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Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition
May 14, 2013
In a column at GamesIndustry International Monday, game designer Warren Spector railed against the overwhelming power of Metacritic as a cultural arbiter of game quality. Spector’s past work includes classic game franchises like Deus Ex and Thief, so his thoughts on the industry tend to be well-respected, though sometimes controversial.
Spector’s column raised serious questions about games’ artistic success and whether that success can be measured by combining every “8 out of 10,” “two thumbs up,” and “four stars” published by the gaming press.
“Metacritic, at best, rewards games that are conventional and well understood by players and critics alike,” Spector wrote. “New and challenging things are, by their very nature, disruptive and easily misunderstood. Aggregation of opinion, at best, offers hope and guidance to people whose goal is to maximize profitability but little to people whose priorities lie elsewhere.”
Spector is hardly the first to raise questions about Metacritic, but he might be the most high-profile developer to do so publicly. Last month, Kotaku’s lengthy discussion on the review aggregator’s failings brought the issue to greater awareness. Before that, a study presented at the Games Developers Conference 2013 revealed some of the different ways that average Metacritic scores can be weighted and manipulated.
“When we put our faith in Metacritic as an impartial, scientific measure of quality, we should probably ask ourselves whether the crowd—the crowd of journalists as well as players—is really wise or just mediocre, incapable of recognizing and rewarding the new and different,” Spector wrote.
Spector’s concerns about Metacritic’s effect on development, and the utility of review scores in general, can be found in full here.
Who doesn't love a story about trench-coated, cybernetic soldiers wearing sunglasses indoors and uncovering nefarious schemes from world-domineering organizations? Nobody, that's who. This explains how Deus Ex just keeps getting augmented with fantastic-looking mods. After a few years hidden in the development lab, Nihilum is ready to emerge on June 3 as a fully-voiced alternate tale involving the green-loving UNATCO and a mission to a futuristic Hong Kong.
Creator FastGamerr sets the scene: "In the wake of a sudden terrorist attack in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, the neighboring Hong Kong is feared to be the next target. The discovery of international terrorist involvement in the case leads the Chinese into requesting UNATCO assistance with the investigation. UNATCO dispatches their first nano-augmented agent, Mad Ingram, to assist the Chinese and prevent the crisis from escalating any further. Little does he know that this mission is merely the beginning of larger events that will leave a definite mark on his life."
Mad Ingram definitely sounds like a name of someone more likely to allow tiny robots to swim around in his bloodstream than JC Denton. A few other locations show up on Ingram's global tour, including New York City and Hong Kong's Kowloon area. FastGamerr says the mod's content is made from scratch with a bit of help from texture and content tweak mods UNATCO Born and Revision, and it'll take around 7-9 hours to complete the story.
Shine your robot eyebeams at Nihilum's Mod DB page for more screens, and if you possess a deep, sultry delivery, FastGamerr wants you as the voice of Mad Ingram himself.
Mar 1, 2013
Deus Ex: Human Defiance was trademarked by Square Enix recently, sparking speculation that a follow up to Human Revolution may be brewing deep in Eidos Montreal's fanciest limb clinics. Human Revolution was a faithful recreation of the original shot through a cool, edgy black and gold cyber-renaissance lens. It was a successful modernisation of a PC gaming classic that made our Tom Francis very happy indeed (find out why in our Deus Ex: Human Revolution review). But, like the man who's just received a pair of awesome bionic arms and can't help but complain, we're never entirely happy, so we got our heads together and formed a list of things we'd like to see from the next Deus Ex.
Will you agree? There's only one way to find out, and that's to hack our brains have a read and see.
Bosses like the Missing Link
Eidos Montreal have already figured out how to make a great boss fight in a Deus Ex game, and they did it: just the once. The final bad guy in the Missing Link DLC is just a guy. The challenge is all in getting to him: he's in an office at the back of a large hangar crawling with powerful guards and security systems. But if you can get past them, there's nothing to stop you just knocking out the final boss in a single punch. There's nothing to stop you tazering him, chucking a gas grenade into his office, or anything else that works on normal enemies. There's even a way to steal his awesome custom revolver before the final confrontation, leaving him with a crappy standard issue one when you fight him. More of that, please!
