"Did you ask for this?" The Deus Ex: Mankind Divided devs are playtesting feelings

Mankind Divided looks no slouch in the Deus Ex series' now-traditional "oh god what have I done?" moral choices department. In fact, Eidos Montreal is probably a tad worried about just how pertinent its depiction of segregation, policing and vigilantism has become during development - which might explain why the studio has started using its QA playtesters to judge the game's presentation of story as well as simple bug-checkers.

Speaking to the game's producer, Olivier Proulx at Gamescom last week, I asked if there was a check system in place for how the game presented its more complex themes: "We have playtesters coming in and kind of gauge their reactions," he said. "We look at how they approach different environments, how they explore it, but after they're done with the specific map it's not just 'did you have fun with it?' - that's a component, but we ask what they felt, what they understood of the storytelling aspect of it, to make sure our message comes through."

It doesn't seem be a case of holding back or expunging story content, necessarily, but making sure the game gets across all of its themes in the best way possible. Proulx refers to protagonist Adam Jensen as a "stranger in a strange land" (itself a reference to the Robert Heinlein novel of the same name, in which the main character challenges social preconceptions), who fits in with neither side of the game's segmented society, but is able to influence, and be influenced by, both. It means that getting information across clearly is hugely important - made trickier by the numerous ways it's presented to you.

"As a player, you're given the opportunity to act as you want - and it's reflected in how people talk to you and how the story comes through," said Proulx, "We put tonnes of details into the game, sometimes things players may not even see, but for us it's important that we tell our story in different ways."

There's clearly much to be reckoned with - those human moral compasses seem like a good idea.

Joe Skrebels
Joe first fell in love with games when a copy of The Lion King on SNES became his stepfather in 1994. When the cartridge left his mother in 2001, he turned to his priest - a limited edition crystal Xbox - for guidance. And now he's here.