Back in March, we had our first glimpse at Heavy Rain developer Quantic Dream's new "performance capture" technology — one that, unlike many current methods, lets you capture facial, voice, and body animations simultaneously. "Kara," as the tech demo was called, was an impressive and emotionally-engaging leap forward from Heavy Rain. But it wasn't until this week at E3 that we saw the fruits of this technological labor in Beyond: Two Souls, the next full Quantic Dream game for PlayStation 3 starring a stunningly lifelike representation of Ellen Page. And the results are impressive.
Speaking at a presentation of Beyond: Two Souls in action, QD founder David Cage explained how Page became involved in the game — before even she knew it. "When I started writing the script," he said, "usually what I'm doing is I get a picture of existing actors without necessarily having them in mind to have them in the game. It's just to help me having a face to look at their eyes and say, "I know how he's going to react in that situation." It helps me. And the first pictures I got for Beyond were of Ellen Page."
When you manage to cast David Bowie in your career, you say "okay, I can get anyone."
Cage wrote Beyond: Two Souls for a year, and when finished, he sent the script to Page's agent. He credits his luck with David Bowie in Omikron, the first Quantic Dream title, in having the moxie to try and cast his muse, so to speak — "when you've done that in your career, you say, 'okay, I can get anyone.'"
Along with the script, Cage included a warning. "We were brutally honest. We told her, 'this is not gonna be voices in a sound booth. This is going to be very long shooting similar to a movie. This is going to be very physical. It will require you to learn by heart hundreds of pages of dialog because the script is big. It's like four movies or something. And this is going to be really exhausting.'" As Cage explains, the two met at a bar a week prior to E3 2011 — just around 12 months ago — to talk for an hour and finalize the casting.
(L to R): actor David Gasman as himself, as Paco Mendez in Heavy Rain, and as Lt. Sherman in Beyond: Two Souls
Cage credits much of the performance to Quantic Dream's new capture technology. He called the previous "split performance" of recording voice and facial animation separate from the body animation — something we explored in an extensive uncanny valley piece from last year — as a problem that affected Heavy Rain. Now, however, he can record 360 degrees with at least six or seven actors at once.
"It's like acting on stage with a partner in front of you," he said. "And you can move around and you can touch things. You can interact with the environment, you can interact with your partner. You don't have to bother about the technology so much, you just capture the moment."
Wait! There's more! Check out Polygon's extensive Beyond: Two Souls preview