Deus Ex Pitch Part 4: Morpheus Protocol

By Shamus Posted Friday Jun 24, 2022

Filed under: Projects 64 comments

Note: This is a Shamus-scheduled article that is being published post-mortem.

Back at the white house, Troy meets with Alex face-to-face. This next part is like your visits to Seraph Industries in Deus Ex Human Revolution. The player isn’t allowed to pull out their weaponsOr the game will let them, but discharging a weapon is an instant game over. or do any other shenanigans that would break the story. I know these games pride themselves on player agency and freedom, but I think most players are okay with not being allowed to pointlessly fire their weapons or toss inventory items around for no reason while visiting the White House.

Mission 3: Morpheus Protocol

Alex sums up the plot so far: Life is back to normal for the president. His poll numbers are up even more since the attempt on his life. We ID’d the people that attacked the White HouseLet’s just carefully avoid saying if they’re alive or dead, since the player could have spared or killed any number of them. and they’re a jumbled assortment of misfits and cranks. It isn’t rare that a few loonies would want to try something like this. There are always a few threats, regardless of who’s in office. What is rare is that the group would have the budget, training, and knowledge to get so close. These people were obviously helped by someone a lot richer, smarter, and better-connected. This fits with what Troy learned in Switzerland.

Troy asks how the arrests are going with the State Department. Alex says she hasn’t heard anything yet. The two wonder what “Project Morpheus” might be about.

Next Troy meets with Sam Carter. On his way there, the player might spot the Woman in Orange. She’ll be standing somewhere distant and unreachable, sort of like a G-Man sighting in Half-Life.

Carter is glad to see Troy Denton. However, if you killed a bunch of people in Miami then he’ll express his disappointment. Otherwise he’ll congratulate you on a job well-done. After that he says…

Carter: Here, I wanted you to have this.

Carter hands Troy a Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver. (This is the infamous “Dirty Harry” gun. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out a weapon with the right properties and of the right age to plausibly appear here. I’m not totally happy with this choice, but I’m mostly confident that I’ve avoided making any outrageous firearm blunders.)

Troy: (Taking the weapon and looking it over.) Woah, ancient tech.

Carter: That sidearm was carried by the man who trained me. This weapon was used to protect Jimmy Carter, Ronald Regan, Bill Clinton, and the first two Bushes. And I’ve carried it as my back-up weapon for every president since then.

Troy: I’ve never understood the thinking behind revolvers. You only get six shots. Our standard issue sidearms hold 15.

Carter: You and I both know there’s more to a weapon than its capacity. This thing has stopping power. It was overkill in its day, but in a world where you might face an augmented threat, you want to have something like this on you.

Troy: It belongs in a museum.

Carter: It’s a service pistol. It belongs in service.

Troy: So I guess you’re really serious about retiring?

Carter: You’re holding my second-favorite handgun, so you know I am.

Troy: Thanks Carter. I’ll take good care of it.

I’ll explain the thinking behind this scene in a minute. For now, Troy takes the weapon. Troy reminds Carter about the “Morpheus Protocol” threat. Carter assures him that security is super-tight. No tour groups. No press. There are hardly any civilians in the building, and we’re practically strip-searching everyone at the front door. There are hundreds of soldiers hidden along the building’s perimeter and we’ve got drones circling the building like angry bees. It would take an army just to shout an insult at the president.

Carter then explains that Troy should report directly to the president and tell him what we’ve learned in Switzerland.

On his way into the President’s office, Troy will pass the Woman in Orange. Her design should make it clear that she’s trouble in an obvious-but-not-actionable way. Maybe she’s got a mean face, or maybe she has a femme fatale thing going on. That, plus the orange outfit,Particularly if everyone else is wearing grays and blacks. ought to be enough to grab the player’s attention.

Troy enters the president’s office. As he enters, a guard leaves. So now it’s just Troy, the president, and one rando secret service agent in the room. The president jokingly refers to Denton as “Agent Nephew”, doing a slightly cringy callback to Denton’s gaffe on day 1. Then he prompts Troy to explain what he learned on his mission.

The door to the office opens, cutting Troy off mid-sentence. We turn to see the Woman in Orange standing in the doorway.

The president remarks, “Oh, it’s you? It’s not quite time for our meeting yet.”

She seems to be reaching inside her coat, or handbag, or whatever looks the most overtly threatening.

“Gun!” the other agent shouts.

Troy grunts as his vision dims. This feels exactly like the malfunction we had when Leo Gold escaped.Assuming you tried to shoot him, and assuming I didn’t cut that scene. The other secret service agent seems to be having the same problem – he’s doubled over, off-balance. He’s trying to get out his weapon.

Troy draws his pistol. (And hey, since Carter gave us that present, we have a pistol no matter what, even if the player is doing a novelty no-weapons / no-inventory pacifist run! Because this scene would turn into a farce if Troy was guarding the president with something impractical like a melee weapon or a rocket launcher. Also, the animators can build this scene around this one weapon, rather than scripting for every possible thing the player might be carrying.) He struggles to lift the weapon, but he can’t seem to point it at the Woman in Orange. His vision slams to black, we hear gunshots, and there’s a thud.

The screen stays black for several long seconds. Dead silence.

There’s a rush of sound as Troy wakes up. An alarm is going off. The old revolver is laying on the floor in front of him. He doesn’t pick it up. The door is closed again. The Woman in Orange is gone, and the president is dead. So is the other agent.

We don’t actually want to waste development resources on an archaic sidearm that will need its own ammo pickups and upgrades. The pistol was needed for this scene, so we’ll leave it here. The player is still carrying whatever weapons they had in their pockets when they arrived, but this revolver stays on the floor unless the playtesters throw a fit about it.

Troy checks on the president and then radios to Alex for help. He tells her to find the Woman in Orange.

Alex: (Frustrated.) My screens all went blank for a minute there. They’re back now, but I don’t… I don’t see a woman in orange anywhere near you.

