Deus Ex Pitch Part 2: New Game

By Shamus Posted Friday Jun 10, 2022

Filed under: Projects 157 comments

Before we get started, there’s one last detail I need to cover. I’m going to be re-using names from the previous games. I’m only doing this for the ease of reading. I’m not actually suggesting that every single character in my story would be a repurposed character from the earlier games.

The problem we have is that this series is fairly light on details. We don’t have faces, voices, costumes, musical cues, and character designs to make all of these people memorable. I’m going to be dumping a lot of names on you, and it’s going to be easy to get confused.

I’m hoping that by borrowing existing names, you’ll be able to attach these new characters to equivalents in other games. When I mention a guy named Sam Carter in my story, I’m hoping you’ll remember the retired military hardass with a heart of gold that mentors JC Denton in the original game.

If we were actually going to make this into a game, then we would need to give everyone unique names.Maybe we could keep a couple of recurring names, like how the name “Cid” always shows up in Final Fantasy.

Anyway, let’s hit New Game and play…

Deus Ex: Pandora’s Gun

In his video, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is FINE, And Here’s Why, Hbomberguy gives the game a hard time for a long intro. There’s a pre-rendered cinematic, and then a passive walk-and-talk, then an elevator ride, then a conversation with your boss, then another elevator ride, then the brief tutorial, then a long intro movie where the main character becomes augmented, then a time-cut to months later, then a brief bit where you run around the office and talk to people, then you meet your pilot, then you ride a helicopter and converse with your boss, and THEN you’re dropped off at the first mission and begin the game proper. I just checked someone’s playthrough online, and it looks like it takes about 12 minutes to get to the first gameplay, and 25 minutes to get to the first gameplay that isn’t a hand-holding tutorial.

Looking back, it’s shocking that the game got away with such a protracted introduction. I’m certainly not going to count on getting away with that a second time. There’s no way to even dream of matching the original in terms of depth and scope with modern production values, but I think we can do better than 12 minutes! The original game’s intro was about two minutes, so I’m going to give myself about that much space to work with.

INT-MANAGEMENT BOARDROOM-DAY

We’re in an opulent, dark, and poorly-lit room. Various figures are gathered around the table. They’re backlit with a pale orange light, so we can’t see anyone’s faces just yet. The player won’t know their names, and the subtitles will just identify them as Man #1, Man #2, and so on. But for the purposes of this bit of the script I’m going to give their names and descriptions up  front.

South African industrialist Samkelo Mensah: I’ve just received news that the American President has chosen not to invade the peninsula.

Russian intelligence leader Leonid Sidorov: (Hollywood Russian accent.) This is outrage. We have military projects that have stalled. There can be no spoils if there is no war.

Brazilian Environmentalist / Politician Camila Ferreira: His term is almost up. The next president will be more cooperative.

American media mogul Ted Walters: Actually, it’s really looking like Ellis is going to win a second term.

Sidorov: (Slams down his drink.) Nyet! We cannot wait another six years!

Ted Walters: (Mumbling.) It’s only four in America, Len.

Sidorov: (Overlapping, ignoring him.) Something must be done!

Camila Ferreira: Morgan Everett said that-

Chinese apparatchik Maggie Chow: (Interrupting.) Morgan Everett is out. We’ve waited long enough. A plan is already in place. Ellis will be gone by the end of the week.

(Ominous music.)

FADE OUT.

Gameplay Begins

I never asked for A BOMB!
I never asked for A BOMB!

We get a title card telling us we’re at the White House. The year is 2044.That’s only 22 years from now, which might be a little too close to today. Eh. I’d probably wait to see where the artists wanted to go with the style before firmly setting the date.

We begin with Troy Denton. I’d suggest making the protagonist player-selectable gender like Commander Shepard because that’s more fun. Everyone in the story can just call the player character “Agent” or “Denton”. But in this write-up I’m going to assume male for ease of naming and pronoun-ing. The old games had protagonists named JC and Adam as a kind of New Testament / Old Testament motif. We could continue the sloppy Biblical references by naming our hero Moses or Mary or something. But I don’t think the Bible stuff ever really worked or said anything interesting.Actually, the biblical references in the first game worked to make the bad guys come off as pretentious idiots. But then Human Revolution just added more without really doing anything with it, taking the idea into a dead end. The series has kind of built a brand around half-assed references to Greek myths, so let’s stick to that and drop the Biblical stuff.

It’s election season, so it must be autumn. Most of the missions will take place at night because that’s cooler and more cyberpunky,And your distant environments / skybox can be simpler. but the sun is up for the tutorial missions. It’s morning when the game starts.

Troy is a secret service agent in a near-future world. He’s been in the Secret Service for three years, and he’s spent all of that time guarding the president’s children. He’s just been promoted and today is his first day of protecting the president directly.

Sam Carter is the White House head of security. He meets with Troy, checks his augs, congratulates the young agent on the early promotion, and assures the kid that he’s going to do just fine. This guy is clearly a mentor / father figure to our hero. Carter reminds Troy that the election season is in full swing and everyone is a bit on edge.

They end with this exchange:

Carter: Did you hear about this nickname the press has given him?

Troy: “Uncle President”

Carter: (Shakes his head.) I know the people like him, but that’s just childish.

Troy: If you can believe it, even his kids call him that when he’s not around.

Carter: You’re kidding.

Troy: I’m not.

Carter: Well make sure you don’t say it in front of him.

Troy: Obviously.

Carter: You nervous?

Troy: (Player-selectable response that suggests nervousness, confidence, or flippancy.)

Carter: (Chucks him on the shoulder.) Okay kid. Good luck in there.

Troy enters the oval office where President Ellis is having a meeting with his Chief of Staff. The room is… well, you’ve probably seen the oval office before. Round. Couches. Big logo in the middle of the floor. Nice desk. Flags around.

Chief of Staff: …I’m just saying that it makes you look weak, and a campaign is a bad time to look weak.

President Ellis: I understand that, Bob. But I’m not going to start a war so I can look tough.

CoS: Well maybe we could just send a few-

President Ellis: (Seeing Denton come in, and perhaps eager for an excuse to to change the subject.) Ah. Agent Denton. I was told you’d be joining my detail. Ronald and Eleanor talk about you a lot. I can’t promise that guarding me will be as exciting as guarding my kids, but we’ll try to keep you on your toes.

Troy: (Nervous.) Thank you uncl- uh… Mister President.

CoS: (Disgusted.) If you can’t follow the basics of presidential decorum then maybe you should stick to guarding children.

President Ellis: (Waving his hand dismissively at the Chief.) It’s fine, Bob. It’s fine. (To Denton, lowkey aside.) It’s certainly not the worst thing people call me these days.

Denton takes his place by the door and the president returns to his meeting.

In the next few lines of dialog, we learn that he was a dark horse third-party candidate. He was elected in a crazy upset and now his first term has been aces. Employment, the economy, crime… Everything is headed in the right direction.”Oh man. This guy looks like a saint. That means he’s either about to be martyred, or turn out to be evil.” – You, in the comments. Because you think you know where this is going.

Yes, I’m aware that the above script features the sin of forcing cutscene incompetence on the player by making Denton commit this verbal gaffe. In my defense, it’s a very small mistake, it doesn’t cost the player anything, and it shows that our president is a super-okay nice guy. Also, this is the only moment of cutscene incompetence in the entire game.

We’re going to get through this entire stealth-friendly game without ever forcing the player into a trap or using a cutscene to eject them from stealth. I think the player will forgive me for this moment.

Once the above exposition has been chucked in the player’s direction, an alarm goes off. Agent Carter runs in. It seems a white house tour group has left the intended path and is heading this direction. We have to assume they’re hostile.

Carter opens up a secret panel on one wall and drags the shocked and bewildered president into the newly-revealed passage. As they exit, Carter orders Troy to cover their escape. It turns out the tour group was made entirely of enemy agents / soldiers / terrorists / whoever and the group is headed this way. So Troy is going to fight a bunch of mooks dressed as civilians.They should probably be wearing masks or something to make them look threatening, in the style of Watch Dogs: Legion. Carter orders Troy to kill the attackers, but the player is also given the tools to knock them out if they prefer.That’s a weird thing for a secret service agent to do, but we have to respect the audience’s expectations here.

Troy discovers a few dead secret service agents, so we can tell these attackers mean business. We push through a couple of rooms of light combat to get the really basic tutorials out of the way. For gameplay purposes, the mooks have all sportingly decided to wear the same orange T-shirt, or some variation of that color of orange.

Justification: We want an eye-catching color for our bad guys. Red and blue are already taken by the major political parties in the US. Green goes with the Green Party, and yellow is often associated with the Gadsden Flag. That pretty much leaves us with the secondary colors cyan, purple, and orange. Cyan is often seen as “light blue”, and it seems a little calm and friendly to be used as our initial bad-guy color. So for me it’s a coin flip between orange and purple. Feel free to imagine all these orange invaders as wearing purple instead if that works better for you. I’d actually get the art team involved in this decision before making anything final.

So we stop the invaders. Then Alex Jocobson calls us on the radio. She’s our tech specialist for the game, and she’s going to walk us through the rest of the tutorial level.

Apparently the remaining invaders are routed. They’ve escaped into the sooper-secret labyrinth of steam tunnels beneath the White House, which of course are a real thing that exists in this world. She sends you down to deal with them.

Now we get the full gameplay tutorial. We can murder our way through the mooks, guns blazing. Or we can stealth our way through and knock them all out. Or we can crawl through some environmental hazards to reach the generator room and cut the power. This will trap the invaders in the tunnels,I guess the doors need electricity to work. in the dark, so that the army can collect them later.

I realize that the original game began with a huge open level with countless available routes, so it probably seems a little disappointing to start with something so straightforward. But game space is expensive, and I’d rather spend that money later once the player has some cool weapons and augmentations unlocked. Also, in story terms you’re supposed to be facing off against a small group of radicals. If we made this a big sprawling multi-path affair, then we’d need an implausibly enormous army of invaders to fill up that gamespace. I really don’t want our hero to rack up a triple digit body count before we even get the story off the ground. So instead of starting with something vast, we start with something short and sweet. So let’s get these tutorials out of the way, and then we can open things up.

This section ends with Troy confronting the leader Leo Gold, who is sitting on a bomb the size of a volkswagon. If Troy were to attack, then Leo would set off the bomb, which would level this wing of the White House.

The bomb was supposed to be a failsafe: If the direct assault failed, they were supposed to set off the bomb. But now that the moment of truth has come, Gold doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to push the button. He’s not quite willing to become a martyr and he’s looking for an alternative. There’s an exit door nearby, and he very clearly wants to make a break for it.

The player is given a choice:

1) Stall for time by talking. You can get him talking and he’ll straight up tell you his name. Troy accuses him of belonging to a rival political party. Gold laughs. He considers himself above all your trifling political squabbles. He’s here to put the world back on track. He admits that offing the president isn’t nice, but it will avert something worse. As proof of him being not-evil, he points out that they staged this attack today, when they knew the president’s family would be traveling. Gold doesn’t want to put the kids in danger. He claims the election was riggedIt’s not what you think. We’ll come back to this later. and the current president shouldn’t even be in power. The conversation ends. The player must then choose one of the next 2 options.

2) Back off and let him leave while you disable the bomb.

3) Attempt to attack him. You draw your weapon, but Troy is unable to pull the trigger. He grunts and strains and the room goes dark like he’s passing out. The first-person view dips down and we can see the pistol fall from Troy’s hand. When he looks up again, Gold is gone.

We cut to the post-attack debriefing. Troy gets berated if he didn’t get any information. If Troy tried to attack Gold, then he’ll claim his augments stopped him from pulling the trigger. Carter doesn’t believe this for a second.

