Mech, Tech And Montreal: Talking Deus Ex

With the game's director and producer
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Clash Click talks to the men behind the third game in the Deus Ex series, Human Revolution, director Jean-François Dugas and producer David Anfossi.

Due in the summer, Human Revolution is a prequel set in a turbulent 2027, a time dominated by unrest and technological advancement. Since seeing previews from the Tokyo Game Show, we’ve been itching for an interview with the development team at Eidos Montreal. Every iteration of the Deus Ex franchise to date has extended the possibilities and ambitions of the action adventure, blending the best qualities of the first person shooter with elements more common to roleplaying titles. What has truly distinguished the title however, and lead it to be regularly cited as one of the best games of all time, is a coupling of beautiful design with narrative complexity.

“You play as Adam Jensen,” explains Jean-François, “a private security specialist working for one of America’s most innovative biotechnology firms, you play a mechanically augmented character whose job is to safeguard company research, until the day everything changes. It’s about control of the marketplace, of valuable technologies, of society and, ultimately, human evolution.”

“We wanted this game to stand on its own, where you didn't need to be familiar with the other earlier titles to fully appreciate it and decided the best way to achieve this was to make a fresh start,” he adds. “The original timeline occurred in an era where mechanically augmented people started to flourish in society before nanoaugmentedpeople. The distinction lay in the fact that the nanoaugmentations were invisible while mechanical augmentations weren’t. We thought it would be interesting to explore this both from the gameplay perspective, in that players could see how their character evolved, as well as from an ethical and moral stance, where they could explore the benefits and dangers in a world where some people could afford to get augmented while others couldn’t, effectively increasing the social tension between the have and the have-nots.”

Though a few months from completion, the game looks incrediblewith the dense cityscapes of Detroit, Shanghai and Montreal casting neon light onto the shadowy themes of conspiracy, corporate espionage and technological change.

Goldtooth Creative and Japanese anime studio Visual Works were brought onboard to assist with the initial trailers. “They fully understood the ideas, themes and messages that are used in the game,” explains David. “That was a special moment, as it was the first time people outside the team were talking about our game with us. We had the best of both companies and, after the trailer, we continued working with Goldtooth because they knew the game so well, and they’ve since participated in the production of content for the game with the opening title, cut-scenes and ending movies.”

“The challenges lay in the fact that we needed to reinvent the world as we know it, keeping it cohesive and believable while trying to anticipate what the future might bring to us less than twenty years from now,” adds Jean-François. “Obviously, cyberpunk was influential, but our main inspiration came from the Renaissance because we saw a direct link with the era of transhumanism, in that both have offered the next big leap in human evolution. We started to analyze the Renaissance as a whole – from its fashion to its architecture - in order to try to find a way to create a rich visual style. Every location has its own palette and design aesthetics, where we hope navigating through the world constantly feels fresh. We revisit a couple of locations and, even there, we worked hard to make them feel special. In terms of gameplay, it works with the story exposing the players to different kind of challenges and situations.”

“It was important for us to raise questions rather than trying to answer them. It wasn’t our intention to be moralistic, but we did want players to think about things and come up with their own take. Those ethical questions are supported in the story through the quests, as well as the characters’ ideologies, narrative choices and lower level decisions related to the augmentations themselves. Throughout the game, the player has many opportunities to experience the pros and cons of the issue. They choose which augmentations they want to invest in and how to use them, and each decision reveals more about the ethical debate. In the end, the player gets to decide what Adam feels about augmentation and, in the end, it’s those decisions which will reflect the course of the future in the game.”

Words by Kingsley Marshall



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