Troy figures Mrs. Orange must have used the secret escape tunnel. He opens the secret door to follow her.This is the same door that Sam Carter used to get the president to safety back on day 1. As the panel slides open, the main door to the room is kicked open violently and more secret service agents enter. They yell at Troy to stop, assuming that he’s the one who killed the president.

We’re in full gameplay mode now, so the player is free to handle this however they want. They can run into the secret passage, they can pull a weapon and murder their former compatriots, or I guess they could also stand still and get shot.Or surrender and get a Game Over? However we want to handle it. Tell the gameplay designer to email me.

The passage leads to steam tunnels like the ones we visited in the tutorial. We play peek-a-boo with the security system for a bit. There are military guys milling around “searching” for Denton the way enemies do in these games. The steam tunnels should quickly give way to the kitchen and laundry areas of the basement, because we already spent some time in this environment during the tutorial and we don’t want this to feel too repetitive.

There are a few encounters with groups of one or two agents along the way. While shooting is the path of least resistance, these encounters are designed so that it’s possible to escape without being forced to gun everyone down.

After the first of these encounters, we get this exchange…

Troy: Alex! Why is everyone shooting at me?

Alex: I don’t know how to tell you this Denton, but everyone thinks you killed the president.

Troy: Show them the security footage. I was incapacitated right as the Woman in Orange came in. We have to find her. She’s the one who did it!

Alex: I believe you. But I don’t have the security footage. My cameras went blank right before the assassination.

Troy: (Bitterly.) So she’s getting away while we waste time shooting at each other.

Alex: Carter told the secret service to stand down, but we have all these extra security people here today, and they don’t answer to him.

Troy: This must be the Morpheus Protocol: Use some kind of anti-aug tech to disable the President’s security detail.

Alex: Look, not many people know about this, but I actually have a backup system in place. It’s kind of a dead drop for video data. All of the footage is streamed to a backup server so we always have a copy, even if my security console is compromised.

Troy: Then I need that data to clear my name. Please Alex. Without that footage, the bad guys can make up any story they like and blame this all on a lone attacker – on me.

Alex: Of course I’ll help you. The problem is, the server is a one-way connection. It collects data automatically, but if you want to recover any of it then you have to physically access the machine.

Troy: Great. Just tell me where it is.

Alex: Utah.

Troy: UTAH?!

Alex: Get to the roof. I’ve got an idea.

This section is linear, so let’s keep it short.  This “But I don’t want to shoot my former colleagues” thing will wear thin if it drags on too long. Denton sneaksProbably. upstairs and gets on the roof.

Alex remotely hijacks a helidrone. There’s so much chaos right now that nobody is going to notice if a single drone goes missing. She brings the drone in to pick up Troy and allow him to escape the premises.

Before he boards the heli, Alex tells him that he needs to unplug from the system. The PARASIGHT network will be able to track his mobile phone.

We get a little cutscene where Troy crushes his cell phone and drops it on the ground. Then he removes his secret service earpieceQ: Does he need an earpiece if he’s augmented with communications gear? A: Shut up. It’s an established trope that all agents wear earpieces. You can’t start asking questions about how his head radio works because literally No Game Ever can survive that conversation. and steps on it, literally and symbolically breaking his ties to his old job. Portentous musical sting.

He boards the heli and vanishes into the night sky.

Mission 4: Dead Drop

I think the idea of a “central” server with a one-way connection is inherently cartoonish. Which means this is a perfect idea for a mission.

This is a fairly straightforward location. It’s a big technology base / server farm that serves as a gameplay obstacle course. We should hit all the classics here: Visible red laser triplines hooked up to alarm systems, auto-turrets, patrol robots, rooms filled with coolant, massive steel airlocks hooked up to needlessly complicated puzzle-switches, maze-like layouts, dark corridors, and an excess of security cameras. Elsewhere in the game I’d caution the level designers to go easy on the air vents because they were just too often a definitive right answer in Human Revolution and Mankind Divided. But here in the Deep Storage level I’d tell them to go wild with the vents. Make them big, have them go everywhere, and fill them with big spinning fans that need to be turned off or routed around.

Also, is it too much to ask to make vents actually blowing air? Why are videogame HVAC systems always turned off? Then again, maybe having them blow air means thinking about where the air comes from, which would call into question these strange orphaned ducts that connect to rooms but never to any HVAC equipment. I don’t know. I’d tell the level designers to see what they can come up with. I like the idea of these vents being filled with the sound of rushing air and having a perceptible directionality to them. Perhaps you can find your way to the core by always going “upstream” against the currents.

The number of flesh-and-blood guards should be pretty low, and mostly limited to the outer layers of security. As the player moves inward the security should be automated, and in the innermost rooms it should be mostly environmental hazards.

There’s not much here in the way of story. We’ll give Troy and Alex a few lines to process the death of their old boss and talk about how much they liked him and how hopeful people seemed when he was elected. If there are sidequests or bonus objectives, they should probably take the form of self-directed treasure hunts. Maybe we tantalize the player with hard-to-reach weapons and upgrades and let them puzzle their way to the loot if they’re up for it.

This is one of the locations we’re going to get to revisit later in the game. I kinda like the idea of using this against the player. We can let them take some shortcuts on their way in, maybe setting off alarms and generally half-assing the job. There won’t be any obvious consequences at first, but then on the second visit they would find their original route of ingress has been fortified / blocked off. So if you were sloppy on your first visit, you’d have fewer options on your second. But doesn’t that just punish people who dislike stealth by making them do more of it? I dunno. I think there’s the opportunity for fun here.

Alternate idea, multiple routes: 

Path A requires stealth. B is filled with trigger-happy mooks and no hiding places. C is an obstacle course of environmental hazards and hacking. The player has to choose one of the three routes, and various  one-way doors save OCD players from feeling compelled to backtrack and run all three routes. Each path can have an aug upgrade. So you’ll get to the end of your chosen path, and you’ll see a now-unreachable upgrade from one of the other paths. Then when you visit this place later, you can do the same path again if you liked it, or you can try one of the other paths. But of course, you’ll only get another upgrade if you do a different route.

