Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition

There sure has been a lot of activity with the Deus Ex franchise lately. After Eidos Montreal announced a new entry in the series, we get another, albeit much more tenuous, piece of information. A recent casting call for a "confidential video game" makes it sounds like the developer is either about to start or has already started shooting motion capture for the next game.

The casting call asks for a Japanese male to play a character in good physical condition who "has a mild Japanese accent, able to range from professional with his superiors, militant when undercover, and smirky when talking to enemies." The shoot would take place in Montreal, Canada, which is of course where the studio in charge of the Deus Ex franchise resides. But what might be the most indicative of this game's true nature is the description of the character's job: "Hiroshi Saito is an Illuminati Shadow Agent. His current assignment is to infiltrate the Augmented Rights Coalition, to replace its leader and to discredit its movement by committing a series of attacks in their names."

The Illuminati are a staple of the Deus Ex series, and the last game in the series, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, dealt with the emergence of "Augmented" people. "Augs" were mechanically-enhanced citizens who marked the beginning of that world's transition into cybernetics. Prejudice against Augs was a prevalent theme within the game, as some people feared their capabilities and believed that they violated what humanity's natural evolution. The inclusion of an Augmented Rights Coalition heavily implies that this sequel will pick up where Human Revolution left off with Augmented citizens.

All of this comes off as a big neon sign pointing to plot points for the next Deus Ex game to me. And even though this is the farthest thing from official you can get, I 'm just excited at the prospect of a new one.
Ultimate Doom
15 most brutal mods of all time

Remember when buying a game didn’t feel like a guarantee of seeing the ending? There are still hard games out there, Dark Souls flying the flag most recently, but increasingly, the challenge has dripped out or at least softened, often leading to sadly wasted opportunities. What would Skyrim be like, for instance, if its ice and snow wasn’t simply cosmetic, but actually punished you for going mountain climbing in your underpants?

With a quick mod – Frostfall in this case – you’re forced to dress up warm before facing the elements, and things become much more interesting. That’s just one example, and over the next couple of pages you’ll find plenty more. These aren’t mods that just do something cheap like double your enemy’s hit-points, they’re full rebalances and total conversions. Face their challenge, and they’ll reward you with both a whole new experience and the satisfaction of going above and beyond the call of duty.

Game: Stalker: Call of Pripyat
Link: ModDB

All those weapons scattered around? Gone. Anomalies? Now more dangerous. Magic mini-map? Forget it. Valuable quest rewards? Good luck. Things you do get: thirsty, and factions who send goons after you if you anger them. On the plus side Pripyat is much more active, with a complete sound overhaul, and new NPCs to meet – who all have to play by the rules too, with no more infinite ammo. If you can survive here, you’ve got a good chance when the actual apocalypse comes.

Project Nevada
Fallout: New Vegas
Link: Nexus Mods

Nevada is a good example of making things more difficult without being openly psychotic. Levelling is slower, players and NPCs get less health, and obvious features are now in, such as armour only being a factor in headshots if the target actually has head protection. It’s also possible to toggle some extra-hardcore options, such as food no longer healing and taking care of hunger/thirst/ sleep on the move. There’s a sack of new content, and an Extra Options mod is also available, offering even more control.

Brutal Doom
Game: Doom
Link: ModDB

Despite what modern ‘old-school’ shooters would have you think, Doom was a relatively sedate experience – fast running speed, yes, but lots of skulking in the dark and going slow. Not any more! Brutal Doom cranks everything up to 11, then yawns and goes right for 25.6. We’re talking extra shrapnel, execution attacks, tougher and faster monsters, metal music, and blood, blood, blood as far as your exploding eyes can see. It’s compatible with just about any level you can throw at it, turning even E1M1 into charnel house devastation. The enemies don’t get it all their own way, as Doomguy now starts with an assault rifle rather than simply a pistol, and a whole arsenal of new guns has been added to the Doom collection – including the BFG’s big brother.

Full Combat Rebalance 2
Game: The Witcher 2
Link: RedKit

This streamlines the combat and makes the action closer to how Geralt’s adventure might have played out in the books. He’s more responsive, can automatically parry incoming attacks, begins with his Witcher skills unlocked, and no longer has to spend most fights rolling around like a circus acrobat. But he’s in a tougher world, with monsters now figuring out counterattacks much faster, enemies balanced based on equipment rather than levels, and experience only gained from quests, not combat. Be warned this is a 1.5GB file, not the megabyte Hotfix that’s claimed.

Game: Skyrim
Link: Nexus

Elder Scrolls games get ever more streamlined, and further from the classic RPG experience. Requiem drags Skyrim back, kicking and screaming. The world is no longer levelled for your convenience. Bandits deliver one-hit kills from the start. The undead mock arrows, quietly pointing out their lack of internal organs with a quick bonk to your head. Gods hold back their favour from those who displease them. Most importantly, stamina is now practically a curse. Heavy armour and no training can drain it even if you’re standing still, and running out in battle is Very Bad News. Combine this with Frostfall, and Skyrim finally becomes the cold, unforgiving place it claims to be.

