Development News: Quantic Dream’s “Kara” Short Film

Today in Development News, I want to discuss one of my favorite development teams out there, Quantic Dream. Now, sure, I may get a lot of flack from time to time from my gamer buddies about my lustful enthralled enjoyment over Quantic Dream’s original title: Heavy Rain, but let’s face it – even if some hardcore gamers decide that Heavy Rain is a little too much narrative for their liking there is no denying one simple fact. The game is visually stunning and it really set the bar, in my personal opinion, for what the capabilities of the PS3 were at the time.

It’s been two years since Heavy Rain’s release in 2010 and since then we haven’t seen much out of the quiet studio with Quantic Dream, but today IGN.com released an interview with David Cage, the founder and lead developer over at Quantic Dream. He released statements about possibly having the studio be exclusive to working with Sony and he also unveiled a wonderful little short film that supposedly was produced by a new graphics engine that the studio had been working on. Now I know that doesn’t sound like amazing news, but in actuality it is and here’s why. The trailer I’m about to drop in here is a trailer for a short film called “Kara”

The trailer was done entirely in real-time on a PS3 using a new technology graphics engine that Quantic Dream has been working on for the past two hermitic years of solitude they’ve taken. Now apparently in the interview Cage mentioned that the trailer you’re about to see is taken from “Version 1” of this new engine and that the short film was completed on this engine “almost one year ago.” – so keep that in mind when you take a gander at this HD short film: Kara. I’ll discuss my opinions of the capabilities below afterwards.

So what does this mean for the future of gaming?

Well, clearly, we’ve seen in the past couple of years that gaming graphics engines are becoming far more advanced that the old 8-bit processors and even 64 bit consoles.  What makes the past couple of years even more amazing to me, as a designer, is that we’ve begun the design of engines that allow us to tell stories. No longer are we limited by pixel counts or motor limitations of character models, but our model development process has exceeded expectations leaps and bounds past what I assumed could be possible at this point.

If we take a look at the long list of games which I’m finding to have visually stunning performances: LA Noire, GTA 4, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, Heavy Rain, Mass Effect, etc.

The list goes on, and while certainly some of those games stand out visually more than others [ personally I found some pixelation and movement issues in all of these games at one point or another, but minor flaws are trivial in the scheme of storytelling.] I think that is actually the point I’m getting at, storytelling.

Storytelling has become an art form in the gaming media. We’ve gone from an industry that focused so hard to provide games that could be enjoyed strictly based off of the technology we had, to now focusing our efforts to tell emotional and meaningful story lines just like movies and television. When I watch this film I’m captivated, because I honestly didn’t believe that game technology was on a visual peak such as this.

If you had said to me years ago that one day we would get to the graphic capacity to where a model’s eyes would gloss over and cry, her mouth would move with every syllable, her emotions would be able to be captivating and engaging within a video game screen I very well may have scoffed at the idea. Most video game art has a sort of pseudo-realism.

Even the most prolific of designers and artists in the industry [ Square Enix, Bioware, etc. ] Often times I find that their models come out somehow reminding me that I am watching a video game, whether it’s through the coloring of the characters, the stylistic choices, etc. Something always reminds me that I’m witnessing a video game, thus, no matter how hard they try video games lose a sense of realism for me.

Now is that a good thing?

Absolutely. I think if games were so realistic and enthralling players very well may have an issue determining what reality from fiction is, but what I love about this technology and why I wanted to talk about it is simply because this is our next step in gaming evolution. Our whole industry revolves around design and graphics engines with the prolific capabilities that Quantic Dream has displayed. If we can create worlds, people, interactive environments with this amount of detail, then imagine what we can accomplish just within a small window of time in this industry?

No longer will stories have to be left to novelists and movie goers. The experiences and emotions which we gain from these mediums will be able to be attained through an interactive vision. I just want to ask my fellow viewers this: After watching the video how did you feel? Were you captivated by the tale and would you like to see a game made from this short film? How did just seeing these graphic capabilities affect you? – and would you like to see games developed with this sort of caliber? If we have the capabilities then why aren’t we pushing the boundaries of our next-gen systems before we start thinking about building new ones?

I would love to see a world where stories are told through interactivity. Where we can captivate children and parents of all ages with stories that reach them on a more interpersonal level. Games allow that to occur in our human lives. They allow us to interconnect with each other via online play, interconnect via story lines and emotions, and interconnect via the stories that we develop from listening to other people’s stories. We all learn in this world, and games are just going to be another way we can reach the masses through this. Given advanced graphics capabilities, I personally, say that the sky is the limit – and I can’t wait to make games for this upcoming generation, if the gaming society I’m going into will produce beauty like this.

Thank you Quantic Dream! Keep up the good work and I’m eager for your next project to reach shelves, whenever you decide to do so!

4 responses to “Development News: Quantic Dream’s “Kara” Short Film

  1. Brilliant article, really interesting to read. I completely agree with you, I think that they’ve proven that the technology is there and now there’s nothing holding designers back from fulfilling their visions.

    Wow, that video is spectacular, I’ve never seen such a raw, emotive and realistic performance using game technology, I was nearly moved to tears. Personally, I don’t think that Kara should be made into a game, it’s perfect as a short film, but I do believe that incorporating this aspect of emotion performance (in cutscenes) would add a whole new dimension to gaming.

    The first game that can pull something like this off will change the industry permanently

    • First off, thank you for the support! Secondly, I totally agree with you that the first studio and console that can pull this kind of graphic capability out of their console’s potential will be the forerunner of the industry for sure. We’re clearly seeing a ton of different companies fight for a spot on the most visually spectacular game – and many are succeeding exceptionally well:

      Rocksteady, Team Bondi, Bioware, Ubisoft, etc. but I think what’s setting the current market apart from it’s predecessors is that there are now two branches of visual appeal to achieve: Indie [ where visuals are all about an artistic approach, so less about realism and more about something that the indie designer wants to use as a design medium – Limbo ] or Mainstream [ Graphics that are realistic, movie-quality, and cinematic in scope.]

      Whichever grouping can come up with games that use this cinematic approach, given whatever visual graphics engine they choose to develop from: Frostbite, Unreal, CryEngine, etc. if they focus on making an actors performance become as realistic and believable as possible – they’ll win fans and admiration from everyone in the gaming industry: players and developers alike. So yeah! Totally agree that I’ll be looking forward to the first person who takes that one small step for gaming kind!

  2. Yeah, I’m looking forward to the day when games like this are standard. Not that I think that graphics make a game (I’m sure I’ll post profusely to show the extent of my feelings on this), but this kind of cinematic performance transforms a game into a whole new type of media. It’s almost sad that I won’t get to do anything with graphics like this for many years, got to start at the bottom and work my way up though, I suppose.

    It’s truly an inspirational video though, something I’ll aspire to create.

  3. Pingback: E3 Impressions: Beyond. Two Souls. | Gastrogamer.com

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