I think it won’t feel like “recycled content” if we specifically design the place to be visited multiple times, with opportunities for different experiences on each visit.

You get the idea. I’d give the level designers lots of room to work and then see what they come up with.

Troy reaches the backup server, where a big-screen computer terminal is waiting for him. There’s another door nearby that leads deeper into the facility, but we’re not going to be able to get past it on this visit.

Alex reminds him that they’re about to see the raw, unedited footage of the assassination, so he should brace himself.

The footage plays. We see the office from a cameraWould the president have a spy camera in his office? Yes. In this universe, totally yes. near the ceiling. Secret service guy on the left. Troy Denton on the right. President Ellis in the middle. We see the door open in the background. We can see the Woman in Orange, although her face is hidden from this angle. The president says something to the open doorway. Mrs. Orange pulls something out of her jacket / handbag. But it’s not a gun, it’s a… remote control? A phone? Maybe she pushes a button?

Both secret service guys double over. The guy on the left collapses. Troy suddenly stands up straight. He puts three rounds into Ellis, then three more rounds into his fellow agent. Then he points the gun at his own head and pulls the trigger three more times, resulting in three dry clicks from the now-empty weapon. Then he goes limp, dropping the weapon on the floor in front of him.

(Ok, now you can see why we needed Sam Carter to give our hero a six-shooter.)

Troy is stunned silent. We linger on the aftermath for a few more seconds.

Alex finally realizes that this was the Morpheus Protocol: Hijack an augmented agent to do the assassination, and then have that agent kill themselves to cover up the evidence. If Troy had pulled out a 9mm – which is what the vast majority of agents carry – then there would have been enough shots to finish the job. But because he was carrying Carter’s old six-shooter, he ran out of bullets before killing himself.

Troy is stunned. He really did kill Ellis. He’s mortified. He’s also confused. He didn’t think that his augmentations were able to do something like this – that they could knock him out and hijack his body. The implications are horrifying.

Alex says she doesn’t want to continue to run this operation from her office in the White House. For one thing, she’s now an accessory to whatever this is. She understands that Troy isn’t really at fault, but she also realizes that the two of them would have a very hard time explaining themselves. Secondly, she thinks she might be a target if anyone decides to clean up loose ends. She needs to get somewhere safe if she’s going to continue to help Troy. She tells him to get clear while she finds someplace to hide.

Getting out is easier than getting in, but it still takes the player a few minutes to retrace their steps and make their way past all the layers of security.

Troy doesn’t like that his body can be hijacked at any time. He figures he needs to find some sort of proof if he’s going to clear his name.

Alex suggests a visit to Mirai Technology, where his augmentations were designed. Maybe there he can learn how the hijacking works, who has access, and how he can protect himself. Maybe he can even find source code that can back up his claims.

Aside: I think if this was a real game pitch I might re-arrange some missions to put some stuff between the assassination and the reveal. I think the longer the player walks around thinking they’ve been wrongly accused, the harder it will hit when they learn the truth.

But I wanted to have both the assassination and the reveal in the same entry because I didn’t want people in the comments to spoil the twist with speculation. (Or worse, have someone devise something better than my idea, thus making my twist seem lame in comparison. This ain’t my first rodeo.)

Next week we’re headed for Tokyo.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Or the game will let them, but discharging a weapon is an instant game over.

[2] Let’s just carefully avoid saying if they’re alive or dead, since the player could have spared or killed any number of them.

[3] Particularly if everyone else is wearing grays and blacks.

[4] Assuming you tried to shoot him, and assuming I didn’t cut that scene.

[5] This is the same door that Sam Carter used to get the president to safety back on day 1.

[6] Or surrender and get a Game Over? However we want to handle it. Tell the gameplay designer to email me.

[7] Probably.

[8] Q: Does he need an earpiece if he’s augmented with communications gear? A: Shut up. It’s an established trope that all agents wear earpieces. You can’t start asking questions about how his head radio works because literally No Game Ever can survive that conversation.

[9] Would the president have a spy camera in his office? Yes. In this universe, totally yes.



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64 thoughts on “Deus Ex Pitch Part 4: Morpheus Protocol

  1. beleester says:

    Ooh, I really like the idea of having multiple one-way routes into the building to encourage the player to try different playstyles when they return. Although you might need a way to prevent the player from simply turning around once they reach the exit to loot the other routes.

    We don’t actually want to waste development resources on an archaic sidearm that will need its own ammo pickups and upgrades. The pistol was needed for this scene, so we’ll leave it here. The player is still carrying whatever weapons they had in their pockets when they arrived, but this revolver stays on the floor unless the playtesters throw a fit about it.

    Honestly, I’d want to keep the gun. Like, it got a bunch of buildup, it looks cool, it was a gift from our mentor, it feels like the sort of thing where you’d dramatically draw it at a pivotal moment and use it to shoot your nemesis or something. It feels like a waste to discard it after one scene. And it’s pretty common for stealth games to have a “loud” pistol and a “quiet” pistol so that the player can trade off between stealth or firepower, so I think you could justify it in gameplay.

    I think the idea of a “central” server with a one-way connection is inherently cartoonish.

    It is, but I think you’ve actually provided the perfect justification for the silliness. Why is it a one-way connection? So that the bad guys can’t access it remotely and delete all the footage. You know, like they did to all of the other copies of the footage. The dead drop is so simple that it can’t be hacked – the only thing it does is write a stream of bits to the disk. Heck, you could even have Troy ask this question directly and make Alex seem really clever for having a contingency plan in place.

