3 Act Structure: Heavy Rain
Also submitted to VFS GD25 Storytelling Class
This paper is an analysis of a 3 Act Structure based within the game Heavy Rain (PS3). The analysis was written considering Ethan’s original plot in the game. This paper was also used as one of the Storytelling Class Assignments at Vancouver Film School – Game Design Program 2012.
How far WOULD YOU go to save someone you love? In Heavy Rain you see yourself in control of four different stories that try to answer this question. (Compelling Theme) Four characters, with different lives and motivations, each with their own strengths and weaknesses that somehow end up together in a central plot: The Origami Killer. The Origami is a serial killer who is kidnapping and drowning little boys, leaving an origami figure on their dead bodies.
- Ethan Mars, protagonist of this whole story, is a father, architect, married and has two children. His life could be seen as a trouble-free life, until an incident happens and he witness the death of one of his sons;
- Madison Paige is a photojournalist who recently also attracted to the cases of the Origami Killer to get more information for your story. She suffers from insomnia, which causes it to her spend your nights in motels;
- Norman Jayden is an FBI agent who ends up being scheduled to investigate the case of the Origami Killer. Early on we can see that his “problem” is the main dependence on a drug known as Triptocaine;
- Scott Shelby is a private detective who investigates crimes committed by Origami Killer. Like all the other characters, Shelby also has a physical problem, which in his case is asthma.
Some months after Ethan lost his first son in a car accident (Quiet Character Moments), his second son – Shaun – disappears when both are playing in a park. (Reversal) Ethan spaces out and when night time comes he recovers his senses and returns to the park to search for his son. Trying to find him in any place, Ethan returns to his house and searches for Shaun in his bedroom, but the boy really disappeared. He finally starts to question if his son was kidnapped by the Origami Killer.
After Shaun be kidnapped by the Origami Killer, Ethan leaves his normal everyday and decides to follow his quest in search for his son, trying to succeed in time, before Shaun dies.
The second act does not really begin until Shaun goes missing. Because of Shaun’s kidnapping, the story develops through a series of complications and obstacles. Ethan embarks on his rescuing journey and goes through five different obstacles that the player can choose (Tough Choices) if they want to follow the Origami Killer rules exactly, or trying to solve it in a different way. In parallel with Ethan’s conflicts, the other characters are solving their own obstacles (A Balanced Cast) while searching for more clues. Madison has her encounter with Ethan and begins to help him on his journey.
When everything seems very bad in Ethan’s life, the midpoint sequence starts with the police suspecting that Ethan is the Origami Killer, because of his psychological condition. After that, the rest of the game is remarkably more difficult (Major Sequence of Action) considering that the cops keeps trying to arrest Ethan during all his rescuing journey.
Second turning point
Ethan needs to follow your last choice, deciding if he will drink the poison – which will leave him with only one hour of life – that the Origami Killer offers to him, in exchange for revealing where his son is hidden. (Set Up/Pay Offs & Convincing and Empathetic Antagonist). A quick background story of the Origami Killer is presented.
Is revealed to the players that Detective Scott Shelby is the Origami Killer. Depending of player’s choice in other moments of the game, Ethan will finally reach the place where his son is held. If Ethan died before this, or didn’t find all clues about his son’s location, Norman or/and Madison will confront the Origami Killer.
A Crisis Decision
Ethan is confronted by the Origami Killer and needs to decide whether to follow him to not let him get away, or whether to save his son who is trapped in a well that is filling with water.
The game ends with an epilogue showing the scene of Ethan moving into a new apartment with his son. Ethan asks if Shaun is satisfied with the new house and Shaun says: “It doesn’t matter where we live, as long as we’re together.” If the other characters in the game have survived to the end, their story are also presented in a positive or negative way, according to choices that the player made during the game.
[button type=”icon” icon=”paper”]Written by Matheus Pitillo.[/button]