Deus Ex: Human Revolution Interview: Game Director Jean-Francois Dugas
“We are huge fans of the original game ourselves, and on a lot of topics, we’re on the same page as the fans.”
The hype behind Deus Ex: Human Revolution can be best described as excitement with caution. It is after all a new installment is one of the most beloved video game series, and with a completely new team at the helm, it has a hard task ahead of itself convincing fans that it won’t be a, to put it politely, a screw up.
We chat with lead designer Jean-Francois Dugas on how the game is shaping up, and explore the core mechanics that will define the game.
MEGamers: Could you give us a brief on the background and the story of the game?
Jean-Francois Dugas: The game takes place in 2027 — a time when advancements in biotechnology are enabling people to mechanically “enhance” their mental and physical skills. In effect, making them smarter, stronger, and more physically capable than others who are not enhanced. This has created a new social tension and a new definition of the “haves” and “have nots”. It is also a time of chaos and conspiracy as people, corporations, and governments struggle to stay on top of this new innovation. You play Adam Jensen, a private security specialist working for one of America’s most innovative biotechnology firms. You’re a mechanically augmented character whose job is to safeguard company research — at least, that’s what you believe. Until the day when everything changes for you.
Adam Jensen looks pretty savvy – who is he and how vital a role will he play in the game’s story? Can you share a little bit about the process behind the character design?
The character of Adam Jensen is pretty savvy, if you don’t mind our saying so. He’s the character you’ll get to play in the game; a security specialist whose been handpicked to oversee the defensive needs of a very experimental biotech firm, and he has a pretty rich back story that will eventually play into the story’s underlying global conspiracy. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.
At the start of the game, Adam is nearly killed and must become augmented to save his life. This gives him a host of new augmentations to play with, some of which are top secret military-grade. But is becoming augmented something he was really ready for? Or was it something he wanted at all, given the current social tension surrounded augmented people? All these questions play into the story and the game, and they also helped fuel his design by giving us a solid base to begin with.
In terms of his design, obviously we looked to the first game and JC Denton, but we also turned to archetypical cyberpunk movies like Blade Runner. We wanted to bring the sunglasses that were present in the first game back, and the trench coat, of course, is a must! On top of that, our overall artistic design has a Renaissance flair to it; bringing these into the characters helped to produce unique designs and patterns that just help make things more interesting, with great levels of detail. With Adam, we think they’ve enabled us to create a very interesting and iconic character.
Why did you chose to set Human Revolution as a prequel? Will there be any story elements that will contradict with the previous two Deus Ex games?
Deus Ex: Human Revolution is a prequel for several reasons. First, we wanted to bring a fresh start to the franchise and make this new game unique and a stand-alone title. Meaning, we wanted to make sure that players don’t have to be old DX fans to appreciate the game – we have a new main character and a supporting cast that you’ll encounter and get to know during this journey.
Second, in the original timeline of DX, there was a time where mechanically-augmented people began to proliferate in society, which happened before the arrival 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 thematic to explore from both a gameplay perspective (seeing how your character evolves) and from an ethical/moral perspective (the benefits & dangers of a world where some can afford to get augmented while others can’t).
Beyond than that, setting the game as a prequel enables us to create a story that gets to dig into more complicated human motivations and beliefs — but we’re not ready to unveil all the specifics of the story just yet!
Human revolution deals with transhumanism, ‘human enhancement’ – could you tell us about the biomechanical augmentations we have seen in the trailers, and how they will play into the gameplay?
The augmentation system allows players to tackle any challenge the way they want to. You want to be stealthy about it, we have augmentations that will help you with that. You want to play full on combat, we have augmentations that will help you with that. Basically, augmentations in the game are classified according to our 4 pillars of gameplay:
- Combat augmentations will allow you to be a more dangerous opponent — that is, to perform lethal melee attacks.
- Stealth augmentations will allow you to become a “stealth master” — for example, by getting a clearer sense of the enemy patrols and their lines of sight.
- Hacking augmentations will allow you to access more difficult devices that in turn, open up more post-hacking possibilities — for example, turret domination.
- Social augmentations will allow you to get a better sense of the direction in which your interactions with people are heading (are you convincing them to be on your side, for example, or not?) and then adjust to these results more easily.
Basically, there’s something for everyone here.
Since Human Revolution is being developed by an entirely new team, how hard was it to learn and absorb what Ion Storm had created and successfully implement it into the game?
It’s definitely a challenge to live up to the expectations of the fans and the industry, but I wouldn’t say our goal with Deus Ex: Human Revolution is to replicate exactly what Ion Storm did. Our initial goal was to identify the core values of DX and bring them back for a new generation of gamers. The core values were, of course, established by Warren Spector and company, so by building on top of them, I think his heritage is quite present. Of course, that first game was released several years ago; we needed to bring fresh ideas to the table as well. But when we did, we made sure never to disrespect the essence of what makes a DX game what it is.
Must be daunting – after all Deus Ex is considered a classic, and if you step out slightly off – you know how fans can get?
We’re huge fans of the original game ourselves, and on a lot of topics, we’re on the same page as the fans. As mentioned before, it’s really important to us to respect the core values that made the original game outstanding. But it’s also important to bring new ideas to the table — ideas that will elevate the experience for old fans while adding new levels of excitement and surprises that can draw newcomers into the Deus Ex world. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is going to stay true to the original game on many levels, but at the same time 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.