Inciting A (Human) Revolution: The Deus Ex Interview
July 26, 2010 Page 3 of 3
You said you've spent a lot of time with the first two games. How do you compare them to one another? As you know, Invisible War has a certain reputation among some players. But as someone who's looking at them from a developer's eye to figure out what works and doesn't work, what conclusions did you reach?
JFD: The first thing I would say is the immersiveness, if that's a word. The immersion of [the first] game was really strong. You were this special agent, you worked for a governmental organization, and the world was really well set. It let you play the way you wanted; you felt very creative in the way you were solving problems. At the time, it really stuck me -- "Whoa, this is amazing." That's one of the biggest, strongest aspects of the first game.
The second game, even though a lot of people say it's not good, actually is not bad. I think it's a really good game. I mean, they toned down some things.
They did a lot of things differently that some people didn't appreciate, but when you look at, for instance, the level design -- with all the multiple paths and multiple solutions -- those aspects were more consistent in Invisible War than in Deus Ex.
Deus Ex was really open in the first few maps, and then it started to become more and more linear with [fewer] options, while Invisible War did a better job at staying consistent throughout.
David Anfossi: Personally I prefer the story in the second one, but one point for me is that they lost something when they decided to remove the strong character. You know you're J.C. Denton in the first one, and you can pass through the story's conspiracy with a very strong character, but you don't have that in the second one. For me, that was bad. But in terms of actual story, it was very strong.
On that note, how do you approach story in this game? It's often difficult to convincingly marry narrative and gameplay, especially as gameplay gets more open-ended.
JFD: Huge headache! [laughs] But seriously, we have a process where we build the story beats. Obviously, we start with the game design -- what mechanics we want to have, what the players' possibilities are. Then we build the story, the eye-level story, and we split it in two story beats. At some point, we may have seven story beats, and then we ask the question: What is the player going to need to do to get to that point? Then we build the smaller stories within the main story as we go through.
We have a system -- we're calling it the blueprint -- where we separate the idea of "What are we trying to say here?" and "What is our objective?" That's not necessarily an in-game objective, maybe it's just what we want the player to experience. We refine that and eventually say, "Okay, the player should retrieve this thing." Okay, how should he retrieve that? Who's going to face them? We just refine it. We have massive Excel spreadsheets that tie in what gameplay you'll do and the story elements you need to cover.
It helps us to tie those together, because the thing we don't want is a story that'll ruin the gameplay. We want players to experience them as a whole. Obviously, if a guy spends an hour playing with a box and just trying to just jump over a thing, there's no story there. I mean, there's the story of a guy struggling in a corner. [laughs] But that's pretty much it, and we can't help it.
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