Speaking with Jean-François Dugas, Director, this Deus Ex: Human Revolution interview dives into how Adam Jensen travels from place to place. In the demos we’ve seen, Adam goes from New Detroit to Shanghai by plane. Dugas elaborates on the travel system and how other characters react to Adam depending on his actions.
From a game design perspective, was there anything you wanted to put in, but you couldn’t due to development time concerns?
A lot of things. [Laughs] In games, when you start, you have a full set of features and a lot of material, and there always comes a point during development where if you want to meet the quality for what you’re trying to achieve and stick to your deadlines, you need to sacrifice some things. So, yes definitely, we cut a lot of things along the way… without going into details.
Could you maybe talk about one particular thing…
Well, like ATMs for instance. You were supposed to discover ATMs and you could hack them for extra money and we were forced to cut that. Of course, we looked at all the things that we had and what was really important, and that was something that we sacrificed to make sure other aspects were good enough.
When you try to do everything, sometimes, you don’t do anything properly. At some points, it’s heartbreaking but you need to forego certain things to focus on other things.
Were there any plot lines that you had to cut out?
Actually, not really because the story has been iterative, like we were going into different revisions and implementing part of the story into the game, and we were figuring out, ‘Oh my God, there’s a plot hole here’ or there’s something that doesn’t work very well. So for us it wasn’t as much cutting as improving the storytelling or fixing some of the problems of the story.
We cut into some of the maps. We had more maps planned than what we have in the end. We still have quite a lot, but we had to cut down at some point to just make sure we would be able to complete the game.
Speaking of maps, the mod community wants to know if there’ll be any kind of mod system, at least for the PC version?
For the PC version, we haven’t really talked about it that much, so I don’t know if I can speak about it, other than that we’re trying to make the best game possible on PC. In terms of modding, right now we don’t have plans on our side, but it doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen.
We’ve seen Adam [Jensen] go from China to Detroit, but we haven’t really seen how Adam gets from China to Detroit. How do you move between these locales? I’m assuming Adam’s going to travel to many countries.
It’s true in the story, you’re told that you’re going somewhere, so you’ll just get into your special aircraft and then we load to the next location. So, it’s going to be as simple as that.
With the aircraft, will you be able to go back to explore different parts?
The game structure is quite linear in the sense that the story tells you that you’re in Detroit, and now you’re in China or you’re wherever you are. As long as you’re where you are, you can explore and do a lot of things, but it’s not like a central hub where I decide “Oh, now I go to Detroit.” It’s linear, it’s told in a linear fashion.
So, if you don’t explore enough, you can miss something.
You can. Definitely, you can miss [events]. There are some places in the story where you’ll return so you’ll have a second chance to revisit what you missed the first time around. But, when you leave for the last time, you won’t be able to go back, and we’ll give a message to the player, “You’re about to leave this place. Are you really, really sure you want to leave?”
What parts of Human Revolution are you most proud of, that you’ve enhanced since the original game?
We enhanced the consistency of the multi-path/multi-solution experience with all the gameplay fillers blending into the different missions you have. We’re really proud of the rich environments, like there’s a lot of show and tell, there’s a lot of things to discover. It’s really an immersive world to discover.
I think we have a very strong story with a lot of characters that have different things to hide, and it’s very compelling to discover all those things, so I’m really proud of those aspects. Why I don’t like comparisons is because ten years ago was different technology than what we have today, and of course today, what you do immediately looks better than what was possible ten years ago.
Can you talk about how Adam’s actions affect the game? In the original game, even small actions had a small butterfly effect. Could you elaborate on that?
Yeah, yeah. Depending on how you play, some of your colleagues will react differently. If you’re butchering through a mission or sensitive to killing, people will reflect on those things. Depending on how you deal with certain situations — like for instance, the police station — depending on how you complete the mission, newspapers will cover the story in a different way.
There are newspapers in the game that you can read. If you go in and kill people, they will cover the killing rampage in the police station, or if you manage to convince Wayne to help you out, there will be an investigation. There will be different repercussions for the player.
So other characters will react, like your allies, but how will enemies or conspirators react?
It depends on the events, because it’s kind of undercover, and you don’t meet some of the conspirators before a certain time, so it wouldn’t make sense for them to react to something you did five hours ago. Feedback for the player needs to be short-term, otherwise you may not remember, since you go on so many missions. It needs to stick to what the player is doing constantly. They will react to recent events or they will react differently depending on how missions are put into context.
Can you talk about why players have to kill the bosses? Most of the game, you can get through without killing, but why do you have to kill the bosses?
We wanted some choke point confrontations. At first, we wanted to go with being able to put the non-lethal stuff in that, too, but at some point, we had to cut down on some ambitions, because as I said, sometimes you have to focus on certain aspects less, as long as it’s good enough.
So, in the original design, how would you have gotten through the bosses?
The way you could have confronted them would have been different.
You mean like talking to them?
I can’t talk too much about that… [laughs]
Is it an idea you’d consider for future games?