QD REACTS – DETROIT: BECOME HUMAN 3RD ANNIVERSARY
Friday, May 25, 2018: the worldwide release of Detroit: Become Human marked the end of 5 years of work for our development teams, who have once again pushed the boundaries of what was thought to be achievable at the time, following the great milestones of Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls. The intertwined stories of Kara, Markus, Connor, and all the androids in Quantic Dream’s world are still a cornerstone for our studio today. For the third anniversary, we’re looking back at this unique adventure, with some of the people who made it possible.
What was your job on Detroit: Become Human?
Marlène Richier – Producer
I joined Quantic Dream in September 2015 as Production Coordinator attached to the R&D department to follow up the developer teams. Soon, I also followed the Non-Playable Characters (NPC) team, in charge of designing and implementing the skin of the game’s scenes that feature NPCs. In 2017, I took on the role of Scene Producer, to follow up on certain chapters of the game, in collaboration with all the teams.
Grégorie Diaconu – Associate Game Director
I started the project as a Senior Game Designer. At that time, I mainly worked on the development of the gameplay and story pillars of the game. During the project, I moved on to the position of Associate Game Director, where I had the pleasure of working with David Cage on the creative direction of the project. A dream come true, I’m not going to lie to you!
Sébastien André – Lead Set
I was Lead Environment; I managed the team that oversaw the creation of all the sets and props for the game.
Benjamin Diebling – Shooting Director
After Beyond: Two Souls, I went to Australia to study writing; the first day I got back to Quantic Dream, the producer shooting said to me: “Remember the short movie Kara? We’re making a game out of it. Here’s the first scene we’re shooting.” I found on my desk a scene to read with this title:
« Detroit: Become Human
01C: THE HOSTAGE »
So, I started as a first assistant director and casting director, and after a few months I became a director; it was an incredible opportunity because I was quite young (27 years old), David Cage gave me my chance on a shoot – the scene when the protesters push Markus in Shades of Color – and that was the beginning of great memories 😉
What were the biggest challenges you faced during development?
Marlène : Clearly it was the set-up and implementation of the endgame, the moment when the characters start to cross paths and everything comes together, piece by piece. Coordinating this was a huge challenge: first communicating and sharing the creative vision for these scenes, then making sure that the sequences were right for the dozens, if not hundreds, of possibilities, and finally fine-tuning the quality while optimising the performance.
Grégory : Both in the writing phase of the game and during development, a big challenge was to ensure that there was no “right” or “wrong” version of the game, but that each player had their own story, as valid as any other. I could spend days replaying each scene, testing the most unlikely paths each time, trying to spot any detail that might take the player out of the experience. Or on the contrary, identifying what, with a little work, could create a memorable moment!
Sébastien : The diversity of the environments; Detroit is more than 120 environments and 2700 set pieces that had to be created, assembled, and refined throughout the production. The difficulty was to preserve the spirit of the city of Detroit, its past, its strong history, but also to infuse it with enough modernity to project itself into 2038.
Benjamin : Without a doubt, the number of animations we had to shoot. We have a very fast pace when shooting and despite this pace, it took us about 380 days to shoot everything. That’s a very long time. Now that it’s finished, we know it’s possible, but when you’re in the middle of the production of the game, the prospect of all that remains to be done is quite intimidating; you must hang on to stay motivated and keep your team’s momentum going!
What’s your favourite scene?
Marlène : I have a particular affection for Freedom March. I started overseeing it when I was still attached to the NPC team, and there are a lot of NPCs in this scene! We worked on the android mob system that follows Markus, it was very interesting and challenging to witness the improvements that were made to make this mob look as natural as possible.
Grégory : Crossroads is in my opinion a real achievement, because of the emotional turning point it means for the three main characters, the incredible number of narrative branches, the intensity of the action, the technical prowess of having an uninterrupted flow between the characters… I also like The Bridge, with only two characters talking on a bench. That works too.
Sébastien : Wow, it’s hard to be objective, each scene being quite different from the others! I must admit that Hostage was really a challenge both technically and artistically; it was the first time we had to set a visual benchmark, for the presentation at E3 in Los Angeles, which had to make everyone agree 😊. I’m very proud of that scene, because it marked the beginning of the development.
Benjamin : I love Partners for many reasons: beyond the fact that it features my two favourite characters and marks the beginning of their complex relationship, it was also my first challenge as a director to bring a scene to life through the NPCs. At the time we worked a lot with the other departments to create a unique atmosphere, in the spirit of the movie Se7en; I really like the result. In the same spirit I also love The Nest scene.
And your favourite character?
Marlène : Without a doubt, my favourite character is Connor, or more accurately the relationship that develops between Connor and Hank. It’s one of the great things about the game and having seen some of the footage from the Performance Capture shootings, it was obvious how well this duo worked together.
Grégory : Rose appears very little in the play, but in a few minutes manages to be deeply engaging and moving, and Dana Gourrier’s performance gives her a real humanity. I’m a fan.
Sébastien : If I had to choose, I think my choice would be Kara: she is both gentle and determined. And then the relationship she can develop with Luther and Alice is very strong.
Benjamin : If it’s among the playable characters, it’s Connor! I love thrills and thrillers, I also love role-playing games where the investigation is central, and Connor ticks all those boxes. I also have a real crush on Hank, maybe because he’s the character I feel closest to.
Three years later, what do you keep in mind from this adventure?
Marlène : First, I don’t feel like it’s been three years already, maybe because after its release on PlayStation 4, I continued working on the PC version of the game for two years. But what I realise today is the human adventure that it has been for me: working several years on the same project, with the same people, creates a very strong bond.
Grégory : That it’s a rare luxury in this industry to make exactly the game you want to make, and that was the case on Detroit. Behind every moment of the experience, there was the attention to detail that the entire team brought to it and I think that really comes through.
Sébastien : We made one of the most beautiful games on the PlayStation 4, and for an artist that’s really rewarding 😊. It’s been a really rewarding adventure, with the number of settings, the different environments from one scene to another, the complexity of the story and its twists and turns. The Sets team was top notch!
Benjamin : Meeting people and gaining experience. Working on Detroit has meant meeting and working with some incredible people and learning from them.
Do you have a little secret or a special memory you would like to share with the fans?
Marlène : The day they called all the employees on the set to have us shout lines out: slogans, various cheers, etc. So, if you think the crowd shouts have a French accent, you’ll know where it comes from! 😅 Finally, I’d like to invite fans to pay even more attention to all the NPCs; there was a lot of work done on them (I can attest to that!), they tell a lot about the universe.
Grégory : When we presented the game at E3, we were doing demos, some one-on-ones, some in front of whole crowds. Each demo was unique, each group of players made their own choices, but in every case the reaction was electric. There was something magical about walking around the showfloor and overhearing players comparing experiences. It was one of those moments when we started to realise that the game could be something special.
Sébastien : Seeing the actors performing the scenes in our motion capture studio is always very exciting. You can immediately see the potential of the scenes that you will have to rework afterwards, it makes you want to sublimate the sets even more 😉
Benjamin : The last day of shooting. The whole team went to celebrate, but I didn’t follow right away, I wanted to turn off the lights on the set; and I stayed a few minutes alone in this room, where I had just lived a great human and professional adventure. I shed a small tear of happiness when I thought of everything I had experienced here, and I joined my team with a smile on my face. This production has really taught me that you can get to the end of insurmountable things if you go step by step.