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Pick to Click Inside Deus Ex
It's the hottest game on the market, and now GameSlice introduces you to the mind of designer Warren Spector, the man who helped bring Deus Ex to life.



By: Wagner James Au

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Can there be a cooler name for a game designer than "Spector"?  Especially since Warren Spector has, for over 10 years, been creating games underscored by silence and shadows.  From the inky, demon-haunted caverns of "Ultima Underworld", to the ominous high-tech corridors of "System Shock", Warren's best titles are united by an approach which emphasizes the dark, the mysterious, and, well, the spectral.

Game Designer Warren Spector

This emphasis surely extends to his latest game, "Deus Ex", the first to be created under the aegis of Ion Storm, the design studio co-founded by John Romero.  In theme and story, it's a study in shadows: your avatar is J.C. Denton, a cybernetically-enhanced agent for UNATCO, a secret government outfit.  You're thrown into the mechanisms of an even more covert group that's bent on controlling a near-future, dystopic society.  Like most of Spector's games, it's a hugely ambitious blend of genres:  in this case, RPG character development, FPS action, and the intricate conversation trees and plotting of adventure games.

System Shock

While set in the future, the environment is decidedly realistic.  "I was coming off of 'System Shock'," Spector tells me, "And I was just so bored with fantasy and science fiction stuff.  We're all geeks, and we've been making games for ourselves for so long."  And as the 20th century calendar wound down, "I got obsessed with this sort of millennial weirdness... the [conspiracy] stuff that people believe amazed me.  Then I noticed on every Sunday night that my wife ignored me while 'The X-Files' was on.  And I said wait a minute, hold on: real world, millennial weirdness, conspiracy stuff, it all just sort of came together... that was the game we needed to make."   The end result, he hopes, is a game which will generate a following beyond hardcore gamers, already well-versed in fantastic genres.  Because apart from them, Spector asks, "Who wants to mess around with furry-footed freaks with pointed ears, or you know, 'Oooh, you're the last guy who can save the world from alien invasion from another dimension'?"

Deus Ex

If British publisher Eidos has its way, "Deus Ex" will not only enthrall hardcore gamers, but also capture a significant audience of casual gamers -- and not inconsequentially, help position the company as a leading PC game developer.  (A label which has largely eluded the firm since its innumerable variations on the "Tomb Raider" franchise.)  Insiders say Eidos executives privately hope "Deus" will gain its share of Year's Best Game nominations -- and so far, prospects for that look promising:  early reviews are consistently positive, if not outright ecstatic.

This critical acclaim comes in painful contrast to the savagely negative reviews unleashed upon "Daikatana," John Romero's recently released first person shooter. The reception between the two titles is so disparate, you'd think Romero's Ion Storm office in Dallas and Spector's satellite studio in Austin resided not only in different Texas cities, but on different planets.  But regardless of geography, Ion's backers surely hope "Deus Ex" will restore its languishing some may say entirely extinct  identity as a leading game studio.

"This is a game we needed to make."
- Warren Spector

But the thing of it is, "Deus Ex" wasn't created to appease Ion Storm or Eidos' shareholders, or to attenuate the sharp stench still lingering from Ion's early marketing campaigns, and its fratboy quality, you're-my-bitch posturing. At heart, "Deus Ex" is a game meant to entirely reimagine the role-playing and first person action genres -- and computer gaming at large.   Wild ambitions, to be sure, but knowing Warren Spector, he wouldn't build a game any other way. 

 Next, Professor Spector >

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