Whats it like to make Deus Ex? Mankind Divided director & writer speak

While we're still not exactly sure when Adam Jensen will strut back into our lives with another augmented hootenanny, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is nonetheless becoming one of our most anticipated games. In a previous issue of GamesMaster, executive game director Jean-Francois Dugas and executive narrative director Mary DeMarle sat down to discuss everything from Eidos Montreal's new approach to boss fightsand the need to create a narrative that's not afraid to tackle difficult issues.

GamesMaster: How far do you tend to push the transhuman debate in either direction? Do you ever end up arguing about which side to land on?
Jean-Francois Dugas:
We’re trying to stay as neutral as possible. But because we’re trying to come from both sides it doesn’t feel like an argument as much as a discussion.
Mary DeMarle: It’s interesting, because when I look at what we did in Human Revolution, I feel like I was pulling the narrative slightly too much in the anti [transhumanist] route. Partially because it’s a dystopian cyberpunk world, but when I look back I feel like I could have portrayed a slightly better picture than I did. But we’re now obviously in a world where it’s all about the racism.

GM: What would you say have been the biggest influences on you in terms of how you approach creating the world, story and technologies of Mankind Divided?MM: It’s not just about the technology side of it. Influences come from many sources, from books to TV shows to anime. For me the big focus was re-doing the Illuminati, because we didn’t want the Dan Brown version. For me a big influence on this was the book – based on truth! – called Too Big To Fail, on the 2008 banking crisis. I was reading this book, saying that these people are the Illuminati!
JD: New technologies bring a lot of possibilities, but the ethical questions are the same ones from a hundred years ago. In 2015, one of the big topics is the consent of privacy. We’re told there are phones that can capture everything we see and do: our personal background is all digital. But in the old days the violation of privacy was coming into your house and stealing something; it was much more tangible. Ultimately, they’re the same concepts but in new wrappers. We’re fundamentally engaging with the same topics.

GM: When crafting a franchise on the scale of Deus Ex Universe, is it easier to create a game from scratch, like Human Revolution, or to build on that foundation?MM: When I came on board for HR there was a part of me that was so glad they had already made the decision to make it a prequel. That legacy on my shoulders? I didn’t know if I could carry that weight. It’s easier moving forward because I’m so deeply grounded in it. I’m very anally retentive. When I pick up somebody else’s work I want to get into it and be true to what was established. So for me it’s nice to be able to do both.

GM: Have you spoken to the creator of the Deus Ex series, Warren Spector?MM: When I gave a talk at GDC he came up at the end and I was like, “Oh, God!” But he was so complimentary and said he really enjoyed it. It was so wonderful to hear that, because I was very much aware that this was somebody else’s baby, and you want to be true to that person’s vision while bringing in more. But had he not liked it we would have kept going on because that’s the job. It’s a bonus when they like it.

GM: If you had the opportunity right now to receive futuristic cybernetic surgery, what kind of augmentation would you choose?JD: A brain chip where I could record everything. To have the internet in my head would be brilliant.
MM: For me it would be languages, to have instant fluency.

The latest issue of GamesMaster, 293, is out now. Download it here or subscribe to future issues.

Dom has been a freelance journalist for many years, covering everything from video games to gaming peripherals. Dom has been playing games longer than he'd like to admit, but that hasn't stopped him amassing a small ego's worth of knowledge on all things Tekken, Yakuza and Assassin's Creed.