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Wednesday, December 6, 2000

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Deux Ex Post-Mortem
3:30 PM | Michael Eilers | Comment on this story

We never hesitate to link to Gamasutra's excellent developer articles, and this post-mortem by Deus Ex developer Warren Spector is well worth reading. A game industry veteran with as much name recognition as John Carmack, Spector developed the FPS/RPG classic System Shock, among other titles.

This article, penned by Spector himself, discusses the development of Deus Ex and provides his assessment of what his team did right -- and what they did wrong -- in developing this award-winning title. His perspective on the matter seems untainted by ego, and his descriptions of the development process are an insightful look into a complex, often frustrating process that is usually only visible in the end result, to average gamers.

Deus Ex was praised almost universally by reviewers -- and by IMG readers, who have rated the game an average of 9.46 in our user reviews -- but one area it does seem to lack quality is artificial intelligence, either in the simplistic combat behavior of enemies or the sometimes odd actions of allied characters. Here are Warren's comments on the matter:

Unfortunately, we missed one huge risk area -- artificial intelligence. I don't know how we missed it, but we did. It's not that we didn't spend time on AI. We started thinking about AI early in preproduction. Unfortunately, what that meant was that the AI was, to a great extent, designed in a vacuum, and as is often the case, we didn't really know what the game required with respect to AI until relatively late in development. And that meant implementing AI features early on that ended up being unnecessary later, once our design had evolved into its final form. In addition, building on the base of Unreal Tournament's pure shooter AI meant that, instead of designing a system specifically for our needs, we ended up adding stuff and tweaking until the bitter end, causing NPC behavior to change constantly, right up to the last day of development.

We ended up with some pretty compelling AI, but the problem of convincing people they're interacting with real people is immense, particularly when you're talking about characters whose reactions have to run the gamut from fear to friendliness to violent enmity. That's not a challenge many games take on (with good reason), but it was one we had to take on for Deus Ex. Our sin was, I think, giving people a hint of what human AI could be in games, but delivering the goods inconsistently.

For more of Warren's post-mortem, be sure and follow the link below. If you haven't tried the Deus Ex demo yet, be sure to grab it; read our review, if you're still not convinced.

Deus Ex Review
Mac Deus Ex Web Site
Deus Ex Demo
Postmortem: Ion Storm's Deus Ex at GamaSutra
Ion Storm
Westlake Interactive
Aspyr Media
Deus Ex

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