There’s been some confusion: you cannot talk through all boss encounters in the new Deus Ex, Mankind Divided. There are debates with key figures, such as the one shown in the 25-minute E3 gameplay video, but they’re a separate thing. Boss encounters require some form of action. Boss encounters and ‘debates’ are two distinct types of gameplay.
Gameplay director Patrick Fortier explained this key point to me in length at Gamescom last week, and his explanation can be read below. I also discovered developer Eidos Montreal will use outsourced help to build Mankind Divided, but, and this is a key but, the boss encounters themselves are being made in house. Fortier had a lot more to say about that as well.
Without further ado, here’s Patrick Fortier and Oliver Proulx, producer, and what they said.
Eurogamer: You’ve talked about being able to ‘ghost’ the game, including boss fights, which you can also ‘stealth’ and ‘dialogue’. So, how do you ‘stealth’ a boss?
Patrick Fortier: That’s interesting. Some of the communication about that has been muddled a little bit. People took all different kinds of parts and muddled them into one. So, there are verbal debates with certain NPCs, [and] classic boss fights are another thing. They’re two separate things. Having said that, in a classic boss fight we will support combat, stealth, lethal, non-lethal, in ways we didn’t necessarily manage in Human Revolution.
Eurogamer: How do you ‘stealth’ a boss?
Patrick Fortier: If you played Human Revolution: The Director’s Cut, imagine the first boss fight in the game: normally it’s all out and firing and he’s just going to find you no matter where you are in the room. A lot of that was rectified in the Director’s Cut where he actually loses track of you and you can sneak around and get around and manage to use some machines against him, and you don’t really have to fight him – you make the environment fight him through your stealthiness. It’s more – I don’t want to give you an example from Mankind Divided – along those lines where you can stealth your way through things.
Beyond that, and this is where some of the confusion has come from, because I started reading you can take-down bosses by talking to them – it’s like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa! Where did this come from?’ What we said is that through your social interactions leading up to a boss fight you might have talked to people, or you might have explored, or you might have obtained certain elements or means to deal with the boss fight. That’s the kind of stuff we’re going to support. And we’re also going to have stuff like debates which there were in Human Revolution, and that you can see in the demo.
Classical boss fights are another thing, and they will be supported in fully non-lethal ways. When we say you can complete the whole game without killing anybody, bosses are people too, so they’re included – there’s no exception. There used to be [in Human Revolution] the achievement Pacifist that said ‘don’t kill anybody’, and then in parentheses ‘except bosses’ or something like that. And that’s not the case any more.
Eurogamer: How do you *not* kill a boss?
Patrick Fortier: We get asked a lot about the boss situation from Human Revolution and how it’s going to be rectified and it makes total sense and we totally own it, but part of the answer to that is what we’ve said, and there are ways of supporting not-killing the boss – and doing that you have to deal with it narratively and the repercussions that may have. Another part of the answer is ‘are boss fights relevant in a game like Deus Ex in 2015?’. The traditional, classical boss fight that we know: does it make sense in our world where we’re trying to have so much credibility and we’re trying to make things logical and no matter who you are, a bullet to the head is a bullet to the head. That’s a reflection that we’ve had as well and that’s going to pertain to the final offering of the game.
Eurogamer: OK, so, two things: there will be encounters like we saw in the demo where we’re talking to someone and that’s the encounter?
Patrick Fortier: Yeah, yep.
Eurogamer: And there will also be boss battles?
Patrick Fortier: Potentially, yes. In so far as they make sense. We’re not going to artificially jam in things like ‘OK we did two levels now [slaps hand] finish it with a boss fight’. Why is there a boss fight? We might have specific moments where we set up enemy types and have a particular altercation or challenge put in front of you. Does it qualify as a boss fight? Not necessarily.
Eurogamer: In those boss encounters, whatever they are, people believe we can talk to bosses, negotiate – can we?
Patrick Fortier: Like we said, there’s two things. In the classical sense of the boss fight, it’s not a debate, it’s not an opportunity to have the same mechanic, the debate mechanic that we have using your CASIE [Computer Assisted Social Interaction Enhancer] augmentation to read the body language and the heartbeat and all of that – that’s not happening in a classic boss fight. Having said that, if you’ve equipped yourself in a particular way then maybe specific solutions are offered to you and that will result in some dialogue of some sort, but it’s not debate gameplay.
Even saying that I’m nervous because ‘Patrick Fortier said you will talk to…’ – I don’t want to mislead people to thinking you will talk your way out of any boss encounter or altercation in the game, that you can just stop [clicks fingers] and ‘OK we’re going to talk and I’m going to convince you to…’. And don’t get me wrong, I want to play a game like that, but Mankind Divided isn’t there yet. We’re not there yet. Our social pillar can’t filter all the time through the whole game the way the stealth and combat pillar can.
Eurogamer: So the message that the game is 100 per cent ‘Ghostable’…
Patrick Fortier: That’s true.
