I absolutely loved Indigo Prophecy. While the game had several glaring problems that knocked its review score down, I found it a very refreshing change in terms of design and open-ended gameplay. The characters were interesting, the voice acting and relationships were believable (with some exceptions), and it felt like someone was trying very hard to make a game that appealed to adults instead of simply adding guns and sex and calling it "mature." This is mostly due to the efforts of director David Cage, the man who takes a look back at his work in this in-depth article on Gamasutra. He has something to say about making a game with such a clear vision.
For me it is fundamental to have the director embodying the vision of the project: it is extremely rare for a truly original game to be developed without the creative vision of one person (from Shadow of the Colossus by Fumito Ueda to Psychonauts by Tim Schafer or Killer 7 by Gouichi Suda, or also Metal Gear Solid by Hideo Kojima).
It's an interesting point, and while teams are getting bigger, the truly interesting games and ideas are coming from places where one person is in clear control. David Cage believes this "auteur" approach that gives one person clear-cut control is the only way to avoid losing your game in compromise after compromise.I was also intrigued in how the game was set up to allow for short playing sessions while still allowing forward movement. It feels very satisfying while playing, and allows you to advance the story without needing to make a long time commitment.
Each scene was structured as a mini film with a "hook" (to get the player immediately into the scene), two climaxes with increasing dramatic intensity and an epilogue.
We can see this structure in the very opening scene with Lucas in the Diner: the murder constitutes the hook, the climaxes are the waitress' call or the police officer standing up (depending on the player's actions), the scene concludes with Lucas' departure. The scene is a mini story in itself…The player could thus turn on the console to play for ten minutes and have a satisfying experience…
The entire article is incredibly interesting, and while the game made a lot of missteps I think it did much more right. It's worth picking up, especially since these days you can find it on the cheap pretty easily.