Gamescom 2010: Deus Ex: Human Revolution Interview – David Anfossi, Producer
Written Saturday, September 04, 2010 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Deus Ex broke the mould in crossing the traditional first-person shooter with RPG elements back in 2000, and although it may not have been the first of its kind, Deus EX seamlessly blended conversational elements with gunplay and performance-enhancing augmentations, transforming the game's hero, JC Denton into an unstoppable force.
It was pretty revolutionary at the time, and there's a reason why it regularly shows up at the top of PC gamers' all time greatest games lists. So, with original creator Warren Spector moving to Disney to make Mickey Mouse games, the Deus Ex torch has now been passed to Eidos Montreal.
We sat down with Deus EX: Human Revolution's Producer, David Anfossi, to find out just how the developer plans to bring the franchise back for a new audience of gamers and whether it's going to be the human revolution that we're all hoping for.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is kind of being considered a reboot of the franchise. Are there any plans to re-educate gamers that may not have played the first two games with HD remakes for XBLA or PSN?
That's a good question. We want to educate the new gamers I would say with a teaser to make sure they understand everything about the universe we have created, but that education will appear during the tutorial. Once you've played the first hour of the game, you will understand all of the possibilities and options we've added to the game. There are loads of different ways to play the game, so this is very important. We don't want to put in something that says, “here, do what you want.” It doesn't work like that, so you will see that during the first hour of the game you will pass different tutorials. You don't have to do them, you can skip them if you've already played Deus Ex, but for new gamers, you will see that during the first hour, you will know what to do after that.
But do you think we'll ever see the previous games in the franchise remade to complement the new game?
No, no. This is the same universe, although you will see different links with the first Deus Ex.
Can you tell us a bit about the dialogue system? As we saw in the demo, there are about 3 or 4 decisions. Do they change based on the context of the situation? We saw the 'plead' option crop up a few times for example.
This is unique, you know? And the purpose behind the conversation is to let the player try what kind of conversation they want to experiment with in the moment, so we put a lot of thought into the body language and the facial expressions to create something new. As you've seen in the demo, you have three different choices and you have different roles. I think for every conversation, we have around 20 minutes of animations, because you have a lot of different branches unfolding during the conversations. You may pass a branch the first time, but if you decide to redo it, you'll get a completely different response from the guy in front of you and that will lead to different situations. So, if last time I failed and got killed, I can go back and try and get a different outcome every time.
Are we right in assuming that you're able to talk to every character in some shape or form as well?
Yes. You can talk to every person in the game, but not necessarily with the branching dialogue. The stuff you saw in the police station is the social side of the game, but there's a more detailed and advanced conversation mechanic that you'll be able to experiment with in the game. There is a second level of conversation that you can have with story characters or in side-quests and so on, then you can have the first level of conversation with the lesser NPCs. That doesn't mean they'll just say things like, “oh, it's sunny today.” They'll give you a lot of information about the Deus Ex universe, about the city and about things that are very important factors in making you feel like you're immersed in the world.
As games evolve and become more cinematic, sound is an increasingly important factor. What does Deus Ex do differently, if anything, with its implementation of sound in the game?
I'm really glad that you asked that, because for me the sound, music and ambience is all part of the experience. It's very, very important. Usually you can see that the audio director maybe arrived at the end of the project and he's very bad, you know? Our audio director has been with us since the game's conception. It was very important that we had his direction with us, on par with the gameplay, the visuals and everything, so he was part of the team from the beginning. You're often reminded of your favourite movies because of the music, so films like Rambo, Rocky, Jaws, Star Wars... You can be reminded of those movies because of the music, so the team thought that it was very important for us to try and do that also for the game. For the music we hired Michael McCann as composer and he did the music for the Deus Ex: Human Revolution trailer, and is doing the music for the game too, keeping the music consistent to respect the universe we've created. That's very, very important.
Will the game be properly localised for non-English speaking markets too?
Yes, because we have full control over that. We're very picky with that and it's something that's important to me. We did a lot of sessions to find the right actors for the English version, so we have Elias Toufexis voicing Jensen, but we'll do the same kind of casting for all countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, Russia, Japan and we'll pick all of the right actors for the job and integrate them all at the studio in Montreal to the same quality across the board.
What sort of links can we expect to see between this Deus Ex and the previous games?
You will see some links with the first Deus Ex with regard to corporations, characters and so on. There won't be many links to Deus Ex 2: Invisible War. It's mainly about the first one.
So would you say that you were more inspired by the first Deus Ex than the second one?
Yes, to be honest with you. That doesn't mean that I don't like the second one, and we had a very long discussion with Warren Spector (creator of the previous Deus Ex games) last night about that, and he told us how he just faced a lot of constraints with the second one on consoles. He wasn't happy with the end result and having to have a lot of corridors for the streaming and loading, made it seem less epic and open-world due to the console constraints. But this one is more based on the first game in terms of mechanics and experience. Honestly though, as a gamer, I prefer the story in Invisible War for the characters and so on.
So, what did you think the second game did well in terms of characters and level design?
The level design in Human Revolution is based more on the first one, because you have these open-world city hubs and you have this compound and everything, so you have this mix of locations. It's very important for us to respect the legacy of the first game and it was also very important for us to have a strong main character in Adam Jensen. You don't necessarily have that in Invisible War.
How important to you is balancing the difficulty of the game for a broader audience?
That's exactly what we're doing right now. We reached beta last week, so we are at a phase where we have months left to balance and polish the game, because as you say, it's critical as it's this period that makes all the difference. We didn't just wait until the beta milestone to do this though. We did a lot of playtests with shooter fans, RPG fans and Deus Ex fans, to make sure that they enjoyed the game and that they could play it the way they want to play it and they have fun. So, we did a lot of that and now we're doing playtests every week to keep testing the balance and keep applying the polish to get the quality we want.
What's been the overriding approach players have been adopting while playing the game during the playtesting?
The great thing about having so many playtests, is that everyone tries to enact everything in the game. There's a little RTS mini-game in there that's something more for the hardcore gamer, as it's not mandatory to play and it's more of a secondary thing. But it's funny, because everybody tried playing it and adding robots, turrets and other little things during the playtests.
Does the attention to detail we've seen in the levels so far extend to the other parts of the game, like the hacking games, lockers and array of other details?
Yes. It's everywhere. There's a lot of little, different things. It's amazing, because every day, I have to play the game to look at the quality and the progress. I end up discovering something new every day. It's amazing. We've put so much detail and information everywhere in the game, for the player to discover and it all adds to the experience.
Is exploration rewarded in Deus Ex: HR then, if there's so much to discover? Will players be able to find hidden, unique items for instance?
They will find... Actually, I don't want to spoil anything, but players will keep discovering new things every time they play.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution isn't supporting 3D, but what do you make of 3D games in general?
We had the opportunity to integrate 3D, but at this stage in production, it'd be too risky to adapt the game to support it and do it properly. If we were going to do 3D, it would have to be to the high quality that we expect for this game, but it's perhaps something we'll keep to one side for the next Deus Ex, when we have time to do it right. But what I've seen of 3D so far is good and it has potential.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is due for release in spring 2011.