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

Deus Ex creator Warren Spector has some sage advice for developers looking to create the next great immersive sim: stop telling players what to do.

Chris Kerr

March 17, 2021

1 Min Read

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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About the Author(s)

Chris Kerr

News Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Game Developer news editor Chris Kerr is an award-winning journalist and reporter with over a decade of experience in the game industry. His byline has appeared in notable print and digital publications including Edge, Stuff, Wireframe, International Business Times, and PocketGamer.biz. Throughout his career, Chris has covered major industry events including GDC, PAX Australia, Gamescom, Paris Games Week, and Develop Brighton. He has featured on the judging panel at The Develop Star Awards on multiple occasions and appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live to discuss breaking news.

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