QD Reacts – Beyond: Two Souls 7th Anniversary
Do you remember what you were doing exactly 7 years ago to the day? At Quantic Dream, we remember it as if it was yesterday, since we were celebrating the birth of Beyond: Two Souls, which monopolized nearly 140 people, over the course of 3 years and a half! A project that is still deep to the hearts of the different teams that took part in this beautiful story. So, let’s look in the rear-view mirror, shall we, with Ronan, Maxime and Angeline, three veterans of the studio.
What was your job on Beyond: Two Souls?
Ronan Marchalot – 3D Engine Director
I was Lead 3D Engine Programmer; I led the team in charge of display, loading, performance, image processing, lighting, particles…
Maxime Brochen – Lead Cinematic Artist
Beyond is probably the project I’ve been most involved with. I started as a Cinematic Artist, and as time went by, I got several new tasks: I worked on the casting, I did some props on the Motion Capture set, I even directed a few scenes, while still being a Cinematic Artist. But Beyond: Two Souls is above all the project on which I became Lead Cinematic Artist. So, I’ve evolved quite a bit!
Angeline Liot – Lead Animation
I joined Quantic Dream to work on Beyond Two Souls as a 3D animator for Motion Capture post-animation. A few months later, I was promoted to Associate Lead Animation Body. Management tasks were added, managing teamwork, communication with other departments.
What does Beyond: Two Souls mean to you?
It was a bit of a time of maturity for me. I already had this position on Heavy Rain, but I was lucky enough to be able to work with a more experienced team, a “dream team”. I was also able to make more relevant technical choices. We achieved an incredible technical mastery of the PlayStation 3, more so because the machine was very powerful, but this power was difficult to deal with.
For me, Beyond is the way into adulthood, professionally speaking: the development of complicated gameplay (Aiden, infiltration…), the intense shooting days, the meeting with incredible actors: Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe of course, but also the stunt team, especially Émilie Ricard, who deserves to be praised for her exceptional work. And then my work as a cinematic artist, managing a talented and dedicated team. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve had successes. So many experiences that helped me understand what it’s really like to make a video game.
The first game I was able to work on from start to finish. To be able to see the game evolve over time until its delivery is a great experience. Learning from all the steps of the manufacturing process by communicating with the different departments is hyper enriching.
Do you remember the first time you heard about the project?
The subject immediately struck me as deep and original; there are still not many games that deal with a subject as sensitive as death! I think that the game was originally intended to be more “action/adventure oriented, though.
When Heavy Rain came out, many projects were considered next. Then one day, while we were having a drink with the Cinematic Artist team, Steve Kniebhily, who was leading the team back then, said “we have greenlighted our new project by the way. Max, you’re going to like it!” And indeed, a ghost story was perfect for me, who had done quite a bit of academic work on paranormal and its relationship to cinema.
My first day at Quantic Dream, December 5, 2011. When I arrived, I had to read the whole Game Design. A project completely different from what I had been able to do before, both in the type of game and in the amount of impressive animations to produce. By the way, it wasn’t called Beyond Two Souls to begin with!
What’s your favorite scene?
The one used in the E3 demo: the chase in the train, then in the forest, and finally the village, where Jodie is caught by Special Forces. We’ve reached a level of technical quality that’s hard to believe on PlayStation 3, and the Art Team did a great job. And then the pace of this sequence is just breathtaking. It kicks ass!
I think it’s “The Condenser”, where Jodie as a teenager is going to close the rift to Aiden’s world. On the one hand because I’ve directed many cinematic scenes on it, including the final chase, which was a real technical challenge, and on the other hand because it comes closest to my cinematic tastes, being a fan of horror films.
Homeless is the first scene that comes to mind. It was graphically pretty and very engaging. There were so many characters to animate!
7 years isn’t that long ago, but in the video game industry it’s an eternity; what has changed since then?
Well, we’re almost two generations of consoles since the PS3, it’s a huge technological leap. Games are so different from what they used to be!
Since then, our Tools Team has given us a fantastic software, PopCorn, which allows us to make cinematics way easily… Our approach to camera systems too, made possible by a new software called Cyclops, which has finally streamlined the production process. On Beyond, we did the camera system with the Gameplay Team: Caroline Marchal, Simon Wasselin and Gregorie Diaconu. We drew on the basics of film making to retain only the rules that would allow us to make a game that is both beautiful and enjoyable. From a theoretical point of view, it’s exciting. Finally, the organization of Motion Capture shootings has evolved enormously. We’ve spent many hours with each department to develop documents that allow us to prepare the shots efficiently and ensure that the decisions made on the shoot are properly conveyed.
7 years anyway! Since then, I’ve moved on to Lead Animation Body. Our in-house tools have evolved a lot to automate and simplify so many tasks and then there was the switch to PS4 and Detroit and that’s no small feat!
Looking back, what is the thing you are most proud of?
It’s the technology as a whole: the use of the console at 100% of its capacity, the visual quality, and also the right balance between technology and the quality of the content developed by the graphic designers, because without them, technology is nothing. And a special mention for Aiden’s ghostly vision, where we achieved to match what David had imagined.
I would say the camera system, because it was one of the aspects I oversaw alone. We had to find a compromise between cinema and video games, aesthetics and playability. With Bertrand Faure, from Game Logic, we spent many hours thinking about how the software would allow us to think about increasingly complex rules for camera sequences. The result is a success, in my opinion.
To have finished a game and with a beautiful quality of animations and a rendering at the top for the PS3.
If you had to sum up the whole experience in a few words, from your point of view, what would you say?
The feeling of having worked on a unique and technologically very accomplished game.
Beyond meant growing up with Jodie: making choices and taking responsibility for the consequences.
The dedication of an entire team to bring out a game of this quality and the knowledge I have acquired on the production of a video game.
Thank you and congratulations again for all these achievements! If you want to (re)discover Beyond: Two Souls, it’s available on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, in retail version or via the PlayStation Store, and on PC through Steam, Epic Games Store or our Eshop. And of course, don’t hesitate to share your own Beyond experience on our social networks!