Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a sci-fi role-playing game scheduled to launch next month on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. From what has been shown thus far, its themes are strikingly current. Since the successful reboot of the Deus Ex franchise in 2011 with the debut of Deus Ex: Human Revolution, much has happened in the world. While Mankind Divided has been in development for the past five years, its team has lived through the same world-changing events as its audience. Gameplay Director Patrick Fortier shares what the development process is like when reality begins “catching up” to a game set in the not-so-distant future.
The world has changed so much since Human Revolution. Not just in terms of new gaming technology, but the world itself is in a completely new state. How have the changes in the world had an impact on the development process and the production of Mankind Divided?
“I would say not necessarily as much as you might think. Obviously, I understand why that question is being asked, because there are parallels that people can make. But, that wasn’t necessarily what led us there. You know, it wasn’t the intention of making a social commentary of one particular government, or system, or anything like that. It’s more of a natural continuation of what was started with Human Revolution, the way that it ended, and the cataclysmic impact of something like the Aug Incident. How would that impact the world? And what would be the natural, realistic consequences of something so dramatic? We started thinking that it was the continuation of this exploration of transhumanism as the main theme in Human Revolution.
“Well, you know, there’s the flip side of it, too. Human Revolution explored more of the dreamy side; there’s the hope, and the dream, and everybody can take control of who they are as individuals. After an event like [the Aug Incident], it gives power players — governments, corporations, or whatever — a great excuse to create that divide and schism in society, and basically fuel fear. When people are afraid, then, unfortunately, they want to isolate themselves. They’re willing to give up certain freedoms and they’ll do certain things. It’s the other side of the human experience.
“We felt that was rich, dramatically. There was something to be explored there. It gave us the opportunity to continue exploring transhumanism, and to tell a different story about Adam Jensen. So, that’s what led us there…but, it just so happens that logic is also what’s happening in the real world.
“Reality is catching up to us a little faster than what we expected or hoped for.”
That’s got to be kind of surreal. Have you had to change anything in terms of the gameplay or the narrative? Or is there any concern that Mankind Divided might be too current?
“There’s some stuff, as you experience it, like the Paris attacks — that was a difficult period to go to work and reconsider some of the things and events that are presented in the game. Just seeing the reaction to it. What happens to the city? The state of fear, and how people react. It made us go back, because in our game there’s a train station explosion that’s a similar kind of terrorist attack. It was like, ‘Are we dealing with it sufficiently?’ Because that would be the only thing on people’s minds in the days afterward… So, with those things, we went back and made some nips and tucks to say, like, ‘You know what, this event that just occurred, it’s not dominating the news enough. We should be hearing about it from people in the streets and in the newspapers and things like that.’ There are some modifications like that, that we made; but, overall, we didn’t change too many things to cater to the daily events. There’s so much…even since E3, so many things have happened already. It’s kind of crazy.”
It really is. A lot of times, film will take these kinds of issues head on. Do you think there’s a space in gaming to do something similar?
“The thing that I’m hoping from it is, the way that we build these worlds and we give them a lot of depth and we try to make them feel lived in — that’s why we didn’t take the open-world approach, because it’s not just about size, it’s about depth; it’s the fact that you can go up to talk to people, or overhear what they’re talking about and interact with them that way — it just gives a different relationship between you and the game. What I’m hoping from that is that it gets people to develop their critical thinking.
“So, it’s not so much about ‘you should be thinking this,’ or ‘here’s the message,’ or ‘here’s our message.’ Our game is going to confront you with different things. You are playing an augmented person in Mankind Divided, in this state of the world where augmented people are being looked down on. You’re going to get to experience that. Hopefully, it’s just going to make you think. And then, you can draw those parallels yourself with things that you know, things that you agree with, or disagree with, or whatever. You can make up your own mind about the state of the real world. But, hopefully, our game can get the wheels turning a little bit. And, hopefully, it’s going to resonate with you even after you turn it off and go back to the real world. Hopefully, it’s that spark that gets you thinking beyond the face value of things.”
[Image via Eidos-Montréal/Square Enix]