After sitting down to chat with Senior Game Designer Frank LaPikas, he explained that the current hacking system in Deus Ex: Human Revolution is the product of much iteration. The original system was exceptionally complex and designed to simulate actual hacking. It involved CPU cycles, different programs, nodes, and an entire representation of a building's computer network. Managing all of that, while still making sure not to be spotted in the physical world of the game, turned out to be a little bit much for testers, despite nearly four revisions to the system in three months. In the end, through months of refinement, they found themselves with the hacking system as it is found in the final game: a sort of "visual network" system.
Although hacking is one of the pillars of gameplay, it is entirely optional. A player could make it through the entire game with only the base hacking software and not a single augmentation; although this method, like any other, would have consequences in that the player might miss certain nonessential contextual information or clues.
As for the social content of the game, the developers wanted players to have a lot of depth and story to conversations. However, with the "social boss fights," they also wanted a player to be able to fail. Not being able to properly win a conversation battle never prevents the player from progressing in the game, but it will lock them out of a certain path and might force them to find a more difficult path through an area, as well as put forth serious repercussions in the story. However, many conversations are optional and can be bypassed if the player so chooses. Additionally, all conversations can be cleared successfully without a single augmentation. The augmentations simply give the player a wider base of information to draw from when conversing, such as a psychological profile of the speaker, an optical polygraph, and a pheromone sensor to help assess what the best option would be when choosing what to say. Having seen the conversation battles in action myself, I can say that these sequences play out with as much tension as a traditional boss fight in other games, and engaging in them is truly engrossing.
After the presentation was over, those of us in attendance fired a few questions at LaPikas and learned some more about the game. For players wondering whether the game world reacts to Adam differently if he chose to use more augmentations, wonder no more. Because Adam receives all of his new hardware when he is first augmented, NPCs will only react to that initial change at the outset of the game. Further enhancing Adam's ability merely "turns on" an already-installed augmentation, meaning that there will be no further visual changes. In terms of story, LaPikas suggests that DXHR is pretty closely related to the original Deus Ex, but not so much so that the team would be stuck in a writing corner if they have the chance to revisit the world in a sequel to Human Revolution. On the subject of a possible sequel, LaPikas even admits that the possibility of importing save data into a sequel would be technically possible, since there are a "lot of choices" that they could carry over, but he warns that this is all speculation and "could-be's."
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