    1. Storm says:

      I’d also really like to keep the revolver. And to the idea of wasting time giving it it’s own upgrade tree, I’d say we just don’t; it’s an old gun with no real compatability with modern tech, I’d keep it as a low tech, high power option, and sort of a reward for people skilled enough to use it without relying on fancy upgrades other guns could get. Maybe beyond a high base power, you could give it a hidden headshot/weakpoint damage modifier? Really make it a gun for people who want to rely on pure firearms skill. Also maybe don’t even give it a speedloader, so you reload one bullet at a time. Really make it its own thing.

      The one thing is the six spent bullets in the revolver would have to be accountee for, and could spoil the reveal a bit early – though maybe you could do something with it, add to the mystery. Maybe you tried to shoot the Lady in Orange as your augs were glitching out? You don’t have time to examine the scene, so maybe it could work as leaving just enough room for doubt, especially of there’s a gameplay section between the assassination and getting to the reveal.

      Alternatively, don’t mention it in character. When you check the gun in your inventory next, it’s empty, leave the player to wonder if it was loaded in the first place and maybe brush it off as a gameplay contrivance instead of a plot point that it is.

      1. Chad Miller says:

        I think some people would want it even if it’s useless from a balance standpoint; that is, even if it’s “worse” than any other weapon in the game. In fact people might make it a self-imposed challenge to play the rest of the game with the worst gun (if some designers really wanted to go crazy you could even make it an official challenge mode with an achievement)

        I’m reminded of, of all things, the Shadowrun game on the SNES; there’s an early sequence where you’re thrown into the caryards and the only ways out all involve combat. But since you’re trapped you can’t actually visit any shops. Normally, this wouldn’t be a problem since you should have a weapon and armor already. But if you’re really perverse you can sell all your gear and then trigger the plot event to trap yourself there unarmed.

        The designers realized all this and rather than trying to somehow force the player not to sell their weapon they just added an event flag; if you somehow end up in this situation, a friendly NPC will say something like “Are you crazy? How are you not armed?” and hand you the Zip Gun. The Zip Gun is exactly like the starter gun but with lower accuracy. They saw to it that it would serve no purpose except as a fallback for this kind of intentional player stupidity. So go on GameFAQs or wherever, and you will find guides explaining what convoluted series of steps you need to simultaneously get the Zip Gun and the intended starter gun because that’s how completionists roll.

        1. Aceus says:

          I think one way you could smooth over making it an “overpowered” gun (after you get more ammo for it) would be to make old revolver ammunition a scarcity in the world. This seems to make sense from a narrative perspective, based on what we know about the world and views regarding the gun, and you can always flesh it out further as an even bigger deal for even having one later on.

          (e.g. an item collector / antique seller spots it on you and tries to hide their eagerness to buy it from you to avoid giving away its value in the world, or at least to them, while emphasizing just how rare it is. Perhaps there’s a two or three-way competition between them and a gun collector and an assassin or whatever. The point is this further helps explain why it’s hard to find ammo for it, which helps balance out it being one of the best guns in the game from a power angle.)

          Maybe it’s not a tight way around it, since too much ammo scarcity for ultra powerful weapons tends to have players hoarding their rounds until it’s too late and the credits have begun rolling (or wasting it on enemies that could have easily been neutralized another way, and regretting it). I dunno. Let me know if it’s workable or not.

          In regards to Troy keeping it, I think you could argue either line of reasoning: 1) He wants to take because it was a gift and that carries strong sentimental value to him, and/or if he believes the real killer used it to frame him (they may have been wearing gloves) then his fingerprints on it aren’t going to be doing him any favours in absolving his apparent guilt in this crime. 2) He’s leaving it behind because he’s too frazzled to think to bring it and it would rob him of now very precious time trying to get his bearings and make a quick reactive escape.

          1. Chad Miller says:

            One other interesting possibility is to make it so that all gun-related augments are incompatible with it. Then make it optimal only for players that don’t have any gun augs. Then the only people who will bother with it are people avoiding upgrading firearms skills (who will avoid using the gun much simply because they’re avoiding using guns at all) and the aforementioned challenge playthroughs.

            1. Aceus says:

              This (the first part) also occurred to me, but I thought that was what Storm was saying above, so I didn’t mention it.

              Regardless, I agree, and I think it is at least conceptually a great idea that solves a number of problems while making the game more interesting and engaging in small ways. The addition of this gameplay restraint also conveys an extra sense of uniqueness onto this already established-to-be-special gun, which I imagine I’m not alone in thinking is a nice thing to have in a narrative game, to allow players room for some small roleplaying/headcanoning regarding the gun and their character ( in contrast to the world and its inhabitants around them). With this further distinction for the gun, using it makes the player/player character themselves feel more special, too.

              Adding on your “optimal only for players that don’t have any gun augs”, along with the whole cyber-marionetting going on in the story (and seeming direction toward a grander scale of such a thing happening) the old mentor and reliable traditional theme setup, I think the player who goes down the revolver path will feel more smart, as well as special, for trusting more in a weapon without augability (and thus without hackability; not sure if you can hack guns as well in this world, but augs seem to be a door to hacking people, so why not guns, too). That depends on where the story goes, of course, but it seems to me it’s following an Old vs New theme and raising pros and cons with both, and question of which is better, perhaps.

              Except, in the narrative we abandoned the gun, so perhaps not.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      Agreed about the gun – having a more powerful ‘loud’ sidearm is great. Just make it so you can’t get hold of one until this point in the game. And just having the gun be empty if the player picks it up is a great hint – a game contrivance that the player overlooks the first time, then a neat easter egg on subsequent playthroughs.

      1. Sabrdance says:

        I kept the revolver for the entirety of DXHR just so I could use it to shoot the final boss. So I definitely want to keep the gun for shooting the woman in orange.

    3. Volvagia says:

      My thing of it is this: Even most “not gun nerd” people recognize the Dirty Harry gun. And they’re going to want it. So if the main idea is supposed to be that “this is a gun the player won’t want, long term”? The “Nerf Pistol as crap” looking Hechler & Koch P11 would probably be a better pistol choice. You might even have a dialogue choice in the introduction of it, ribbing at the gun choice in roughly those terms.

