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Deus Ex: Human Revolution Interview @ Gamasutra

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Deus Ex: Human Revolution Interview @ Gamasutra

Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Mon 9 April 2012, 20:25:59

Tags: Deus Ex: Human Revolution; Eidos Montreal; Stéphane D'Astous

Stéphane D'Astous, the general manager of Eidos Montreal, talks Deus Ex: Human Revolution, the future and present of the studio, Square Enix, and more in his 4-page Gamasutra interview. Have a chunk:

Do you have three projects now?

SD: Yep. Yeah, in fact yeah, the two first projects were pretty much set in stone in the very early beginnings: Deus Ex and Thief. We had some discussions about which one we should start with, but I think the consensus was Deus Ex, and follow up with Thief. Third project was always an open option for us. We didn't want to set in stone too many years in advance.

So we knew our challenges as for projects. Maybe we were a little bit innocent in saying, "Yeah, we'll do that." But people around the studio said, "You're starting with what?" You know, "You said what?" Also with the community, the fan base, were saying, "Oh, Deus Ex is being done by a team other than Warren's team, and Looking Glass, and Ion Strom?" We had some headwind in our face for a couple of years, and we knew that we needed to really address that, because we didn't want to start with a strike, so we really did our homework.

We totally respected the franchise. If you don't respect the franchise to start with, and you say, "No, no, we'll do it with our flavor," and all that... The guys really took time to understand what worked well in the first and second.

Are you worried about creative stagnation in triple-A games as people become more risk-averse?

SD: That's a good point. I think that three, four years ago, everybody was saying "Are the consumers going to always buy sequels?" It's something they know of, and they extremely trust, and we were starting to be afraid of seeing the stagnation of ideas and new IPs. And the buzzword I remember at EA three, four years, is a "we need to spit out three new IPs per year" kind of thing. It was a buzzword.

I think people now understand... In our case, maybe we haven't produced new IPs, but a major relaunch of a title like Deus Ex and Thief, we considered it almost like a new IP, certainly in the effort. So we bring back something from the cult classics.

This is maybe not considered new IP, but it brings a new flavor. Games are more and more sophisticated; it's less based on one or two mechanics. I think this replaces the necessity of having new IPs. The buzzword of "new IP, new IP, new IP," I have heard less, because the sequels are selling so well these days. Last year I think was the year of the threes: Deus Ex 3, Gears 3...

Modern Warfare 3.

SD: Modern Warfare 3, and Mass Effect 3, and Assassin's [Creed] III and Far Cry 3. So that's a good question, I think. Innovation and ideas are important, but if you're able to bring forward an existing IP to bring new types of experiences, I think people will buy them, because they know they can relate to a franchise they've played before.

And they say, "Well, if they bring something a little bit good and new," it's a little bit easier for them to cross this bridge. But obviously to have a regular new IP within a group of publishers is always important, but it's tough.

Mary DeMarle gave a speech at GDC Online about the writing of Deus Ex, saying that everyone on the team, at some point in the game, was brought into the story process. So even if they're making props, they could understand the overarching goal of what the team was making, and get context and thus understand, and appreciate, what they were doing. I think with big teams, people can lose sight of what they're actually making. You get bogged down on one piece. From that, big games can feel really piecemeal. You can see the divisions between things.

SD: Yeah, totally. I'm playing a couple of games, and I said, "Oh, this is a different game level designer that did this, because there's a big seam, somewhere." And with smaller games, you need to have more multitasking people. They need to touch more, because you don't have super-specialists that just do certain tasks.

They like to not do just one single thing during three years. I think we're trying to put into place the better conditions for craftsmanship, because the games that I personally enjoy, I see the quality of how they assemble all this together, and -- for me, anyway -- that's something, really, that distinguishes yourself between a regular product, and a great product. And smaller teams are better positioned to do that.

[...] So, openness -- to be frank, one of our values is "no bullshit." I wouldn't put it on our website, but internally, it's, "let's not bullshit." An example: in my previous life, I had a schedule on my desk which was different from the schedule that was posted on the production board, and the reason behind the intent was "let them run hard." Once they are finally at the stage of, "Oh no!", we have six more months.

But this is so frustrating for the other people. This is a killer. It works once or twice, but afterwards the senior people, they lose confidence in the management. So my schedule is the same one that is posted on the wall, and that you update.​

You can find the full interview here.

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