For most developers, creating a game is a constant struggle between the design-based decisions of the creative team and the marketing-based decisions of the business team. Not at Quantic Dream, where David Cage's role as both CEO and lead designer means that "game design guides everything" at the company. So when Cage says "the game designer decided this, and I fully agree with it," he's actually referring to himself both times, as he pointed out at a talk at GDC Europe this week.
Cage said developing a game like Heavy Rain
just wouldn't work in a more democratic development environment, where everyone on the team has equal power and the majority rules on major decisions. "When you want a strong vision, you need a vision holder, you need someone who has the final cut," Cage said.
But while Cage admits to being a dictator over his development team, he calls his leadership style a "benevolent dictatorship," where anyone can try to sell good ideas. "I have to be honest and make sure there's no ego involved, that just because it's my idea it's a better idea," he said. "The people around me are not fanboys, they are really critical of what I'm doing and how I'm doing it, and I'm really thankful for that."
Being the sole "vision holder" at Quantic Dream also allows Cage to use his name as a "brand" for the game's marketing, a decision he insists was not a matter of ego. "Believe it or not, I have no pleasure in this," Cage said. Instead, he said the personal branding was an attempt to give his team creative freedom in the future. "Usually, the brand is the name of game, and marketing people come to you and tell you to make a sequel, because the game is the brand," Cage said. "Using my name as a brand, I don't need to make Heavy Rain 2
, because people might know my name and they might want the next game by David Cage."
Cage thinks the rest of the game industry will eventually resemble Quantic Dream in this way, mimicking the movie and music industries, where consumers are attached to creators rather than marketing companies. "No one goes out to buy a song by Sony Music," he pointed out.