  2. Zaxares says:

    It feels weird writing this knowing that Shamus will never see it. :( But… I think he would have wanted to hear feedback and discourse on his ideas, so here goes…

    Overall I like the plot twist of the Morpheus Protocol, but I think it falls into the trap of having too many unpredictable variables. The Woman in Orange was obviously expecting Troy to be carrying his standard issue sidearm, right? But what if he wasn’t? Or if he’d neglected to reload his gun before visiting the President? In fact, in the scenario he described, the fact that Troy fired the weapon a total of 9 times, yet would have needed to manually cock the gun and fire it in between shots, creates a discrepancy where the person who wrote the hijack script took the time to account for the possibility of “how to fire your gun” but didn’t account for “what do I do if my gun is empty?” Basically, the entire plan hinges on everything going absolutely perfectly, which is definitely not what you want to have to rely on if you’re some super secretive organization that’s been able to conceal your existence from the world for decades (centuries?). You’d want to have backup plans upon backup plans, unless THIS was their backup plan, but even so, why didn’t the Woman in Orange then take the fallen agent’s gun and finish Troy off herself?

    As an aside, I liked the idea of Carter giving Troy the old service revolver, but I’d probably have gone with a “Guns this old may be crude, but they’re also reliable. There’s no fancy chips or augs in the gun doing the aiming, which also means that nobody can hack your gun and turn it into a brick.” reason. (This kind of foreshadows the twist that’s about to happen, although not quite in the way Carter was imagining.)

    1. Pax says:

      I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch for the conspirators/Woman in Orange to assume that Troy would be armed the same way he and every other agent has been every other day he’s had the job (gameplay rocket launchers and stun sticks notwithstanding). I think it’s believable enough and makes for a neat twist.

      The less believable thing is her not finishing the job. So either you’d engineer the situation so that she left before the results of her handiwork were visible (i.e. she activated the hack and then left so she wouldn’t get any blood on her nice suit (I’m imagining her as an orange Jackie O BTW)), or any actual act by her risked blowing her cover and she decided the rest of the Secret Service would take care of Troy and/or wouldn’t believe him even if he survived (it was the bullets from his gun in the President after all). I’m okay with the villains hubris causing their downfall, especially when one assumption spirals against them like this.

    2. Syal says:

      yet would have needed to manually cock the gun and fire it in between shots

      You don’t need to manually cock it, that just makes the trigger easier to pull (and looks dramatic).

      Yeah, some questions about how this scene plays out. We need to remove Troy’s actual service weapon beforehand, otherwise he’d just draw that one, right? Also not sure why it would only apply to one agent and not both. And if its a remote it could work through walls, couldn’t it? That would clear up the problem of the Woman in Orange seeing things go awry and leaving them be. (If they did go awry, Carter could still be in on it here.)

      1. Chris says:

        Its the difference between single action/double action revolver (colt single action army (beloved by revolver ocelot) requires manual recocking because its single action).

        I think the orange lady in the video should look scared or start running when she sees troy pull out his revolver instead of his pistol. That explains why the hit doesnt go smoothly. I was also going to suggest that the lady in orange is lax with the plan since she already did it a bunch of times, and every time it worked. So thats why there is no backup, but from previous week this is the first time they test this. Seems a bit weird this is their plan with no backup. Maybe their backup could be the new guards in the white house.

        For troy pulling the revolver. Maybe have carter insist he puts it as his primary weapon. So he takes out the semi-automatic from the shoulder holster and puts it somewhere else, and then puts the revolver in place. So when he is mindcontrolled his instincts make him go for his shoulder holster.

        1. CannonGerbil says:

          >since she already did it a bunch of times, and every time it worked.
          The way I’ve read it, this is the first time the Morpheous protocol was actually done in the field, so it’s not surprising that it doesn’t go off smoothly. As for the backups, well, the Morpheous protocol is the backup, the original plan was to use the orange guys to kill the presiedent, and that didn’t work which is why they swapped over to using this. She even says that it was never field tested in the previous entry

          1. Chris says:

            and two lines later i say that this isnt a good excuse because last week’s entry mentions its the first they’re using it

            >but from previous week this is the first time they test this.

    3. Paul Spooner says:

      I agree it seems contrived that there was no room for error in the Morpheus Protocol, but it doesn’t seem too difficult to fix. Instead of having the other agent collapse, have them both get hacked/marionetted. The other agent aims at the president, but doesn’t fire (he’s the backup). Then he aims at Troy, again doesn’t fire, but he would have, if Troy didn’t for whatever reason. Then, after he’s been shot, he aims at himself anyway, (maybe while the script checks his brain function or whatever) before collapsing to the floor. That way it’s clear there was a backup plan in place. Plus it sets up the possibility for aug-zombies later on.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        I’m now imaging that, whereas the game uses modern mo-cap animation everywhere else, for this bit the animation on the models is done by hand, and is extremely simplistic. Maybe ‘jerky’? Not quite sure the right word, but the feeling is that this is obviously someone being meat-puppetted by technology, and clearly not acting normal.

        …leading to, obviously, aug-zombies later on, moving in this same stilted, unnatural manner.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          I love the idea of aug-zombies. A neat little horror twist on late-game enemies.

        2. Octal says:

          Brilliant.

        3. Paul Spooner says:

          Hehe, yeah, I was thinking that too. Very mechanical unnatural motion.
          Another way to play it would be having a mocap mismatch, like the person recording the action was a different height or something. Or the head and non-gun-arm ragdoll the whole time. Troy could mention having a sore neck to foreshadow the reveal.

    4. Kylroy says:

      Personally, I *like* the plan being this flimsy. Our Illumnati-equivalents have already tried and failed to whack the President, and they’re now trying again while the White House is on mega-lockdown – having a plan that doesn’t account for a Secret Service agent being armed differently than *everyone else in the building* seems a reasonable oversight.