Better living cities
Though most of the action in DXHR takes place after hours, and the streets have a certain appropriate sparseness, the hubs did occasionally feel a little too hokey and static. Detroit is supposedly decimated by riots - but they all happen off-stage. The odd moving car or clump of pedestrians going about their business would make the environments come alive.
New power resource
Why does one energy blip recharge after using a special ability, but the others you’ve spent valuable Praxis points on don’t? Why does punching a man with your awesome blade arms instantly exhaust a blip? If you’ve managed to get that close to a guard, it shouldn’t require a massive energy expenditure to take him down - the hard part is already done. A power resource mechanic that feels less arbitrarily restrictive would be a welcome.
Deeper hacking mechanics
For a fiction totally centered on the potential and threat of interconnectedness, the mechanics which reflected this in-game were spartan. The hacking mini-game was great, but it didn’t describe the range and power of hacking in a way which gave you control over a swathe of disparate systems. If more things were hackable - perhaps even other people - and the things you could then do with them more varied, then it would better realise that fundamental of cyberpunk fiction.
Alternatives to air vents
Deus Ex has to give you multiple paths through every location - it wouldn’t be Deus Ex, otherwise - but Human Revolution relied a little too heavily on air vents for its alternative routes. The act of crawling slowly through a narrow tunnel just isn’t terribly interesting. You could punch through walls, but only in strictly defined zones. It’d be nice to play with more inventive augmentations like this, all designed to let you traverse the environment in unusual ways - cutting openings through bullet-proof glass with finger blades, or rappelling down walls to reach an open window, perhaps.
Human Revolution, like the original Deus Ex, is guilty of suddenly locking you in a room at the end of the game and asking you which final cutscene you’d like to see. The options are interesting enough to create a fraught moral dilemma, but they’re offered offered in such a contrived manner that it’s hard to take the choice seriously. If the competing themes you’re choosing to side with in the final moments have been foreshadowed throughout the game you might have more sense of the impact your choice will have on the world. However it’s presented in the next Deus Ex, it shouldn’t feel like a fire-and-forget button press.
More non-combat augmentations
The social augmentation was a surprisingly neat addition to Deus Ex’ cyborg arsenal. It allowed you to read subconscious cues to better manipulate NPCs, and even release persuasive pheromones to nudge their opinions in the right direction. It felt like a novelty to use Jensen’s cyborg powers outside of a combat scenario. It would be nice to see that more. Denton and Jensen are hard-hitting SWAT types, but there’s no reason they can’t use their augmentations to become great detectives, using new implants to read more of their environment than the ordinary human eye ever could.
Nothing hammers home the gruesome nature of your diminishing humanity better than a cyborg eyeball. In Human Revolution, all of Jensen's augmentations were implanted in one crazy intense game of Operation at the very beginning, and gradually turned on as the game went on. Imagine seeing those augmentations change your character. A Borg-esque eyeball would look a bit out of place given the slick Ghost in the Shell technological aesthetic Eidos Montreal's artists rolled with, but even subtle effects like a change in eye colour or the spidery web of faintly glowing electrodes would map your augmentation decisions onto your avatar and mark their journey from ordinary Joe into a paragon of transhumanism.
You discover that your dog Kubrick wasn’t really put down at all and is living on a farm.
You can flick your futuristic shades on and off with the press of a button at any time.
Retractable knee chisels.
In the next Deus Ex, you actually did ask for this.
Datapads stream from the game onto tablets you own.
When left idle Jensen produces a glass of whiskey and a cigarette and stares moodily into middle distance.
Cancellation of idle animation causes Jensen to accidentally crush the glass and stare in horror at cold metal hands.
And that's all from us for now, but what would YOU like from a new Deus Ex game?
Jan 17, 2013
Lee Perry has been exploring new territory.
