Uncut Interview - Guillaume de Fondaumiere (Beyond: Two Souls)

Interview

  • Beyond: Two Souls
  • Beyond: Two Souls, Quantic Dream, Sony Computer Entertainment
  • Uncut Interview - Guillaume de Fondaumiere (Beyond: Two Souls)

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The Quantic co-CEO talks Ellen Page, David Cage and the future of interactive storytelling
During our recent visit to the Quantic Dream studios in Paris for an early look at upcoming adventureBeyond: Two Souls, we spoke to co-CEO Guillaume de Fondaumière about his work on the game.

A 20 year veteran of the gaming industry, de Fondaumière joined Quantic Dream in 2003, with the company already deep in development on Fahrenheit. He then worked on HeavyRain before turning his attention to Beyond: Two Souls.

In the following interview, Click’s Daniel Anderson talks to de Fondaumière about what his job entails on a project like Beyond: Two Souls as well as the future of the story driven game and what it took to get actors like EllenPage and Willem Defoe involved in the project .

Guillaume de Fondaumière at the Quantic Studios
Guillaume de Fondaumière at the Quantic StudiosEnlarge Enlarge
CLICK: You are listed as the Executive Producer, what does that mean on a game like Beyond: Two Souls?
GdF
: Well I'm the co-CEO and executive producer so I’m managing the company with David (Cage). I’m more focussing on the business side of the company – managing it from a legal and financial standpoint.

CLICK: And he’s the more creative side?
GdF:
Exactly! And as the exec producer my role is to make sure David has the means to fulfil his vision. So that means managing the relationship with our publisher – first of all finding a publisher but in this case we have that already. So it was a continuation of the partnership from Heavy Rain and managing that on a daily basis. But also overseeing the production with our project manager. And making sure we’re delivering everything on time. And also managing all the third parties, there are quite a lot. At Quantic we outsource quite a bit.

CLICK: Like extra animation and assets?
GdF:
Exactly. So this is something that I'm doing in partnership with our art director. And contacting agents, managers to Hollywood talent, things like that – that’s also part of my job!

CLICK: And what was that process like. Did you want a star for this project?
GdF:
We wanted Ellen Page and Willem Defoe [laughs]! Whenever David starts writing a project he very soon has characters, with a synposis and a treatment. And he starts to figure out what the story is. And most of the time, he will pick up some pictures of known actors, because he needs to put a face on a name to think about what the back-story is. And in the case of Jodie Holmes it was Ellen Page and in the case of Nathan Dawkins it was Willem Defoe. And when he came to casting the project, he said he thought we were ready to work with these kinds of actors. We had done KARA; we knew how reliable our technology was for scanning and recreating the actors. We knew also that we were starting to understand what it would mean to performance capture actors and so we decided to contact them.

CLICK: Was it hard to convince them?
GdF:
Not at all [laughs]! Well first of all the legacy of Heavy Rain helped me a lot to open doors.

CLICK: This all happened post Heavy Rain then?
GdF:
Post Heavy Rain. It helped me with contacting agents because I could tell them I had worked on Heavy Rain and most of the time people had either played it or heard about it. So Heavy Rain has really had an impact on Hollywood. It’s been seen by people in the studios which is very positive. The other thing was we sent out right away a synopsis of the game and both Ellen and Willem came back saying they loved the idea and they wanted to know more about it. And so we met and it was our job with David to convince them to be part of it. It was relatively easy!


CLICK: I would always imagine resistance to being involved in a game but I suppose it’s quite close to a movie?
GdF
: This was very close and again we were very clear about the fact that this wasn’t your traditional video game. And the relationship to Heavy Rain helped us a lot – we were able to show them what kind of game this was going to be and why their performance was so important to the kind of games that we’re doing.

CLICK: Starting production on Beyond, were you responding to any feedback from Heavy Rain – either positive or negative?
GdF:
No we were very happy with Heavy Rain but it’s like everything – like when a painter finishes a painting, he wants to work on something else. It wasn’t so much about what we wanted to change it was that we wanted to do a different project and what does it require. And what is important? I can give you one example: in Heavy Rain, because of the story, because it was a dark thriller, everything almost had to take place in small environments. So we decided to create a specific engine that would be extremely powerful with restrained environments. Then for the story David wrote in Beyond, we need large environments. And this is why we created a new engine. It’s not just to do it for the sake of it. We want to make sure that even in large environments we have the same level of detail in characters and the same lighting capabilities, etc. And so this is how the feature set emerges. In terms of gameplay, we had the same approach – what do we want to tell and how do we want to tell it? David wanted a story with more action and so this is why we redefine the action gameplay. And the reason why we abandoned, for instance, QTE’s is that we simply found something better.