Carter tells him, “It’s impossible for your implants to do something like that, kid. The hardware in your body represents millions of dollars of defense spending. It’s state of the art military technology, not a cheap cell phone. It can’t ‘glitch out’. If you didn’t have the guts to pull the trigger, just say so. It’ll look bad on your record, but lying will only make things worse.”

Sidequest / Interlude

It's hard to make the White House look futuristic and cyberpunky. I'd suggest we don't try, but that's up to the art team. They know their business.
It's hard to make the White House look futuristic and cyberpunky. I'd suggest we don't try, but that's up to the art team. They know their business.

Here we need some sort of interlude / time cut. We need to give the player something to do to create a time break between the attack and the next scene. Maybe the player needs to do a little investigation to figure out how the attackers got weapons on the premises, or maybe there’s a hacked / haywire security system that needs to be brought under control.

This is one of those bits of the game that I’d wait until later to design. Or better yet, leave it to the gameplay designers and level designers to come up with this. It’s possible for a writer to impose too much control on the game. I don’t know what sorts of awesome ideas the other people might bring to the table. I don’t want to script a “run around and talk to everyone” sequence if the gameplay designer has a really slick mechanical challenge we could be using instead.

Also, it’s good to leave this bit until late in development because it’s sort of optional. If we start missing deadlines and we’re in danger of blowing past the ship date, sections like this one can be dropped. The time cut will feel a little jarring and it’ll make the story feel rushed, but leaving this out won’t leave behind giant continuity gaps and hanging plot threads. If you build the game in order, then running out of time means you need to butcher the ending. In my design, I’ve earmarked a couple of low-priority missions to act as our developmental crumple zones.

I realize that in a real project, the scheduling and setting of priorities would be handled by the project manager and not by the writer. But this is the sort of thing that would keep me up at night if I worked on a real AAA project. I’d worry that I poured all this time into creating this coherent world, building up these themes, setting up all of these payoffs, and then in the end we didn’t get to close the deal on any of that stuff because we ran out of time.

So I’m going to leave this bit open. If there are any tutorials we haven’t covered yet, they can go here. If the gameplay designer has some cool new mechanics for this game, we can build this section around that. For now let’s just assume that the player walks to a nearby location, does this secondary thing, and then returns to Troy’s office in the afternoon for the next bit…

You can tell she's a hacker because all of her monitors are set to Dark Mode.
You can tell she's a hacker because all of her monitors are set to Dark Mode.

Our tech / hack buddy Alex is here and she fills us in on what happened after Leo Gold escaped. She uses the PARASIGHT deep learning surveillance networkCongratulations. You just won techno-thriller Buzzword Bingo. to track mobile phone signatures. Only one unidentified phone signal departed the White House grounds immediately following the incident. She’s tracked that phone to Miami.

We also give the player the option to discuss their augmentation malfunction with Alex. Carter dismissed it as Troy not having the guts to pull the trigger on Leo Gold, but Alex thinks it’s a weird and unlucky glitch. Maybe being so close to the generators caused some sort of malfunction? Alex sort of shrugs and promises to let you know if she figures anything out.

Leo is holding still for the moment. He seems to be laying low along the coast. We’re hoping he’ll lead us back to his boss. We don’t want to send in the army, just in case that leads to him getting Jack Ruby’d.

Hey Troy! Since you’re the only one who’s seen his face, you’re being taken off of the presidential detail and being reassigned to field work. Get down to Miami and very quietly see who Gold was working for before the conspirators begin cleaning up their mess.

Also, you’re now cleared for new augmentations. Protocol forbids agents on the presidential detail from using new experimental tech, but since you’re no longer on guard duty you’re free to start messing with the exotic gadgets that have been rolling out over the last couple of years. Here’s an upgrade module / nanite canister / sim card / floppy disk / magic pill / whatever to unlock your first upgrade. We’ll get you more later, but keep your eyes open. The bad guys might have some of this stuff too.

I’m trying to keep this focused on the writing, so I’m not going to design the gameplay systems and augmentation upgrades. (Feel free to do that in the comments if you like.) However, let me just put in a vote for bringing back the mutually exclusive upgrade choices of the original. Like, maybe your legs can jump high / kick open wooden doors, OR they can move fast & silent, but not both. Maybe your arms can shock guys unconscious OR they can project a bullet-stopping shield, but not both. And so on. Gives the game some replay value, so the player has a reason to come back and try the road not taken.

Also, I REALLY hope we don’t have auto-regen health. See Hbomb’s video for why free health regen breaks the careful balance between combat, stealth, and hacking.

Denton catches a ride on an agency heli-drone: These helicopters are usually unmanned. They patrol the city and are designed to deal with “airspace threats”. They have a small compartment in the back that can transport one or two people as needed. Alex explains that we usually just use them for putting snipers on rooftops, but they’re also a good tool if you need to quietly deploy a single agent somewhere. It doesn’t seem to have any windows.

Troy: This thing has a cockpit doesn’t it? Why can’t I sit up there?

Alex: Would you hand me a gun if I didn’t know how to use one?

Troy: Of course not.

Alex: Do you know how to fly one of these?

Troy: (Realizing he just lost.) Fine. I’ll get in the back. It’s just really tight back here.

Alex: (Playful.) You’ll be fine. You’ve got more room than business class. You don’t even have luggage.

To be continued…

 

Footnotes:

[1] Maybe we could keep a couple of recurring names, like how the name “Cid” always shows up in Final Fantasy.

[2] That’s only 22 years from now, which might be a little too close to today. Eh. I’d probably wait to see where the artists wanted to go with the style before firmly setting the date.

[3] Actually, the biblical references in the first game worked to make the bad guys come off as pretentious idiots. But then Human Revolution just added more without really doing anything with it, taking the idea into a dead end.

[4] And your distant environments / skybox can be simpler.

[5] ”Oh man. This guy looks like a saint. That means he’s either about to be martyred, or turn out to be evil.” – You, in the comments. Because you think you know where this is going.

[6] They should probably be wearing masks or something to make them look threatening, in the style of Watch Dogs: Legion.

[7] That’s a weird thing for a secret service agent to do, but we have to respect the audience’s expectations here.

[8] I guess the doors need electricity to work.

[9] It’s not what you think. We’ll come back to this later.

[10] Congratulations. You just won techno-thriller Buzzword Bingo.



From The Archives:
 

157 thoughts on “Deus Ex Pitch Part 2: New Game

  1. James Stanfield says:

    Cool so far – one aspect I appreciated about the original Deus Ex was that JC would always back up the player’s actions, even if the character they’re talking to dislikes what you did. It never felt like JC was being a sycophant for the player, but more like the game respected your decision and never tried to put egg on your face for doing something either even if it was really morally questionable (like killing Leo Gold after he surrenders) of course JC knew when the time to talk back was as well so he wouldn’t talk too much shop to UNATCO higher ups, so you never felt like a moron either.

  2. tmtvl says:

    I’d suggest making the protagonist player-selectable gender like Commander Shepard

    Like Alex Denton, to stick with the Deus Ex theme?

    Also, with respects to the bad guys’ colour scheme, maybe dark orchid would work. It’s a nice evil looking purple.

    1. Hal says:

      Maybe the female agent could be Helen.

    2. Sivartis says:

      Oh yeah, Alex would be great: it’s gender-neutral, fits with the Greek theming, and you might be able to do something with the fact Alexander literally means “Defender of Mankind”. The Alex Richardson character wouldn’t actually have that name, so you wouldn’t run into any confusion with her.

      1. tmtvl says:

        Alex Denton is the protagonist of Invisible War, in case you missed the reference.

  3. Mephane says:

    Now we get the full gameplay tutorial. We can murder our way through the mooks, guns blazing. Or we can stealth our way through and knock them all out. Or we can crawl through some environmental hazards to reach the generator room and cut the power. This will trap the invaders in the tunnels,[8] in the dark, so that the army can collect them later.

    Let me interrupt your game pitch right there for a moment. I agree that this kind of freedom is great, but what soured it for me in Human Revolution (the only Deus Ex game I have played) was that the various approaches were not at all equal. Killing awarded you less XP than knocking enemies out. Skipping enemies entirely awarded you neither XP nor loot. There is a big bonus at the end for never being detected, so any non-stealth approach (or even just a minor slip-up) is automatically deemed less valuable.

    Ýou got all this freedom and then the game turns around and say “but if you don’t follow this one specific gameplay style, you are doing it wrong”.

    And there is no way to offset that. This is no open world RPG with respawning enemies where you can offset any real or perceived lack of XP or loot by going after some random enemies. Every mission has a finite amount of XP and loot for your to acquire, and once you are done with the mission, you cannot go back and get the rest, and even if you could repeat missions for that purpose, it’d still railroad you into the one “correct” solution.

    For a game like this, where a mission goes from start to finish and then is over – in other words, a game with finite non-repeatable content and plenty of points of no return – I would thus greatly scale back the RPG systems. Levels or XP should be awarded by milestones only, e.g. completing a mission objective. (You could have optional objectives, all of which need to be open to many different approaches as well, for bonus rewards). Loot should only be relevant only insofar as to get some extra ammo or improvised weapons during the ongoing mission, but you should start each mission with a fresh inventory and a loadout of your choosing out of an ever-growing arsenal. New gear could unlock based on your current level, or skill points could be generic upgrade points that can unlock both skills and equipment.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Oh, don’t forget the XP bonus for going back and discovering the other ways you COULD have gone through the area. During my time with Human Revolution, Adam Jensen did a whole lot of crawling through vents, then turning around and crawling back through the OTHER vents, just to net more XP. Good times, and by good I mean irritating.

    2. Chris says:

      I think the idea was that stealth is more difficult than combat. So they wanted to reward players more for the more challenging option. Especially since they found in testing most people would just start shooting as soon as they were given a gun. (In my opinion this was a mistake of the developers, they obviously spent a lot of time and effort on stealth and alternative routes, that seeing players just walk forward and shoot everyone is rather disheartening, but at the same time you should just let the player do what they want. The true DX connoisseur would try out different approaches and respect your efforts).

    3. Tektotherriggen says:

      This is one reason why I preferred System Shock 1 and 2 to Deus Ex (only played the original). They didn’t tell you off for using the mechanics that they gave you. Deus Ex was also rather stingy with the ammo for the non-lethal riot prod, making it very hard to finish the later levels, that were full of tough cyborgs, without heavier weapons.

      Milestone XP can be good, but I do also like exploring in games, so finding XP in the environment can be a fun reward. Either literally (like the cyber modules in Shock), or as in-story rewards for finding enemy intelligence, or whatever.

    4. Victor McKngith says:

      Not that people seem to have noticed, but Mankind Divided solved this problem. You could still farm the system if you were really diligent. But there were black and white hat bonuses (that were the same) for either hacking or unlocking terminals/computers/whatever with found codes; non-lethal and lethal takedown/incapacitation/kill bonuses for dealing with mooks; and ghost bonuses for ghosting a section(that seemed dependent on how many guys you ghosted).

      It is true that scaling back to just objective bonuses would also work and be cleaner. But not even the original fully did that (as I recall you got bonuses for use lock picks and I know there were exploration bonuses). If you were determined to award players for “doing things,” beyond just mission objectives, I think it can be done.

      For all of DX:MD many theme and narrative sins, it did really try to improve on DX:HR mechanically, and this is something it is much better about than its predecessor.

      1. Mye says:

        Mankind divided was one step forward, one step back for exp. Like you said, they tried to give you the same exp reward for different playstyle. But at the same time, they really screwed you over with quest EXP. If you did quest objective out of order (very easy since you could randomly stumble upon them just traversing the town HUB) you wouldn’t get the exp for the step you did. Jensen would just go “Oh I did that already” and the game would just move on with no exp. There were also random NPC conversation in the world that would award you EXP and hint at the possibility of quest nearby, those would only trigger if you hadn’t started the quest itself. Playing MD will trying to maximize EXP gain is a nightmare for that reason since you need to follow a guide step by step otherwise you accidentally trigger stuff too early.