Formerly Senior Gameplay Designer on Gears of War 3, Perry is one of BitMonster Games's six founding members. But Bitmonster's debut title is bereft of gargantuan firearms. Instead of steroid-infused marines in heavy armor, Lili has a bespectacled teenage girl as a protagonist. It's one of the many changes Perry and the other co-founders have experienced after their amicable departure from Epic Games.
Perry compares the transition to an indie environment as something similar to moving from an driving an automatic to switching to a car with a manual transmission. "You're more connected to the project, but there’s far more to keep an eye on," Perry says. "There aren’t 150 other people to rely on when you need something like a random sound effect or logo.
"There are no safety nets," he continues. "Granted, prior to Epic, every company I worked for shut down or at least closed the office, so stability isn’t that great in the industry to begin with. But, with indie development, you stack that on top of the fact that, 'If you’re not doing it, it’s not getting done,' and it’s exhilarating and terrifying. There isn’t a dedicated sound guy over there you just hand off requests to. You have to just do it.
"In many ways, it’s like home ownership. You think, 'I can’t fix a broken sink!' Then you read up on it, head to the store, and you just figure it out. When the process is done, you’re better off for it."
An industry veteran, Perry worked on high-profile games like Unreal Tournament 2004, Deus Ex the Gears of War trilogy. Though game design has always been a part of his aspirations, Perry explains that it wasn't always an option, saying, "The reality is that nobody wants to hire someone to come up with ’ideas.’ Virtually everyone has projects they want to do already. So, I started out as an artist, animator, modeler, etc. I worked on gaining practical skills to execute visions. By the time I was fully a ’designer,’ I had been an art director, lead level designer, track lead... As a result, I could talk to people in different departments with their own language."
"The reality is that nobody wants to hire someone to come up with 'ideas.'"
But AAA development isn't without its problems, according to Perry. "The most challenging thing about working in that environment is 'industry risk aversion,’” he says. “Having sanity checks and processes are great, but at some point, you’re drowning in the debates, the limitations, the meetings, and ultimately, the feeling you’re spending the best years of your life creating something that is very hard to consider yours.
"I’ve been fortunate to work with some talented, big names in the industry, but the harsh reality for most people in that situation is that no matter how hard you work, no matter how well your work is received, your accomplishments are largely reflecting on the big names associated with any AAA company.”Perry continues: “As long as that’s the case at a AAA company, you’re not likely to ever get a shot at creating a new IP of your own. If that’s your true passion, it can’t work. With the indie world, you eat what you kill, and the more successful you are, the more freedom you’re creating for yourself."
Perry pauses before quipping, "The negatives of being indie are often the same as the positives. You're eating what you kill so, logically, if you're not killing it, you're starving."
Another too-frequent downside for AAA development, Perry suggests, is being subject to shareholders and bureaucracy. "With AAA projects, you’re far more likely to be laid off after working insanely hard than you are to see big rewards. You’re ultimately part of a larger machine, and it’s depressingly common for talented developers to be treated as little more than variables in spreadsheets."
Perry characterizes his previous employer differently, though. “Epic was more unique simply because they were respected, stable, and successful," he says. "They didn’t have to bend to the whims of publishers and shop projects around to stay afloat.”
In spite of these cautionary tales, Perry isn't without praise for large studios. "The most rewarding aspect of AAA development has always been knowing that many people out there will experience your work and hopefully be influenced by it. If you’re fortunate and are working on a huge hit, you know the work you do on some aspects of the game are going to be enjoyed by millions of people. That’s a really empowering feeling. You can look at a level and think, 'If I add a one second pause here, I will use two months of human life over the course of millions of people playing this game.'"
That said, Perry doesn’t seem to regret migrating to the other side of the fence. If anything, he sounds like he’s considerably satisfied.
“We’ve cranked out a ridiculous amount of work over seven months for six people in a basement," he says. "I don’t think people believed those numbers when showing the project around at Casual Connect. We learned so much making Lili about all kinds of game creation we wouldn’t normally be exposed to. We were all digging into our past skill sets that have been gathering cobwebs in an AAA environment where you typically do a specific task often. It was challenging beyond belief, but when it’s done, you can sit back and feel like you’ve really advanced your skill set and grown as a game creator.”
