Interview: Deus Ex Human Revolution game director Jean-François Dugas

Twenty-five years before the events of Deus Ex, a man named Adam Jensen was caught in the middle of a fight that would dictate the path leading to a grim future. In 2011, the story continues with Deus Ex: Human Revolution from developer Eidos Montreal. With the franchise's anticipated revival coming on August 24, Shacknews stealthily stole some time with the game's director Jean-François Dugas. Among other topics, Dugas discussed the importance of a quality assurance testing; how the team decided to ignore limitations from the original series, and the fate of the game's PC version. Augment your reading ability, because we've got a lengthy interview for you. BOOM video 7409 Shacknews: A year ago, when I was with a different outlet, I visited the Eidos Montreal office. There you announced that your studio is now the central hub of quality assurance throughout Eidos, with the primary QA department taking a large chunk of real estate in your new building. I assume then that the QA for Deus Ex: Human Revolution is being done there as well? Jean-François Dugas: Yeah, the QA team is on the floor above us. We also have some QA guys on the floor with us as well. We all work together to make sure we get rid of all the problems. Shacknews: How beneficial is it to have that access to your company's QA department at any given time? Jean-François Dugas: It definitely is. When it's over a distance, sometimes you receive some bugs and you need clarification. If it's at a different studio or if there's a timezone difference, you lose a lot of time getting things done. But having them right next to you, all you need to do is walk over and say, "Look! It does this or does that..." You understand things better. The communication channel is totally wide-open. The bandwidth is incredible. It's way more efficient. Shacknews: With an open-world title that can take multiple paths, how early does the QA process begin? Jean-François Dugas: We started almost two years ago. It was at first it was to make sure the version was stable and that the tools were stable. That we have integrated to make sure the features were working and stable. Eventually, as the game is is more playable now, instead of having two or three guys it builds up to 60 guys. They play the game and do different tasks. Some play the game, some check pieces of it. Shacknews: When we spoke last year we talked about this, how an open-environment like this makes QA a nightmare. There's a lot to check, especially in this situation where the game has multiple paths to approach a situation. Jean-François Dugas: Definitely. (laughs) For them it's a really, really big challenge and it is for us as well to debug it properly and make sure we don't forget anything important. You need a lot of planning. A lot of flowcharts. It's a lot of work. Shacknews: This is hard for me formulate into a question but it's a thought I had. This is a prequel, which takes place 25 years before the first Deus Ex. There's this idea that, if you watch the first three Star Wars films from the 70s-80s and then you watch the new trilogy… it seems that the past is more futuristic than the future. Jean-François Dugas: (laughs) Right, right. Shacknews: It's a technology thing, right? Computers make the process much cleaner nowadays. I know that a big part of it in Human Revolution is that the augmentations are in their infancy and are very mechanical, but is that something you considered when designing this game. Was there a feeling of, "This is as far as this world can go because we can't surpass the other titles in the series"? Jean-François Dugas: When you look at the first Deus Ex, obviously they had technological limitations that made the world very basic. And things that they did were with the knowledge of the time. In ten years, in terms of technology, things move so fast that some things in our real life are almost more advanced than the hypothetical future of Deus Ex in the year 2052. We didn't want to force or constrain ourselves with the idea that, "They didn't do something or go this far in Deus Ex, therefore we cannot do that type of thing." We wanted to reinvent the world--to base it on what we know today and try to anticipate twenty years from now. By doing that, the chances that it's going to speak to people more easily today are better than thinking, "Well, they didn't have this or didn't do that in the first games." At some point, because we were thinking about those things in the beginning, we decided that we had to re-imagine and reinvent the world because there's no point in trying to stay "one-for-one" with the original. Shacknews: Would following that original path automatically add limitations to the design of Human Revolution? Jean-François Dugas: The augmentations for instance--when you look at the mechanical augmented characters like Gunther in the original--it was designed ten or eleven years ago. Today, we design it with an idea of what is happening with technology. Everything is more slick--like when you look at the iPod, it looks really well designed. We approached the augmentations in the same spirit, as opposed to going with the Terminator style type of influence. You know? Like a piece of metal here and there and you're done. We wanted something more, if I can say, sexy and slicker. Something that is more in line with the trends that we know today in terms of technology and how we try to make things blend together nicely.

Adam Jensen is the star of Human Revolution, which takes place 25 years before the original Deus Ex.

