Decisions and consequences – that was and is the essence of Deus Ex. What we know from every second action role-playing game today was a bold mix of styles in 2000. Deus Ex linked game elements of different popular genres: the first-person perspective from first-person shooters, the stealth gameplay of stealth adventures and the character and decision options of role-playing games.

No wonder yourself Developer legend and Deus ex-father Warren Spector was uncertain about the chances of success for his own creation. "I knew we would get bad reviews if you compared our shooter mechanics to the competition," he said in 2017 Interview with the US magazine PC Games Insider . "If we were equated with stealth titles, we would also have a problem. Also, our character options weren't nearly as complex as with other role-playing games. (…) I can tell you that I slept badly a few times because I didn't know whether people would understand what we did with Deus Ex (buy now for € 75.99) intended. "

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Game industry icons: Warren Spector

Warren Spector has worked in the video game industry for over 30 years, launching classics like Ultima Underworld, System Shock and Deus Ex.

At the end of the 20-month development period, however, one of the most influential games of all time was in stores on June 22, 2000. Deus Ex was certainly not perfect. But it offered a completely different gaming experience than most of the action competition at the time.

Unearthed pearls: Deus Ex in a retro special

The early concepts
Warren Spector's first ideas for Deus Ex were already buzzing in late 1993 after the role-playing hit Ultima Underworld 2: Labyrinth of Worlds was completed, for which he had worked as a producer for the US studio Looking Glass, as he had done for the predecessor , which he also held in 1994 for the Sci-Fi thriller System Shock.

However, he wanted to get away from fantasy or alien scenarios. His game was code-named "Troubleshooter". It was supposed to be located in a cyberpunk universe in which players in the role of an ex-police officer were allowed to make their own decisions. Even back then, the work, inspired by the classic action film Stirb slowly (1988), was based on the maxim of giving players absolute freedom in a real, as credibly simulated world as possible.

<img src = "" alt = "The tunnel people live in the subway shafts of New York. They often have secret information for you or know previously hidden paths.
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The tunnel people live in the subway shafts of New York. They often have secret information for you or know previously hidden paths.

Source: Moby Games

However, Warren Spector also advised Publisher Origin Systems of the risks of its ambitious concept. It was therefore not surprising that Troubleshooter did not receive the green light and did not get out of the concept phase for the time being. It should take a few years before Spector got his project, which was later renamed Junction Point, out of the drawer. After Spector Looking Glass left Origin System in 1997, he "pitched" his ideas to a variety of publishers. In an interview with Gamasutra from 2015, Spector recalled: "I was about to sign with one of the largest publishers (Electronic Arts) to develop an RPG for an existing brand (Command and Conquer, Ed.) But then John Romero called me and convinced me to come to Ion Storm and set up a studio in Austin, Texas for them and develop the game of my dreams, which eventually became Deus Ex. "

<img src = "" alt = "The dialog system from Deus Ex also offers a lot of freedom and even some funny or slippery ones Here too, tact is important, and sometimes dialogues bring more than gun violence.
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The Deus Ex dialogue system also offers a lot of freedom and even some funny or slippery excesses. Here too, tact is essential. Sometimes dialogues bring more than gun violence.

Source: Moby Games

Scandal company Ion Storm
Chris Norden, who later became Deus Ex's lead programmer and assistant director, describes the beginnings at Ion Storm as follows: "So we traveled around and introduced our game to companies and then heard about this company, Ion Storm, started by John Romero. They sat in Dallas, had an incredible amount of money and hired all these people to do cool stuff. They had that 'fuck it, we do what we want' attitude back then. "

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My first time with Ultima Underworld: How is the role-playing classic playing today?

Ion Storm was founded on November 15, 1996 by John Romero, Tom Hall, Todd Porter and Jerry O'Flaherty. The still young company secured the said money through a deal with Eidos, which, thanks to Tomb Raider, sensed its great success. Eidos committed Ion Storm to develop six games and invested millions in the company. Those responsible immediately used this financial injection to expand their own office: In March 1997, Ion Storm moved into the penthouse of the Chase Tower in Dallas, Texas. The entire floor was tailored for Ion Storm; the logo of the company adorned the floor of the entrance area. There was a cinema with a state-of-the-art Dolby Surround system at the time, an arcade, a bedroom and even showers.

<img src = "" alt = "Admittedly, the computer guards do not always respond correctly to the behavior of the player. Catch them However, if you break in or take any other illegal action, they will inevitably open fire.
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Admittedly, the computer guards do not always respond correctly to the behavior of the player. However, if you catch a break-in or other illegal actions, they will inevitably open fire.

Source: Moby Games

Today there are many myths surrounding business practices at Ion Storm. Real rock stars worked there for outsiders who embodied the lifestyle of "Sex, Drugs and Rock'n'Roll". Ion Storm promoted this image through unusual PR stunts. For the shooter spectacle Daikatana (2000), which later failed miserably, an advertising campaign was launched in 1997 and advertisements and posters were published under the heading "John Romero's about to make you his bitch" (in English: "John Romero will make you his bitch.) . "). Appropriately, the subtitle was "Suck it down". By contrast, Richard Gaubert, writer of the 3D role-playing game Anachronox, which was released in 2001, described the atmosphere at Ion Storm as a "student dormitory" in which the employees liked to play quake after work and have pizza delivered to them. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Fortunately, Deus Ex did not originate in Dallas, but in Austin under the leadership of Warren Spector.