CLICK: You mentioned action but Beyond also clearly has more supernatural elements, something you moved away from in Heavy Rain – partly as a reaction the over the top moments in Fahrenheit. Was that something David just wanted to include this time?
GdF:
Yea it was certainly over the top on Fahrenheit.

CLICK: I loved it by the way!
GdF:
Yea but it was! So I guess David wanted to be very careful about this aspect. The paranormal element is there but it’s not central to the experience I would say. It’s… I don’t see Beyond as a paranormal themed experience. Yes there are some dark paranormal elements but it fits in naturally with the game. It’s still very much grounded in reality, actually.


CLICK: You make story driven games, rather than any other genre. Do you feel this is the ultimate way to tell a story in an interactive medium or just the way you do it?
GdF: It’s our way of doing it, I mean I love the way thatgamecompany [Journey] is also telling stories, in a very very different way. It’s a less narrated way! But there is a sense of storytelling. The same applies to Ico and Shadow of the Colossus creator… [Fumito Ueda]. But there are many game creators who are trying to tell stories in different ways. And I think that is interesting. So I wouldn’t say it was the ultimate one, I think it’s our way of telling stories. I would say it’s a relatively classical approach that we have.

CLICK: It seems like, with games like yours and last years The Walking Dead, story is really become more important in video games these days?
GdF:
Well I think that this has to do with more and more game creators realise that gamers have changed. They’re getting older. And I think, like David, that part of the industry is still only creating games for teenagers. And teenagers probably are less looking for narration and stories in games than an older audience. The older players demand more from their games and part of that is that whatever they do makes sense. So you put a gun in my hand, and I’m a G.I. during the Second World War. Is there any story here? And I think more and more game developers realise it. Cliff Bleszinski was here a few weeks ago and we were talking about it over lunch and he said that he loved what we were doing and wanted to put more stories into his games. I hear it more and more and I think it’s a good thing.

CLICK: You’ve been working with Cage for 10 years now, what is it like when he comes to you with a new story? Is this something he’s been working on for awhile?
GdF:
It’s been a story that was in his head for quite a while. David always has at least four or five ideas that are pre-written. So he’s most of the time coming with a concept or a treatment. And David is very shy at the beginning!

CLICK: Really? Because he expects you not to like it?
GdF
: No. He is a creator and he is always anxious to know what people think of his ideas. And it’s a healthy process. There are a few of us in the company who give him feedback all the way from the beginning to the end. Telling him what we think is a good or a less good idea! I’m trying to figure out whether we can produce it or not.


CLICK: When he comes to you with these ideas, does he have a specific sense of how he wants to achieve it?
GdF:
He has a very specific and clear idea of where he’s coming from. And he’s instrumental in producing the game too. He’s got a vision that’s not purely artistic; he has a very good sense of technology and art. He’s giving guidelines to pretty much everyone so I’m on his side.

CLICK: Do you ever tell him no if something’s truly impossible?
GdF:
I try not to say no. Sometimes things don’t work out and we either don’t have the means or whatever. But my job is not to say no.

CLICK: Finally, what part of the game are you most looking forward to player’s experience?
GdF
: Well there are certain things I can’t tell you about today. But I’m looking forward… I’ve had the experience already because I’ve played the game. I know it inside out now. But I’m looking forward to people’s reaction to the Aiden character because it’s a character in the game; it’s a very, very interesting character. We’re presenting the story of Jodie Holmes but let’s not forget, it’s about Two Souls.

Beyond: Two Souls is coming exclusively to PS3 from the 8th of October 2013.

Read our interview with David Cage.

Read our studio tour and hands on preview.


Uncut Interview - Guillaume de Fondaumiere (Beyond: Two Souls) on ClickOnline.com


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daniel@clickonline.com
Movie Editor
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