now have we reached a point -- I hope you seen it tonight -- we are not totally through the uncanny valley but we are close to it. We are through it 99-percent of the time. It’s a challenge." It may read like hyperbole, but I agree. When watching the in-game performances side-by-side with the studio performances, it becomes clear how uncanny valley is a thing of the past. Part of this has to do with stylization, changing Page and Willem Dafoe's (getting that PS4 old man wrinkle tech may be the missing 1% that Fondaumière suggests) faces just enough so that they aren't an exact representation of them. Rockstar used celebrity actors to bring character depth to its rough PS2 polygonal models, leaning on immediately recognizable voices and personalities. Samuel L. Jackson plays Samuel L. Jackson, even if the script says different. In contrast, Quantic Dream is bringing character depth to celebrity actors, in hopes of weaving a more believable narrative that keeps the illusion of high stakes and consequence alive throughout the adventure. With no camera, 360 capture, no lighting, and no marks on the floor, Beyond's cast is able to enter a natural stage second only to theater. "It takes you back to the purest form of acting. It was really wild. He guided us and we had a lot of fun together," actor Eric Winter said at the panel. The experience is still a grueling one, Page said, due to shooting 30+ pages a day (compared to 3-to-5 on the set of upcoming indie thriller The East), memorizing a 2,000-page script, and delivering separate reactions that play on different emotions within the same recording session. These are issues specific to games writing that have nothing to do with technology. These challenges will be here to stay. It will be interesting to see what performers are capable of rising to the tremendous task. Ellen Page may be one of the first. Meet David Cage's dad Before meeting Fondaumière, I didn't know what a co-CEO is. I'm still not entirely sure. A nice way of putting it is that he runs the business while Cage runs the creative process. Another way of putting it is that he's Cage's dad. He's the one that sets Cage up on his playdates with Hollywood talent, finds the funding to let Cage be Cage, and pushes for better, new technology. Without him, Cage would still be around but he wouldn't be nearly as well known. Also, dude's been knighted! KNIGHTED!!! I had one question I was very anxious to ask Fondaumière: David Cage is a very visible game designer who is vocal about his feelings on design, people either hate him or love him -- are you ever concerned with how this affects business? Fondaumière's response in full: We talk a lot about it. He and I. It’s always difficult. On one hand, we both want to move the medium forward. I, on my side, step forward and try to move things. I had a talk last week about "Are games culture?" We both don’t want to be here just to make money. We make it for a living, but we love the medium and want to push it forward. But of course there is always a risk; by talking out loud, people start pointing fingers at you and disagreeing with you. Maybe that affects the rest of the business … you have to be careful sometimes. David has even said, 'I don’t want to speak out anymore,' but I keep pushing him. He says important things and he should continue to say them; sometimes it hurts; sometimes we may lose sales because of it, but in the long run, we are pushing certain discussions forward or at least contribute to it. I think it’s important. Fondaumière shied away from directly discussing it, but it appears that he tries to influence development in subtle ways. Lately, he has been bringing on Hollywood talent to work at Quantic Dream, guiding Cage in developing his stories. You can read this one of two ways: Cage only can write so many 2,000-page scripts on his own or Fondaumière read the reviews of Heavy Rain. It may just be a mix of both. "David has so many ideas that Quantic Dream doesn’t have enough resources to put all of these ideas into games," Fondaumière said. "Our job is to turn these ideas into projects. So we are trying to attract talent: script writers, directors, photographers. That’s currently what we are working on. It’s challenging but a very interesting process." Cage is now joined by two other writers in script writing Quantic Dream's PS4 game in development. The results are "very positive" Fondaumière said, but are they positive enough to sustain Quantic Dream? No other developer puts such a focus on narrative storytelling while pursuing expensive talent and production, which makes me wonder if Quantic Dream can survive the FPS-hungry market climate. Does Beyond: Two Souls have to sell more than Heavy Rain, in order for Quantic Dream to continue, I asked. "If it’d sale the same, yes. It’d be sustainable business. The production budget of Beyond is comparable but a little higher than Heavy Rain," Fondaumière said. Fondaumière said the project will be a success if it sells 2.5 million units, but he hopes it well sell more. MAXIMUM CAGE Evolving capture technology, Hollywood talent, an amiable business partner. These are the things that let David Cage be David Cage. But, there is one other thing that I haven't mentioned yet: YOU, the people who buy his games, discuss his GDC talks, and listen to what he says. It's validation Cage wants and it's validation you give, even by hating him. But why not validate him and his arguments, when no one else is getting on stage? No one else is going to Tribeca or insisting on spending a chunk of its production budget on Hollywood talent. Cage is a contradiction of sorts. He's a pioneer but not a visionary. A director but not one always concerned with game design. He is not gaming's David Lynch, because gaming's David Lynch hasn't arrived yet. David Cage has to come first, along with all the things that prop him up.There is no red button we can slam that will prevent David Cage from being David Cage. So, let's hope MAXIMUM CAGE is a good thing.
Beyond: Two Souls photo
Ok, I lied
The first twelve paragraphs are about David Cage. AKA David De Gruttola. AKA Composer-turned-game designer. AKA Founder of French developer Quantic Dream, responsible for excellent implementation of David Bowie (see: Omikron)...

