Interview: writing Deus Ex: Human Revolution

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Tom Francis at

PCG: I can't not ask about Tong...

DeMerle: [laughs] So you caught that one, did you?

PCG: Yeah... that was intriguing. (The demonstration I saw had the player searching for a hacker named Tong, but when he found him, it didn't appear to be the Tong we know from Deus Ex 1)

DeMerle: Well, I've gotta ask you, what did you think?

PCG: Well at first, I actually kind of thought it could be Tong, the Tong from Deus Ex. It would be kind of an interesting twist if he used to be an asshole.

DeMerle: Yeah, also the timeline might be a little hard to reconcile.

PCG: But my guess is a brother, and through his associations with the unsavory element of the augmentations industry he gets himself killed, and that's why Tong is against technology.

DeMerle: Ooh, interesting, I like you. Well, I'm not gonna tell you too much. Now I'm gonna back up a little bit. One of our intentions in this game was to create a new story with new characters, so that we would have characters that are not a part of Deus Ex 1. But we also wanted to kind of put some of the threads and some of the foundations for characters who will eventually come in. And that one - I won't tell you how it relates, but he is one of the strongest ties that we do have in the game.

The Limb Clinic, whose outgoing spam is much like today's.

PCG: When was JC born, relative to this game?

DeMerle: Two years later. 2029. Yeah, I think Paul Denton's, like, eight years old.

PCG: What was the embryo in that first teaser trailer?

DeMerle: I don't know if... I'm gonna stay quiet on that one. [Laughs] Wait 'til the game's out. You can ask that question then.

PCG: You were talking this morning about the player taking sides in the augmentation revolution, and getting to decide the evolution of humanity. But obviously a game that takes place twenty five years later has augmentations in it.

DeMerle: It's true... if you remember, they're being phased out.

PCG: Well, in favour of other augmentations.

DeMerle: Yes, yes, that's true.

PCG: So presumably the player doesn't entirely decide the fate of humanity, in that he can't ensure augmentations don't take off.

DeMerle: Well, what I would say about that, without giving anything away: the game takes place 25 years before. The world can change overnight. 25 years is a short period of time and yet a long period of time. And as an example of that I'd say no one predicted 9/11, and it changed the world. And that's all I gotta say about that. [laughs]

PCG: Invisible War had a hard job because it had to lead on from three different mutually exclusive endings, and it decided to just pretend they all happened. So presumably you've got an even harder job, where you want possible endings but you already know what's going to happen.

DeMerle: Yeah, it's true. But what I would say is... well, I don't want to talk too much about the endings. Certainly, there are multiple endings. One of the things I want to say, because people have said “That must be a very, very difficult challenge, because you know the future's set,” but my answer to that is yeah, you know what? Orson Scott Card was one of my favourite writers, and he wrote Ender's Game, which was an amazing book. And 10-15 years later he wrote Ender's Shadow, and when it came out I said, "I'm not gonna buy that! It's the same story! It's this marketing ploy to create the same story but just from a different perspective."

But then I broke down, and I did get it, and I was shocked, because even though it was the story, it was a completely different story, and it gave a completely different view of what was happening. So having said that, I think when you look at it from that kind of a perspective, the ending possibilities are exciting. Like I said, we started 25 years before the end. It's not the end of the world, but you can see it from here. How does the world get to that ending? There are various possibilities, and each one could lead anything in a certain direction.