It turns out we took the bait.
“[Detroit: Being Human’s] script is about 2,000 pages,” David Cage said in an interview with Geoff Keighley at E3 2017, which we reported on. “It’s big. Its a big process. Everything is locked down, and once it’s locked down, there’s little room for change.”
That’s an awful lot of pages, right? 2,000 pages has to be a pretty big script for a game, and it’s the sort of big, round number that looks and sounds good in a headline.
Who can sit down and write 2,000 pages worth of script for a game? David Cage can, and he’s obviously very proud of that fact. Proud enough that it comes up in interviews about the game.
But there’s a slight detail we missed.
Polygon: “David Cage is trying to outdo past narrative efforts…’the script is about 2000 pages”
Where have we heard this before? pic.twitter.com/XsE7emSRgu
David Cage writes a lot of games that feature long scripts, it turns out.
“[Cage] wrote the 2,000-page, non-linear script that prescribes not only the game’s characters, locations and scenarios, but also its gameplay mechanics, over a period of 15 months, preferring the help of Hollywood script-doctors to established game developers,” Eurogamer reported about Heavy Rain.
The script for Beyond: Two Souls was also reportedly over 2,000 pages, a detail that was widely publicized. Sony even sent out mock scripts to show just how big a document that would be if printed out.
For reference, Hollywood scripts break down to — and this is a very rough estimate — about a minute of screen time per page. This is a possibly questionable list of the longest game scripts broken down by number of lines and the English word count, and Heavy Rain is right in the middle. It’s not short, but it’s not so long as to be that impressive.
Page number itself is a pretty meaningless way to measure the size of a game anyway, even past the obvious questions about font size and formatting. A longer adventure game isn’t necessarily better, nor does it indicate a higher number of choices on its own. Verbosity by itself isn’t an indicator of anything other than whether the writer enjoys listening to themselves speak.
The only value that number has is that it’s nice and round and sounds impressive with context removed. We’re not the only outlet to have turned that number into a headline, which is likely why David Cage continues to use it. It’s awfully convenient that every game script he writes ends up over 2,000 pages, isn’t it?
You’d think those Beyond scripts sent out by Sony to promote the length of the game would at least give us insight into what they mean by “page,” but alas it’s just a stack of paper. The pages themselves are blank.