PlayStation 4 photo
PlayStation 4

David Cage joined by film writers and directors on PS4

Cage refuses to direct anyone else's screenplay
Apr 29
// Allistair Pinsof
It's not normal for a man to write a 2,000 page script or direct a 10+ hour film, so I can't blame David Cage if all of Beyond: Two Souls isn't golden. Realizing how this strains developer Quantic Dream's game director, co-CE...
PlayStation 4 photo
PlayStation 4

Quantic Dream's PS4 engine predates Beyond: Two Souls

Company began work on PS4 over two years ago
Apr 28
// Allistair Pinsof
When I asked Quantic Dream co-CEO Guillaume de Fondaumière if its upcoming, untitled PlayStation 4 game would be based on Beyond: Two Souls' engine, I got a response I wasn't expecting. The developer began development ...

Beyond: Two Souls Tribeca trailer + 35 minutes of footage

Apr 28 // Allistair Pinsof
[embed]252645:48402:0[/embed] If you do watch, you'll see just how far Cage has come as a director, presenting scenes from interesting angles and getting great performances out of his cast. You also may see some questionable writing choices. Keep your eyes pealed for the cleanest birth ever and a man reacting to Jodie landing from a three story jump by saying "I don't know how you did that, but it was incredible!" It certainly is emotional.  
Beyond: Two Souls photo
Let's talk about emotions and stuff
Say what you want about David Cage, but I dare you to watch the above trailer and not be impressed. I feel you are going to prove me wrong, but join me, however briefly, with enthusiasm for Beyond: Two Soul's immense trailer...

Hollywood photo

Heavy Rain was written for John Goodman and Clive Owen

David Cage's ideal Hollywood cast revealed
Apr 28
// Allistair Pinsof
David Cage has said in the past that he writes characters with actors in mind for roles. With better tech and a bigger budget, Cage finally got the cast he wanted with Beyond: Two Souls which stars Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe...
Beyond: 2 Soups photo
Beyond: 2 Soups

Watch hour-long Beyond scene and trailer on stream

Live from Tribeca Film Festival
Apr 26
// Allistair Pinsof
Just because I'm in New York this weekend covering Beyond: Two Soul's presence at the Tribeca Film Festival, doesn't mean you have to. Have to be in New York that is, since the hour-long clip and trailer will be live streamed...

Here's a 'bootleg' trailer for Beyond: Two Souls

Apr 24
// Dale North
As you may have heard, Beyond: Two Souls is an official selection for the Tribeca Film Festival. Sony has sent along a fake bootleg to go along with that massive fake script.  After watching a bit of some fake (but well...

Here's the 2,000-page script for Beyond: Two Souls

(not really)
Apr 23
// Dale North
I could see the FedEx delivery man hobbling down the street. I knew he was coming for me, but he was taking awhile as he was carrying a small box that looked like it was giving him some trouble. I met him halfway and he gave ...
Beyond: Two Souls photo
Beyond: Two Souls

Beyond: Two Souls box art is the Ellen Page-iest

Apr 18
// Tony Ponce
Ellen Page. Polygons. Emotions. Mature. Beyond. On a related note, David Cage and Ms. Page will be screening Beyond: Two Souls at the Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday, April 27. Because it's a movie, I guess. BEYOND: Two Souls Box Art Revealed [PlayStation Blog]

Quantic Dream is hiring a multiplayer programmer

For Beyond: Two Souls?
Apr 11
// Dale North
I had the pleasure of visiting Quantic Dream's studio last month (see above picture), and it was there that I saw something interesting while being shown upcoming game Beyond: Two Souls. Unfortunately, that's about all I...

