IncGamers was lucky enough to ask some questions of Jean Francois Dugas, Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s Game Director, in a bid to find out more about the game’s world and characters, the difficulty in following up such a respected title and what makes story-telling in games both unique and difficult to accomplish.
A bit of house cleaning – the following was conducted via email, hence the title of ‘Q&A’ as opposed to ‘interview.
IncGamers: The original Deus Ex is a landmark title. How daunting is it to set out to create a new entry in the franchise?
Jean Francois Dugas: It is really important to us to respect the core values that made the original game outstanding, but we also know that we need to bring new ideas to the table that will elevate the experience for old fans, while adding new levels of excitement and surprise that will draw newcomers into the Deus Ex world.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is going to stay true to the original game on many levels– of course we’re coming up with new gameplay possibilities, reinforcing the choice and consequence aspect, and introducing a brand new cast of characters and storylines that will expand the Deus Ex experience for a new generation of gamers and old fans alike.
IG: Given that landmark status, is there a temptation to simply replicate what has come before as opposed to creating something that is your own?
Dugas: No, not at all. Actually, it’s more the opposite. When you look at it, we somewhat reinvented the world and we really pushed the experience forward with new ideas (social boss fights, hacking, new augmentations, etc.).
IG: How do the body augmentations affect gameplay?
Dugas: Depending on what augmentations you decide to choose, it will open and/or close some paths, secret areas, etc.
IG: Why use a regenerating health system as opposed to a ‘health kit’ setup?
Dugas: We want players to stay engaged in combat. We want them to feel in danger, but able to take some risks as well. We didn’t want to turn the game into a hunt for medkits; don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing bad about that, it’s just not what we thought would best serve the experience that we had in mind.
IG: What’s the inspiration behind Human Revolution’s narrative?
Dugas: A lot of things; the advances in technology, the state of the world, human beings, etc. The themes are centered around transhumanism and on “why” people do what they do. Control is also an important aspect as well.
IG: Player choice is one of the things Deus Ex is best known for, what difficulties does that present when trying to tell a story?
Dugas: One of the big challenges is to make a choice relevant for the player, while maintaining the tempo and the cohesiveness of the narrative. So, we need to tell the player’s story within the main story; a pure headache, LOL!
IG: How strongly can the player influence events based on their in-game actions?
Dugas: Like I mentioned, the high-level story remains somewhat unaffected, but depending on your choices, some events will play out in dramatically different ways.
IG: Just how much potential do videogames have as a story telling medium?
Dugas: I think interactivity is the key to making stories compelling in games. I think that stories in games are at their best when they make you be part of it; when your own actions make you craft your own adventure, when your choices influence greater events, etc.
IG: Why a prequel as opposed to a sequel?
Dugas: Firstly, we wanted a fresh start on the franchise and make it unique and stand-alone. Therefore, you do not need to be an old Deus Ex fan to appreciate the game – we have a new main character and supporting characters that we’ll encounter during the journey.
Secondly, in the original timeline of Deus Ex, there was an era where mechanically-augmented people started to burgeon in society before the event of nano-augmented people. The distinction lies in the fact that nano-augmentations are invisible and the mechanical augmentations are not. We thought it would be an interesting theme to explore from both a gameplay perspective (seeing how your character evolves) and from an ethical/moral perspective (the benefits & dangers of such world where some can afford to get augmented while others can’t).
IG: The facial animations look very impressive, how important are they in getting players engaged in the story and the characters?
Dugas: I think it makes them feel more human. It makes you focus on the emotions and what’s going on as opposed as on the technical aspects.
IG: What were the primary influences behind the visual style of the game’s characters and the world they inhabit?
Dugas: Our main inspiration came from the Renaissance era because it was one big stepping stone for mankind’s evolution. We saw a direct link to the transhumanist era that we’re entering today– the next big leap in human evolution. So, we started to analyze the Renaissance as a whole (fashion, architecture, etc.) and try to find a way to create a rich and unique visual style.
Obviously, Cyberpunk was influential too. It has some key archetypes that we thought were important to have in our game and we definitely went back to the best parts of what Cyberpunk has to offer us in terms of inspiration. So, in the end, those influences can be felt throughout the game to some degree, but I think we managed to create a game that stands on its own.
IG: Could you tell us a bit about the primary characters, their relationship to one another and their motivations?
Dugas: David Sarif, Adam Jensen’s boss, is an idealist that really wants to unlock all the human potential with the help of technologies. Adam Jensen, the player character, is a loyal, somewhat sarcastic blue collar guys who is driven by justice and truth. Frank Pritchard is the typical techno geek, but he’s also a jerk, LOL! Megan Reed is a very talented, workaholic scientist working for Sarif Industries that has a past with Jensen.