Quantic Dream’s Kara – A New Level of Interactive Drama In Video Games

A look at Quantic Dream's Kara, a presentation of their new technology that uses new motion-capture technology and pushes interactive drama to a new level

Quantic Dream – it’s an organization that has brought more than just an essential grain to game, particularly the PlayStation 3.

While the rest of the world looks to improve the textures, the lighting and the shaders with sometimes spellbinding technological enhancements, Quantic Dreams tries to bring something raw in their games, something so raw that every human can be conveyed full detail without the necessity of words and textures.

It’s a trait known in movies and quality actors – they mesmerize you with their performances, and deliver emotions that you call the core of yourself not through words, but through basic body language, expressions and the subtleties that make us human.

We saw their take on interactive drama with Heavy Rain, which rightfully earned a place in the hall of fame of games because of the technology present in it. However, that isn’t to say that it was perfect, of course.

The game felt more like a video-filled thriller, often lacking the quality that would otherwise be present in a good casted drama or movie. However, it was definitely an achievement simply, because the path to achieving it was that of a lone-wolf.

Quantic Dream has been quite alone in its attempt to bring adult drama and detailed emotional realism in the world of gaming. Of course, they aren’t the first to have used motion capture for the purpose, but they are definitely the only ones who have attempted to advance it to a level never seen before.

Learning from the short comings of an otherwise brilliant project, Quantic Dream has taken the core concept of presentation used in Heavy Rain and advanced it in a manner that really cannot be explained but can only be seen:

For those who actually watched the 7 minutes and two seconds of what I called absolute delight, the above video is fully rendered on the PlayStation 3.

Called Kara, this is a representation of what David Cage (CEO and founder of Quantic Dream) is working on – new ways to convey life-like emotions through quality interactive adult drama in games.

It’s not all David Cage though; the major disadvantage of motion capture technology in games is that it requires high-caliber actors. Lucky for Cage that he found Valorie Curry, a former regular actress in Veronica Mars and recently in Breaking Dawn of the Twilight saga.

Even a casual viewer would be able to observe the quality of the expressions and Curry’s talent as a convincing actress.

From the start of the video, where she is nothing but a motionless android, to the end where she stands beside her other ‘colleagues’ with the subtle ray of hope and expression of gratitude, Curry delivers all the emotions successfully, at times depicting childlike wonder, while other times showing immense fear.

It’s all very convincing, to an extent that one can easily forget the technological brilliance and instead become absorbed in the more abstract aspect of the presentation. Heavy Rain was shot using 28 cameras. Kara, on the other hand, was shot using a total of 65 cameras.

The improvement of the studio may seem like one step out of many to attain so much advancement, but in reality, it is the main step. Now Cage’s team has the ability to shoot multiple actors at once, and (if required) even shoot a single actor with these many cameras for better motion coverage.

Previously Cage had used himself as an actor as in the case with their game Fahrenheit, in which he was Lucas Cane. However, due to the quality they were trying to make Heavy Rain of, the developer decided to hire professional actors to do the job. Same is the case with Kara.

Curry herself was selected out of 100 or so hopefuls, and judging from the performance it is quite obvious that the team has an eye for finding good talent.

However, it isn’t just the acting that is brilliant – they script itself has volumes to speak. Though it isn’t entirely a new idea – seeing an accidental self-aware and conscious artificial intelligence that is relieved from annihilation assuming pity, it is definitely an idea that has been amplified to a proportion never before seen in the gaming world.

The brilliant collaboration of witty script writing and the quality talent required to execute it successfully is what really makes this a fantastic presentation, and perhaps even a basis for Quantic Dream’s next game.

If that is the case, then we are certainly in for a treat, as the fantastical is perhaps much more suited to the base objective of what is trying to be achieved: wonder, joy, fear – all emotions that define humanity, in contrast to Heavy Rain, which was more misery-driven.

We’re really hoping to see this concept develop into something big – not just the technology, but the entire work behind making Kara.

In fact, I doubt few would disagree that Kara has the potential to bloom into a full game with the same setup, same storyline and more importantly an equally talented cast. If it is actually done, then we can surely expect a fantastic and impacting adult story-driven game to come out soon.

Haider is a freelance contributor, who loves video games, playing guitar, and aviation. He is a competitive FPS player and also enjoys exotic RPG games like Diablo and Xenogears (his favorite game of all time) ...