In a secret city centre location earlier this, Sony brought some of Ireland's video game critics (including entertainment.ie) to get an exclusive preview of their new game Beyond: Two Souls. In case you weren't aware, this game comes from Quantic Dreams, the games developers who created the groundbreaking Heavy Rain a few years back. This time they've gone even more epic and intricate, with Hollywood megastars Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe playing the leading characters in the game, the score has been co-created by the legendary Hans Zimmer, and the visuals on offer were nothing short of astounding.
Before we delved into the game itself, on hand to give us a short presentation was the co-CEO and co-producer of Quantic Dream, Guillaume de Fondaumiere. He went into some detail of the plot of the game, such as the fact that it takes place over the course of 15 years, and that the lead character of Jodie (Ellen Page) ages from 8 to 23, constantly attached to a mysterious entity known only as Aiden, and communicated with only by Jodie. But Aiden can influence the world around itself, moving things and possessing people, something that scientist Nathan Dawkins (Willem Dafoe) wants to study further.
Guillaume continued in some detail about the revolutionary two player system, including how the game may be playable via a downloadable app on your smartphone or tablet. Created in mind for the casual gamer or complete newbie to video-games, watching Guillaume control the game on his iPhone was truly staggering, and in all likelihood will pave the way for how games might be played in the future.
We got a few minutes with Guillaume to talk to him about his thoughts on the game and gaming itself:
entertainment.ie: How did the idea for Beyond: Two Souls come about?
Guillaume de Fondaumiere: David Cage (co-CEO and co-producer of Quantic Dreams) is the writer of all our games, including Beyond, and had actually written this story when he was pretty young, the story of a young girl and her relationship with an invisible entity. He wrote this story when he had just lost someone that was very close to him, and I guess he was looking for his own answers to the questions about what lies beyond, what is after death.
EI: Having worked with Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe on this project, did you find any differences in working with actors who are used to working within a film environment, opposed to actors who work solely within video games?
GdF: Yeah, totally! The big difference we're seeing in working with such talented actors is that, well, that they're talented! (laughs) David said working with was like driving a Ferrari, and because of their experience and talent, he was really able to fine tune their performances. The level of preparation was really phenomenal, as from a technical standpoint, they need to know their parts by heart. But it was more than that, because when they stepped on to the stage, Ellen WAS Jodie, and Willem WAS Dawkins. They had not only rehearsed, they had a very thoughtful confrontations about who these characters are, and what their backgrounds were, and how they wanted to interpret their roles.
EI: We were big fans of Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain, and one of things we've noticed is how story-heavy these games are. How difficult is it to maintain a balance between telling this detailed and intricate story, but also keeping it entertaining for the player?
GdF: It is very challenging, and telling an interactive story is challenging by concept. David and the small team he has around him have worked on these concepts for fifteen years now, so I guess it's less difficult for them than it would be for anyone starting from scratch. But it is complex, and that complexity first comes from the scope, as the scope for Beyond is FAR bigger than Heavy Rain. Telling a story across fifteen years of a person's life brings on certain challenges, and the story is also told in non-chronological order, so you're not going to follow to the stories of these characters in a straight line, you're going to jump back and forth and you'll have to connect the dots yourself. That was another layer of interest for players, but of difficulty for the designers! (laughs) And as you know, as you've played Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain, that it is extremely important for us that story and gameplay are intertwined, so we are telling the story through the gameplay, and not in a disconnected way. This is all very difficult, but when it works, it's exhilarating!
EI: We know that you successfully lobbied France to put funding towards the development of video-games, and raise the awareness that video-games be a part of the artistic culture within the E.U., and this year alone we've had some truly artistic games like The Last Of Us and Bioshock Infinite, where they're being appreciated more for their story-telling rather than just "point and click and shoot". Do we think we're finally at a level where people can and do consider video-games to be of an equal artistic merit as movies and TV and literature?
GdF: Honestly, I wish, but I don't think so. I think it's clear that, as you've rightly pointed out, the fact that more games are meaningful, such as with narrative based games, its particularly easy to show-case the meaningful nature and the cultural nature of these experiences to non-gamers. So it makes my life, as a "lobbyist", a lot easier, as I have more than just two or three games to use as an example. The more games I have that can show the diversity of the creations, games like Journey and Puppeteer, all these games contribute in my mind to a better recognition of games as a form of cultural expression. It counter-balances the more negative attacks that we have about violence in games and addiction, and the more positive experiences we have, the merrier!
From there, we finally got our hands on the demo of the game that will be released to players on the PlayStation Network in two weeks time. Two separate sections of levels, one titled "The Experiment" which shows Jodie as a child performing "tricks" with Aiden for the watching scientists, and the other, "Hunted", shows Jodie all grown up and trying to escape from police on while on a train results in a massive firefight in a snowy town as you use Aiden to send cops, cars and helicopters flying through the air.
Neither gave much away plot-wise, but we can tell you that these teaser sections completely whetted our appetite for more. Beyond: Two Souls will be available on PlayStation 3 from October 11th, and check back in with entertainment.ie for the full review!