How Deus Ex brought cyberpunk into the gaming mainstream

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Deus-ex-mech

It’s hard to overstate the importance of Deus Ex. When it first launched back in 2000, it was pretty much the first of its kind – a deep first-person roleplaying game with a cyberpunk world filled with fleshed out characters, and a plot of dark conspiracies. Initially developed by Ion Storm, a small team of 20 people, the game was created over a three year period. But the story of Deus Ex began long before that, with team director Warren Spector in 1993.

Deus Ex was originally known as Troubleshooter, and was partly inspired by Spector’s wife’s fascination with The X-Files. Deus Ex is rooted in conspiracy theories, and each game always follows the shady dealings of a secret society in the grim cyberpunk future. For years, Troubleshooter didn’t get off the ground, but when Spector was approached by John Romero of Ion Storm, the opportunity to create the game finally came.

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It’s hard to overstate the importance of Deus Ex. When it first launched back in 2000, it was pretty much the first of its kind – a deep first-person roleplaying game with a cyberpunk world filled with fleshed out characters, and a plot of dark conspiracies. Initially developed by Ion Storm, a small team of 20 people, the game was created over a three year period. But the story of Deus Ex began long before that, with team director Warren Spector in 1993.

Deus Ex was originally known as Troubleshooter, and was partly inspired by Spector’s wife’s fascination with The X-Files. Deus Ex is rooted in conspiracy theories, and each game always follows the shady dealings of a secret society in the grim cyberpunk future. For years, Troubleshooter didn’t get off the ground, but when Spector was approached by John Romero of Ion Storm, the opportunity to create the game finally came.

cyberpunk-city

Though the X-Files were the original inspiration, lead writer Sheldon Pacotti thought the game turned out more like James Bond. As JC Denton, a counter-terrorism agent, you are given the mission to hunt down members of the National Seccessionist Forces, a group who have stolen the vaccine to a deadly disease. But this leads Denton to become spectacularly tangled in a narrative web of conspiracies, bringing him face-to-face with shady government-funded projects, and the Illuminati.

When Deus Ex finally launched, the game won a number of awards and was praised highly by critics, going on to spawn multiple sequels, including Human Revolution and Mankind Divided. To date, the Deus Ex series has sold five million copies worldwide.

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But the true effect of the series can’t be seen in sales, but instead in its recognisable influence on games that are still being released today. The quest designer for Cyberpunk 2077 has stated that, among other influences, Deus Ex was a big inspiration for his design work in the game. Harvey Smith, designer and writer at Arkane Studios, worked on the original Deus Ex. Many of Smith’s subsequent games, including the Dishonored series and Prey, channel a lot of similar ideas to Deus Ex.

20 years later, the series is still inspiring game designers – if that’s not a sign of its importance, we don’t know what is.

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