Shacknews: Deus Ex: Human Revolution going to be the first game that Eidos Montreal has developed since it was established in 2007. The next game, that you've announced at least, is Thief 4... Jean-François Dugas: Yes. Shacknews: Is it difficult to try to establish your studio as an upcoming and new developer when the games you're using to establish yourself are tied to franchises that began over a decade ago? Jean-François Dugas: I mean, if it's tough to establish ourselves it's hard to say. I think you're really only able to establish yourself when you ship something. Before that you're really only working for a dream. And you have people who are willing to jump on that dream and make it possible with you. We'll see when the game ships. For us it didn't make things really difficult because we knew what we have to do and from what we've produced so far, the feedback we've received, is that people are excited. But the final judgement is made when you deliver something. I don't think we've suffered from it. The only time you suffer sometimes is when, you know, you want to hire and people don't know the studio. They're cautious. Shacknews: You mentioned a dream. Is this your studio's dream project? Jean-François Dugas: Definitely. I would say so. Jon [Deus Ex art director Jonathan Jacques-Belletête] and I were big fans of the first game when it came out. I mean, seriously, it's hard to ask for a better… well, the better thing you could have is to create a new IP on your own. But I would say that this is the biggest and more interesting… the dream project of my career, so far. And I think for Jon [who was interviewing with another outlet a few feet away] it's the same thing. Shacknews: A new IP is something you'd like to work on? Jean-François Dugas: It's a good question. If the opportunity is there at some point, it can be interesting. It could also be very interesting to pursue the franchise of Deus Ex. At this point we're really, really committed to shipping a good product in August. Shacknews: The reason I ask, because it is a general question, but I wonder whether or not you feel like you have the same kind of control on these property-based projects versus something you've just created. Jean-François Dugas: When you look at the Deus Ex we produced and then you look at the original ones, it's quite different. The core values are the same but the way it's expressed is totally different. A lot of this game has to do with our own inspirations and creativity, as opposed to, "Here's a spreadsheet of the stuff from the old game. Let's just do this." Actually, it's one of the projects that I had to opportunity to be the most creative with the team and do a lot of things. Fail at stuff and succeed; we had a chance to experiment with a lot of things. focalbox Shacknews: At the same time, do you feel a sense of responsibility? Jean-François Dugas: In what terms? Shacknews: As in you're now responsible for continuing two beloved, cult-hit franchises: Deus Ex and Thief. Jean-François Dugas: Oh, that's definitely a big yes. For the fans it's important, but it was important to us in the first place to make sure that we could make it right. We didn't want to screw the franchise or kill it for good. Our goal is to revive it. We take it seriously. We put a lot of effort. We worked hard. I would say we're our harshest critics. Even when the fans were complaining about things here and there, we were complaining way more than them. (laughs) But every time we do something, we question whether or not we should be doing that thing. Is it right? If we decide to not do something, some people might not be pleased, but we know why we're not doing it. It has a been a painstakingly detailed process where everything has been analyzed. We've been a pain in the ass with ourselves. Shacknews: Our community is filled with PC devotees, so I need to ask about the PC version, specifically. This is a franchise that began on the PC, and some would argue it thrived on PC considering the mixed reaction to Invisible War, which also made its way to console. How much care has been given to the PC version? Jean-François Dugas: I can tell the PC fans that, actually in the office when I'm playing the game I don't play on Xbox 360 or PS3, I play on the PC. It's shaping out to be very good. It's on the same level as the other platforms. There are a few things that we'll discuss later, but we adapted stuff because it's on PC. Especially in the interface department. Shacknews: So, the UI is different on the PC? Jean-François Dugas: I mean slightly different. Not totally different. So it doesn't feel like a port of a console game. We didn't want that. It's the three platforms that are being pushed at the same time. PC? We're going to talk about it eventually. Shacknews: Was the PC version done in-house at Eidos Montreal? Jean-François Dugas: No. Well, it was done in-house, but with a partnership. Shacknews: Who is the partner? Jean-François Dugas: Nixxes. They're based out of the Netherlands. Shacknews: How much involvement does your team have with the PC version of the game? Jean-François Dugas: All the design and changes to the design has been done in Montreal and sent to them. We review the builds. We review and then give comments about what works and what doesn't. It's the same process. It's the exact same process, except that the programmers aren't in the same office. It's the same game and the same creative team taking care of it. Shacknews: Is that a function of staff limitations in Montreal? Jean-François Dugas: Yeah. It was more of a logistic problem more than anything else and having enough people to make sure it's all on the same level, all the time. So, yeah. It was more about manpower and logistics. Deus Ex: Human Revolution is scheduled to launch on August 23 for the PC, Xbox 360, and PS3.