In 2006 French game design artiste David Cage stunned the world with a demo called The Casting, the tech of which would become Heavy Rain. Today, at GDC 2012, he repeated that trick with Kara. Prepare your PS3 for an emotional rollercoaster...
"We're kind of happy with how Heavy Rain worked" explained Cage today at GDC. "But what can we do from a technical point of view to make it even better?"
Kara is a demonstration taken directly from a real-time PS3 takes in Avatar-style Full Performance Capture instead of the separately recorded facial and body movements behind the "Jason! Jason!"s of Heavy Rain. It features a clone of a living actress fed directly into Quantic Dream's latest engine - with dark technical arts like dynamic wounds, facial hair, tears, sweat and blood instantly added as an overlay.
Kara is the tale of a female android being constructed, and you watch her production line birth in a fashion that evokes both Will Smith's I, Robot and the Star Trek Borg queen. The visuals are, quite simply, incredible - her beating blue heart, her white Apple-esque features becoming flesh and the car plant robots around her lasering on new limbs.
What makes the tech demo brilliant, however, is the way Kara slowly becomes more human and more alive as the script plays out. At the beginning she reels out her role like an automaton - the 300 languages she speaks, her model number... the fact she cooks, cleans and is available to her owner as a sexual partner.
Later on, however, she delightedly takes her first steps like a ballet dancer, and becomes ever more distressed when she realises she's little more than a commodity: "I thought I was alive" she stutters. Then, well we won't spoil the demo's ending - but there are amazingly rendered tears alongside strong moments of sudden side-boob.
Cage went to great pains to underline the fact that Kara was not connected to their next game project, but the return to their first full sci-fi setting since Omicron: The Nomad Soul will raise eyebrows. It's, quite simply, an amazing example of where game narrative will one day go. Seeing as this tech demo is already a whole year old, one would hope Cage's next outing on PS3 won't be far away...
CVG will be meeting with Cage straight after his GDC presentation, so stay tuned for insight and reaction from the man himself.