So I think I shall try to start a new weekly thing – “rand() thoughts.” For those who don’t know, “rand()” is a function used in the C++ programming language to create random number generation. Technically speaking, this function doesn’t actually output truly random numbers, nor will this segment be “truly” random in that I still want to have some point to each post, but there isn’t any particular subject matter I’m gonna cover. Expect tokusatsu, nerdiness, geekiness, reflections, and any and everything else.
Today, it’s video games…
If you didn’t know, the demo for this experiment of a game is out now on the PSN. If you have been involved in the “Four Days” or whatever it was called event, you may have (like me and others who jumped on the tweets and posts of generous individuals) gotten your chance to play the demo a week early. Having played the demo a few times now, I want just leave a few comments on the nets in wait for the final release later this month (2/23).
Quantic Dream (Indigo Prophecy) has undertaken the task of making a novel a playable game without making it a video game. If that sounds weird, good, it should. This is not to say that I found the demo to be bad; actually, I was very impressed by it. What’s weird is the fact that there is very little in the way of “traditional” gameplay to be had here. The control scheam that has been the talk of this game since it was revealed about a year ago actually works, but it has using two buttons just to walk – an action most games leave to the left stick and/or D-pad. A players way of thinking must change when “playing” this “game.” I use those words in quotes because this game seeks to not be played but rather “lived” – experienced.
You will become four individuals. Each one is a separate character with their own personalities, problems, demons, attitudes, and motivations. As you “play” you will certainly get to know these people very well as you guide them on their respective missions to track down the Origami Killer. The controls I mentioned last paragraph only facilitate that intimacy. Contextual actions appear as prompts that are performed with the appropriate buttons (as if you were actually the character performing the action). This feels awkward at first, but after flipping out a wallet a few times or opening a car door, you understand how the right-stick is supposed to be an extension of your hand/arm. Conversations are branching, similar to that in Bioware games, except your response options float about your head like thoughts. Thoughts you can listen in on at any time by the way with the press of a button.
And yet, as simple as the control scheme is on paper and in execution, the fact that this is a game still remains as QTEs (quick-time-events). Fights use this a lot, and there is one in the demo to show how it works. However, unlike most games nowadays that abuse QTEs, Heavy Rain treats them just conversations – they are open-ended (to a degree). If you fail to hit a button in time, all is not lost. Instead, your encounter progresses slightly differently (instead of landing your punch, you might take one and so forth). This does not mean that you can not participate in the QTEs and survive; each encounter is different and how you handle those situations (how well you complete the QTE) determines if you (the character) live or die. And if you “fail” and die, that’s it for that character – they are dead. Period. No continues. No return to the last checkpoint. The story goes on without that character.
Multiple save points may be a good idea, but somehow I think it would best to even bother. After all, the demo makes it clear that central mystery and the characters involved are the focus. You as the player dictate how events go down: how thoroughly will you investigate a scene, how will you interrogate this witness if at all, will you take a shower or make coffee… Lots of seeming mundane choices that are often made for us in games, but these are the very choices real people make everyday, and sometimes we forget that we even take the time to think about these things long enough to even make the choices ourselves every day. This game has you actively making those choices and they do effect the story.
I haven’t played the final release yet, but I’m certain I’m going to be playing this in two weeks. However, if anybody at Quantic Dream happens to read this and wants to, you know, pass me a copy for review…