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Heavy Rain vs Façade?

“Façade tried to solve this problem by replacing the parrot with something more like a brain-damaged human; Heavy Rain, by comparison, is probably the best-trained parrot in history.” From Archie Bland’s Control freak: Will David Cage’s ‘Heavy Rain’ videogame push our buttons?

About the author:  Noah Wardrip-Fruin is a Professor of Computational Media at UC Santa Cruz and the author of Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies. Read more from this author

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  1. Posted February 24, 2010 at 1:28 AM | Permalink

    Is it just me, or was Bland’s choices of quotes from academics such as yourself, Mateas and Juul all somewhat negative? It’s not the sort of commentary I’m used to about Cage from those people, he usually gets a “It’s pretty awesome that he’s trying!” rather than a “That’s so lame” response.

    Or were you just a jerk when Bland spoke to you? :)

  2. Noah Wardrip-Fruin
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 9:31 AM | Permalink

    Well, people choose the quotes that work for the story they’re writing. But yes, I certainly had lots of more-positive things to say. And Michael’s quote wasn’t really in reference to Heavy Rain (which neither of us had played at the time of the interview). Maybe there was a sense of needing voices to counterbalance Cage’s?

  3. Ian Bogost
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 11:10 AM | Permalink

    “It’s not a problem that can be solved by budget,” says Michael Mateas, one of the creators of Façade. “With Façade, there’s lot of ways we failed, it’s a hard problem. But at least we tried to take it on for real, instead of trying to find some trick around it. We hoped people would move on from that, and they haven’t.”

    Let’s challenge this, for fun. What makes Façade less “tricky” than Heavy Rain? The “for real” here is an AI ideology, not a formal ground.

  4. Daniel
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 2:19 PM | Permalink

    I agree – there is no “right” way of modeling the mind.

    But I guess what Mateas means there is that in HR there simply is no “mind model” for each character, only “possibility branches” in the story.

    PS: then again, the approach of modeling minds by dealing with facts and plots rather than internal states is also valid.

    So maybe the difference between HR and Façade is just a matter of complexity.

  5. Noah Wardrip-Fruin
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 2:21 PM | Permalink

    I think Michael’s referring to the kinds of arguments found in our DiGRA papers from this summer. I seem to remember Ian liking them at the time, rather than thinking they were AI ideology, so probably this is a misunderstanding :-)

  6. Ian Bogost
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 4:14 PM | Permalink

    Noah, that’s a skirt. Here comes your “how so?” Nothing about Michael’s statement suggests any position about agency or operational logics. It’s a press pull quote, I get that, but it reads as “HAL is the answer” to me.

  7. Noah Wardrip-Fruin
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 6:06 PM | Permalink

    Ian, obviously, one can read “for real” many ways. But in this case, our discussion with the reporter might be summarized as “computational models of character and fiction — like games now have for things like combat and economics” which is the connection to the DiGRA papers. I’m a bit surprised your thinking ran in the other direction, given your background knowledge of what we tend to discuss on these topics. Or is this just a provocation?

  8. Ian Bogost
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 6:56 PM | Permalink

    A provocation? From innocent me?

    Actually, I tried to make that clear with the “for fun” part of my OP. I’d just like to point out that “for real” is a huge and weird distortion of “computational models of character and fiction,” given that there are, at least, alternate models of computational modeling of character and fiction beyond those explored in Façade.

    Caveat: I haven’t played Heavy Rain yet (set aside tomorrow for it). So I have no idea what it does.

  9. Ian Bogost
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 8:44 PM | Permalink

    I wasn’t trolling. I was trying to have an earnest conversation.

    Maybe you guys felt mis- or under-quoted in the article, in which case you could use this blog to clarify and expand your points!

  10. archie
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 1:11 PM | Permalink

    Hi all, Noah especially – sorry that your points on this weren’t balanced by the more positive stuff that you said too – it’s certainly partly because the story became more focussed on the idea of the game as a noble failure after we spoke, and I was turning your views to the argument’s ends – although that was the result of the larger points that I thought you (and quite a few others I spoke to) were making. Actually to me those don’t especially sound like remarks that could be paraphrased as ‘that’s so lame’, more just a proper and respectful critical engagement with it as a success or failure on its own terms – if it came across that way that’s my fault. One of the things i was trying to do with the piece was make an implied argument that games have reached a sort of maturity where ‘well done for trying’ isn’t the appropriate response any more, just as no-one would really say that (or not *only* that) about a formally innovative book or movie that was nevertheless shit.

    Incidentally, and far more prosaically, a chunk of the piece where I quoted you talking about it more positively got cut for space! Bah. This is why journalism sucks sometimes.

  11. Noah Wardrip-Fruin
    Posted February 26, 2010 at 12:27 AM | Permalink

    Archie, I think it’s fine for you to craft a story and use the quotes that fit with that story — it’s what academics do all the time :-)

    And I enjoyed the story. I hope you have the opportunity to write more on games in the Life & Style vein.

  12. Jesper Juul
    Posted February 28, 2010 at 12:16 PM | Permalink

    For what’s it worth, I was giving the journalist two sides of the story but was only quoted for one:

    1) You don’t make great work just by mimicking another art form.

    2) But: It is dangerous to claim that a given art form should be protected from imports from other art forms. (Example: the early resistance to using sound in movies because it was seen as “alien” to cinema.)

    That said, does anybody think that Heavy Rain is the way forward? Isn’t this an incredibly clunky game with so-so writing?

  13. Ian Bogost
    Posted March 5, 2010 at 2:41 PM | Permalink

    Jesper, the lame writing (my god it is bad) doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the potential of the design approach, does it?

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