The following is an exclusive on-site interview at PAX Prime 2011 that I conducted with Kyle Stallock, Community Manager at Eidos Montréal. Additional input to my last question was sent via email by Jean-François Dugas, Game Director, Deus Ex: Human Revolution at Eidos Montréal.
Geek Dad: This is a game with a great pedigree, and we know a lot of great people who have worked on it, including Warren Spector. What new features do you think add to the value of the game?
Kyle Stallock: I think the art style — you might say that it’s not a game feature, but it’s one of the biggest bullet points we have that separate us from the original. I know Jonathan from the beginning (our Art Director, Jonathan Jacques-Bellêtete) had wanted a particular style, and that Cyber Renaissance really kind of made that. That was the building block that made everything, so he took that and then they applied it to other aspects of the game. And, I think some of the other things that separate us are the “augmentations” themselves. We don’t have swimming or first aid, but we do have other things in there, such as the typhoon system. The other one is that, back in 2000 it was going 52 years into the future. Now in 2011, we’re only going to 2027. Taking that, it’s not so much theoretical stuff with nano-machines as it was back then in 2000, it’s more like realistic stuff so, that integrates into the game-play pretty well I think. I got to say, it’s pretty much the same in terms of choices and consequences and we still have that level of depth and all that stuff so you get the pedigree there that’s the essence and we still build on that in similar ways.
GD: One of the things I really enjoy about the game is that you have the ability to choose how you react and help mould your story line. How important was that in your conception of the game and giving more power to the player to mould the story and become kind of one with the action and the way the story flow went?
KS: Well, that’s always integral to Deus Ex and it’s important to have that in every aspect involved. There are some places where if you don’t kill someone, or if you don’t — it’s not always straightforward decisions in the game. Sometimes the smallest decisions you make have long repercussions later, and I don’t want to say it even though the game is out now, but even if it’s dealing with a security guard of a police station at the front desk. It’s always the essence of Deus Ex to capture it as much as you can — it’s something that they strive for.
GD: One of the things I noticed was that there is a moral element to the game, in that, he struggles (the protagonist), struggles with the fact that he was forcibly put under surgery — underwent the augmentations and that issue with trans-humanism and giving your body abilities. Was that a deliberate attempt to bring in philosophical elements–struggling with moral issues or was that an ancillary side-effect of the game, the storyline?
KS: Absolutely. If you look at the game from the earliest marketing campaigns of Icarus. Everything is very thought out. Some of the architecture is designed to make you peel away, to get to allude to certain things, the color palette, and yeah, it was absolutely intentional to do these things. Even . . there’s so much I want to say later on in the game that happens in some with some of the later areas, ’cause it would really help if I could to explain this. But, I think that you’ll see that answer, and players will see that answer the more they play it. Yes, it was absolutely intentional. Every aspect of this game — they had four years to work on it, so they had to flesh out all these little ideas, even the the Cyber Renaissance type things, the Renaissance period in real life kind of, ’cause of how we’re going through all these augmentations and stuff like that, so Cyber Renaissance just isn’t like “it’d be cool to have all this flary clothing and stuff like that in black and gold” — it goes a little deeper than that. As much as we like flares (chuckles) . . .
GD: Now I know — there’s a huge core following of the Deus Ex franchise. Was it your hope and the dev team’s hope (and Square Enix) . . . were you looking to bring back these people back into the fold and sort of increase the popularity of the franchise in any way?
KS: Admittedly, I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision to say that we have to bring back the hard core community. As people who are already fans of Deus Ex, that was just something that was going to happen anyway. There was no deliberate decision to include this or that, to bring back the core community. Everyone things that because we added certain things such as health regeneration, third birth recover, that for all these nuts who never played Deus Ex 1, that’s not the case, that’s absolutely not the case. As people are finding out now when they’re playing the game, we reference the game Deus Ex 1 and 2 not because we’re forced to but because we want to, and we’re planning all the different ways that we connect the dots. We want to make our stamp on the history as well. It was really funny, because as a community manager people this is something that I have to deal with every day before release, “You guys suck!” “You have no idea what Deus Ex is!” And I said you know — the whole site, “Trust us, we know what we’re doing” and finally people are saying “We should have trusted you.”
GD: At one point in the game, the protagonist is dealing — is answering a question about how to use violence, and he’s given the choice of using lethal force or non-lethal force. Given the controversy about violence in video games that’s ongoing and the SCOTUS case, was this a conscious decision to insert that into the game content?
KS: I can’t speak on that very well. Obviously Jean-François Dugas might be able to do that a bit more, but I know that from the beginning the team wanted a non-lethal approach to the game because there are some people out there (like me for example) — that’s the way I like to play it. I don’t like to kill anyone, I don’t like to get lethal. It’s all about providing the players with more options. Whether or not it was regarding – it was addressing those issues in games these days. And also, at the beginning of the game when you do get that choice (to get lethal or non-lethal), that’s a little nod to Deus Ex 1 because when you start there and you meet your brother he kind of asks “How do you want to handle the situation?” so we’re kind of nodding towards that as well.
Jean-François Dugas: Actually, no. It has nothing to do with the SCOTUS case at all. It was implemented to help reinforce, early on in the game, the concept of choice where you’re not forced to kill people. It also asks about “close or long range”. Those two questions are there to encourage players to think about their playing style. How do they want to approach the game? As simple as this.
[Check out my earlier post today on “violence in video games” that originates from my comments on the Geek Parenting Panel at PAX Prime 2011. Senior Editor Jonathan Liu wrote a summary post about the PAX Prime 2011 panel on which I spoke.]
Check out the “Freedom of Choice” video illustrating the rich and interactive player-driven narrative of Deus Ex: Human Revolution:
For more updates, check out the official Deux Ex Human Revolution YouTube channel.