The Original ‘Deus Ex’ Design Document Is Fascinating Reading

If you want to see what designers are thinking before they actually build a game, read this 64-page vision for <i>Deus Ex</i>.

Nov 14 2016, 9:32pm

For a lot of reasons, Dishonored 2 doesn't exist without Deus Ex. Years ago, Dishonored 2 creative director Harvey Smith was the lead designer on Deus Ex, a game whose profound influence on game design is still felt today. That's why today's news—the release of Deus Ex's original design document, with annotations by designer Warren Spector—is so welcomed.

The existence of these documents has been known for a while; Eurogamer ran a piece on them back in 2013. But an intrepid reddit user reached out to the reporter behind that piece, and managed to get access to the whole shebang. If you've ever wanted to see what a game looks like before it actually becomes a game, documents like this are incredibly useful.

What a designer wants a game to be is one thing. What actually ends up being possible—for technological, budgetary, or personnel reasons—is another thing entirely.

And while the game that shipped in 2000 is different from what's outlined in the document, when you read sections like this, explaining what the game's core mission is, you see Deus Ex:

The reason Deux Ex has proven so memorable, and what draws me to games that build on it, is exactly that: a simulation providing players an opportunity to meaningfully roleplay. My character is always the silent type, taking out enemies from a distance. It's never gotten old.

How this works is outlined in a section called "problems not puzzles," where the designers explain how they hope to reward players for unconventional approaches to situations:

Deus Ex is a tough game to go back to, even with stacks of modifications meant to modernize the game. Though it's useful to understand gaming's past through play, you might be better off appreciating how far things have come since Deus Ex by playing Dishonored 2 and reading the vision outlined in this 64-page document. You can find the whole design document here.