GDC 2011: Heavy Rain Sold 2 Million and "Game Mechanics are Evil" - News

by Karl Koebke , posted on 03 March 2011 / 4,842 Views

During his Post Mortem on Heavy Rain, David Cage had some interesting statistics about his game to share as well as a relatively deviant outlook on gaming in general.  He was proud to let everyone know that Heavy Rain has officially sold almost 2 million copies, but more interesting was that apparently the game was completed by 72% of those that started it instead of the 20% average for most gaming.  He attributes this to the game’s more story focused design and called on developers in the room to move beyond the game paradigms of the last 30 years of levels, bosses, inventory, and all those things you usually expect to be in games. 

He commented that games as they are now are almost all designed towards teenagers or children and that we should be focusing more on gaming for adults.  Story and gameplay are too divided in the current framework of game, cut scene, game, cut scene, and Cage mentioned that for story driven gaming it’s imperative that the two are intrinsically linked. If game developers can bridge this gap they can make story a bigger part of the game and start to bring in a new market of gamers who weren't satisfied with the previous standard. 

Heavy Rain











Probably his most controversial point was that gaming mechanics are evil.  We don’t have enough buttons for one button to do the same action regardless of the situation because that only leaves you with ten or so possibilities and if you want to tell a story through gameplay that’s like having only ten words to use for your novel.  He argued that the context sensitive interface in Heavy Rain was a great solution to this problem because you could now use those same ten buttons for a multitude of different actions increasing your vocabulary from 10 to 1,000,000. 

I’m sure all of this will sound like blasphemy to anyone with a Princess Peach bed spread or Tinkle Popo tattooed on their back, but love him or hate him at least David Cage is saying something different.

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CGI-Quality (on 03 March 2011)

Sad that a game like this usually invites endless bickering about what is a game and what isn't or what's a "good game" and what isn't. Oh well, I did my part, and HR has fed more mouths full of crow than probably any other game this gen (save for Wii Sports). On-topic: I am somewhat against a few of Cage's words here, but to ignore his brilliance would be a crime. I don't want endless HR type games, but a heavier focus on story is just what the doctor ordered. :)

oniyide (on 03 March 2011)

its getting one soon, OT man people love to hate and spin. THe game sold more than anyone expectations and is only now getting a price cut. Dont hate because its not on your system of choice or its different, i know people are afraid of different but not everyone wants to save Princess Peach all the time

FattyDingDong (on 03 March 2011)

Heavy Rain needs a price cut.. its been a year since its release and it's still 59'99

pastro243 (on 03 March 2011)

It is a game, and a very good one

d21lewis (on 03 March 2011)

Huge fan of the game (day 1 purchaser, here.). Not a fan of these comments. I assume there's a thread. I'll check it out.

green_sky (on 03 March 2011)

The game completion thing is quite interesting. Mass Effect is another game with high completion rate and at times multiple completions compared to Grand Theft Auto series will completion rate of 20-25%. Something for game developers to consider as most of the people are not even playing 3/4 of their games.

Squeakthedragon (on 03 March 2011)

It's not that David Cage doesn't have good ideas; some of them are great ideas, some are authentically innovative rather than simply different for the sake of novelty. But, like a lot of newjack developers who have tunnel vision towards video games replacing supposedly "adult" forms of entertainment such as motion pictures, Cage seems to have bizarre and arbitrary standards for what constitutes various kinds of games. For example, I get the strong impression that in his view, a game with "mechanics" is for children, and a game without "mechanics" is for adults, and that this view is partially based on observing most adults still cannot grasp video games or how to play them. But, if that's his view, I think he is putting the cart before the horse. Adults engage in pastimes and entertainment that is chock full of rules, structure, and mechanics. It is not that video games with defined and even complex mechanics are somehow just for nerdy teenagers, but that many adults of previous generations can't grasp the technological interface involved with computer games. These same adults would be able to understand and appreciate a board game with complex and stringent mechanics. Mechanics are not "evil".

hunter_alien (on 03 March 2011)

@ LordTheNightKNight: have you even played the game? Seriously? I somehow doubt it...

RenderMonk (on 03 March 2011)

@LordTheNightKnight You need to be greatful that there's a developer out there will to try something new and different. It may have ended up more like a "pseudo movie" as you put it, but this like many other innovators, is the first try. The next game will be even better, and hopefully more developers will follow suit, by not following suit...if you catch my drift. As far as the game completion rate, as a 25+ year long gamer, I can tell you that while games have come a long way....they've started falling farther from the mark too! It's something about these games and the way they all tend to feel the same, nothing new, just "prettier paint jobs." Most games I start, play a 1/3 - 2/3 the way through, then loose interest. It's not the difficulty that makes me put it down, it's the game, the mechanics. It's like halfway through I release, "Yep, they fooled me again! I thought this game was different and something new, but alas I realize, it's the same as all the rest." And thus, the game is dropped prior to completion in favor of a different game, in the hopes to find that diamond in the dough that provides a new adventure, and different experience. It's that vital "something" that the games of NES and SNES era captured, and this generation has failed to do on the whole.

SuperAnthony64 (on 03 March 2011)

lol at heavy rain haters. "I like to play games not watch them" You do play this game. Its an unique experience that a REAL gamer could appreciate.

LordTheNightKnight (on 03 March 2011)

This is not against the game itself, so don't even pretend it is. This guy is full of it. The game wasn't completed because of removal of "evil" game mechanics. It was completed because it has no game over condition. Not even the start over checkpoints that would at least force you to do some part over again. That doesn't make a game. Even if you like it, what you like is still not a game. If you want an pseudo movie, please just admit it. It's better than pretending this is the direction games are supposed to go in.

A203D (on 03 March 2011)

Yeah Heavy Rain was a great game when i played it through the first time. but imo, its still just a 10 hour non replayable experience. so while i did like it, i think its still not that great because i havent touched it since i finished it last year, havent even thought about it until now!!

silicon (on 03 March 2011)

It sold 2 million BEFORE becoming a greatest hit. I can't wait for their next game.

LivingMetal (on 03 March 2011)

And I bought my copy a few weeks ago. It's great to contribute to a great cause.

SxyxS (on 03 March 2011)

Give people a real interessting story and they will play to see the end of the game.It was nice to have a real story and not:"you are the super hero in shooter 95,save the world by killing aliens again and again and again. I guess lots of this 72% finished the game several times. Nice to see that new games could be succesfull and not only the same old stuff. @aiddon-you are right.If mr cage"s games would be as big as his ego(i like his game,but he sounds like he is newton,tesla or einstein),he would have sold more games than miyamoto,but sadly he has the same charackter like peter molyneux,though his games are more interresting than peter"s boring "revolutionary games".but both need sometimes a kick in the S to calm down.

Aiddon (on 03 March 2011)

doesn't stop Cage from still being a completely pretentious asshat,

Zlejedi (on 03 March 2011)

looks like slight undertracking :)

chingrin (on 03 March 2011)

Agree with you PullusPardus. Heavy Rain isn't just a game. It's a multi-media experience. And for the critics who didn't see it selling even 500k and now it's at almost 2m. Huge.

PullusPardus (on 03 March 2011)

Lol at people hating without playing.

szerbijn (on 03 March 2011)

:> david cage

hasanwhy (on 03 March 2011)

Awesome! There needs to be more games that are focused on story instead of stupid tacked on multi-players lol

TheWon (on 03 March 2011)

Sorry I still like to play games instead of watching them.