Eurogamer: ‘Ghostable’ suggests you’re never going to be in direct conflict with a boss, that you’re never going to have to go out in the open – that you can effectively be a ghost throughout the entire game. If you’re having to face off against another augmented person such as yourself then you’re going to have to go toe-to-toe in direct action, however you choose to do that. To me that doesn’t fit with the idea of ‘ghosting’ the game, but maybe you’ve got a different definition…
Patrick Fortier: Yeah, our definition is more… The heart of the issue in Human Revolution is really the idea that we’ve given you an augmentation tree and you might have invested a lot in the hacking and cloaking and things like that, and then you find yourself in the situation where you’re like, ‘Wait, what the hell?! I don’t have any augmentations to deal with this, what am I going to do against this guy? I’m just forced in a head-on conflict and I’ve got to take him down and I have no other means at my disposal.’ That’s the situation we’re trying to address.
So yes, you’re forced in a situation where narratively there’s an awareness that you’re there, but you can still – once we give the control back – you can still exploit the tools you have for your Jensen. I could know you’re here, but I don’t know specifically where you are, and then when the control comes back to the player, he’s in the situation where he’s still hidden, so to speak, and the player has an option to keep that, to go further, to exploit the environment, to exploit some of his tools, take everybody out as they’re patrolling the area.
Eurogamer: So for the people who picked hacking or stealth skills in Human Revolution, who came up against a boss and discovered they were…
Patrick Fortier: Useless, yeah.
Eurogamer: Can you assure them that if they do the same thing again…
Patrick Fortier: They won’t get burnt this time! That’s the clarification.
We don’t want to do any false advertising. We don’t want people saying, ‘What the hell? You said we could talk to everybody!’ We’re not pretending that. And like I said, I’ll be the first in line to play the game that supports complete social interactions and choice and consequence through everything – we’re one of the games that is striving for that, to make it a deeper pillar. But we haven’t reached a point where we can manage it quite that much, where you can say anything at any time and convince people.
Eurogamer: The other thing to ask is about the boss battles in Human Revolution being outsourced. Is all of Mankind Divided being made in-house by you guys?
Patrick Fortier: The answer is yes, it is being handled by our team, and the answer is also ‘it’s not because it wasn’t handled by the team and it didn’t turn out right’. It was more a question of time and interaction and some production time; it’s not because they did it wrong, it’s just in terms of the overall vision and the time to get the execution right and, it just didn’t work out, and then there was a production call to make. Does the game get shipped with the boss fights, with the inconvenience, with the compromises that are going to arise with that, or do we come out and suddenly we’ve created holes in the narrative? That’s going to have an impact as well. And the decision was made to leave them in.
It wasn’t because it was outsourced, that wasn’t really the problem. As a team we own that in terms of we screwed up – we didn’t manage to execute in the way we originally envisioned. And like I said, in The Missing Link, in The Director’s Cut, a lot of that was alleviated, but still not fully, because you could do the stealth but ultimately you had to kill the bosses because narratively that’s what the cinematic says. And that has been addressed this time. So when we say ‘a full non-lethal run’, it means a full non-lethal run.
Eurogamer: So you’re using a similar kind of development model to last time?
Oliver Proulx (producer): Yeah. A lot of the team are back from Human Revolution, so we have a lot of veterans in our core directors group. All that creative control is in Montreal and we lead the way and I just make sure we own the thing. When you do game dev, big projects, sometimes yes you’re going to outsource a few things, but the way we approach it is to help us in our day-to-day work and offload some work that requires less expertise, maybe just on the execution side, so we do that. But really we are leading this, it is our project.
Eurogamer: And I guess you’ve learnt your lesson from last time and will be more conscious of the potential pitfalls than anyone else?
Patrick Fortier: Yeah. Bosses were one of the main feedback from Human Revolution so it was pretty much top of the board on the things on Mankind Divided that are going to be different. But all I was saying before was we’re not throwing the responsibility to say ‘it was outsourced, they did it wrong’. No: we own that responsibility. It’s our fault it turned out the way it turned out. Having said that, as it so happens, yes, whatever boss encounters we are building are being built by the production team – they’re not being outsourced.
Eurogamer: One final thing concerns early builds of games shown at shows such as E3, and the full game not fully resembling it upon release. The Witcher 3 fell foul of this recently. [The Mankind Divided E3 demo is running on a screen in the room. I point to it and ask:] Is that exactly what people are going to play – is it going to look like that or better?
Patrick Fortier: It’s a real map. Will it be balanced in exactly the same way, and will cameras be in exactly the same spot? Probably not, but…
Eurogamer: It’s more the look of it, because when you have a smaller part – a vertical slice – of the game obviously you can do more graphically with it.
Oliver Proulx (producer): In terms of the graphical fidelity we’re very mindful of what we wanted to show at E3 that we don’t show something that’s impossible to achieve later down the road, and it was really discussed with the team. We’re confident what we showed, what you’ll see when the game comes out, is going to be very consistent in terms of graphical quality. Obviously the game goes through iteration and the debugging phase, so you can pick up some differences there – some improvements, maybe some other compromises – but it’s going to be pretty much what we’ve got.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is out Q1 2016 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One.