        1. Mephane says:

          Ouch. This sounds like just the kind of game where I end up glued to a guide just so that I don’t miss out on anything, ruining half of the fun of the game (but not doing so would ruin the other half).

    5. evileeyore says:

      Let me interrupt your game pitch right there for a moment.

      I think what Shamus is going after is how things worked in the original DE, which is rewards for Completing The Mission, not for how you completed the mission.

      The only advantage to doing things one way (stealth) over any others (usually direct combat), was stealth often also required exploration, which would sometimes have bonus consumables and augs or hints or notes to make something else easier.

    6. Ramsus says:

      I agree with you that XP is absolutely the wrong way to do this. There’s all manner of approaches from milestone skill points to items you find during missions to…. just money to buy things with in a hub area. Some of these can even be combined if you want a more complex system.

      But “you can play the game one of three ways, but we’ll punish you for not playing the ‘best’ way” or other issue that come with xp is just a bad way to go about it. Besides, XP doesn’t even thematically fit the concept of replacing your meat body parts/modifying technology anyway, heck it’s essentially the opposite.

    7. C.J.Geringer says:

      1: You are assuming the game will use XP. That is not necessarily true.

      2: there are ways to offset that. Award XP only for objectives, not how they were awarded. If the objective is to reach point B, only reaching pint B gives XP.

      1. Mephane says:

        Your #2 is what I meant by milestone rewards.

    8. Olivier FAURE says:

      I think the system in Arkham Knight (and maybe other Arkham games? I don’t remember) is pretty good for this.

      You have a fixed set of unlock points that can get you the entire skill tree if you get them all (but in this Deus Ex, it could be “enough for the entire skill tree, minus the parts you cut off, modulo a few point sinks”). You get some unlock points by getting XP and leveling up, but you can also get them from doing side missions and story missions and optional challenges.

      So even if you’re doing really bad at fights and not getting enough XP, the game can roughly control how fast you’re getting unlocks by giving you a bunch of points after each story mission, while gating some side-missions behind story progression.

      (Arkham Knight is honestly kind of a masterpiece of Ubisoft-style open-world design. It manages to have tons of side-missions that feel fresh and slightly different from each other, and the missions fully exploit the different game mechanics. Except for the tank missions, those are all boring and copy-paste-ish.)

  4. BlueHorus says:

    Biblical references in stories almost always seem…lazy, to me. It’s might be because I’m an atheist who’s only ever gone to a church as a sightseer, but so often the references I see are shallow, obvious, or irrelevant. “Throw in a Biblical reference, it’s instant profundity!”, the writer seems to think.

    JC Denton never dies & comes back in the story of Deus Ex*. Adam Jensen technically HAD the potential to revolutionise how humans got augmented – thus being father to a new type of human – but the story wasn’t about that. Naming Shepard’s reconstruction in Mass Effect 2 the ‘Lazarus Project’ doesn’t make me think ‘Ooh, how deep!’, it makes me think ‘Wow, you went with literally the first reference you could think of. Short meeting, huh?’
    And the less said about Fallout 3’s ‘I am Alpha and Omega’, the better…

    Nothing against references to holy books in stories, but y’know, put in the effort to make them clever.

    *Save Game/Load Game feature notwithstanding…

    1. Thomas says:

      The good old “He’s T-posing, it’s meaningful!”

    2. Kathryn says:

      The writers would have to actually know the Bible to do that. But it’s long and old, so who has time? Drop a couple names and call it good.

      (The same goes for any long, old work – you’re not going to find non-shallow references to the Divine Comedy or the Mahabharata in popular culture.)

      1. Paul says:

        “you’re not going to find non-shallow references to the Divine Comedy”
        Played this little game called Devil May Cry?

    3. Smith says:

      Naming Shepard’s reconstruction in Mass Effect 2 the ‘Lazarus Project’ doesn’t make me think ‘Ooh, how deep!’, it makes me think ‘Wow, you went with literally the first reference you could think of. Short meeting, huh?’

      A project by an organization called Cerberus. Religous and Mythological branding is clearly kind of a big deal for them.

      Something something Miranda, something something never actually read The Tempest, something something Jacob, something something daddy issues theme, something something the Shepard resurrected Lazarus, not the other way around.

  5. BlueHorus says:

    It’s hard to make the White House look futuristic and cyberpunky. I’d suggest we don’t try, but that’s up to the art team. They know their business.

    Surround the White House with cyberpunk buildings, maybe with a new flashy high-tech wing on the side. Make it look out of place, incongruous, and a throwback to past times, like the President that the secret Cabal can’t control.

    1. Thomas says:

      It’s a really nice environment to start a near-future setting, becuase the White House is often deliberately antiquated. The current Oval Office is full of old-fashioned lamps, statues and busts to emphasise that reliably historical continuity of power.

      But it’s also going to be adjacent to really high levels of technology. You can get players comfortable with the older stuff, with a couple of hints of the progression (is that a holographic projector instead of a phone?). And then as they move from the corridors to the service tunnels, everything feels a lot more weird and futuristic, before they step out side and you hit them with a big reveal as the whole of Washington has been totally transformed.

      1. Pax says:

        Watch Dogs Legion did a lot of this kind of stuff, with old historical buildings and landmarks being mostly untouched, and yet festooned with holographic propaganda and embedded with new terminals and security systems once you got into their guts.

    2. guy says:

      I’d say there’s two options:

      1. Keep the architectural style of the White House but have the tech be higher end; artfully concealed neural jack points, inset screens that default to showing classical art but shift to alarm displays when the fighting happens, that sort of thing.

      2. If we want to show a real cultural disconnect, have a clash of styles, with white marble peeking out through screens and metal.

  6. Pax says:

    Hunh. I don’t think I ever knew that the NSF leader in the first game was named Leo Gold.

    Also, I love the name PARASIGHT for their surveillance system.

    Also, also, setting the first level in the White House might be controversial these days, but it’s still a great idea. I remember how weird I felt sneaking into the White House in one of the older Hitman games. And let’s face it, putting the first level somewhere iconic should’ve become a series tradition. I mean, in the first game we get Liberty Island, and that’s been followed up by… an anonymous corporate lab in Chicago, a corporate office/lab highrise then factory in Detroit, and a ruined skyscraper in I want to say Dubai? At this point, the series tradition seems to be that you should just start in a very tall building.

    1. Zagzag says:

      Unfortunately someone else got there first, and there’s a game studio with the name already.

  7. Matt says:

    Carter orders Troy to kill the attackers, but the player is also given the tools to knock them out if they prefer.

    Honestly, I’ve never liked the kill vs. knock out choice in Deus Ex (or similar) games for several reasons. First, verisimilitude. It’s really hard to consistently render people unconscious without causing further harm, but this is never portrayed in the games with this feature. Second, genre expectations. These are action-thriller games, not superhero comics. No one in action movies goes around just sedating mooks with tranquilizer darts. The vast majority of the time, heroes use deadly force or circumvent an encounter altogether by being clever or sneaking around. Sometimes, when they have no other options or it would look cool, they’ll use fisticuffs or a melee weapon that could be less lethal, but they never go out of their way to knock out some minion instead of killing them. When there is a point where they must choose between killing or knocking someone out, it’s always related to the story, i.e., “Shooting this sniper is the safer, easier path, but if we can sneak up on her, we could disarm and interrogate her.” Third, implementation. There’s no significant trade-off between non-lethal and lethal playstyles and no difference in the consequences the majority of the time. You always get a very quick, effective means of knocking someone out at melee and long ranges, and they are always incapacitated for the duration of the mission. It’s never much harder to play non-lethally because you can’t, say, fight off a dozen men armed with machine guns with tranquilizer darts.

    In the next few lines of dialog, we learn that he was a dark horse third-party candidate.

    Most unbelievable part of the whole thing, so far. I don’t think we’ll ever see a viable third party in the future with our current ruleset – far better to just recast an existing party with its built-in brand and financial networks. Also, I think players would wonder what this President and his party stood for politically that made them popular enough to defeat the major two parties and be successful in office, doubly so if you’re supposed to care about this character and want to protect him.

    1. Vernal_ancient says:

      Most unbelievable part of the whole thing, so far. I don’t think we’ll ever see a viable third party in the future with our current ruleset – far better to just recast an existing party with its built-in brand and financial networks. Also, I think players would wonder what this President and his party stood for politically that made them popular enough to defeat the major two parties and be successful in office, doubly so if you’re supposed to care about this character and want to protect him

      On the other hand, if you want the claim of a rigged election to be something the players can believe, a third party victory seems like a pretty good way to do so

    2. Shamus says:

      Discovery: There is nothing more delightful for a writer than hearing someone raise an objection to something when you know that your story will address it later on.

      I believe it is possible to become drunk on this power.

      1. Matt says:

        Looking forward to reading it.

      2. Liessa says:

        That’s good. Have to admit my first thought was that “save the President!” is way overdone in video games and Ellis sounds too good to be true, but I’m willing to trust that you’ll have an original take on both those things.

      3. SidheKnight says:

        Did you deliberately re-use the name of the President in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Ellis) or was it pure coincidence?

        1. Shamus says:

          Is that where Ellis is from? I wondered why “President Ellis” sounded so plausible.

          1. Christopher Wolf says:

            He was named after Warren Ellis, who wrote the Extremis storyline in the Iron Man comics, which was used in Iron Man 3, where Ellis shows up.

    3. damiac says:

      I think if you want it to be deus ex you gotta let the player go non lethal, even if it is silly for all the reasons you and Shamus point out. It’s baked into the setting. But I totally agree that the XP rewards should be the same for either, and any gameplay differences should be just that, differences, not obviously better/worse outcomes.

      The third party thing…. yeah, I get your point that it’s a little hard to believe, but then… So was a catholic president. So was a black president. So was an orange president. This is a world with actual worldwide organized conspiracies controlling things behind the scenes, a third party president isn’t that outrageously crazy. Plus you neatly sidestep the issue of pissing off a bunch of people over politics, which Shamus is clearly trying to do, which is probably worth a little extra suspension of disbelief.

      1. Matt says:

        The third party thing…. yeah, I get your point that it’s a little hard to believe, but then… So was a catholic president. So was a black president. So was an orange president.

        In my opinion, those were mostly a matter of voter prejudices, whereas the lack of viable third parties is more structural. Not only are the two parties vastly more powerful, rich, and well-known than any third party, but any such party is likely to pull more of its support from one of the two existing one parties. In that case, the other big party wins and the losing parties have an incentive to coalesce into a single party to be competitive.

        1. Randy says:

          According to people who actually study this stuff for a living, a first-past-the-post single-vote system like the US uses for national elections will always devolve into a two-party system, due to things like strategic voting, advertising and financial concentration, post-election consolidation by the major parties, etc. Historically, the US has demonstrated this by pretty much always being a two-party nation, with third parties only becoming truly viable when one of the two major parties is in the process of falling apart, like how the Republican Party formed during the dissolution of the Whig Party (Republicans formed in 1854; Whigs dissolved in 1856).

          In other words, a third party president will only get elected during a time of extreme upheaval (a party on its way out, sweeping changes to the voting system, etc.) or by behind-the-scenes manipulation. So, either way, a great setting for a Deus Ex game.

          1. Liessa says:

            Two parties, yes, but not always the same two. In the UK the main parties used to be the Liberals and Tories (Conservatives); since the early 20th century, it’s Labour and the Conservatives. So I guess this could theoretically take place at a time when one major party (or both) is in the process of being supplanted by another?

