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Death, but no ‘Game Over’ in Beyond: Two Souls

David Cage may have found a way around “Game Over” screens with Beyond: Two Souls, which he feels are a “state of failure” for the designer.

“I’ve always felt that ‘game over’ is a state of failure more for the game designer than from the player,” Cage said to Joystiq at Gamescom.

It’s like creating an artificial loop saying, ‘You didn’t play the game the way I wanted you to play, so now you’re punished and you’re going to come back and play it again until you do what I want you to do.’ In an action game, I can get that – why not? It’s all about skills. But in a story-driven experience it doesn’t make any sense.

Cage talks about how this might work, detailing a scene in Beyond where officers hunt Jodi along a moving passenger train, where players can either succeed or fail, but are given alternate paths through the story no matter what. As in life, the real mystery is what happens after you die.

It’s a game about death, so you can imagine that death plays a role in all of this,” Cage said. “Actually, it’s one of the big discoveries – one of the big mysteries in the game is to discover what’s on the other side. And it’s definitely not a black screen.

Cage is also experimenting with narrative, delivering the story in non-chronological order covering 15 years of Jodi’s life.

Slowly, the pieces of the puzzle come together, but it’s not something that I told you. It’s something that happens in the player’s mind. He just connects the dots by himself. He sees the pieces of the puzzle coming together and he recreates the story by himself.

I believe it’s more powerful in many ways just because you’re not passive in the storytelling; you’re actually active in recreating the story.

Game Over screens, usually in the form of death sequences, often feel masochistic when abused repeatedly, a la Tomb Raider, or disingenuous to the game’s logic or mechanics. But is Cage’s solution of removing Game Over screens really viable?

Branching off the narrative into multiple paths could bring games more in line with choose your own adventure books rather than Citizen Kane.

I’m curious to see how Cage pulls off his vision of allowing players to piece the story together on their own. What’s more, I’m curious to see how the lack of a black screen messes with the game mechanics.

Love him or hate him, Cage is at least trying to shake things up in the industry. But then again, even Sony exec Shuhei Yoshida fell asleep on stage when David Cage spoke about storytelling in video games.