Total War: Shogun 2
Link: TWCenter

Not only is this one of the most comprehensive mods any Total War game has ever seen, its modular nature makes it easy to pick and choose the changes that work best for the experience you want. Together, the campaign AI is reworked, as are the skills and experience systems, diplomacy and technology trees. There are over 100 new units. Campaigns are also longer, providing more time to play with all this, with easier access to the good stuff early on in the name of variety. There’s even a sound module that adds oomph to rifles. Add everything, or only the bits you want. It’s as much of a tactical decision as anything else on the road to conquering Japan.

Game of Thrones
Game: Crusader Kings II
Link: ModDB

Real history doesn’t have enough bite for you? Recast the whole thing with Starks, Lannisters, Freys and the rest and it will. This doesn’t simply swap a few names around, but works with the engine to recreate specific scenarios in the war for the Iron Throne. Individual characters’ traits are pushed into the foreground, especially when duels break out. Wildlings care little about who your daddy was. It’s best to know a fair amount about the world before jumping in, and the scenarios themselves contain spoilers, but you’re absolutely not restricted to just following the story laid down in the books.

Realistic Weapons
Game: Grand Theft Auto IV
Link: GTAGarage

Guess what this one does. A bowling league for Roman? Cars that drive themselves? A character who appears to tell Niko “You have $30,000 in your pocket, you don’t need to goon for assholes” after Act 2? No, of course not. These guns put a little reality back into the cartoon that is GTA. The missions weren’t written with that in mind, obviously, but there’s nothing stopping you from giving it a shot. Worst case: murdering random civilians on the street is much quicker, easier and more satisfying. At least until the cops show up to spoil the fun. Range, accuracy, damage, ammo and fire rate are all covered, though be warned that you shouldn’t expect perfect accuracy from your upgraded hardware. This is GTA after all. Realism is not baked into its combat engine.

The Long War
Game: XCOM: Enemy Unknown
Link: NexusMods

You’re looking at eight soldier classes, many more missions, invaders as focused on upgrades as your own science team, and a much longer path to victory. Research is slow, not least to make early weapon upgrades more useful, while the aliens are constantly getting more powerful. Their ships are better, their terror missions are more regular, and more of them show up for battle. In exchange, you get to field more Interceptors, the council is easier to appease, and the ETs don’t cheat as much.

Ziggy's Mod
Game: Far Cry 3
Link: NexusMods

Ziggy makes Rook Island a more natural place, removing mission requirements for skills, cutting some of the easier ways to earn XP, increasing spawn rates to make the island busier, and throwing away the magic mini-map in favour of a compass. The second island is also unlocked from the start. Smaller changes include randomised ammo from dropped weapons, being able to climb hills that you should realistically be able to, and wingsuit abilities made available earlier to get more out of them.

Game: Minecraft
Link: Terrafirmacraft

Minecraft has a Survival mode, but it’s not desperately challenging. Terrafirmacraft takes it seriously, with hunger and thirst that must be dealt with at all times, and key elements added such as the need to construct support beams while mining to prevent cave-ins, and a seasonal cycle that determines whether or not trees will produce fruit. Many more features are to be added, but there’s enough here already to make survival about much more than throwing together a Creeper-proof fort.

Synergies Mod
Game: Torchlight II
Link: Synergies Mod

This adds a new act to the game, over a hundred monsters, new rare bosses, a new class – the Necromancer – more and tougher monsters and the gear to take them on. There are also endgame raids to add challenge once the world is saved yet again, and more on the way – including two new classes (Paladin and Warlock). It’s the top-ranked Torchlight II mod on Steam Workshop, and easily the most popular. Be aware that it’s still in development, and has a few rough edges.

Civilization Nights
Game: Civilization V
Link: Steam Workshop

While Brave New World has officially given Civ V a big shake up, for many players Nights remains its most popular add-on. It’s a comprehensive upgrade, adding new buildings, wonders, technologies and units, with a heavy focus on policies and making the AI better. The single biggest change is how it calculates happiness, citizens adding cheer simply by existing, but the slow march of war and other miseries detracting from the good times. Annexed a city? Don’t expect too many ticker-tape parades. Yet keeping happiness up is crucial, as it’s also the core of a strong military. This rebalancing completely changes how you play, while the other additions offer plenty of scope for new tactics and even more carefully designed civilisations.

Ultimate Difficulty Mod
Game: Dishonored
Link: TTLG Forums

This makes Dishonored’s enemies more attentive, faster and able to hear a pin drop from the other side of the map. When you get into a fight, it quickly becomes an all-out street war. The biggest change is to Dishonored’s second most abusable ability: the Lean (Blink of course being #1). Corvo can no longer sit behind scenery, lean out into an enemy’s face and be politely ignored. He’s now much more likely to be spotted – especially in ghost runs, where his advantages are now limited to the Outsider’s gifts rather than the Overseers’ continued lack of a local Specsavers.

