Worth Reading: An Oral History Of Deus Ex

Worth Reading: An Oral History Of Deus Ex

It’s the weekend, y’all. Grab some coffee — or a beer! — and snuggle up with the games writing from the past week ‘n change. (We skipped an instalment because of E3. Sorry about that.)

Hey, You Should Read This

Depending on the day, my favourite game of all-time is either Deus Ex or Mega Man 2. While reading this oral history of Ion Storm’s best game (though let’s not forget that Anachronox was pretty excellent, too), I’m reminded just how weird Deus Ex was/is. I doubt we would have gotten Deus Ex if someone wasn’t throwing money at Warren Spector, letting him do whatever the hell he wanted, but I’m glad they did! Gosh, that first level. I can play it back in my head.

Spector: Basically, Looking Glass Austin shut down because Looking Glass as a whole was in pretty dire financial straits. The LG Austin projects couldn’t move forward until and unless I could find external funding for them and, despite the efforts I made, that just wasn’t happening. I talked to the folks in Cambridge and we all agreed that it made no sense to jeopardize the larger organisation trying to keep a satellite office open. I was pretty confident I could find another deal, so we shut down.

Even though I was part of the decision, it was still pretty gut-wrenching when I left the empty office for the last time, I can tell you.

As far as Ion Storm Austin goes, it took some time, but I wasn’t ever too worried. The core of the team was willing to wait while I found another deal. I kind of knew what I wanted to make — based on thoughts I wrote up for Game Developer magazine about what direction RPGs could take.

Ultimately, I came close to signing a deal to make an RPG for a major publisher, based on an existing IP, but before I signed, John Romero called me and convinced me to sign on with Ion Storm, to create an Austin office for them, and to make the game of my dreams, which turned into Deus Ex.

Though I haven’t played as much Splatoon as I’ve wanted to, my time spent with the game was incredibly pleasant. A huge part of my enjoyment came from the very thing the game’s been criticised for in the past: no voice chat. I poked fun at Nintendo about this very point on this very website, and yet, when I found myself playing the game, I didn’t miss it, not for a second. It’s totally possible to work out strategies with one another without resorting to voice, and had no problem working as a team. I was also not called a terrible name every few seconds.

All conversations about multiplayer tend to assume the following: that everybody speaks the same language, that everybody feels comfortable talking to strangers, and that communication in some form is mandatory for high-level competition. None of the above is true, although the third is the stickiest.

Would voice chat make Splatoon easier to play competitively? Perhaps — but only for some people. For others, voice chat would make Splatoon significantly more difficult and unpleasant to play.

What about implementing voice chat among friends? Surely even people who don’t want to interact with strangers might still be interested in talking to folks selected to appear in their own online contacts list. Perhaps so — but part of Splatoon’s charm, for me, is that absolutely no talking is required. That doesn’t mean that teamwork, friendship and even nail-biting competition can’t still unfold within its paint-splattered walls. The design of this game favours the socially anxious: you can alleviate your loneliness by participating in a massive virtual space, without any of the social-related stresses. Finally, I can focus on the game without any distractions.

If You Click It, It Will Play

Oh, And This Other Stuff

  • Anna Anthropy pointed out what games can learn from children’s books.
  • Chris Ware reflected on Minecraft being on the cover of The New Yorker.
  • NeoGAF members had a fascinating discussion about playing with a different skin colour.
  • Sergey Galyonkin outlined what developers should know about players in other countries.
  • Peter Brown spoke with Keiji Inafune about Japanese development’s “culture of fear.”
  • Adrian Chmielarz examined the closure of Tale of Tales and how games fail.
  • Gameological described some of their weirdest E3 appointments from this year.
  • Jamie Madigan chatted with the head of Riot Games’ player behaviour team.
  • Joe Parlock wondered if Life Is Strange is mishandling its portrayal of disability.


    • Was about to say something about this, but my hat goes off to you sir for doing it in the classiest way possible.

  • Here’s some extra history: Deus Ex actually had a Linux port which was in playable beta form when Loki Software folded.

  • As good as the first installment was the second one sucked dogs balls! Glitchy, buggy and all-together shitty gameplay, made the game as boring as bat shit.
    Still the first 1 was truly awesome!

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!