    4. RamblePak64 says:

      You can’t really reference how movies and reality do it because video games are neither of those, and players come in with preferences and player expectations. For example, I’m playing Cyberpunk 2077 right now, and in the instances where I’m playing stealth I just automatically select the non-lethal option. Is there any practical difference in execution? No. The character just rag dolls, I loot ’em, and I need to try and hide the body regardless of whether the person is alive or not. And yet it wasn’t even something you could characterize as a “choice” for me. I just ignored the kill option and do so every time.

      Does it make no sense? Absolutely, especially when you consider I keep failing most stealth sections and being forced into shooting people anyway. I don’t reload a quick save or anything because I’m trying for a no kill run. I just prefer non-lethal if I can help it.

      Would it help if the game had more interesting non-lethal options than “choke out” and “tranquilizer”? (Shamus’, not Cyberpunk, where I don’t think a tranquilizer gun exists) Of course. But I think it’s important to consider player expectations and desire above reality and whatever Hollywood is doing.

      1. Matt says:

        I disagree. While it’s true that video games are their own thing, they draw heavily from the genre conventions of other media. To my memory, no-kill playthroughs emerged from these kinds of games as a bit of meta-challenge and trivia. “Did you know it’s possible to play through the whole Deus Ex game without killing anyone?” type of thing. My problem is when they start creating whole playstyles around this obviously ridiculous thing in games that prize verisimilitude.

        Perhaps it’s just a matter of taste, but it definitely breaks my sense of verisimilitude when I’m confronted with a bunch of armed terrorists who’ve killed hostages and I’m encouraged to punch them all out so…what? They can go to prison? Do we ever see that? Would the conspiracy allow it?

        1. Thomas says:

          I absolutely disagree with you that movies don’t also use this trope. The easy-peasy one-hit knockout punch has been a standard of action films since there have been action films.

          Action films, except for a particular kind, are also very careful not to show the violence of killing mooks. You pull a trigger, theres a flash, the enemy falls over. It’s deliberately not focusing on the fact that the protagonist is racking up a body count. And then, when the character is important so their death can’t be glossed over, they take extra steps to justify the killing – having the enemy reject an attempt at surrender, or get killed by the environment or do something particularly nasty.

          It’s all equally ridiculous and equally expected.

          1. Matt says:

            The one punch knockout is a trope, but it’s deployed when it looks cool or for story reasons, as I wrote above. One of Adam’s takedowns being a cool (presumably) nonlethal punch or choke out wouldn’t bother me, but having an entire group of specifically nonlethal takedowns to be used on mooks is what I dislike. Knocking out the terrorist’s leader to interrogate later makes sense logically and is in genre, but it strikes me as weird that any anti-terrorist, corporate security, or secret service agent would go through the trouble of specifically knocking out more than 1 or 2, much less all of them. That comes across to me as more Batman than action-thriller, especially when they give you an array of cinematically-effective gadgets and weapons just so that you can be non-lethal.

        2. Aceus says:

          I’d expect them to be interrogated for information if they were KO’d in an assault on the White House. (Why they’d do it? Are there more of them? Who’s their leader and where are they? How’d they get past security so easily? Etc.) That’s the interesting choice to me: Do you go for the kill because you’re not taking any chances, or do you perform non-lethal takedowns in case one might have a loose enough tongue to talk later?

          All the sweeter (conceptually anyway) if you get to do the interrogating yourself and can approach things as good cop or bad cop or sly cop; you can inquire, threaten, incentivize, disincentivize, reason with, empathize with, give cold silence, etc. Perhaps you emphasize the gravity of their situation and weight of their punishment for the crimes they committed. And perhaps you mildly mention the possibility of that sentence (maybe) being (considerably) lightened should they provide any valuable information regarding the person/people they work for.

          Replayability for this part could come in the form of different successful options based on approaches to the interrogations and which of the henchmen you get to interrogate. (The more you knock out, the more chances you get at getting something out of one of them. But perhaps only one knows and you screwed the pooch on it and the others can only give you lies if you break them; and how can you know the truth? Check in with evidence and/or your buddy, Alex, or whoever.) I’ll admit, though, that kind of branching choice and consequence might be too expensive for Shamus’s version of the game.

          1. Matt says:

            The leader, absolutely, or one or two mooks if the leader isn’t present, but it seems weird to me that someone would bother to knock all of them out, or even most of them, even with the explanation you provide. Why would they all have different information? In DX, you actually do get some info extracted via interrogation (by others) if you don’t execute the leader of the NSF raid on Liberty Island. I don’t recall a scene where you actually interrogate a captured prisoner in any DX game, but that would be cool. It would become tedious to interrogate a dozen people though, and if you’re only going to interrogate a few of them, I’d wonder why you’d go through the trouble of incapacitating them all. And it gets tricky in weird places like Hell’s Kitchen in DX. You can find an MJ-12 cell in the sewers and knock them all out. Do they get arrested or interrogated? By who? Or do a have dozen men all wake up with concussions a few hours after you leave and wonder what the hell happened?

            1. Aceus says:

              They’re too undefined at this point to know for certain if they’re the kind of organized group that’s open, semi-open, or very secretive with each other about their missions, hideouts, resources, leadership, etc. Maybe they’re small, tight-knit, and super loyal. Maybe they’re part of a much bigger organization and ideologically (and/or financially) driven, but not trusted enough with top secrets, or even lower level compromising info; only what they need to know. If you want the mastermind(s) pulling the strings in the back to be presented as more intelligent, then the latter is what you go with.

              Knocking them all out is going to be a role-playing option no matter what, and I can’t think of a better explanation to help smooth it over for someone trying to be a gentle soul but perhaps still somewhat practical (in the info-gathering sense) bodyguard/agent. That’s why I proposed it. Yes, it could easily be tedious to interrogate all of a dozen mooks, which is why I’d only allow for a max of three interrogations per playthrough (assuming you knocked out say six mooks; arbitrary, I know, but for the sake of gameplay expediency let’s pretend it makes sense that your failures in interrogating is being marked against you getting to do it again and that’s weighed against how many there are to interrogate. So, one mook is one chance, but six mooks is three chances, etc. If you fail three times, it doesn’t matter if you KO’d eight or ten mooks, you suck at interrogating and everyone knows it now, so you’re pushed along to do something you’ll hopefully do competently, while the others take a crack at both the mooks you didn’t get to interrogate as well as the ones you failed to get anything out of. Maybe that means this playthrough has everyone turn up dry on that front and you lose out on some useful information to open up a cool sidequest, or get access to some worthwhile loot, or open new dialogue options to use at certain points that let you follow a smoother path to the same/a somewhat better outcome than you might otherwise get to in a different playthrough.)

              But maybe that’s too tricky and expensive. I am trying to narrow it down while making player input feel meaningful, but it can be hard to tell what’s feasible and what’s overambitious.

              In this case, wouldn’t the other agents in the White House be made aware of the unconscious henchmen by Denton or perhaps a partner/colleague of Denton who catches up to him? It doesn’t sound farfetched to me for a timely radio-in from either of them after the last one has been taken care of and the President’s been safely secured. People tend to stay unconscious for a long time after being KO’d or choked out. Denton and co. should know the layout pretty well, too, given their positions and skillsets. Unless the sewers are the size of a nation, I think they’ll be able to recover the bodies and have them tied up before the nap time ends.

              1. Aceus says:

                Also, I didn’t think I needed to clarify this, but any and all interrogations here would be optional. Non-lethal takedowns just open the path for the player to do them. So, if the prospect of doing more than one sounds tedious, you’re welcome to stop at any point, or choose to avoid them entirely. Er, well, I don’t know know if it’d too much work to give the player the ability to exit mid-interrogation, but at the least, you should be able to stop between them.

                And, of course, there doesn’t need to be more than one open to the player, either. (It’s cheaper to stick with one, obviously, and so it’d be the same one every playthrough. If the mooks have their faces well-covered, that makes this repetition easier to swallow on replay.) So you only get the one shot, but maybe get to pass rooms on your way through the hallway where your colleagues are doing (inaudible) interrogations of their own.

      2. trevalyan says:

        Splinter Cell: Blacklist lets you toggle Sam using lethal or less lethal force with his CQC modes. Using less lethal firearms usually depends on your loadout, but rewards the Ghost style of play. Cyberpunk lets you render all attacks non-lethal with a cheap eye upgrade, and provides a variety of less lethal hacks/ gadgets. But you can easily kill people by damaging them while unconscious.

        On the whole I’m certain Shamus will have a solution for this.

    5. John says:

      Most unbelievable part of the whole thing, so far. I don’t think we’ll ever see a viable third party in the future with our current ruleset – far better to just recast an existing party with its built-in brand and financial networks.

      Historically speaking, any time a third American political party gets sufficiently big one of the two big existing parties steals all its popular ideas and absorbs most of its members. See, for example, the Populist Party circa 1896. Also historically speaking, new political parties tend not to last unless they manage to fill a vacuum left by the collapse of one of the two big parties. We got the Whigs because the Federalists collapsed. We got the Republicans because the Whigs collapsed and because the Democrats temporarily fractured along factional, regional, and ideological lines in 1860.

      1. Bloodsquirrel says:

        More significantly: At the time that the Whig party collapsed, it was far less enshrined into US institutions the way the current two parties are. The Federalist party, by today’s standards, wasn’t even a political party.

        There have been fundamental changes in the political system since then that make the ascension of a third party far less likely.

        1. Rho says:

          Even the replacement of the Whigs with Republicans was, a literal change of the party. Yes, the Republicans attracted northern Democrats and some American/”Know-Nothing” switchers too, but it was mostly the northern branch of the Whigs. And its party platform was basically Whig 2: Whig Hard With a Vengeance.

        2. John says:

          There have been fundamental changes in the political system since then that make the ascension of a third party far less likely.

          I’m not entirely sure what you’re talking about, but I have my doubts that third parties are less likely now than they were at any arbitrary point in the past. Third parties are always going to struggle in any system without some kind of proportional representation scheme.

          1. Sabrdance says:

            A full discussion of the three (or four) Party Systems of the US would be long and only interesting to me.

            Suffice to say, third parties were much more possible when Electors were selected by the state legislatures rather than directly voted on by the people, parties had distinct regional bases with extensive patronage systems rather than the amorphous networks without government jobs they are now, and when the Congress was more controlled by the Committee Chairs/Senior Members (by which we mostly mean the Southern Democrats) and not by the Party Leadership.

            When legislatures pick the Electors, you have much more possibility for fragmented outcomes (1824) when different states support different factions within the same party. When there are distinct regional differences, different states’ voters could advance different candidates (1860, 1948, 1960). When parties are much stronger than they are in the US, regional parties can create networks of candidates and activists that they can, slowly, move up the career ladder and potentially supplant existing parties -but parties need Patronage or the coordination of a lot of money, both of which are now illegal in the US (money coordination was legal prior to 1971, Patronage on the necessary scale was trimmed back in 1888, and further scaled back in 1978).

            And even then, most third party bids rely not on getting a majority of the Electors, but on throwing the election to the House (1824, 1876, and was the plan in 1948/1960, except the GOP/DEM swamped out the Dixiecrats). But even getting the election into the House wouldn’t matter anymore, because the Congress isn’t controlled by multiple committee chairs anymore (who could have split the vote sufficiently to get the Dixiecrat elected as a compromise, or at least extort concessions out of the Democrats in return for Southern Democrat support), but by the Partisan Leadership.

            I mean, this story is is Cyberpunk/Fantasy, so I’m not going analyze it too hard -but the only way a true Third Party candidate wins, rather than a candidate coopting an existing party is if one or both of the major party candidates *died* in October of 2040. That or a sudden surge in live boys and dead girls.

    6. Tektotherriggen says:

      If the President belonged to real Party X, half the players will want to assassinate him themselves. Best to just make him seem like a nice, honest, bloke, and let the player project their own politics on him.

