Harvey "Witchboy" Smith, lead designer on first person RPG "Deus Ex", has spoken about the challenges of designing a game that allows the player a lot of freedom. As he explains, "allowing people to play the game multiple ways complicates the balancing issues".
"With a skill system, for instance, if you want to feature a certain amount of some resource, usable by everyone but more efficiently usable by someone with the skill, you have to balance things so that the player without the skill runs short on the resource and the player with the skill has plenty. So, if you have a player without the skill, the game must be winnable without the obstacle that requires the resource. Multiply this times the number of skill paths. It gets complicated."
To find out more, read the interview with Harvey Smith over on "In The Trenches", which also covers the game's environment and back story, and the changes that had to be made to the Unreal engine which it is based on...
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