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Warren Spector explains the player-first design choices behind  Deus Ex

Warren Spector explains the player-first design choices behind Deus Ex

March 17, 2021 | By Chris Kerr

Taking to the stage for a virtual Q&A during GDC Showcase, Deus Ex creator Warren Spector had some sage advice for developers looking to create the next great immersive sim: don't tell players what to do. 

Outlining the design philosophies he relied on when creating the original Deus Ex -- which, almost unbelievably, will celebrate its 21st birthday later this year -- Spector said the best immersive sims are all about true freedom of choice.

"I'm committed to the idea of the immersive sim -- games that allow players to solve problems, not puzzles, by exercising their creativity," he said. "You can tell you're playing an immersive sim if you're not forced to play a particular way. I sum it up with the words 'playstyle matters.'"

For instance, Spector said he never tried to encourage Deus Ex players to choose stealth or chaperone them down a specific path, noting that one of his rules is "never judge your players" -- because ultimately, they'll be constantly judging and evaluating their own approach.

"Every playstyle choice offers benefits but also costs," he continued. "[Someone asked about] how to avoid a failed stealth attempt turning into a 'kill everything that moves' game. People think immersive sims are about choice and consequence but they're really about choice, consequence and recovery. You have to create strategies to allow players to get back to the gameplay they love."

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