    7. evileeyore says:

      Most unbelievable part of the whole thing, so far.

      Either you’ve never studied (US political) history or you’re too wrapped in current day politics to realize, this has happened before.

      It usually sounds the death knell for one of the current parties, which looses cohesion and mostly reforms into the new ‘dark horse’ party, with some of the old party figures staying strong and fading away or and some even switching sides and joining their old direct rivals.

      1. Matt says:

        Oh no, I’m aware that it has happened before, I just don’t think it can happen again under the way things are now. The last time there was a competitive third party was, what, a century ago? In my opinion, the existing parties are too powerful financially and as brands and the nature of our voting system strongly encourages no more than two parties.

        I think it’s far more likely that one or both parties would just change their platform over the course of a few years while keeping the same branding and claiming to have the same values as before.

        1. Kyle Haight says:

          I think Ross Perot got a higher percentage of the popular vote in 1992 than Teddy Roosevelt did as the Bull Moose candidate in 1912, and the Reform Party did manage to elect a governor. But I think your core point stands. The 50% plus 1, first past the post system in the United States creates a strong pressure for two major parties.

          We don’t get new third parties, we get party insurgencies.

        2. guy says:

          You’d need a strong candidate who opts not to enter either party and some kind of drastic primary collapse probably from both major parties, I’d think. Of course, if shadowy opening cutscene conspiracy is not the only game in town the latter could be arranged.

          Alternately, he was making a big, self-funded run staking out some distinct position on, say, human augmentation and this suddenly became the most important issue.

    8. Syal says:

      Sometimes, when they have no other options or it would look cool, they’ll use fisticuffs or a melee weapon that could be less lethal, but they never go out of their way to knock out some minion instead of killing them.

      This one isn’t true. Nolanverse Batman is the obvious example. Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes didn’t make a huge point of it but would aim to knock people out when feasible. The guy from Person of Interest would break limbs but leave people alive.

      The thing they have in common is they’re characters who are well above the average; they’re so much stronger than their opponents that they can afford to pull their punches and still win. Considering that’s kind of a core theme of Deus Ex, that augmented people are just unstoppably superior to normies, that’s totally something you would want to include in combat.

      1. Matt says:

        This one isn’t true. Nolanverse Batman is the obvious example. Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes didn’t make a huge point of it but would aim to knock people out when feasible. The guy from Person of Interest would break limbs but leave people alive.

        I did specifically exclude superheroes from the conventions I was discussing because they operate under separate ones. Batman, Spider-Man, etc. will go out of their way to knock people out because they originated in comic books aimed at kids and adapted the Comics Code rules about violence. Sherlock Holmes in the RDJ movies may as well be a superhero, but I’d also argue that he is primarily a detective in stories with a Victorian sense of gentlemanly conduct, not a paramilitary agent. I haven’t watched Person of Interest.

        Considering that’s kind of a core theme of Deus Ex, that augmented people are just unstoppably superior to normies, that’s totally something you would want to include in combat.

        As I recall, many of the enemies you fight in DX:HR are augmented, though perhaps not to the same extent and some of them in classic DX have something like power armor with rocket launchers. Even without them, a few guys with assault rifles can still put your character down pretty quickly. The nonlethal options are only viable at all because the tool are given unrealistic efficacy, I just think they should either be jettisoned or left for situational use only, not made a core gameplay feature.

        1. Abnaxis says:

          I mean, aren’t augmented people basically superheroes in the DX universe? As I remember, a lot of the augment descriptions are basically “This augment lets you use your incapacitation super-power [faster/quiter/at longer range/while jumping from a tall building/etc]”

          1. Matt says:

            Augmented people are like superheroes in that they have superhuman abilities, but I don’t believe that makes Deus Ex games much like superhero stories (except perhaps some intentionally deconstructive ones). I think it shares more DNA with action-thrillers in terms of aesthetics, tropes, and audience expectations.

            In the original, most of the powers were general use abilities, not focused on incapacitation powers. I think that evolution was in part because one of the common complaints about nonlethal playthroughs is that after you acquire 1 or 2 weapons and abilities, you essentially have all you need for the rest of the game. The new powers essentially replicate the functions of firearms, they just add an “unconscious” tag to the resulting incapacitated body and drain energy instead of ammo.

        2. The+Puzzler says:

          In a science fiction context, the idea that nonlethal weaponry could be almost as effective as regular guns seems pretty reasonable. At least, compared to the ability to upgrade your cybernetic legs to be more silent or better at jumping.

          1. Matt says:

            It’s not so much that the weapons exist, although I do think it will always be harder to safely knock people out than just kill them, so the immediate and near-total efficacy of such weapons is a little jarring. My complain is that a deliberate and gameplay-supported nonlethal playstyle seems to me to sharply contrast with the tone and genre expectations. Outside of superhero media, we seldom see a lone hero take on a dozen armed men and take special care to only knock them unconscious rather than just shoot them.

        3. Tuck says:

          Then there’s Terminator 2, where the Terminator uses non-lethal force throughout and racks up a body count of zero.

          1. Matt says:

            Terminator 2 is a fair point. He does mostly use lethal weapons (tear gas launcher he acquires on site excepted) in a non-lethal way, which is probably why I didn’t think of it. I think it my point stands for the majority of action-thrillers, though.

            I remember in Deus Ex, if you wounded some bad guys enough, they would retreat and possibly sound alarms. The problem was that they couldn’t exit the play area, so they’d eventually just stand around in a corner somewhere. I forget if HR or MD did something like this.

          2. pseudonym says:

            Well he kills one body at the end. Two in fact…

        4. tmtvl says:

          Didn’t Batman dual-wield pistols, back when he was just a Shadow knock-off?

          1. Matt says:

            As I recall, he just had the one, plus machine guns on some of his vehicles.

    9. Michael Brazier says:

      A third party candidate winning has happened before, though; that’s what Abraham Lincoln was. It took one of the major parties collapsing and failing to nominate anyone, and the other splitting into two sectional parties and nominating two candidates, but it did happen.

      So if you postulate one or both major parties disintegrating into factional fighting, unable to agree on a candidate, an independent winning the election is quite feasible. For extra fun you could say none of the candidates actually got a majority of the Electoral College so the election was decided by the House of Representatives (Ellis being a compromise choice.)

      1. Gaius Maximus says:

        Not quite. The Republicans fully replaced the Whigs by 1856, which was a two way contest between the Republican Fremont and the Democrat Buchanan. In 1860, there were two Democratic candidates and a third party candidate John Bell, for the Constitutional Union Party. Lincoln, running as a Republican, was absolutely a major party candidate.

        1. John says:

          According to Wikipedia there was a Whig candidate in 1856, but the party had already suffered such serious decline that it didn’t really matter.

    10. beleester says:

      Human Revolution had a scene where trying to go nonlethal would (probably) get an ally killed – you had to take down a bunch of enemies very quickly in order to save her and the slow fire and short range of the tranq rifle and taser made it very hard to take them all down efficiently. I’ve seen some players say they ended their pacifist runs in order to save her. It was pretty memorable.

      (Even outside of that scene, nonlethal combat has the rare but significant disadvantage that unconscious enemies can get woken up if their body is found. So the two options are equal when stealthing, but nonlethal falls apart in open combat.)

    11. Cannongerbil says:

      Take a leaf out of Metal Gear solid’s book. In MGS, tranq guns exist but they take awhile (a couple of seconds) to work on an unaware enemy, the tranqs take far longer to work if they are alerted, and the duration goes all the way up if they are in active combat and actively shooting at you. Make it such that non lethal takedowns are something you actually have to work towards with both good gameplay and a specific build and not just a pistol with a different skin.

    12. James says:

      It is a great thing to include in games as it provides players with choices in how they interact with the world, which is a core tenet of immersive sims. But I do agree that a lot of times this choice is an illusion where the consequences are limited. What these games tend to not get is to provide a tangible gameplay level difference as opposed to story/meta differences.

      XP gain differences between lethal/non-lethal doesn’t really impact the moment to moment gameplay. Most story differences are simply a different conversation/response. The games that have major story differences, unfortunately makes the ‘choice’ and illusion. This is because in order to get the specific good/bad ending, you have to go entirely non-lethal/lethal. And unfortunately, this means you have to go entirely non-lethal (which as you pointed out doesn’t make sense in-game all the time).

      Some games do engage with more differences to gameplay, such as characters not giving you side quests if they don’t like your behavior.

      One game that really nails the Lethal vs Non-lethal idea is MGS V. Lethal method has the instant benefit of being quick, and not letting the enemies wake back up. But non-lethal has the delayed benefit, where you can research items/weapons quicker, which will provide later game benefits. This results in both immediate and delayed consequences of your choices.
      Additionally, you are not railroaded into Good (non-lethal) or Bad (lethal) decisions affecting your end game outcomes. You can be Selectively Non-lethal without it having major story consequences.

  8. Alan says:

    I can just hear Troy’s dialogue being voiced in JC’s weirdly flat voice, and it’s a blast from the past.

  9. Chris says:

    Troy: (Player-selectable response that suggests nervousness, confidence, or flippancy.)

    Carter: (Chucks him on the shoulder.) Okay kid. Good luck in there.”

    Not even slightly different dialogue based on your choice? I would feel a bit cheated if I would replay the game and find out the response is the same no matter what.

    Also for knocking people out. You can maybe change the dialogue a bit like: “I want you to “neutralize” (wink wink) them”. Then if the player actually takes everyone out without killing them, Carter can later do a callback. “Why didnt you take care of them, didn’t I tell you to do that?” player choice: “I did take care of them, I thought it would be prudent to leave them alive for interrogation” or “I did take care of them, but Im not a killer, I wont shoot unless I have to”, or “I did take care of them. But I believe in justice, the court will punish them appropriately”

    1. Shamus says:

      Mapping out full dialog / response pairs would get quickly out of hand. You can assume that there would be different responses from Carter, but it would be annoying to try to read through a tree structure in the form of a blog post.

      1. Christopher Wolf says:

        Example of how such things can get out of hand when trying to honor choice. Spoilers for Baldur’s Gate 3:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHW_KFP7i8I

        1. Naota says:

          To be fair, one interesting thing I’ve learned working with these things first-hand is that the limitation isn’t actually so much on the raw number of lines as their meaning and complexity stacked up. It’s easier to do a take where one actor gives five versions of “yes” or “no” in different attitudes than it is to direct five differently nuanced conversations that depend on specific words or ideas of previous choices. Those words/ideas can end up removed in editing, the dialogue may need shuffling around, or the nuance can differ between languages.

          In practice I’ll often get 5 variations of simple “whew, that was dangerous” or “where to now?” lines passed to me to implement for variety, yet be left wanting for more context specific one-liners, or will need them to be shooed into later pickup sessions because a particular scenario didn’t occur to anyone until a QA tester pointed out something unexpected the player could do (or a director uncovered while trolling us with their best Chaotic Evil Player “impression”).

    2. Liessa says:

      It’s a LONG time since I played Deus Ex, but wasn’t Sam Carter one of the people who preferred JC to do things non-lethally?

      1. jurgenaut says:

        Yes, he was the quartermaster who, if you showed restraint and not killed everyone would give you extra ammo under the pretense of trusting you to know when to use it.

        If, on the other hand, JC went “You should have seen the action man, I totally shot up the place” he would chew you out and give you less stuff.

  10. Ester says:

    Speaking as a writer of stories, rather than a player of games: Great beginning of a story! I’m curious to see how this will turn out. The cosmopolitan council feels a little cliche, but hey, every story gets one get-out-of-jail-free card. Let’s see if Shamus can do something good with his equal-opportunity cabal.

