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War Stories: How Deus Ex was almost too complex for its own good


Directed by James Herron, edited by Sean Dacanay. Click here for transcript.

Coming in under the wire here is our last video for 2021—and we tried to make it a fun one. If you play games, chances are you’ve played something that Warren Spector was involved in creating—with stints at Origin, Ion Storm, and Disney, he helped design and/or produce a whole giant pile of famous titles, including Wing Commander, various Ultimas, System Shock, and the title we’re focusing on today: the original Deus Ex.

But even for someone with Warren’s pedigree, and with an amazing and talented design team backing him up, Deus Ex was a challenge to pull off. The idea was to produce a game that enabled the player to approach things in whatever way the player wanted. If you’re playing a shooter like Doom and you run into a difficult section that you can’t get through, there often isn’t an alternate path that involves not shooting; similarly, if you’re playing a sneaker like Thief and you run into a difficult section of a heist where you keep getting detected, you can’t just pull out your sword and start whacking things. (Well, you can, but you’ll quickly wind up dead.) Frustrated by the gameplay linearity of most genres, Warren wanted to do things a different way and make a game where all play-styles were valid.

This obviously required considerably more work than simply building a shooter or a sneaker—though, for anyone who’s gotten lost in Deus Ex‘s possibilities—from exploding barrels to “LAM ladders”—it’s clear that Warren’s team succeeded. Deus Ex is widely regarded as one of the best open-world RPGs ever created, and its flexibility led to all kinds of cool emergent gameplay tricks.

Warren was kind enough to sit down with Ars to talk about the difficulties of actually pulling off Deus Ex‘s “three-games-in-one” approach, and we’re grateful for his time. If you enjoy this interview, then good news: we’ll have a much longer extended cut coming in the new year (Warren is a great storyteller, and we had so much cut material that we’d be crazy not to do a long version that features all his stories!).

Thanks for watching, and stay tuned!



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