Lots of ideas and more problems
After preparations for Deus Ex had already started in August 1997, the actual work only started six months later. For this purpose, Warren Spector put together a team of 20 and split it into two teams: On the one hand, the simulation group already known to Looking Glass, led by lead designer Harvey Smith, who had worked on titles like System Shock. And on the other hand, the role-playing experts bustled around Robert White, who had left his mark on Ultima Online (1997) or Ultima 9: Ascension (1999). Spector hoped for the best of two game worlds. "Oh man, I was wrong," said the 64-year-old in the Gamasutra interview. Instead, this division led to a lot of unrest in the team, and the many different characters provided numerous opinions and views on the direction of the game.

<img src = "" alt = "With so-called augmentations you improve JC Denton's abilities. In this overview you set new technologies firmly or improves it.
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With so-called augmentation you improve JC Denton's abilities. In this overview you define new technologies or improve them.

Source: Moby Games

"I then had to bring both teams together under the leadership of Harvey Smith. In the end it worked out, but it was a very stressful time," said Spector. The newly assembled crew wasn't the only problem though: the ambitions and ideas behind Deus Ex took their toll, and all the game changed a lot in the course of development. The vision behind the action role-playing game was so progressive that technology in particular repeatedly thwarted the developers and forced them to compromise.

As mentioned at the beginning, Deus Ex wanted to merge different genres. Players should therefore not solve puzzles, but master problems in their own way; they should choose to fight, sneak, hack, or chat. All of these were common options in the game. This was supported by a character system and the well-known augmentations with which her agent JC Denton was able to miss body modifications with the appropriate skills.

In addition, Deus Ex offered, to a certain extent, open levels populated by NPCs that invited to be explored. Today, all of these game elements are perfectly normal. 20 years ago, however, this form of complexity and freedom of choice presented developers with major challenges.

<img src = "" alt = "Most areas offer different entrances and approaches. If you don’t want to fight, he simply uses the multitool and uses it to crack doors silently, but you shouldn't let yourself get caught.
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Most areas offer different entrances and approaches. If you don't feel like fighting, simply use the multitool and silently crack doors. However, you shouldn't let yourself get caught.

Source: Moby Games

Not perfect, but pioneering
A concrete example of the development process of Deus Ex: The White House, a level already presented to the press, completely flew out of the game. Why? The level architecture was too complex and cost too many resources. The game has been cut down over the months. If you try Deus Ex nowadays – which is fortunately not a problem thanks to and Steam – then you can also clearly see compromises such as artificial level limits or AI weaknesses. As I said before: Deus Ex was not a perfect game. However, this fact made it no less important.

Not only did Deus Ex break down boundaries, it also made players master of their own destiny – in a first-person game set in 2052. Titles like Half-Life (1998) had already told very appealing stories, but the focus was more on the action. Stealth games like Thief: The Dark Project from 1998 (with us Dark Project: The master thief) attached great importance to quietness. Deus Ex, however, offered different approaches and also let players experience a complex story with modern references. The creators picked up motifs such as conspiracy theories – more relevant than ever these days – or secret societies repeatedly and focused on the Illuminati.

<img src = "" alt = "The game rewards trying out and experimenting with the possibilities. For exploring new areas you will also receive experience points for upgrading the character later.
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The game rewards trying out and experimenting with the possibilities. For exploring new areas, you will also receive experience points for upgrading the character later.

Source: Moby Games

How ambitious Deus Ex was at the time was also shown by the fact that the developers programmed three different ends. In one of them, JC Denton allied itself with an all-powerful computer AI and ruled over people in a benevolent dictatorship. This complexity and sophistication made Deus Ex a favorite of critics. For the release on June 22, 2000, the PC version of the game received enthusiastic ratings in the trade press and sold excellently for such an innovative and niche product. Deus Ex could have been a nightmare game for Warren Spector and his team, but is still considered a pioneer of narrative action games.

How much Cyberpunk 2077 was there in Deus Ex?
How big the influence of Deus Ex is today can be seen from titles like Cyberpunk 2077, which will be released on September 17, 2020. Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz, Quest Director at developer CD Projekt Red, confirmed in interviews that he was the first Deux Ex Part as a developer and player. Tomaskiewicz emphasized the different approaches and emphasized the level design.

And if you take a closer look at Cyberpunk 2077, the parallels literally catch your eye – and we don't just mean the dark science fiction setting. In Cyberpunk 2077, you also improve the main character V with the help of augmentations and enjoy various approaches to mastering the missions, such as stealth, hacking and pure gun violence. Of course, Cyberpunk 2077, which is 20 years younger, looks more modern and sophisticated, but the Deus-Ex formula remains clearly recognizable.

The long-term effect of Ion Storm's pioneering action role-playing game continues two decades after its release. This is clear evidence that Deus Ex was a very special game 20 years ago and rightly holds a place of honor in games history.

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