  11. RamblePak64 says:

    I realize that the original game began with a huge open level with countless available routes, so it probably seems a little disappointing to start with something so straightforward. But game space is expensive, and I’d rather spend that money later once the player has some cool weapons and augmentations unlocked. … I really don’t want our hero to rack up a triple digit body count before we even get the story off the ground. So instead of starting with something vast, we start with something short and sweet. So let’s get these tutorials out of the way, and then we can open things up.

    This had me wondering about old school design and development versus new, and where things seem to have gotten worse but might have gotten better. In my mind I imagine that opening level was perhaps the first level the development team had put together, and so they were able to just slot in and build up all kinds of cool ideas they had wanted for a long time before moving on… and then gradually having less and less time for the remaining stages. I don’t know if this is what happened, as I’ve never played the game and don’t know its development history, but it does seem to have been a common occurrence in older games.

    As such, it’s probably better to start off small for your first time players, as well as to make sure you’re pacing the development out. You want to make sure the basics are all in place before you experiment with mechanics and features that may need to get cut later down the line. Not that games are developed in sequential order, either. You’ll have people developing middle portions of the game at the same time as the start and end. It just on the whole feels like a better idea to gradually build forward rather than showing all your hands at the start.

    Similarly, an opening level can still be really fun. See the first level of Halo: Combat Evolved, which serves as a tutorial but is still fun to play. You don’t have to sacrifice mechanics or challenge just because you’re showing players the ropes.

  12. Hal says:

    Hey Troy! Since you’re the only one who’s seen his face, you’re being taken off of the presidential detail and being reassigned to field work.

    I think in previous games, everything you saw and did was basically being video-recorded through your eyes. If it’s the same way in this game, there needs to be an explanation (or at least a lamp-shading) as to why they can’t just pull Leo’s picture from your logs.

    1. Lino says:

      Maybe it’s the same reason why you can’t shoot him when you choose the violent option – something’s messing with your augmentations…

    2. The Nick says:

      Even high quality video doesn’t necessarily capture the look and feel of reality. The differences in perspective, field of view, and other indelible aspects of how a person walks, talks, acts, and so on make it easier to identify a person you’re actually physically interacting with as opposed to a guy who I have a few mugshots and photographs of.

      Even if we have some good recordings, it isn’t unreasonable to have the person who actually interacted with the terrorist, who is ostensibly connected to the group who is tasked with these ‘top level super secret missions’, going after the guy rather than some random agent – especially if that person is also coincidentally our player character.

  13. John says:

    Hey Troy! Since you’re the only one who’s seen his face, you’re being taken off of the presidential detail and being reassigned to field work. Get down to Miami and very quietly see who Gold was working for before the conspirators begin cleaning up their mess.

    Er, I don’t think that this is the kind of thing that the Secret Service normally does. The Secret Service is part of the Treasury Department. The Secret Service investigates crimes like counterfeiting, financial fraud, and certain cybercrimes. I don’t think it investigates terrorism suspects. That’d be the FBI. That said, the Secret Service is part of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, so it’s not out of the question that Denton would be sent off to work with the FBI for a while. I just think it’s unlikely that he’s has been trained for the kind of investigation he’s apparently being asked to do.

    But who am I to say how the Secret Service works in 2044? Alternatively, the irregularity of it all may turn out to be plot-relevant.

    1. guy says:

      The Secret Service does proactively investigate threats to the President and their other protectees, so taking the lead on investigating a nearly successful assassination attempt would be entirely within their area of responsibility.

    2. Christopher Wolf says:

      Probably would be part of an interagency task force which would give you more options to work with people who are out of your wheelhouse and could be tied to any aspect of the conspiracy(s)

  14. Henson says:

    So, if Troy tries to shoot Leo Gold, his augmentations fail for some yet-unknown reason. You can them mention this event to two separate people in this intro section. This has got to be some important plot point that pays dividends later on.

    But if you let him go, then how does this plot point manifest itself?

    1. Kylroy says:

      Possible solution – your in-eye video cameras failed to record the encounter, thus also ensuring you’re the only one who’s seen his face.  Two birds, one stone.

    2. Syal says:

      This is a foreshadowing scene, which is effectively flavor; if you skip it, presumably you’ll just run into the payoff later with less forewarning. No problems there.

      1. Henson says:

        If I tried to shoot a named character in a video game and my character instead responded by grunting and nearly blacking out, I’d consider that much more plot-critical than simply foreshadowing.

        1. Syal says:

          If I tried to shoot a named character in a video game

          Then you get the scene here. The question was about if you didn’t try to shoot them.

          It’s clearly leading to a later scene where you can’t fight/shoot/disobey somebody and they’ll give a big speech about why, ala Robocop. That’s the important scene, and that’s the one there’s no way around*. Then the player hits that one, and looks back here, and says “I wonder if that would have applied in the first mission if I’d tried to shoot that guy,” and it’s a cool easter egg on New Game Plus.

          *(Unless this option is going to start a quest chain to figure the problem out and fix it beforehand, which would actually be really cool.)

  15. Mye says:

    Why have to chose between mutually exclusive upgrade or human revolution mini talent tree? Just have both, you have a talent tree with a couple of mutually exclusive upgrade (probably branch capper), you can even set it so you have to obtain some special item to get them. Also, for the exp system, I’ll point to underrail wonderful exp system. The only way to gain exp is to find these items scattered around the world, looting the item will give exp (the items have no other use), the amount of exp is item specific and the exp can only be gained a certain number of time (maybe there’s 8 of these items scattered around the world, but you can only gain the exp 5 time). This means you can reward all playstyle, possible location include: loot from enemy, pickpocket from npc, found in the environment, quest reward, purchase from shop, traded with NPC and probably a few more I forget. It also mean enemy can respawn without leading to overleveling and the amount of exp available to the player is tightly controlled. You can also reward alternate playtrough without going too crazy and letting you set it up as an in game event, like keeping everyone alive in a level might let you interrogate one of them afterward, who would then point you to a secret cache giving you an exp item. It’s a really nice way to reward exploration and side content.

    Also I’ve watched the “deus ex is fine” video and… I gotta say his point are… well, fine overall. But it feel like for every good point he make, there’s a strange one. Like for example, he says that in human revolution everyone Jensen will end up the same (aug wise), but its actually incredibly hard to obtain every upgrade in the game, vast majority of player will be able to buy about half of them and so will have to make some choices. He also doesn’t really touch on the fact that, afaik, human revolution was the most financially successful immersive sim, which is kinda the most important point to touch on imo.

  16. Abnaxis says:

    Justification: We want an eye-catching color for our bad guys. Red and blue are already taken by the major political parties in the US. Green goes with the Green Party, and yellow is often associated with the Gadsden Flag. That pretty much leaves us with the secondary colors cyan, purple, and orange. Cyan is often seen as “light blue”, and it seems a little calm and friendly to be used as our initial bad-guy color. So for me it’s a coin flip between orange and purple. Feel free to imagine all these orange invaders as wearing purple instead if that works better for you. I’d actually get the art team involved in this decision before making anything final.

    Are white/black/gray out of the running as well? That way you could have civilians about wearing colorful T-Shirts that still contrast with your mooks wearing “civilian” clothing. Make the bad-guys un-saturated while everyone else is vibrant and colorful, and maybe you can do something with that later.

    EDIT: Also, you could slap some slogans on white T-Shirts to characterize the bad guys more and do some slick environmental storytelling.

    1. Also Tom says:

      You could, but that runs into the potential for getting partisan, and I think our host wants to avoid that if at all possible.

      1. Abnaxis says:

        I mean, the Writer isn’t trying to pretend the world isn’t partisan, he’s trying to make up his own political affiliations that aren’t connect to real-world politics. To me, that means you need to take every opportunity to try to make the politics of the fictional world clear–emblazon it on every T-Shirt and billboard you can.

  17. Lino says:

    I really like where this is going. Can’t wait for the next part!

  18. Abnaxis says:

    Alex sort of shrugs and promises to let you know if she figures anything out.

    This is a minor nitpick, but at some point someone really needs to plug into the mods and find a clean error log. It’s a computer–anyone competent doesn’t troubleshoot a computer by brainstorming hypotheticals. Maybe the actual downloading/data transfer happens off-screen, but at least Alex’s exchange should be something like “Did you have a chance to look into my augment malfunction?” “Yeah, I combed through all the status logs from 1400-1430 and they report all-clear. Maybe the issue is with your meat-ware? The readings show had massive levels of [technobabble neurotransmitter chemical] in your system that could have caused you to black out”

    I mean I guess that moves from “Maybe there was a glitch from the generator,” to “maybe you had nervous system malfunction,” but shrugging and saying “I dunno let me Google around and see what I figure out” (which my first-pass read on your script gives me the impression of) makes Alex look incompetent.

    Competent people don’t work on “I dunno, maybe,” they work on “this is the data and information I gathered, and this is what it points to to explain what happened.”

    1. BlueHorus says:

      “You’ve got some pretty high-tech augs, Troy; it’s going to take a while to sift through all the data. Tell you what – sync with my terminal briefly, I’ll download the logs of your meeting with Gold and go over them when I have time.”

      Then you give the player the sub-objective of going to Alex’s computer and leaving the data for her to trawl through. Whether the player does this will affect the story in a very minor way, further down the line. Pretty classic Deus Ex thing to do…

      1. Philadelphus says:

        “Do you know how much data your augs output, Troy? Just from the time you were down in the tunnels they spat out a total of 15 gigabytes of log files. In plain text. Even with some sophisticated neural-network assisted regex-parsing it’s going to take me a while to find out if there’s anything there.”

        1. pseudonym says:

          As a bioinformatician I can assure you 15 GB of text is… Almost nothing. A computer will be able to find some keywords in there in minutes. And that is today. Presumably in 2044 that will get a lot better still.

          We are limited by disk space more than compute power. Ironically, decompression and compression, which is applied to save that disk space, is regularly the most compute intensive part of the analysis. (Because compression looks at individual bits rather than bytes.)

          But that is just nitpicking from me, we can change one sentence and fix it:

          a total of 150 terabytes of log files. compressed!when decompressed it won’t fit on my 1 petabyte harddrive, so this needs to be submitted to the compute cluster and the resource scheduler isn’t kind to me these days.

          (Dialogue option here to inquire further and get more nerd talk)

          1. Abnaxis says:

            Yeah, I worked on what could be called human augmentation in grad school, and for one of the projects in my lab they were trying to use ultrasound data to estimate the level of fatigue in muscles with advanced image processing. The feed from the–low resolution, monochrome–ultrasound was well above 1GB per second. Just for measuring muscle fiber positions for a small slice of the quadriceps in one leg. A full augmented setup could easily generate petabytes.

            Which is kinda missing my main point, but I get into that more before.

            1. tmtvl says:

              In 2035 all computing is Hadoop.

              1. pseudonym says:

                Literally all? Well I guess at the rate at which websites grow nowadays, I wouldn’t be surprised if a browser would need to process 2 petabytes of javascript on a 200+ node compute cluster before I can view a page in 2035.

            2. pseudonym says:

              That’s cool! We have some medical image processing groups in our institute and they are constantly pressing for more GPUs in the cluster to so they can process all the image data in reasonable time.
              I guess with a sufficiently large GPU you could process 1GB of images per second real time and immediately calculate the result.

              1. Abnaxis says:

                Yeah, the whole reason I was even involved was because I was “the CUDA guy” in my lab, so I pitched in to help the poor guy trying to implement the image processing algorithm he was using on the beefy GPU we bought for that purpose. Other researchers in the field were very impressed we could do the processing :)

                The bigger issue at the time was figuring out how to get a 1GB/s out of the ultrasound machine without so much latency we could actually experiment with control systems that could adjust to fatigue in real time. I don’t actually know if they figured that one out, I left the lab while they were still working on it…

                1. pseudonym says:

                  Hehe the story of any scientist working with large input data. Finally you have all your algorithms and compute situation under control. Your programs work great. You can process COMMONDATAFORMATINFIELD in X GB/s.