Marketers wanted guns on Beyond: Two Souls promo art

Quantic 'categorically refused' generic action artwork
Mar 22
// Jim Sterling
Beyond: Two Souls had to fight to stop its promo art being reduced to a character holding a gun like 90% of the rest of videogame advertising, Quantic Dream recently revealed. Had marketers had their way, Ellen Page would be ...
Beyond: Two Souls photo
Beyond: Two Souls

Beyond: Two Souls to appear at Tribeca Film Festival

Games not films? Ha!
Mar 21
// Dale North
Think David Cage's films are just movies with button prompts? I don't, but upcoming PS3 game Beyond: Two Souls is at least film-y enough to appear at the Tribeca Film Festival. The game will be an Official Selection -- a firs...
No QTE for Beyond photo
No QTE for Beyond

Cage: No QTE for Beyond: Two Souls

Good news
Mar 21
// Dale North
At a preview event earlier this week, Quantic Dream boss David Cage revealed that their upcoming PS3 game, Beyond: Two Souls, would not use QuickTime Events (QTEs). In an effort to create a more discreet and fluid UI, they've...

First hands-on: Beyond: Two Souls

Mar 21 // Dale North
Beyond: Two Souls (PS3)Developer: Quantic DreamPublisher: SCEARelease: October 2013 Starting out, Jodie looked to be returning to a scientific research center just as firefighters and ambulances were wheeling out injured people from the building. It looked as if she was warned not to enter, but she does anyway, moving past debris, injured bodies, and burning walls to go deeper into the building.  Jodie can be moved with the left analog stick, with the navigation of her world being fully contextual. Simply move her to where you need and she'll step over thresholds, climb over obstacles, and more, each with specific animations. I did this to step over debris, through broken windows, and deeper into dangerous looking territory.  The world interaction system is completely new, using the right stick to input moves that make sense in given situations. Unlike Heavy Rain, there are no prompts for action with this system. Instead, a simple white dot will show areas of potential interaction. Moving the right stick at this dot in a way that makes sense for a given action, like pushing up to stand, or down to crouch, executes that action. Movements are always based on where Jodie is and what she's able to do in that location. Some situations involve button-press prompts, while others use the SIXAXIS movement sensors to have players moving the controller around. The first obstacle of the demo that we encountered had Jodie stopped at an elevator door that would not open. She requested that Aiden move ahead to investigate, which had me moving the entity down the elevator shaft to find that the elevator door would not close due to an obstruction. A simple press of the triangle button toggles control between Jodie and Aiden at any time. Being an invisible entity, Aiden can fly around anywhere. Controlling it in a first-person view, I was able to fly through walls and other matter, straight down into the jammed elevator. Aiden can interact with objects in the world through use of the analog sticks and the R1 button, enabling it to push, throw, and blast objects. I used this ability to push the obstruction away from the door, letting the elevator close to be called up to Jodie.  The demo featured other situations where I had to use Aiden to do things move through a door to unlock it, or move through a fire to push a fire extinguisher toward Jodie to help her quell flames. Some situations presented the option to use either Jodie or Aiden to proceed. In one room, glass doors prevented Jodie from progressing. The player could either use Aiden's blast ability to bust the glass, or have Jodie pick up a chair to slam it through the glass.  One of the most interesting team abilities for the duo has Aiden channeling some of another human's aura toward Jodie. This enables Jodie to have a short vision, which, in this case, gave her a fuzzy glimpse of injured or dead people's last moments. In two different situations in this demo, these visions showed that these humans were attacked by some force. The last one seen showed what looked to be semi-transparent tentacles coming out of the wall to thrash some victim around. My guess is that this entity had something to do with the disaster at this research center, and that Jodie went in to deal with it.  Just as things got interesting, a Quantic Dream staffer cut me off from proceeding.  From what we saw in the hour-long presentation and from this hands-on session, it seems that moving through Beyond: Two Souls involves a lot of problem-solving collaboration between Aiden and Jodie. With the simple challenges presented here, it was kind of satisfying to switch between two totally different control types to figure out how to progress. I'd imagine that more complex problem solving will be required as the game progresses.  While Jodie moves exactly as you'd expect with this simple interaction system, the first-person control of Aiden takes a little getting used to. Flying around and whipping through walls and doors is fun and freeing, but with that much freedom it's also a bit disorienting. The camera control feels sufficiently like moving a ghost around, but with no limitations other than distance from Jodie, you can easily end up lost between walls or other structures. Add in Aiden's negative color view and disorientation comes even easier.  While I would have preferred playing what we were shown in the hands-off presentation, this demo was more than enough to show off how Beyond will use Aiden and Jodie's unique control schemes together. Other aspects of Jodie's control, like an action system for combat, and vehicle control, were teased during this visit, but it looks like we'll have to wait to try these out.
Hands-on Beyond photo
Control system detailed
While a sizable portion of Beyond: Two Souls was shown to press at a event at Quantic Dream this week, unfortunately, it was a hands-off situation. But the studio didn't want to leave us completely empty handed, so they prepa...