      Likewise, the idea was that the Lady in Orange does nothing personally incriminating – the President *is* dead, and personally plugging the assassin would raise a lot of questions, so isn’t letting the rest of them detain or kill him a reasonably safe bet?

      Given the circumstances, this whole exchange makes the Illuminati-equivalents seem competent (they *did* achieve their most important goal) without being omnicompetent.

      1. Laserhawk says:

        I agree. This way the bad guys temporarily win and set up the first act downfall for the protagonist while still being realistically flawed.

      2. Dreadjaws says:

        Indeed. This seems to be a backup plan they had to rely on or devise at the last moment, so there was no time or chance to iron out the kinks. It makes sense.

        As an aside, maybe the lady in orange herself is being controlled by a third party. Maybe the tech for controlling unknown augs needs to be close while she has something directly implanted on her brain that allows for far remote control. This would explain why the third party needs to control her so she can control the others. It would also explain why she didn’t off Troy, since there were no instructions given to her for it.

        But I guess we’ll know later. Or not. I wonder how much of this was actually written by Shamus. Man, this is why I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep reading this.

        1. Lino says:

          I wonder how much of this was actually written by Shamus

          Isn’t all of it written by him? I think these posts were queued up before he passed away. And at any rate, if Paul or anyone else was editing this, they would definitely say so – especially given the circumstances….

          1. Paul Spooner says:

            I think he meant “I wonder how much more of this series Shamus had already completed?”
            But yes, these posts were scheduled and have not been altered except for adding the note at the top. There are no further posts scheduled, but I have heard that Shamus had a master document, so we’ll see what the family unearths.

    5. Whisky Tango Foxtrot says:

      Just crib some lines from one of the Ghost in the Shell incarnations where Togusa justifies using a revolver in the cyberpunk future.

  3. Chris says:

    I dont think you can give people a dirty harry gun and then take it away. What I would do is
    -cutscene happens
    -guards come in
    -cutscene ends with you standing in front of the exit, start running forward to escape, stand still and get captured (maybe have dialogue, “get on your hands and knees” and then crouching would cause troy to get down and then get taken, or rush back, pick up the pistol, and then run out again, when you pick up the pistol the guards start shooting because now youre armed (“he’s got a gun, shoot him!”)
    That way the easiest way out would be to just run, but people that want to can run back into the room and grab the gun.

    Also getting a good one-way system would be difficult. A high drop just means people try to stack crates or try to rocketjump/grenade jump. Doors that close and can be opened from only one way get crates stuffed inbetween them. Maybe the level designers can figure out something organic. Maybe have some kind of one way drainage pipe. You get the data, just as the cutscene ends the door behind you gets locked (robotic voice “starting scheduled cleaning routine of data core, please stand by”) a vent on the floor can be cracked open, and when you slip in a slippery pipe will have you slide to the outside, spit out quite a bit away from the compound, straight into the end of mission trigger where you get picked up (because, while for a player going back in for more rewards makes sense, for the character it does not, they have what they need, they are out, no need to go back right now).

    Also the orange lady should have a black suit+skirt, orange tie, orange stockings/pantyhose or something. Gives her that man in black feeling, while the bright orange is still obvious. The orange pantyhose meanwhile make her look like a chicken (and remind every unfortunate soul of the princess of sonic 06)

    1. Philadelphus says:

      Yeah, from a player perspective, I would try to keep the gun, regardless of what Troy would do. Carter just gave it to me and told me it was powerful*, why wouldn’t I want to keep it? Might be interesting to instead lean into the ambiguity of what happened by having six spent shells visible on the ground when you wake up (maybe even hear a shot or two just after blacking out), but, just as you’re blacking out you see Troy shakily pointing the revolver at the Woman in Orange, leaving it ambiguous: did he fire at her while he was blacked out? Did he just miss due to the interference? (In the footage later it can be revealed that he was pointing at her briefly, before the whole “killing everyone else in the room” bit kicked in, which might also serve as a possible way to assert his innocence. The guards will burst in before the player has time to check the bodies in the room to see what killed them.)

      *This may or may not be true in practice, but since I haven’t fired it yet I only have his word to go on.

      1. Syal says:

        As a non-service weapon, that gun is also evidence against Troy and maybe Carter; there are a lot of incentives to take it with you if you can.

      2. Laserhawk says:

        Slight correction to Philadelphus, the shell casings wouldn’t be outside the gun. Semi-autos automatically eject casings, revolvers don’t. Carter would, however, find the gun mysteriously *click*ing without firing if he tried to use it. He might remark on the gun being filled with spent shell casings to lampshade the future discovery.

        I’m glad we got to see this article from Shamus. Thanks Heather, Paul, Isaac.

        1. Laserhawk says:

          I meant *Troy* would find it mysteriously *click*ing. My bad.

        2. Whisky Tango Foxtrot says:

          Just make the reload animation for the gun involve removing the spent casings. First-time players probably either won’t notice or will think it’s just because the devs only put one reload animation in, but repeat players might see how it fits.

  4. Pax says:

    Per Shamus’ aside, I was also thinking some space between the assassination and the reveal would be good. I’m not sure what you could put in there that would be significant and not filler, but a neat story beat might be a message from Alex that the bullets used in the assassination matched the bullets from Troy’s revolver. Maybe Alex refuses to help Troy any longer, grounds the heli-drone, and calls the authorities on him, and Troy has to escape and make his way to the dead-drop server farm on his own (having already been told about it by Alex previously, of course), after which he gets her on his side again.

