Interview: the art of Deus Ex: Human Revolution

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PCG: It did look really cool ingame. Usually when I'm being shown concept art I'm always, as a journalist, kind of thinking, “Yeah, I love concept art, but it doesn't look like the game, does it? Oh, actually that does look like the game.”

Jacques-Belletete: [laughs] Great, dude, thanks. Appreciate it.

PCG: You said that creating a design that's starkly different to other games can make it much more attractive to players, and you used Team Fortress 2 and Bioshock as examples. Do you feel like you've gone that far, alongside those guys?

Um, no. I don't think it's that far. Well, definitely not Team Fortress 2, that's for sure. Bioshock maybe. Probably. I don't think we'll be the judge of that, I think we'll really see what the product is really finished and what people really think and how attracted to it or repulsed they've been, but it's definitely something that we're really really trying to achieve.

Now, when you design something, it's always the same. You start with this really lofty idea, and what you end up with is never as concentrated. It was the same with the cyber Renaissance. It's like I said at the beginning, we tried to just coat it over everything. I'm not even going to show you what it looked like.

But you know, that's what iterations are there for. And when you try to make something new and it's never ever been created before, well, there's no points of reference, you're creating them yourself, so you do make a lot of mistakes along the way. That's why you need to be quite focused and believe into your own ideas.

But anyway, to answer your question, I hope it'll feel different. I don't think it's as much different as what I originally wanted, but there's definitely soul to it, and it's definitely not just trying to be a clone, that's for damn sure. I think a good reference of a team that I really really admire and I think they pulled it off amazingly well, graphically speaking – because the game, I loved it, but apparently other people didn't like it all that much – was Mirror's Edge.

PCG: From that description, I had a feeling you were going to say Mirror's Edge.

Jacques-Belletete: I remember, because when DICE were making their communication about Mirror's Edge, and they would pull out those screenshots of when you're playing on rooftops and stuff, and I was like, “No way, man, this is not- I- this is not going to look like that, I do not believe it.” It's like, this is 1:1, it's exactly what it is.

PCG: Yeah, that is the other game where the concept art looks just exactly like the screenshots.

Jacques-Belletete: It was insane. In terms of like – there's no way you could ever confuse that game with another game. Yeah, those guys. They are geniuses, really.

PCG: And that's quite cool because the concept of that city is not a sort of big, bold, complete inversion of what you know. It's not like Bioshock where you're underwater, it's not like TF2 where it's all like a cartoon, it's just this really clean city.

Jacques-Belletete: No, you're right, it's a very clean design also, which is kind of cool. The Scandinavians and whatnot, right? They're really close to all those aesthetics and it's really present in the game, which is awesome.

Concept art, or screenshot? Concept art.

PCG: The demo did call to mind Mirror's Edge at points because it had these – when you go through the streets of Shanghai you have the fogging effects, it's catching the colour of lights from the stores as you go past, and Mirror's Edge is a great one for having these washes of colour, where you go through a really green place and a really pink place.

Jacques-Belletete: Yeah. The great thing that they have is they have those huge lightmaps, they use their internal engine for radiosity, which, you could have like an orange painted staircase and the shadow is actually orange because of the bounce light and it is just beautiful.

PCG: It seemed like when the demo got into combat and he was firing his assault rifle, the muzzle flash seemed to colour the whole screen. Is there some kind of specific art direction you're going for with the way effects like that work?

Jacques-Belletete: Um... did it cover the whole screen? ...I need to go talk to someone. [laughs]

PCG: It just seemed like a very dramatic colour-blast.

Jacques-Belletete: The thing is that the weapons are all upgradable, and there's a lot of stuff you can upgrade them with, and the combat rifle was fully upgraded at that point, which is when you get this huge effect on the thing. If you saw how it is when you first find it, when you first bought it, there's quite a dramatic difference. So, obviously the last step, we're really trying to make sure you know that you're fully upgraded. The flame turns kind of blueish where at the beginning it isn't.

PCG: When you do a takedown move and it cuts to third person, it seems like quite a jarring difference. Obviously without playing it I can't judge, but the only point of comparison I have is Manhunt where, it was third person already, but when you did a special takedown it would cut to a camera's view. In that game I always felt like I wasn't really doing it, I was watching someone else do it because of that. Is there a way you try to avoid that?

Jacques-Belletete: We try and avoid that... It's a good question! I think it works pretty well. Obviously there's no quick time events or whatever. Once you've entered it... it's kind of like the gameplay is all about making sure you approached him without making any noise so you can do it, because the minute they hear you and you get into combat mode, even if you're still within the radius, you won't be able to do it any more. So that's where the gameplay is at, and your reward is that once you're there, and you haven't surprised him, there you go, you kind of chain into it. So... are you saying that the switch of view is a little weird? Or the fact that you're watching something happening in front of you is a little weird, or is it both?

PCG: It's kind of the change. When you're playing a first person shooter, you're in control of every action. When you press 'fire', there's not much difference between that and pulling a trigger, whereas here you're pressing 'fire' and he's doing a whole series of moves and you're watching it happen.

Jacques-Belletete: Yeah, I guess you'll have to be the judge of that really. I think it's like, you know the Bourne identity game or even like the latest James Bond, like those games, their takedowns were pretty involving, pretty much along the same paths.