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It's interesting to hear that you recognize a distinction between a creative vision and a big ego. Certainly with this game, it has a unique look and a unique take on the aesthetic; it's a strong aesthetic vision.
SD: This is a very interesting question because I spoke to my art director. We went for lunch, and he said, "Stéphane, I hope that you realize Deus Ex has a soul." He says, "I hope that consumers will see that it's a labor of love of a whole team, and it's not necessarily a vision that I had two years ago with the art direction", let's say for example.
He really hit an interesting point because it's true that I hope people will sense that it's a labor of love of the whole team, and it's not a one-man show. Somebody can have great ideas, great direction, and a great vision, but to make this reality, it's a team push, a team effort, and that makes the difference between an excellent game and an average game.
To what extent are you able to push the idea? It has to go on the screen. You need to have your consumers be able to play with it. So, the ideas are very often good at the start. It's how it ends.
I think that having a creative vision pushes that soul. You can have a game that's created very competently, that hits all the notes in terms of what it has to have, but if there's not a vision there, it's just lacking.
SD: Exactly. For some people, it's "tick the boxes". You could have a whole column of tick boxes, but if the game is without a soul or without an interest... We cannot fall into the trap of saying, "This is... tick!" It doesn't work like that. It's the ingredients, it's the recipe, it's how you bake it, and it's how it comes out of the oven that really makes it work.
It can be easy to lose sight of the creative goal, given the pressure to create. When you talk about deliverables and schedules and features and map building. It can be a repetitive, complicated process to boil it all down and stay consistent. How does the team approach that?
SD: Again, as I mentioned, the producer has the power to take decisions that affect the whole project because even though the art director or anybody else in this case has a great idea, it has to be feasible. And if we just throw ideas in a bucket hoping that everything will be okay, it doesn't work like that. So, I guess the producer definitely has the accountability to make the scope, the budget, and the time. This is the oldest triangle of project management. Time, money, and scope. That it's well balanced. So, you need to work on that balance.
When you knew you were going to be working on this IP, did you give it a lot of time to bubble up and have a long pre-production process before you made any decisions about how exactly you were going to tackle it?
SD: Yes. Well, at Eidos, prior to the Square Enix acquisition, we had a greenlight meeting process. So, different publishers call it different names, but basically it's when everybody gets around the table -- is it green or yellow or redlighted -- and so we followed this process.
And yes, we have a healthy period for concept because the guys took the time... Before throwing ideas on the table, they replayed, replayed, re-replayed the games, the first two, and all the references games that are not Deus Ex, to really do a good background check. And afterwards, they built up. So, it was a very healthy concept phase period.
And we have a deliverable that we need to show to executives, and afterwards, the decision continues. So, we took our time because when a tree starts to grow crooked, it's going to be hell to put it back straight. So, concept is this. Your tree needs to be as straight as possible.