Perry’s advice to anyone looking to make a name for themselves in a big studio is to temper enthusiasm with maturity and a healthy dose of self-awareness. While talent may be important, the ability to take criticism is paramount. Companies need to know who they can work with, not just what they can work with.
“Don’t ever take offense at someone asking you to do an art test or code test," Perry advises. "It’s not an ego thing. They’re simply trying to cut out people who would...oh, take offense at being asked to do something."
Describing Epic as a “notoriously tough place to get into,” especially in its formative years, Perry says that many joked that the hiring process was nearly “Seinfield-ian” in nature. “If you didn’t impress virtually everyone, you had no shot. I started off doing some contract work for them on the side, and they really loved what I was doing so I had an edge with people using my work as opposed to just coming in with a portfolio.
“My biggest suggestion to people is know the company you’re looking to apply for, and do something tailored for them,” Perry says. “Make them feel like you really want to work for them specifically, not just any game company.”
"My biggest suggestion to people is know the company you’re looking to apply for, and do something tailored for them."
When questioned about whether its previous involvement with AAA productions had been helpful to the fledgling team, Perry’s answer was one shaded with hearty agreement. “It provided a nice PR bump out of the gate which can be pretty critical to getting your game visible. Twenty years of working with all kinds of tools was also just a great foundation for getting things done quickly. The six of us here have done about everything at some point, and I can’t imagine how much harder it would be without that experience to pull from.”
My flatulence is augmented.
The rough preliminary outlines for Deus Ex described a more brutal world with more aggressive foes than the enigmatic cabals encountered in Ion Storm's cyberpunk RPG. Eurogamer's report goes over the design documents in detail, but a few highlights include an original vision incorporating "X-Files weirdness" and significant personality changes for major characters such as Tracer Tong and Joseph Manderley.
Designer Warren Spector's early iterations of a "near-future science-fiction" game were initially called Majestic Revelations. Instead of corporate intrigue and dystopian societies, Revelations would draw parallels from X-Files' paranormal focus.
Main character and trenchcoat devotee JC Denton existed from the very start as a UNATCO agent, though the organization's first incarnation was the harsher-sounding Terrorist Limitation Coalition, or TLC, which definitely didn't dabble in chart-topping R&B. UNATCO boss Joseph Manderley was a "ruthless bastard" hunting JC across the globe instead of plotting behind a desk, and hacker ally Tracer Tong transformed from a "mercenary" figure into the reclusive data-digger encountered in Deus Ex's second half.
Also undergoing a large shift was Majestic 12, the mysterious group of shadowy puppeteers. Spector initially had Majestic 12's actions become far more public, even planning a Mexican invasion of Texas and the assassination of a White House cabinet. Players would eventually visit these locations, but Ion Storm ultimately scrapped the complex idea.
Some older Majestic 12 level concepts lived on in the final version, such as an underwater base located in a flooded Hollywood valley turning into the late-game research laboratories. Deus Ex Lead Writer Sheldon Pacotti believed the deleted scenes "possibly exist on DVDs in someone's attic somewhere," but he wasn't hopeful of finding them anytime soon. And if you haven't re-installed Deus Ex by now (which always tends to magically happen whenever someone talks about it), grab the New Vision mod before you do to spruce up its aged visuals.
Read more at Eurogamer.
Dec 31, 2012
Face Off pits two gladiators against each other as they tackle gaming's most perplexing conundrums. This New Year's Eve edition is a chronological throw-down: which decade gave PC gaming the most? Podcast Producer Erik Belsaas says it was the '90s—the origin of modern PC gaming. Executive Editor Evan Lahti insists it was the '00s, with its speedy internet, better PCs, and shinier graphics engines.
Evan: The 1990s had the CD-ROM and the McRib sandwich. The ‘00s had Windows XP and two terrible Star Wars movies. I think the latter birthed better games: the Battlefield series, Crysis, Company of Heroes, BioShock, Dragon Age: Origins, Guild Wars, The Sims, Rome: Total War, Star Wars: KOTOR, and the best Civilization games happened then. What've you got, Erik?
