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Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Jean-Francois Dugas on why the Deus Ex formula works

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the long-awaited third installation of a much loved series based around choice and consequence.

With the original Deus Ex being such an important title in gaming history the team behind Human Revolution is having to make some pretty big decisions of its own.

Xbox World 360 sat down with game director Jean-Francois Dugas to talk about why the original in the series went down so well, what he wants to do with Human Revolution and the ingredients that go into making a Deus Ex game.

What defines Deus Ex?

Choice and consequence, cyberpunk, and augmentation. Choice and consequence are central to all level aspects of the game where the choices you make have a huge impact on what is going to happen to you. But also on the story level where the characters you meet and what you're going to decide affects the story too.

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We have a point in the game where you go into a police station to find a brain chip. You can sneak your way in or you can meet an old colleague and try to convince them to let you get in. If you succeed in convincing him, he might go, "Jensen, I'll lose my job."

If you succeed, he's going to come back with a story to tell. Those kinds of things come back over and over again in the game. It's never a binary choice on screen - you just do what you think is right in the circumstances.

Some of those choices revolve around augmentations and weapon upgrades. How do they work?

The final number of augmentations isn't set yet, but there will be plenty of upgrades in combat aspect, stunt aspect, social aspect and so on. You won't be able to get everything at max, so you'll have to decide if you're a jack of all trades or want to be more of a specialist. If you're the shooter type of player, you'll have a series of upgrades that will allow you to boost your reload speed, and we'll also have some special upgrades that modify the behaviour of certain weapons.

So basically, with the economy of the game, if you spend a lot on guns, you might not have as much money to spend on the augmentations, so it's always about choice and how you want to play. This is where the real role-playing aspect comes in.

What are the design challenges with a game that has so many choices and so many routes you can take?

Building the levels in ways that feel like they support all those choices, and doing so in such a way that's not too obvious and not too subtle at the same time, that's a real challenge.

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Balancing out the augmentations is another. We need to make sure that the maps let you explore with the augmentations you have. So it's all about building the maps. Playing with them, seeing what works and what doesn't. A process of constant iteration.

You've retained so much of what made the original Deus Ex work. Was the game that ahead of its time that those things still work, ten years on?

The first Deus Ex was one of the first games that was really bringing those types of choices to gamers, and I think in the end, that's something that all gamers want. They want to feel smart about their experience, they want to feel, "oh I thought about it and it worked," and that's what made Deus Ex so powerful. This is what we're trying to capture again here.

Which sci-fi visions from books, films, and TV have been particularly valuable to the Deus Ex 3 team?

Obviously there's Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell, but it's deeper than that. Our inspiration also came from books and mythology. We're making a huge analogy to the story of Icarus - if you try to push too far, you might fly too close to the sun. It's about the danger of transhumanism and things like that.

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