Preview: An emotional ride with Beyond: Two Souls

Mar 21 // Dale North
Beyond: Two Souls (PS3)Developer: Quantic DreamPublisher: SCEARelease: October 2013 In this time, Jodie is an adult, a fugitive on the run. She has no family or friends, and her need to escape has left her alone, homeless, on the streets of a snowy city in the middle of winter. By this point she has moved fully beyond the down-on-her-luck stage, passing out from cold and exhaustion in the snow. She would have been left for dead if it wasn't for her invisible protector, Aiden, calling attention to her in the street so that a fellow homeless person could tend to her.  When she finally comes to, Jodie struggles with her self worth, to the point that she feels like going on isn't worth the trouble. Luckily, the homeless people that took her in cared enough to give her some purpose, which gradually puts her on the road to recovery. She begins to care about these people enough that she eventually opens up to them, sharing some of the secrets of her gift. This same gift, her tie to the invisible entity she named Aiden, lets her repay the saving favor in many ways. It's too bad that her past ends up catching up with her in the end. Watching Jodie get to know these people played out exactly as it would in a movie, which made it very easy to be drawn into the story. There's a lot going on under the hood to make this possible. First, the seamless and nearly invisible system of Beyond: Two Souls had everything from character movement to item interaction looking like a cinematic event. It was easy to forget that this was not a string of cutscenes with button prompts, and that a player was controlling the entire session, making every choice and movement. Save for a couple of instances of graphical glitches (the demo was only in alpha state) or where another animation pass might be needed, watching someone else play was like watching a film.  While the game never breaks form in looking like a movie, it does lean slightly more towards the game side of things during action combat scenes. Thankfully, Quantic Dream ditched QTEs in favor of a nearly invisible, prompt-less system where the game slows motion down during combat and awaits simple input from the right analog stick. Players will have to watch the action for context clues to know how to move the stick. We saw a really impressive fight scene where Jodie takes on multiple attackers in the street, where she kicked, punched, dodged, and countered through this input system. Despite the use of "bullet time," the scene managed to be fast-paced and exciting.  Quantic Dream has the PS3 pulling off some graphical sorcery that goes a very long way toward making Beyond look like a feature film. Their engine does some absolutely stunning stuff with depth of field and bokeh, giving every scene the look of a filmic camera shot. Watching snow fall onto already deep snow drifts in the evening, as street lights flickered in the distance, made me wonder how the PS3 was able to display such quality. Quantic Dream told us that some of their early work on renderers for the PS4 showed them that they could apply some new techniques to their PS3 engine. What they've been able to pull over and implement is unlike anything seen in any current generation video game. Dazzling stuff. The performance capture equipment and techniques used during 12 months of shooting real actors really paid off. Their impeccably captured performances seal the deal when it comes to working toward a convincing cinematic experience. Outside of some of the walking/turning animations, every movement is so realistic that the line between game and film is so blurred that you'll forget to think about it. It's also good that the photorealistic faces of the characters never dip into Uncanny Valley. Forget stretchy texture maps with eye holes for faces -- these look like real, living, breathing people, with reactive eyes that have depth and soul.  I could go on about how fantastic Beyond looks, but it's not really about the visuals. All of this tech and mo-cap was to be used to further the storytelling power for the game, and from what I saw, telling an engrossing story was mission number one. The session was bookended by two rather critical story moments, both of which had my mind wandering, but even without knowing where the story started or ended up, all the stuff in the middle had me totally drawn in, itching to know what happens next. Just about every scene moved me in some way -- harrowing, uplifting, reflective, or tense moments that came together to make for a supremely entertaining hour of watching. There was one particularly beautiful moment that I keep thinking about, even some days later. I can only imagine how these sensations would have been heightened if I were able to actually play it.  If you played Heavy Rain, you'll know that Quantic Dream was already well on their way toward their ideal cinematic game experience. It's just that the game was rough around the edges in so many ways that you could never fully be drawn in as intended. Too many off moments had it missing the mark. From everything I've seen of Beyond, it looks like they've figured the rest out since then. All of their work, from the cast, performance capture, graphics engine, and new systems, makes it seem like everything has finally come together. Their desire to share an interactive emotional journey comes through cleanly, with no hindrances. Perhaps all of that ambition has paid off, as it seems they've been able to take a very large step from their last game. Beyond: Two Souls looks to be something special. I can't wait to see more.
Beyond preview photo
Beyond goes beyond
After watching about an hour of live gameplay of Beyond: Two Souls, I felt like I witnessed a string of truly meaningful moments in the life of a gifted yet misunderstood person. In this small glimpse into what was probably j... photo

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Behind the scenes: [embed]247407:47320:0[/embed]
Dafoe Souls photo
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