Eurogamer: But what about the dialogue? How do you write dialogue for all these permutations?
Mary De Marle: First of all, when you're writing a dialogue, it's often moments in the writing process where you're debating, should the character say this or should he say that? When you're trying to write a dialogue in a film or a book, you make that choice right away and then you follow that dialogue to its natural conclusion. But in a game like this you actually get to go, well, I don't know. Let's try them both. The challenge becomes, how do you link them back in together?
So in one way it gives you a lot of freedom to explore things you normally wouldn't, which is fun. But the challenge becomes not so much about what the character says, because you take it from the character himself and his personality, but identifying all the possibilities of things the players could do.
For instance, I might have a very solid opinion of who Adam Jensen is, and I will play him non-lethal and nice. And I have a hard time thinking, well, he could be an asshole at this moment. So the challenge comes from breaking that convention to think of those possibilities, rather than actually dealing with the possibilities when they come through.
But luckily I've got a lot of different personalities on the team who don't want to play Jensen as the nice and non-lethal person, and they point them out for me. Sometimes.
Eurogamer: Huge twists are popular at the moment. Is there one in Deus Ex? Do they work as well in games as they do in books and films?
Mary De Marle: I can't get into the specifics on that because I don't want to give away the story, but for me, as a writer, when you're trying to come up with a story you want to have surprising moments because you want to engage the imagination of your audience.
So just in general I try to incorporate those surprising twists. I try to make sure when I do put those surprising twists in, you think about it you're like, oh, I should have seen that coming. It's a goal to strive for in any kind of writing you do.
Eurogamer: Will there be landmark decisions players have to make that affects the overarching story, or is it more about smaller decisions that influence side quests?
Mary De Marle: It's a combination of both. We identified some key moments where those big changes could occur and we tried to incorporate some of those. But also, when you're playing a game it tends to be a very personal experience and a lot of the most memorable moments come not necessarily out of the story but from the things you have done and how it has changed the world around you.
So in those instances, those small things are just as important as the big ones.
Eurogamer: We hear a lot about the sophistication of dialogue systems. Just how sophisticated is Deus Ex's?
Mary De Marle: First of all, we have various levels of conversation interactions in our game. We have some that are very simplistic: you walk up to individuals in the environment and they tell you things, but there's not much of an exchange going on.
And then we have main dialogues where you get to choose and direct the conversation and play it the way you feel like playing. And we have side quests where you can gain what you want out of it and you can affect it that way.
And then we have what we call conversation boss fights. These are the most sophisticated and most complex to write in the game. They're part of the gameplay. You have an objective to complete and one of the ways you can complete it is by, in a social manner, trying to convince someone to help you.
The whole idea behind this is having to read the character you're interacting with, read their facial expressions, their body language, and listen to their tone and what they're doing and understand the psychology of this character in order to determine the best argument you can use to persuade them to your side.
It's a complex system. You might want to be the mean player who verbally punches this person out, but that's not going to achieve your objective, so you have to put your goals aside and really read the needs of the other character and figure out their personality to figure out what is the best psychological approach to take to defeat them.
And you can lose this. If you lose this conversation it shuts out an avenue to explore because this person will not help you at all. But if you win it suddenly your path through becomes very easy.