Erik: Lucasarts, id, Ion Storm, Interplay, Blizzard: the iconic names that created franchises that we still discuss today. “RTS,” “FPS,” and “MMO” had no meaning before the pioneers of the '90s came along with some-thing other than sequels and rehashes: Baldur's Gate, Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem 3D, MechWarrior, Unreal Tournament and every LucasArts adventure game from Sam & Max to Grim Fandango.
Evan: This is going to devolve into who can name-drop more game titles, isn't it?
Erik: Pretty much.
Evan: Cool. In that case, let’s put the best we've got on the page. What are the top three games from your decade? Mine: WoW, Counter-Strike, and Half-Life 2.
Erik: Just three? How about X-COM, Fallout, and The Secret of Monkey Island. Timeless classics that we still play today.
Evan: Is that the best that the decade that gave us the Spice Girls has got, grandpa? The innovations of the '00s will last far longer. Half-Life 2 wasn't just the basis for the way modern action games tell stories, it’s the technological foundation for the most ambitious mods we have today and the preferred canvas for machinima creators. World of Warcraft’s meteoric rise brought PC gaming into popular culture, ruined innumerable marriages, and earned its own South Park episode. Top that.
Erik:Your great games are all parts of established franchises that began in the '90s. For that matter, the original Counter-Strike mod came out in 1999, before Valve turned it into a retail product! Take away the names that began in the '90s, the '00s would've created very little of their own.
Evan: Megabyte for megabyte, I’d rather replay Half-Life 2 than its predecessor. Likewise for Diablo II, Warcraft III, Fallout 3 and other major franchises that began in the '90s but matured in the '00s. I really think that the tech of the '00s (better operating systems, fast internet, faster PCs) produced better gaming experiences. EVE Online couldn't exist in the '90s. Team Fortress 2's dozens of free content updates couldn't have streamed down our wimpy modems—the same goes for 25-man WoW raids or a heavily modded playthrough of Oblivion or Morrowind.
Erik: You've got a short memory. EverQuest allowed 72-man raids. And before Oblivion and Morrowind came Daggerfall, which was amazing and heavily modded. Doom, the father of modding, came out in '93.
Evan: I’ll play your game, Belsaas. Here's my ace: Deus Ex, our most favorite game ever, happened in 2000.
Erik: Deus Ex is a good game...but how about StarCraft? Has any other game absolutely defined its genre or rallied an entire nation behind it like a sport?
Evan: I was worried you’d play the Korea card. What can I counter that with? The 100-million-selling main-stream success of The Sims? The booming popularity of independent gaming? ...Peggle?
Erik: Peggle? Well I’ve got...you know...uh...Carmen Sandiego. Fine. Peggle wins.
For all its crazy cyber-conspiracy narrative and superior voice acting, Deus Ex didn't ride its Unreal Engine tech gracefully into the visual standards of the present. Still, its neon-lined cyberpunk locales are close to many a gamer's nano-heart, which makes the release of the final version of David Watts' "New Vision" mod for Deux Ex just another good reason to reinstall it.
"I'd like to sincerely thank everyone in the community for their support over the years; without you, I wouldn't have had the motivation to continue working on this project for five years of my life," DaveW stated. "I hope you all enjoy the mod and I wish you all the best."
Just like popping out your organically inferior eyeballs for a pair of tri-vision photoreceptor sensors (with optional strobing laser accessory), New Vision enhances every single non-character texture in a hefty 1.2GB data package. The ghost in the machine whispers "reinstall," and New Vision makes it tough resisting another bout behind JC Denton's so-cool-I-wear-them-indoors shades. And hey, at least you can admire the soft torchlight bouncing off the domes of snazzier-looking skulls as you get absolutely lost once again in that labyrinthine Paris Catacombs area.
Grab New Vision from its Mod DB page, or check the gallery for more comparison shots.
There are two Deus Ex games. The original classic, and the brilliant recent sequel, Human Revolution. Sure back in 2004 there was an ill advised follow up called Deus Ex: Invisible War, but shortly after its release we all agreed that it never happened, and we would never speak of it again.