Game: Deus Ex
Link: ModDB

New augmentations! Altered AI! Randomised inventories! Also a few time-savers: instead of separate keys and multitools for instance, a special keyring has both, while upgrades are used automatically if necessary. Difficulty also changes the balance considerably, from the standard game to ‘Realistic’ mode where you only get nine inventory slots, to ‘Unrealistic’, which makes JC Denton the cyborg killing machine he’s meant to be, but at the cost of facing opponents who warrant it. In this mode he gets double-jumping powers, and automatically gobbles health items when he gets badly wounded. Good luck though, I still got nowhere.
Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition
Deus Ex Universe

Eidos Montreal, sensing how much people love Deus Ex, and how disappointed people are when a Deus Ex announcement turns out to be an iPhone game, have revealed Deus Ex: Universe. Rather than one single game, it's a giant web of media spin-offs that "will include PC and console games". In fact, part of the announcement post confirms the existence of a proper Human Revolution follow-up, planned for PC and next-gen boxes.

"The concept behind Deus Ex: Universe is to create an ongoing, expanding and connected game world built across a generation of core games," writes Eidos Montreal head David Anfossi. "It’s a commitment on our part to deliver meaningful content that expands the franchise on a regular basis and to deliver a deep conspiracy that will span several connected Deus Ex games, creating a more immersive and richer experience than ever before. Deus Ex: Universe will include PC and console games, but also additional Deus Ex games and experiences available in other media such as tablets, smartphones, books, graphic novels, etc... You might have seen the name pop up recently in the press – well this is what it’s all about.

"I’m pleased to confirm that we are already into production of the starting point for Deus Ex: Universe with a new game for PC and next-generation consoles," Anfossi continues. "We’re very excited about it at the studio and I wanted to let you know that most of the team behind Deus Ex: Human Revolution is already working hard on this new game. It took us four years to learn how to create a unique Deus Ex experience with Human Revolution and it was important for me to keep this knowledge within the franchise."

Transmedia gubbins aside, here's what we should all be focusing on: New Deus Ex game! I suspect this is a thing that some people have asked for.

There's nothing firm to go on just yet, not even a name. Instead, we have a single piece of concept art, depicting "a 'ghetto-city' voluntarily built in order to separate the classes."

"The people in this segregated class have reshaped their environment, nostalgic for their ideal of Cyber Renaissance," Anfossi writes. "This dark and dystopian vision sets the tone for things to come in Deus Ex."

'Cyber Renaissance' may be the most Deus Ex phrase I've ever heard, so it's definitely off to a good start.

Thanks, OXM.
Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition
Deus Ex Nihilum

Since the release of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, you'd almost be forgiven for uninstalling the original Deus Ex. After all, it's been 13 years, surely you've wrung every single drop of entertainment from its old Unreal Engine. Wrong! With the "alternate continuity" mod Deus Ex: Nihilum, there's another 10 hours of cyberpunk adventuring to be had. The Lesson? Never uninstall Deus Ex.

Here's the set-up:

"In 2049, unsavory conditions are rampant throughout the world. As soon as it becomes clear that a terrorist attack in Shenzhen, China, was carried out by perpetrators with ties to international groups and that Hong Kong may be their next target - the United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition (UNATCO) dispatches their first nano-augmented agent, Mad Ingram, into the city to prevent the situation from escalating any further."

The upshot of this is a new campaign, lasting around 7-13 hours. Creator 'FastGamerr' notes that Nihilum isn't designed to revolutionise its base game. "In many regards I've also tried to make it feel like an expansion pack to the original game, i.e. trying to follow the original's spirit in elements like story, gameplay and dialogue. The plot can be interpreted as a shadow parallel to the original game's story - following similar events through a different lens."

Which means it's not as wildly divergent as something like The Nameless Mod. Still, it's a handy new excuse to experience the dark and oppressive world of the first Deus Ex. As if anybody needed one.

You can download Deus Ex: Nihilum from ModDB.
Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition
Harvey Smith - Headshot

With games including Dishonored and Deus Ex under his belt, Arkane Studios' Harvey Smith knows a thing or four hundred about storytelling. In April he published his first novel, Big Jack is Dead, and if you download it before tomorrow, you can enjoy it for free (the link goes to the US store and will not work outside the US, but you can download the book from the Amazon store in your region).
The story revolves around Jack Hickman, an "antisocial software exec" who finds out during the middle of a corporate meeting that his father has killed himself. Although it's primarily a work of fiction, parts of Harvey Smith's Southern Gothic novel are pulled almost directly from Smith's own tumultuous personal history, including his own father's suicide and the overdose of Smith's mother on drugs.
Don't have a Kindle? No problem, just download the Kindle app for iOS and Android or use Amazon's Cloud Reader.
Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition
Warren Spector's Deus Ex

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.
Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition
Deus Ex: Nihilum

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.
Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition
Deus Ex Human revolution fractal jensen

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.

Better ending
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.

Visible augmentations

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.

And also...

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.
Stronger mirrors.
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.
Augmented horses.

And that's all from us for now, but what would YOU like from a new Deus Ex game?
Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition
Lee Perry Lili

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.”

Deus Ex: Game of the Year Edition
Deus Ex poison clouds
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.

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