    It might be telegraphing the twist too much, though, as once you know the bullets are from your gun, it’s not too big a leap to guess that you were controlled against your will to do the shooting. Augmented folks being hacked and forced to do things isn’t that rare a trope in Cyberpunk stories after all.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      You could fit the trip to Mirai Industries in between the assassination and Deep Storage? Or maybe a lesser trip, like to an underground Aug market to get Troy’s gear checked out.
      Alex and Troy already know that the enemy can hack them to make him black out, so they go to find a contact of hers that can have a look and see what’s up* – as well as get Troy disguised and disable any tracking bugs his augs have. In classic videogame style, this dodgy black market guy wants you to do something before they’ll help you out, padding the missions even more.

      While there, we see that Troy has been blamed for the assassination, and we see clearly fake camera footage of him shooting the President broadcast on TV screens. That’s when Alex suggests a trip to Deep Storage.

      *For REAL Cyberpunk points, call this character The Finn.

    2. MrGuy says:

      To me, the question of whether we need space here depends on what’s next.

      If this is primarily a story about “who killed the president?” then we’re rushing to the climax way too directly.

      On the other hand, if the president was just the first domino and “the whole thing goes so much deeper!” then it might be good to get that thread going. It keeps the player guessing how high the tension will get. A “rest” mission here will feel like failure to understand our priorities (like stopping the race to stop space Cthulhu to help Wrex find his lost family armor).

  5. MrGuy says:

    I was really hoping the Morpheus Protocol would be some kind of peer-to-peer virus that spread on the aug network, written as a homage to early P2P tech by a hacker with a sense of history.

  6. Mye says:

    I think the biggest issue with this is that there’s not much reason why people wouldn’t believe Troy was hacked with the footage, if Troy wanted to kill the president he could have done it earlier anyway. Maybe add in a twist that Troy isn’t augmented in a way that should allow him to be hacked (say his arm/brain aren’t augment) but then find out that this super tech can use any augment to “hack” a regular brain, so even someone who would only have a peacemaker could be hacked in this way.

    For the vent, might not be worth the effort but you can make the vent super cold since its a server farm and need to be constantly cooled. Alternately, there’s been some effort at making server farm without any worker in them and then running them in an inert atmosphere (100% nitrogen, no oxygen/water mean less degradation and maintenance). Maybe there’s a way to add oxygen in the server room itself for occasional maintenance, but the vent are always oxygen free so you can’t stay in them long.

    Also leaving the gun is a bad idea, especially if the player can stay in the room with it, most player will spend hours trying to keep the president killer, maybe even try to mow down hundreads of soldier just to see if they can get it this way. Just leave it in, make bullet really rare and that’s fine.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      The thing is, Troy, Alex and the player are the only people to see the footage of Troy being hacked, because only they know about Alex’s offsite Deep Storage. Everyone else sees pre-prepared fake footage of Troy doing it of his own free will. That, coupled with bullets from his gun being taken from the President’s body, would be good enough for the casual observer.

      So the trip to Mirai Industries is as much to find proof of Troy’s augs being compromised as much as it is to counter him being hacked again.

    2. Philadelphus says:

      Maybe there’s a way to add oxygen in the server room itself for occasional maintenance, but the vent are always oxygen free so you can’t stay in them long.

      Aha! That’s where the Extra Lung Capacity Upgrade was supposed to be useful! :D

  7. Paul Spooner says:

    I think it would be cool to have a speech/persuasion option when the agents burst in on you right after the assassination, if there’s going to be social mechanics in the game that is.

    1. Vertette says:

      It would be an interesting thing to add, building on the original game’s mechanics of bypassing fights by knowing the right things to say.

    2. ColeusRattus says:

      If Carter was the first to burst in, Denton might convince him to let him leave. Also, it might add a moral dilemma for a player, at least in initiating an armed confrontation.

    3. Aceus says:

      If this was going to be as ambitious as Alpha Protocol (hopefully without the immense and pervasive jank), I’d love to have a branching path there where you can turn yourself in on a first playthrough and get arrested due to poor speech/persuasion skills, but then on a repeat ‘Veteran’ playthrough (having completed the game at least once) your character is no rookie but a top agent, with strong argumentative/coercive/reasoning skills. And it’s here where you can convince them of your innocence. If not entirely, at least enough for them to side with you in following leads on other potential suspects.

      This might not carve out an completely new path for the gameplay and story (at least in the locations you visit and some of the things you need to do to pick up the trail on the Lady in Orange, and so on), but could be a cool surprise for returning players and contribute additional narrative replay value on top of gameplay replay value.

      Again, quite ambitious. (Maybe that’s why Alpha Protocol 2 is never happening… :( )

  8. ColeusRattus says:

    I think having a game called “Pandora’s Gun” to start of in earnest with a unique and storied gun that literally is used to set the plot in motion, to then discard said gun unceremoniously might rub some people the wrong way…

  9. MrGuy says:

    I feel like the gun doesn’t have to be given back to the player, as long as there’s a reason why it’s not available.

    The gun is the murder weapon that killed the president (though we don’t know that at the time). It has our fingerprints on it. It’s a major piece of evidence.

    Rather than ceremoniously discard it, have the other secret service agents pick it up while we’re still down. “Gun here! Recently fired. Possible murder weapon here! Get this to the lab right away!” and have it whisked away before we can get up.

    If you want to do something with the gun without us carrying it around, have it ceremouneoualy returned to us after we clear our name and before the end credits run.

    If you want to give an interim thing to do, maybe we have Carter initially suspected of the shooting. It was his gun, and given it was a service weapon the ballistics are presumably on file and the serial number known. Maybe we help Carter establish he was somewhere else where he couldn’t have pulled the trigger. We can do a lot with this gun without having to hold it.

    1. Syal says:

      The Woman in Orange could grab it on the way out*. Also gives her the chance to have a cool gun when we run into her again.

      *(not very smart of her, but she’s panicking.)

      1. Philadelphus says:

        Ooh, there’s a thought! You wake up, there are two dead people and six shells on the floor, and your new gun is gone. What happened? Why are you still alive? Did you fire those shots, or did the Woman in Orange, or a mix? (I mentioned in another comment that maybe the player could hear a shot or two go off just as their vision has faded to black [so they can’t see who did it] but just before they lose consciousness.) Plenty of ambiguity to go around!