Warren Spector apparently didn't get that memo. Speaking to IGN during a preview of Epic Mickey he said he regretted listening to the feedback of focus testers when making the game.
“We focus tested concepts." he said "and I was told, ‘Set the game further in the future and put the guy or the girl in a purple jumpsuit; people like purple jumpsuits. Why did I listen?”
Who on earth answers a focus test with 'put the guy in a purple jumpsuit?' What kind of questionnaire even asks that? Who could possibly think that was helpful or relevant advice? The mind boggles.
Thankfully Deus Ex did eventually get the sequel it deserved, years later and without Spector's involvement. You can find out why it works in our Deus Ex: Human Revolution review.
"Cheap as chips" is a throwaway UK saying for something that has plunged straight through the realm of "inexpensive," surpassed the grotty lands of "surprisingly good value" and come to rest in the sugary sands of "tat." Few things in this world are cheaper than the pots of oily polystyrene packs of potato shifted from small shops on street corners up and down this country, but thanks to Steam, one of our favourite games ever, Deus Ex, is cheaper than a small pile of fried potato. How has this happened? It's best not to ask. Instead, just head to Steam and grab yourself a copy if you don't own one already.
Eidos Montreal's excellent 2011 follow-up, Human Revolution, is also a steal at £5 / $7.49. If you already own that, Human Revolution's DLC pack, The Missing Link is also available for £2.24 / $3.74. Alternatively, you can buy all things Deus Ex (including Invisible War) for a bundle price of £9.99 / $14.99. The deal's set to last all weekend.
Mar 23, 2012
Save some money this weekend by shopping smart. Learn how to get 50% or more off all things Tomb Raider, Hitman, Deus Ex, every King's Quest, a 48 game Sega Genesis collection and how to get Batman: Arkham City for just $10!
The biggest deal around Steam this weekend has got to be The Great Square-Enix Cost-Cutification of 2012! You can get all the available Hitmans, Deus Exes, Tomb Raiders, Dungeon Seiges, Just Causes and much more bundled together for just $75! They can be picked up separately, so we've listed a few of those in addition to other Steam highlights below. Deals are on 'til Monday!
75% off Square-Enix Hits Collection - $74.99
75% off Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light - $3.74
50% off Deus Ex: Human Revolution - $14.99
50% off Deus Ex Collection (2 games) - $9.99
50% off Just Cause 2 - $4.99
75% off Hitman Collection (3 games) - $6.24
50% off Dungeon Siege III - $14.99
50% off Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days - $7.49
66% off EVE Online: Crucible - $6.80
BIG 24 HOUR DEAL: King's Quest Collection (7 games!) ENDS 9AM PST Saturday!
Sadly, it looks as if EA's Origin deals aren't going to be as regular as we thought. Almost every discount from last week has evaporated, save for the pretty great deal of getting Arkham City for $10!
Buy Mass Effect 3 and Get Batman: Arkham City for $10
It's Sega's turn in the Amazon deal barrel this week and several great titles are now $7.49 or less. And yes, you can activate them on Steam.
75% off Total War: Shogun 2 - $7.49
75% off Sonic Generations - $7.49
75% off Sega Dreamcast Collection - $7.49
50% off Sonic 4: Episode 1 - $4.99
50% off Renegade Ops - $7.49
BIG DEAL: 90% off the Sega Genesis/MegaDrive Collection (48 games!!) - $7.49
Impulse is still rocking the 2K Ultimate Bundle pack, which includes BioShock, Civilization III, IV, V, Mafia II, Duke Nukem Forever, Borderlands, the entire X-Com series and more for $69.99! You'll also find a ton of stuff from Paradox Entertainments steeply discounted right here.
Over 75% off the 2K Ultimate Bundle - $69.99
50% off Serious Sam 2 - $4.99
75% off D&D Anthology: The Master Collection - $7.49
75% off D&D Anthology: Neverwinter Nights Complete - $7.49
75% off Europa Universalis III Chronicles - $7.49
Know of any more game deals this weekend? Be a dear and add 'em in the comments.