I had an opportunity this past E3 to view the incredible Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. After seeing the demo in action, I interviewed seasoned Eidos Montreal producer Olivier Proulx. We discussed Deus Ex’s spotlight on narrative focus, player choice, and consequences. Blurring the line between game and film narrative, Eidos Montreal plans to give next-gen console and PC owners a title to be hyped up about.
“For this game, we want to bring choice and consequence to the next level.”
Interview with Olivier Proulx, Eidos Montreal Producer on Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
GameSided: This is one of the most lifelike games I’ve seen. Every hair strand is absolutely represented. It seems to me, from looking at the Square-Enix lineup today that they’re moving in a very realistic direction. What did it take to create this sensation of reality?
Olivier Proulx: The first thing we did when we started this project is we invested a lot into our own technology. Our own engine. We have the Dawn engine that we worked at Eidos Montreal. We really want to bring this level of quality in the character models and environments to the new generation of consoles.
GS: Games have been moving in a real film-like direction, The Last of Us springs to mind. What kind of work went into the narrative? Do you employ multiple writers, a traditional game designer, or more of a Hollywood one scriptwriter kind of approach?
OP: For a game like Deus Ex, the narrative is a huge amount of experience. We have a team of writers headed by Mary DeMerle. Mary was the narrative director on Deus Ex: Human Revolution as well. She knows the world pretty well, and her team as well. We also have game designers on the team. Deus Ex is a narrative-driven game, it’s also very much a gamer’s game. We have a lot of different features to mix-and-match to customize your own experience.
GS: Do you feel today you write the narrative first, then the game, or game first, then the narrative? Is it a mutual process that can’t be done one way or the other first?
OP: The two go together. When we start the game, yes, we think about the story. Then we go into the process of narratively designing the game. We have designers mixed with narrative really think about the game on paper before it’s time to build it.
GS: Are there ever times where you feel something that’s written in narrative can’t be done in a game? Or is anything possible?
OP: Anything’s possible depending on cost and time. It’s always a balance of different ideas. We have different ideas for narrative. Can we support it in terms of production? I’m a producer on the game so that’s something we constantly work with. How can we realize our vision? Ultimately, we want to have the best game possible, so we wanna have the tools to support our creative team.
GS: Do you feel fans create Adam Jensen more than the writers do in this style of game? I noticed the dialogue choices have a heavy impact on what happens during the game?
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OP: Absolutely, that’s something we want actually. A Deus Ex game is a game of choice and consequence for the player. If you customize your Adam Jensen to be a ‘tank’ that goes into combat that’s an option for you. If you want to pursue more of a stealthy non-lethal approach, you don’t wanna kill anyone in the game, you can also do that. All the features support your player choices. Yes. When you get to different important conversations, the choices you make with the way you talk to different people, they will have a consequence on how the narrative will play out for you. So at the end of the game you can have played through, and I can have played through and we can talk and have different conversations about the same game. All because we played differently.
GameSided: Will Deus Ex: Mankind Divided feature multiple endings?
OP: Yes, we want to support multiple endings. For this game, we want to bring choice and consequence to the next level. The way you play the game will really tailor the ending you get at the end. It’s not just about pushing a button at the end, it’s about much more than that.
GS: You mentioned vertical locations, what inspired this kind of ‘building up’ in architecture instead of traditional horizontal locations?
OP: As a player it’s really fun to explore a vertical game. You have much more different options to use your Icarus fall or Icarus strike coming down. Going vertically we still have exploration 360 degrees and it gives different pathways and options for the player. Deus Ex is about multi-pathing in our level design, where you wanna go. Adding verticality just adds more options to our design team.
GS: Are your designs inspired out of real locations or entirely crafted out of mind?
OP: It’s a mix. The first half of the demo here is at the Prague Train station, obviously a real world location. Then the second half of the game is set in Golem city, a ghetto and that’s something we created for Deus Ex.
GS: You mentioned action improvements. That players really enjoyed going head-in, face first with all the gunplay in Deus Ex. What kind of improvements went into making Mankind Divided’s action even more exciting than it was previously?
OP: You have the gun-arm feature, Adam’s mechanical arm that you can use fluidly in combat. On your rightwing controls and your gun-sticks. You have the nanoblades to use as a projectile. You can project enemies and so on. It’s really easy to trigger weapons on your controller. The combat is much improved through the controls.
“Deus Ex is a narrative-driven game, it’s also very much a gamer’s game.”
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