                  And then you need to actually get the data to your computer ;-).

                  So what did you end up doing nowadays? Still “the CUDA guy”, but now in another lab?

                  1. Abnaxis says:

                    I work at an HPC center’s modernization program. My job is to help people trying to get novel software/algorithms/tools working on our systems, and then once we get it working I do online courses on how it works so others can do it too.

          2. Philadelphus says:

            Interesting. Different disciplines, I suppose—as an astronomer, little of import is stored in text files*, so a >1 GB text file is stupidly huge to me. But yeah, whatever would make more sense for 2044, I like the compression idea.

            *It’s mostly images or spectra in FITS, HDF5, or ASDF files.

            1. pseudonym says:

              We are actually somewhat in the same boat because I see that FITS *also* uses zlib-compatible compression to compress the huge amounts of data.

              Please have a look at the Intel Intelligent Storage Acceleration Library. https://github.com/intel/isa-l . It is an X86-assembly accelerated implementation of zlib-compatible decompression and compression algorithms. Decompression is 2x faster. Compression is 5x faster (on compression level 1) than zlib. When handling lots of data that is a life saver. Python bindings are available at https://github.com/pycompression/python-isal. The python bindings are a lot easier to integrate in projects than the C project.

              I don’t know which libraries you use to process FITS, but making the maintainers aware of the extistence of ISAL would certainly be of benefit to your field.

              1. Philadelphus says:

                Huh, that’s pretty neat. I’ve pinged the Astropy Slack, I’ll see if they’re aware of this.

        2. Abnaxis says:

          This is missing what I think is the most important issue from a writing perspective–if Alex is supposed to be the best-in-the-world technical genius, “Maybe being so close to the generators caused some sort of malfunction? Alex sort of shrugs and promises to let you know if she figures anything out.” is a bad way to characterize her.

          “Maybe” should not be in her vocabulary when it comes to her area of expertise–the best of the best do not say “maybe,” they are the authority. Not only that, but by stumping Alex here, the opposition is basically outsmarting her in her area of expertise. Unless you’re going for a hacker version of the Worf Effect, that should be a Big Deal for Alex’s character development and not something shoved into a optional aside conversation. Assuming the Writer isn’t going for the Worf Effect, letting the opposition “defeat” her in her intro undercuts Alex’s character and makes it obvious very early that exactly how competent she is depends on writer fiat.

          From this perspective, even my initial re-write above isn’t great because I’m still “maybe”-ing it. I’m not much of a writer, but I would go for something more like:

          Alex: “I’ve looked at all the recorded data, and there’s nothing to indicate any malfunction. It’s possible you suffered beta wave disruption [or some other technobabble], but the odds of that happening are less than the odds of you being struck by lightning on a clear day. Your hardware is fine.”

          Denton: [passionate objection where they insist that there must be something wrong, there’s no way the just happened to fault right when Denton was about to apprehend Gold]

          Alex: *sigh* “Fine, if it will make you feel better I could mod your internal diagnostics systems. I’ve been tinkering with the beta wave transducer de-noising algorithm, and could increase the accuracy of the readings by 50%. I can update your firmware and check the readings if you black out again. There’s a infinitesimally small chance of that finding anything though–beta wave disruption like that has only ever been reproduced in lab experiments.”

          The above has the advantage of 1) taking away the “maybe,” 2) putting the fault in Denton’s mods not having the right data instead of Alex’s lack of know-how, and 3) has any discovery that happens later come as a result of Alex being the top neuromod hacker instead of her needing time to puzzle out the conundrum the Bad Guys put in front of her.

          1. evileeyore says:

            Gotta say, I really like this one.

  19. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Good news Shamus, we’ve finished the new market research for the game!
    From the guys who have kids: They recommend adding some sort of cute mascot. Baby Yoda’s incredibly popular, can Troy have a cute sidekick like that? Maybe one of the president’s kid who escaped and tags along in missions?
    From the guys who know women/have a wife: They recommend a love interest. I think we’re good on that, that Alex chick is hot right? Supermodel body but with glasses? They say a love triangle would be pretty cool too. Maybe with that mentor guy?
    From the guys who are non white: They recommend “letting them be a meaningful part of the production instead of living props”. No idea what that means. It covers latinos, blacks and asians though, so be sure to take it into account.

    So can you include all that in the game? You’re the writer of course, but the producers would sure love it.

  20. evileeyore says:

    For gameplay purposes, the mooks have all sportingly decided to wear the same orange T-shirt, or some variation of that color of orange.

    I’d go with them all wearing whatever, so some casual tourists, some business suits, etc, but they all have the sameish face mask and same garishly coloured backpack/satchel (which you can later find out were supplied by someone working inside the Secret Service!)

    Everyone dressed like regular people gives you the option to throw some regular people in that Denton needs to not shoot in the faces/knock out (though to be fair, if he knocks them out the reprimand could be lighthearted and acknowledge they could have been ‘baddies’ in disguise) and set up the notion that later sequences may very well have local innocents you need to not just gun blaze through. It makes “pure combat” missions occasionally slightly harder, but run-and-gun types will like the occasional added difficulty spikes.

    You can tell she’s a hacker because all of her monitors are set to Dark Mode.

    Damn, never knew I was a hacker. Time to get a hoodie and start wearing my shades indoors all the lights off.

    However, let me just put in a vote for bringing back the mutually exclusive upgrade choices of the original.

    Agreed, I really hated how easy it was to almost have all the upgrades in Hooman Revolt.

    1. Syal says:

      I would go a little further; everyone is dressed like random normal civilians, and it’s their weapons that are the brightly-colored uniform things.

  21. Rho says:

    So, I wanted to wait a little bit and think over my response before writing anything. And because there’s definitely some critique here it may not go over well. However, this is a site which criticizing bad writing, so, well, let’s be honest.

    (A) Don’t make the President a third party. If it helps, literally flip a coin to determine which party he or she is a member of, or just ignore it, since it’s not actually important. Or if that’s too much, record a slight dialogue variation where is has to be mentioned and make 50/50 when starting a new game. The reactions to which would be HILARIOUS on social media.

    There’s two reason for this: First, it makes things slightly more plausible for the player, and because it’s easier to imagine a Dark Horse candidate within a party winning popular support and local elections. To the degree that it’s even important, it also suggests some things about the Evil Conspiracy. They can’t control *everything* no matter how arrogant they may be, which is why they resort to mass deception. Their fingers just don’t reach into every little corner of America, let alone the world.

    Second, it’s one less thing we have to keep track of. We don’t need to introduce or raise questions about what the heck this new party is or how it relates to politics.

    (B) The Dialogue is…. not great. It’s OK for placeholder dialogue. The problem is both delivery and content.

    As an example, the “Uncle President” stuff… I wouldn’t do that. Even good characters in cyberpunk stories should have real flaws or weaknesses. Making this guy some kind of perfect archetype is annoying and wrong for the genre, and also grates in real-life terms. It feels like the kind of depiction presented on The West Wing, where the perfect ubermensch knows all and never makes mistakes and only at times let down by his imperfect subordinates.

    Pick a good image and a couple related flaws, and suggest that while matters are mostly good there are some problems now and some storm clouds on the horizon. Say, a canny populist who also has earned sharp criticism from pushing some legal boundaries and may be creating an international backlash, or a wise diplomat who critics says (with some justification) as being out-of-touch with the real needs of the people and whose policies may add inflation risk*.

    Or, in short, this guy isn’t the love child of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Don’t try to show him as such. And ideally let the *player* react casually, professionally, or admiringly.

    *Not a current political commentary.

    1. Syal says:

      “Uncle President”… …Making this guy some kind of perfect archetype…

      The three candidates I can think of to get a title similar to Uncle President are Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin, and Joe Biden. At best they’re a perfect archetype for their party, but absolutely none of them are held as Lincoln-style ubermensches beloved by both parties.

      (I like the Dark Horse candidacy thing; an early break from reality forces the audience to accept this is not just a papered-over version of the world they live in.)

      1. Rho says:

        Dark Horses are not actually that unusual in American politics and are separate from third-party victories. Past Dark Horses include, but are not limited to, the previous two American Presidents to Biden. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_horse#Politics.

        However, to the larger point I don’t think it’s needed as we’re getting a pretty major, in-your-face display of powerful conspiracy and are trying to show a major change in the built environment to show a major difference.

    2. Thomas says:

      I’m pretty sure the question of ‘how did a third-party candidate win’ is going to become plot-integral at some point. I doubt it’s a throway detail.

  22. Ramsus says:

    Rather than have mutually exclusive upgrades/gadgets/whatever for different playstyles, I think it would be a much better choice to have mutually exclusive things for the same playstyle.

    This adds the same replayability without making the player feel like they have to choose “Am I going full combat/stealth/hacking/cooking?” from the very start of the game and feeling “stuck” with that choice for the whole run (and maybe being a bit annoyed when they discover half way through the game that there’s one cool upgrade that does that thing they’ve always wanted to do in a different playstyle tree than they’ve chosen or whatever).

    This way if someone wants to play stealthy sometimes and run and gun some other times they never have to feel they’re playing the game wrong just because they don’t want to do the same thing for 30 hours in a row (or however long the game is).

    Though in this proposal I think that means you’d also need some upgrades/whatever that are essentially “free slots” where you can put non-mutually exclusive things in to focus more on whatever the player wants to focus on or just generalize (or just whatever options they think are the most fun with what they’ve already got).

    Edit: Hopefully this would open up a lot more playstyles than the typical “no stealth full lethality” and “full stealth nonlethal” options.
    You could go for maximum maneuverability, usually loud, nonlethal or hack everything, usually quiet, bloodbath. And so forth and so on.

    1. Rho says:

      Nothing clever to say, just agreement.

  23. Syal says:

    So the president is generally thought of as a parental figure… and is refusing to escalate a conflict to the point of war, despite prompting from a Russian oligarch… in which civilians storm the capitol building of a major government branch… while claiming the Presidential election was rigged. Dark Horse candidate notwithstanding… this is reading like current US President Joe Biden. I don’t think that’s intentional, but I hope the story can handle the additional baggage that brings.

    1. damiac says:

      Where are you getting civilians storming the capitol building? I saw a fake tour full of terrorists in the white house in the write up. The russian oligarch was part of the conspiracy, talking to a bunch of other conspiracy members, not prompting the president. You’re stretching as hard as you can for this interpretation.

      Far be it from me to play Shamus’ rule enforcer, but come on man, leave the real politics out of this.

      1. Syal says:

        It’s my honest take. I’m surprised I’m the only one to see it so far.

        The russian oligarch was part of the conspiracy, talking to a bunch of other conspiracy members

        About how the president is uncooperative in not starting their war. The Chief of Staff says he’ll look weak for not starting a war. Obviously the conspiracy has provoked one somehow.

        I saw a fake tour full of terrorists in the white house in the write up.

        Who are dressed like civilians, and then we get a combat level of taking down enemies dressed as civilians in the White House. It’s like that scene in Kingsman where the bad guy releases his mind control thing and then our hero shoots up a stand-in for the Westborough Baptist Church. Yeah, the serial numbers are gone, but it’s plain what the scene is about.

  24. tomato says:

    “Most of the missions will take place at night because that’s cooler and more cyberpunky,”

    EVERY mission must take place at night, or it’s not Deus Ex!

    1. kikito says:

      I’ve got it: a Solar Eclipse!

  25. Philadelphus says:

    Carter orders Troy to kill the attackers, but the player is also given the tools to knock them out if they prefer.