      2. Lachlan the Sane says:

        On the one hand, this is a really stupid thing for the Woman in Orange to do, but on the other hand, this does give the developers an excellent excuse to make the revolver as powerful as possible. I imagine that there’ll be some sort of “boss fight” or other confrontation against the Woman in Orange, so maybe just before that fight, there is a very slightly out-of-the-way area (not on the direct path but easily accessible to any player) that’s the Woman in Orange’s bedroom/dressing room. It contains the clothes that the Woman in Orange was wearing in this scene, and if you search her handbag, you find the missing revolver. I would be extremely tempted to turn the revolver against the woman, even if I was doing an otherwise pacifist playthrough.

  10. Syal says:

    Well, I guess the IFF theory is kaput if we’re shooting other guards immediately. Also my concerns about the president being too similar to Biden; if his part is over here I don’t think similarities would bother anyone too much (unless the Vice President comes off as similar to Kamala Harris. But that would almost certainly require intent.)

    Also, is it too much to ask to make vents actually blowing air?

    I’m imagining a Chrono Trigger-style minigame, where the wall of wind is strong enough to blow you all the way out of the vents. Maybe set up, like, little tree-shaped air fresheners, and you have to hide behind the “trees” when the wind picks up. It’d be great.

    1. Max says:

      That was the absolute worst part of Chrono Trigger, the one big flaw in an otherwise nearly perfect game. In my opinion, of course, I guess some people liked it.

  11. Lino says:

    I definitely like where this is going – I always like a good fugitive story, and a cyberpunk setting is a really good place for it!

  12. RFS-81 says:

    It feels so weird commenting now…

    I like the theme of losing control of your body through augs. If you feel uneasy about how we can’t really control our electronics, extending that to your body is nightmare fuel. (I also wonder if the whole thing about your body and mind just not doing what you want was based on Shamus’s experience…)

    The gun took a different turn than I expected. When Denton gets the low-tech gun, I fully expected that it’s what allows him to fight back against the woman in orange.

  13. tsi says:

    Deux Ex was all about player agency with limited forced cutescenes apart for dialogue events.
    The lack of it in the newer games was one of Shamus gripes so I’m finding it hard to not want to remind him to loosen his writer self and have multiple mutusly exclusive events drive the narrative. We’re in a “choose your own adventure” kind of game after all. :)
    Let the players roleplay the kind of Troy they want to be and have their actions have immediate consequences for a more dynamic scene. Go to paragraph 351 if you choose to pick up the gun or 240 if you run away, 521 if you shoot back.
    351 : You hear the agents yell “drop the gun” but after a second of hesitation they start shooting “he killed the president, take him down”. You get shot a couple of times before you manage to escape dropping your health by 2d12.
    240 : You leave through the passage as you hear gunshots barely missing their target.
    521 : Depending on the used weapon, you manage to take down a few agents before they push you into the escape tunnel or you die. Take 1d6 damage per agent shooting blindly into the room.

    This leaves room for immediate reactions which are as much important as long term ones and makes the game feel responsive to your choices.
    Also, the player might not have any ammo for the revolver any way making this pickup more like a trophy than a usefull weapon. You can decide later during dev, if you have time, to make it a functional weapon and scatter some ammo around in gun shops.

  14. Rick says:

    This sounds like a fantastic game. I realise Shamus didn’t have to work around design-by-committee or stupid directives from management but he’s planned something great.

    I’m really enjoying all the considerations and allowances for other departments or necessary changes.

    This has been the extra nudge I needed to carve out some time to replay the original.

  15. RandomInternetGuy says:

    This is great. I want to play this Deus Ex game, or at least continue reading the story. :´´(

  16. Lachlan the Sane says:

    I know a lot of people are talking about the first half of the post, so here’s my thoughts on the second half — accessing the dead drop server room. I have two related ideas:

    1. The easiest way to make this level different between the first run and the second run might simply be to have the server completely covered in human guards for the second run. It’s the same broad challenge, just that you’re fighting robots the first time and humans the second time. This would work especially well if there are some obvious holes in the robot security that wind up being the most secure points for the human security.

    2. If you need more of a plot excuse to have there be no human guards working the facility full-time, why not make it a decommissioned nuclear site? Like a missile silo, or a warhead assembly plant? Your mission control can tell you that the site is slightly too radioactive to safely have full-time human guards, which is why the security systems are all automatic, but that you’ll be fine so long as you get in and out quickly enough. This is just an excuse for why the security is fully automatic, the radiation wouldn’t have any in-game effects.

    By the way I have no idea what the USA does to guard its decommissioned nuclear sites, and it’s entirely plausible that they are actually under full-time guard regardless of the risk of radiation, so this idea might be completely absurd. Someone who actually knows anything at all about this stuff should probably vet the idea.

  17. Mousazz says:

    This weapon was used to protect Jimmy Carter, Ronald Regan, Bill Clinton, and the first two Bushes.

    I love the insinuation here that at least a third Bush became president in the game’s timeline.

    1. Aceus says:

      I don’t think it necessarily means that a third Bush rose to that position of power as well, but that there were (maybe) at least three Bushes and two of them became president. Could have also been a grammatical error.

  18. Type_Mercury says:

    Alas, we may never get to see the conclusion to this story…
    For everything that you’ve done for us, Shamus, I hope you rest well in paradise.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Don’t give up hope quite yet. There’s still a lot of this series in rough draft. The family just hasn’t gotten around to sorting through it yet.

      1. Type_Mercury says:

        Ah, I see, hope you’re having an alright day, all things considered.

      2. Anon says:

        Glad to hear it. It’s fully understandable that the family needs time, but it’s good to know for sure that there’s reason to keep checking for updates occasionally.

  19. I miss Shamus’ writing so much.

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