MANILA -- The PlayStation 3 was a technical marvel when it launched back in 2006. One of its jaw-dropping features was the so-called Emotion Engine which was able to render human faces and emotion in real time upping the ante for a new generation of game designers.
To show this off, French video game developer Quantic Dream created “Kara,” a short tech demo for its then-upcoming game “Beyond: Two Souls” telling the story of a female android gaining sentience while being assembled in a factory.
Years later, Quantic Dream finally comes full circle to continue Kara’s story in “Detroit: Become Human.”
“We never planned for it to become a full game. But after we released that demo, there was a lot of feedback about what happened to Kara after she left the factory,” said Guillaume De Fondaumiere, co-chief executive officer of Quantic Dream and executive producer of “Detroit: Become Human” who was in Manila to brief the Southeast Asian tech and gaming media on its upcoming release.
Kara is but one of three protaganists in the game. Besides her, there is Connor, a top-of-the-line police model specifically made to investigate rogue androids; and Markus, a domestic model who finds himself on the forefront of the android uprising. A big part of "Detroit: Become Human" is their breaking free of their programming, finding sentience, and in a sense, becoming human.
In a setting where there is global unemployment due to the prevalence of android slave labor, the themes of violence and discrimination tackled in the game are decidedly adult and mature. De Foundamiere said Quantic Dream made a conscious decision to include these in the game.
“We’re touching upon social themes. It’s a challenge because a lot of people believe that video games should be fun and shouldn’t touch around these kind of things. We believe very strongly that gamers today are ready for it. Gamers are prepared for it and confronted by such questions when they read books, when they watch movies, why wouldn’t they be confronted with such questions in a video game,” he said.
After spending a couple of hours with the game, "Detroit: Become Human" is certainly a beautiful game leveraging on the technology of current-gen consoles. This is motion-capture animation in all its glory having the most realistic virtual humans to date. Characters have pores on their skin and vibrant eyes that show life and emotion.
"Detroit" is alive showing a city populated with humans and androids. Quantic Dream does an excellent job of setting a near-future world grounded in present architecture and designs. The result is a believable immersive time and place for their story in. It’s not exactly a sci-fi setting but a timeline of anticipation.
While Quantic Dream games are sometimes branded as glorified “choose-your-own-adventure” games, one can think of these games as evolved forms of storytelling. In “Detroit: Become Human” particularly, Quantic Dreams has branching storylines where users can zoom in on one particular choice and continue from there.
Foundamiere said that will take 10-12 hours for one complete run-through, adding 25-30 hours to go through the thousands of story variations. Whereas in the past, a missed button press in a Quicktime event would result in a game over screen, in this case, it leads the player into a separate branch. At the end of every chapter, players are shown a “story tree.” It’s a “if-this-then-that” that shows possible story permutations that could have happened besides the one that actually played through.
The “Detroit:Become Human” experience is slower, more deliberate, and more focused on storytelling as opposed to the action-packed jumping, shooting, run-and-gun gameplay of PUBG, and Fortnite.
“We are creating games today for a mature audience. The time has come for our medium to offer these types of experiences. Not only about shooting and jumping but also about thinking,” De Fondaumiere said.
Quantic Dreams’ “Detroit: Become Human” drops into your favorite game retailer on May 25. The standard edition has an SRP of P2,799, while the collector’s edition has an SRP of P3,199.