With Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Eidos Montreal faces a similar challenge to what Bethesda Game Studios had when developing Fallout 3. The team is developing a modern multiplatform follow-up to a classic hardcore PC-oriented franchise whose reputation has arguably greatly exceeded its original reach in the years since release -- and in an endlessly sequelized industry, gamers default to skepticism about such projects, whether or not they were part of the series' original fanbase.
So it's down to Eidos Montreal to instill their intended audience with the confidence that the studio can pick up where Ion Storm Austin left off with 2000's Deus Ex and, to a lesser extent, its 2003 sequel Deus Ex: Invisible War. The series is characterized by an extreme devotion to systems over scripting and player choice over hand-holding -- qualities that aren't always prized in an era of ballooning budgets and attempts to emulate Hollywood rollercoaster-ride action extravaganzas.
Earlier this year, Gamasutra spoke to Human Revolution's art director Jonathan Jacques Belletete about the game's unique cyberpunk-meets-Renaissance style.
Now, director Jean-Francois Dugas and producer David Anfossi discuss the unique challenges involved in returning to the world of Deus Ex, adjusting modern level design mentalities, and approaching narrative as part of a player-driven gameplay experience.
The original Deus Ex from Ion Storm was very much part of a lineage, a continuum of a particular kind of PC developer working within a particular design ethic. As a new team with a different legacy, how did you approach coming in and saying, "Okay, now we have to make today's version of that"?
Jean-Francois Dugas: When we started, basically we said, "You know what? We need to go back to the first two games and play them extensively and try to really analyze and identify what the core values were, what made those games so special." We did just that, and then after that, we started to work on our game.
One of the first mottos we had was to respect the core values of the story. For us, that was really, really important, so it drove forward all our design choices for Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Obviously, we see it as a reboot of the franchise, we see it kind of a new game, with a new character, a new story, and all that, set in the same universe with the timeline of Deus Ex.
But we really wanted to bring that great experience that Deus Ex was ten years ago to a new generation of gamers who might not know it at all, and I think that's what we're doing. We're trying to come back with the choice and consequence, the different gameplay pillars that allow players to play with a different style; they want to be Rambo, they want to be the sneaky agent, or they want to be the tech guy -- this is what we're doing.
It's interesting that you describe it as a "reboot," because it seems like a lot of the messaging so far has been to describe the game as more of a direct prequel.
JFD: We respect the timeline -- in the 2020s there were all the chemically augmented people and all of that, and that's the era we're exploring. Basically, our game is a new story. It's a conspiracy that you have to unravel. Of course, there are some similarities with the old Deus Ex games, and probably some tie-in. Well, more than "probably." [laughs]
Right. In the demo I saw, you have a guy named Tong, and presumably he's related in some way to Tracer Tong from the first game, so there must be some fairly direct connections.
JFD: With Tong, I don't want to speak about anything, but there's something about that character. I don't want to spoil anything at this point.