    Nitpick, but wouldn’t the preference be—very strongly—to capture, not kill, so that these guys can be interrogated to figure out who sent them, etc.? That actually kind of threw me out of the story. Like obviously, lethal force is never going to be off the table if they’ve penetrated the White House in search of the President, but dead men tell no tales* and from the way you’ve presented it it’s not like they’ve got the President directly at gunpoint, so narratively it seems like the player can justify taking a few seconds to knock someone out instead of killing them. Of course it’s a game and the player should be able to go in guns blazing if they want, but I feel like Troy’s superiors should heave a little sigh when debriefing him at the end if he’s killed them all. “Oh well. Guess we’ll have to figure out who sent them the hard way. Good work anyway Troy.” (And conversely, praise him for capturing any alive.)

    Unless that’s part of the story, and Carter is deliberately ordering you to kill them precisely because they won’t be able to reveal who sent them in order to cover some tracks…guess I’ll have to wait and see.

    *Or maybe they do in 2044? Cyber-necromancy?

    1. Syal says:

      It’s one of those things that can go in both directions. If Carter’s clean, he’ll want to interrogate them, but likely not at the cost of his own men, and the priority is to end the threat. So he gives you the tools to knock them out, but makes it clear your objective is to eliminate them without putting yourself at risk.

      Especially since you just know one of them’s got a datapad in his pocket that lays out all their evil plans anyway.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        Of course, the Convenient Mook Datapad Dump! How could I have forgotten! But yeah, good point. In my mind it comes as sort of “IF AT ALL POSSIBLE we’d like some to interrogate, but yeah, don’t risk yourself unnecessarily for it.”

  26. Kikito says:

    If we’re going to keep the biblical names, and we had Adam before, then the new female Denton should be named Eve and the male should be named Steve.

    I also think that some augmentations should be really powerful but also incredibly ugly (think adeptus mechanicus) and affect how people interact with you and limit/modify your social options.

  27. Dreadjaws says:

    ”Oh man. This guy looks like a saint. That means he’s either about to be martyred, or turn out to be evil.” – You, in the comments. Because you think you know where this is going.

    Actually, my first thought was “This guy is way too much of a Hollywood presidential cliché. I bet it’s there to give us a false sense of security in the way the story is going to develop”. I have no idea what direction the story is going to take, but I’m gonna make a prediction off the top of my head: the president isn’t a real person. We’ll see how it goes in the future.

    I chuckled a little at the excuses you give for the writing. “Oh, I know this is a cutscene incompetence moment, but I promise it’ll be the last one”. “Oh, I know the original game started with a sprawling area full of options, but I gotta think about my resources”. “Oh, this first sidequest might not actually be in the first game, but sometimes we have to cut stuff for time, even if it makes the story look rushed”. To be clear, I chuckled because I imagine actual developers do this thing all the time. And here you are, not making an actual game and having all the infinite potential resources your imagination gives you yet you still choose to limit yourself to realistic goals. I find it endearing. Most people would let their creativity go wild and imagine a game where you can basically do anything, which is entirely unfeasible and would absolutely only lead to disappointment if the real product is ever made.

  28. Aceus says:

    I am digging this quite a bit so far. The descriptions and dialogues you’ve laid out thus far really have me wanting this game to be made and it’s only the foundations so far. Love the idea of opening up the long-term diagnostic on a potential malfunction in Denton’s cybernetics early on as a legitimate concern (perhaps with some hope that it’s true out of reluctance to admit that he *was* lying to himself; the reveal later will decide which is the reality, and there’s always the possibility that there’s some truth to both), but also a smooth reason to introduce us to Alex and make it easy on the player to like her and their dynamic. The banter at the end was solidly written. I enjoyed it.

  29. Philadelphus says:

    However, let me just put in a vote for bringing back the mutually exclusive upgrade choices of the original.[…] Gives the game some replay value, so the player has a reason to come back and try the road not taken.

    I’m going to advocate that you have some means of resetting your upgrades if you decide you don’t like what you’ve got or (almost certainly) discover you’ve blundered into some underpowered or nonfeasible combo. (“The designers had all kinds of cool ideas for the Extra Lung Capacity augment, like letting you hold your breath longer in poison gas, but delays in development meant that the whole breathing system had to be cut and the only use it still has in the game is a passive +10% stamina and letting Troy blow up balloon animals faster at the President’s children’s birthday party halfway through the game.”)

    I quite like how CrossCode handled it: when you get to a branching (combat) ability in the tree, you can pick one, but you can always change to the other branch any time you like outside of combat (this has utility, because usually one branch is better at multi-attack/crowd control while the other is better at single-target spike damage). You can also reset all your upgrade points using an item, of which you get a few in the course of the story and can grind for more late in the game. Also, and perhaps coolest, there’s a special room you can go to where, upon resetting your upgrade points, you’re free to play around with allocating them however you want for as long as you remain in the room (which also allows you to spawn harmless enemies you can practice all your various abilities on). It’s great because it lets you try various combinations of abilities to see what you like before locking them in for the long haul.

    I get that mutually exclusive choices can be fun, so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend making the process of reallocating your upgrades easy; you could certainly make it something tied into the story, where you only get the chance once or twice in the game based on story beats (maybe, say, at the start of acts 2 & 3 or something). But frankly I think there are better ways to generate “replay value” (like having a good story and satisfying mechanics) than locking players into the build they’ve chosen, where some fraction of them are going to end up hating what they picked for whatever reason. If you want to keep the player from feeling too much like they can do everything, build the upgrade tree so that you only get enough points to do one thing really well at a time, even if you can move your upgrade points around; you can be really good at combat, stealth, hacking, or socializing, but only one at a time, with maybe a few extra points to spend in other trees.

    1. Ztool says:

      I quite like how CrossCode handled it: when you get to a branching (combat) ability in the tree, you can pick one, but you can always change to the other branch any time you like outside of combat (this has utility, because usually one branch is better at multi-attack/crowd control while the other is better at single-target spike damage). You can also reset all your upgrade points using an item, of which you get a few in the course of the story and can grind for more late in the game. Also, and perhaps coolest, there’s a special room you can go to where, upon resetting your upgrade points, you’re free to play around with allocating them however you want for as long as you remain in the room (which also allows you to spawn harmless enemies you can practice all your various abilities on). It’s great because it lets you try various combinations of abilities to see what you like before locking them in for the long haul.

      It wouldn’t be too hard to do this in a cyberpunk setting, just give the protagonist access to a VR holodeck designed for testing out these kinds of augmentations.

  30. Redrock says:

    When it comes to the augmentation system, I think it would make sense to bring back the split between skills and augs that the original Deus Ex used. Have some abilities be unlocked via skill points, like lockpicking, hacking and whatnot, but make some of the cooler active augmentations be physical objects that the player would have to search for in the world. That way you give the player flexibilty in terms of the basic combat vs stealth stuff, but you also encourage exploration. Have a couple of duplicates for the more generic augs, and a couple really unique abilities well-hidden in interesting locations, perhaps behind puzzles or particularly involved sidequests. Also, it just makes sense that not every skill requires a physical augmentation, for chrissakes. Like, you don’t need to replace your fingers with special EZ-OPEN Theseus FingerPicks Mk3 to to learn how pick a damn lock.

  31. Lasius says:

    I never asked for A BOMB!

    In my mind I read this sentence like this.

  32. guy says:

    I feel the conversation with Alex should address the possibility that obviously the augs were hacked. Like, the player knows they were hacked, and if they haven’t been glitching out beforehand and are the reliable state of the art gear given to the President’s personal protective detail Troy would reasonably suspect they were hacked.

    Alex and Carter could then raise the counterpoint that if the terrorists had managed to hack the Secret Service’s implants they’d have disabled them right at the start of the attack. Maybe Alex concedes that it’s a really unlikely time for a freak glitch and allows that maybe Leo has some kind of scrambler augment from (insert Chinese government lab) that the CIA hasn’t found out about. Obviously the real reason is that Leo is on the “don’t kill this guy” list baked into the firmware at manufacturing and the other terrorists were not.

    Oh, and it seems odd Carter would accuse Troy of losing his nerve after he’s killed twelve people that same day, which will happen in most playthroughs that try to shoot Leo.

  33. Aceus says:

    Please tell me the body moving mechanics will be brought back to their former glory as presented in the original Deus Ex and Invisible War.

    And don’t forget the ability to open up dumpsters and toss them in there like the aspiring cyborg basketball player you secretly are!

  34. Olivier FAURE says:

    Carter tells him, “It’s impossible for your implants to do something like that, kid. The hardware in your body represents millions of dollars of defense spending. It’s state of the art military technology, not a cheap cell phone. It can’t ‘glitch out’. If you didn’t have the guts to pull the trigger, just say so. It’ll look bad on your record, but lying will only make things worse.”

    At that point in the game, the-player-as-Troy might already have killed at least two dozen people.

    Actually, a player who goes for the “shoot Gold” option would be more likely to have picked the lethal route. And if they’re choosing to shoot Gold, they’re probably roleplaying as a gritty “not afraid to get my hands dirty” hero.

    Wouldn’t that kind of player be pretty annoyed the game is telling them “you didn’t have the guts to pull the trigger” after they saved the president and murdered the entire assault force? At that point, they’d definitely have proved they did, in fact, have the guts.

    1. Syal says:

      Feels like we might be able to add some special justification for that. Maybe he’s a former guard himself, or other friend of Troy’s, or friend of the kids Troy’s been guarding, or maybe he says the assault was decided in spite of him and he’s just here to make sure their absurd bomb never goes off. Something to make the others think Troy would hesitate.

    2. Naota says:

      I think it’s fine if the player is annoyed by this so long as it’s clear that Troy is also annoyed by the shortsighted obtuseness of the explanation. It’s one thing if the narrative acknowledges the fault is on the staff for jumping to an easy conclusion and not trusting Troy’s word, and another if the writer seems convinced that the flimsy reasoning is sound enough to hold up on its own.

  35. Paul Spooner says:

    I want the color of the bad-guy shirts to be configurable in the character creation screen.

    1. Naota says:

      Can we also select what the vaguest level of their sinister ethos is? I know I’d be down for some extra lame, eye-bleedingly purple turtlenecks and bike helmets sported by zealots of the Vanu Sovereignty.

  36. beleester says:

    Is the “It doesn’t have any windows” note just a way to hide a loading screen, or a setup for some sort of Prey-esque twist where it isn’t actually taking you where you think?

    It just seems like an odd thing to specify in this scene.

    1. Shamus says:

      1) I thought a no-windows helicopter would look kinda cool, or at least different enough from modern helicopters that it wouldn’t feel too mundane.

      2) I wanted to stress that you’re riding in a drone and not a comfortable passenger vehicle.

  37. Mr. Wolf says:

    “It seems a white house tour group has left the intended path and is heading this direction. We have to assume they’re hostile.”

    Viva la revolution! The Boy Scouts are revolting!

  38. Toxn says:

    Random nitpick, but Samkelo Mensah is just the weirdest name for a South African to have. Like, we have 11 official languages and it’s still weird (the surname, specifically). I’m also not sure if this was intentional, but Samkelo is a woman’s name.

  39. James says:

    Great start to a potential Deus Ex game.

    I wonder when we can expect to see a Eliza Cassan type figure. Sentient AI seems like a classic Deus Ex component.
    Although, with all the real-world fake news, I’d understand if you’d want to steer clear of that idea.

  40. Hehehehe Thank you says:

    Kinda have to watch out that ‘generic-appeal President finds out the US political system is a sham run by AI with information control powers and the system is challenged by the former president who is now framed as a terrorist over the willful determination of exectutive power’…

    … doesn’t riff too much on Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, which is pretty much modern day US-themed cyberpunk.

  41. Type_Mercury says:

    we all would have liked to hear more, but alas, the time was cut short…

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      There are two more posts queued up for this series… so that’s going to be strange.

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