First seen at Game Developer’s Conference, Datura is a unique PlayStation Network project from Sony Computer Entertainment Santa Monica and Plastic, the Polish demogroup behind Linger in Shadows. After I got a taste of Datura, Michal Staniszewski, Director, stopped to chat about creating the Myst-like adventure game.
Datura starts in an ambulance where you are ripping off EKG sensors, pulling off a sheet, and the character gets a shot of adrenaline. What can you tell us about the game’s dramatic opening?
Michal Staniszewski, Director: I wanted to show something like what happens after death, and you don’t know if the main character, which is you, is dead or not, or if it’s a dream or not. You will discover that later on in the game. But, in the beginning, we wanted you to feel like you’ve died and what happens after that.
People around the world have different beliefs regarding this. What I wanted to do is show that there’s no Hell or Heaven, but there is some kind of test that happens after Earth. Someone or something tests you and based on what you do on your tests, you get the final truth.
When you leave the ambulance you’re suddenly in a forest. I get a feeling that the character is supposed to be kind of lost. Is that the feeling you’re going for?
Yes, it’s like the quotation you saw in the beginning from Dante. When in the middle of your life, you drop from the role that you were working and you find yourself in a very dark forest. That quotation was in the first scene. The forest is something you need to get lost in. I saw you were playing a little bit. It’s not linear, so you can really get a bit lost in the beginning. But afterwards, it’s like visiting a new park. [Laughs]
Going back to Datura, you mentioned how people have different beliefs about what happens after you die, and that this is a test. Are there are multiple endings?
Yes. This is not a typical multiple endings approach because we didn’t want to kill ourselves. There are like four people on the team. There are ten different endings or maybe more. I don’t want to give a specific number, you will need to see it. It’s not a typical branching of the ending. It’s a little different from that. You’ll be surprised in the end, especially if you have PS Move or PlayStation Eye.
What do the white trees in the forest symbolize? The game mentions you can touch them to gain knowledge?
The white trees are like birch trees. We wanted to have something differs from all the other trees. Actually, this is gameplay that we added for regular gamers, so they have a map to walk around in with additional stuff to discover.
How do you feel about adding those things for people to find?
Well, actually it’s a lot of additional work. [Laughs] In the future I would like to make a game that has completely no puzzles, so nothing to discover. Just like a journey –an experience. It’s something I would like to explore.
How much of the original journey would you say you were able to implement in Datura compared to the gameplay mechanics you had to add?
We had to start with the hand and that took two-and-a-half years. One-and-a-half years was the whole hand. Not just the wrist floating around floating around like from The Addams Family. It was the whole hand and it was causing so many troubles. You could hold the controller like this or this. [Gestures different ways players could hold the PlayStation Move.] If you could add a second Move controller and a third Move controller], then you could have a complete arm, but without it, it was causing so many problems. Also, when there were places to reach out, the hand was very troublesome because you couldn’t do it. It was very hard.
You couldn’t do it because you’d be blocked by your forearm.
Yeah. In the very beginning, we had some kind of character. When we cut out the hand, the first feeling that I had was, “Wow, it’s my hand.” It’s not some kind of character we needed to write a story about. It’s your hand. There’s no story, just your story.