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Thursday, October 25, 2001

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Interview with Warren Spector
10:04 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

Most computer gamers have heard the name Warren Spector. If they haven't, they're almost certainly familiar with a title for which he was the Project Director: Deus Ex. Currently involved with Ion Storm, Spector is well-known for his wide range of vision and enthusiasm regarding game development and design. The RPG Vault at IGN recently headed down to Austin to interview various members of Ion Storm, and managed to query Spector about the circumstances that brought about Deus Ex, one of the most lauded FPS titles to date.

Interestingly enough, Spector's roots extend far back enough to have attended "Lord British University," a name any Ultima fan should be well familiar with:

[Jonric]: To what extent did Deus Ex draw from and build upon previous games you've worked on versus trying to do new things?

[Warren Spector]: I wish I could just give you a percentage ("Deus Ex - 53% brand new!") but that obviously wouldn't work.

At some level, every game you work on builds on those that came before. Deus Ex wouldn't have been what it was if I hadn't gone to Lord British University back in the late '80s. Rich showed me the power of deep, detailed worlds, open to nearly limitless player exploration... He showed me the importance of offering players a range of options beyond simply killing everything that moves. Deus Ex wouldn't have been the same game if I hadn't played Ultima IV and if I hadn't worked on a bunch of Ultima games back in the '80s and early '90s.

And, of course, anyone who looks at Deus Ex and DOESN'T see the Looking Glass influence just isn't paying attention. Clearly, I learned a lot working with Looking Glass founder Paul Neurath on Space Rogue (an under-appreciated game that influenced me a lot) and I hope everyone can see that Deus Ex is really the next step in a line that began with Ultima Underworld, System Shock and Thief (with a dash of Half Life thrown in for good measure!)

Was there new stuff in Deus Ex? Sure. But the new stuff was built on a foundation laid for us by earlier games...

As far as Spector's disappointments with Deus Ex go, one of the places he feels his team fell short is that Deus Ex has "more simulation and less emulation." By this, he means that he wishes that things such as the multiple paths and choices were a little less scripted and more emergent, depending more on the player than on the level designers. He also notes that he was personally disappointed that most people, despite all the work put into the title allowing for non-combat options, still insisted playing through the game in full-blown combat mode, much like traditional FPS games are played.

The rest of the interview covers the beginnings of Deus Ex, including how the team came together, what the original ideas and motivations were behind Deus Ex, and early challenges the design team faced. Those interested in these topics, or in game development in general, should definitely give the interview a look.

RPG Vault - Ion Storm Interview, Part 1
Ion Storm
Ion Storm
Westlake Interactive
Aspyr Media
Deus Ex

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