The Let's Play Archive

Deus Ex

by Bobbin Threadbare

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Original Thread: Let's Play Deus Ex: A Series of Lectures

If you liked this LP, you might also like Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror by Maynia and Parasite Eve by Crowetron

Introduction

Deus ex Machina is the Latin version of a Greek phrase meaning "God of the Machine" (or possibly "The Machine of God"). It refers to a practice in Greek theater where a play would be resolved at the end by divine intervention. The god (or gift from a god, in one case) would be lowered in from above to signify its divinity, but the crane doing the lowering was obvious to the audience, hence being a god by right of a machine.

The practice was criticized even by contemporaries. In his Poetics, Aristotle determined that, even if divine intervention were necessary, it should either be established earlier in the play or else foreshadowed, thereby becoming a part of the play rather than a poor excuse for ending it.

I imagine making the God of the Machine the protagonist is a pretty effective way of integrating him into the plot.



In 1996, a crazy level designer named John Romero founded Ion Storm in Dallas on a lot of promises and very little follow-through. His flagship game, Daikatana, became an industry standard for overhype, vaporware, and eventually disappointment, and while his buddy Tom Hall's game, Anachronox, was pretty good, it took forever to get going and ended at what should've been the halfway point.

However, one good thing Romero did was find Warren Spector and tell him to start a second team in Austin and make his dream game. That game would be Deus Ex, which was and still is a landmark of integrated storytelling, freedom of choice, and setting immersion. I'd say more, but I'll be getting to that in the video. As for the developer, Ion Storm Austin would go on to create two more games, Deus Ex 2 and Thief 3, but both games were disappointments thanks to a pretty shitty game engine and tightening budgets. Both halves of Ion Storm went defunct by 2005.

As for Deus Ex itself, it lives on thanks to a surprisingly forward-compatible Unreal engine whose source code got released a few years later. I've applied both the 1.5 (final) New Vision mod, which upgrades the environment textures significantly, and Kentie's mod (which is packaged with New Vision), which allows the Unreal engine to take advantage of the numerous advances in DirectX 10. There's also Project HDTP, but that's still in development so I'm skipping that for now. I'm also aware of Shifter, but I'm not using it. For me, the gameplay of Deus Ex is like putting on a comfortable old shoe: the new model may be improved, but it certainly won't be the same.

Spoiler policy: Go hog wild! I don't want to see a single black line because I don't want you to think it's necessary. Studies have proven that an informed audience is better able to appreciate a work's story. Besides, it's been over a decade and Deus Ex is currently available on Steam and GOG, so anyone who isn't familiar with the story has no room to complain.

One last thing: Deus Ex touches on a number of conspiracy theories, politics, and philosophies, all of which I know folks have opinions regarding, myself absolutely included. While I wouldn't mind seeing some debate in the thread regarding these topics, I will not tolerate personal attacks (against those present or not) and if I think the spirited discussion is descending into shitty arguments, I will not hesitate to close the thread. Thank you for your forbearance, and enjoy the show.




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