Thursday, January 26, 2012

Deus Ex Training, Part 5: What isn't

[This is part of a series of posts about the game Deus Ex.]
[The series began with this post.  The first post in this section is here.]

At some point I'm going to need to talk about what wound up on the cutting room floor if for no other reason than the fact that that's basically my area of expertise. Someone could almost certainly learn more about it than I know with one in depth interview with a member of the design team who was on the project before the major changes took place, but when it comes to what's out there now I probably spent years going around the internet looking for everything that had been said, I contacted some of the developers and two of them even gave me relatively lengthy responses.

When it comes to Deus Ex my general area is story, my specialty is removed story. And I may very well have proven myself worthy of a degree from internet geek/nerd university by saying that.

In the first post in this series I addressed a common but unfounded belief that the main character had two different origin stories at different times in development. In a later post I brought up the fact that there actually does appear to have been a shift in the plan about what happened after the main character's biological parents were killed (original plan was to be a ward of the state, final version was that he was adopted.) To talk about changes in the Deus Ex story, though, we don't need to resort to “appear to have been”.

The original plan involved going to a moon base. It was decided, more than half way through development, that that didn't fit thematically with the story which was very terrestrial. The moon-base as a level was scrapped. (Along with two space stations.) The original plan involved visiting the war zone that was Austin, turned out that the technology at the time wasn't up to creating a war zone. The Texas missions were scrapped. (Which is why you'll never meet the Russo-Mexican Alliance in Deus Ex.) The original plan was for there to be missions at The White House and Mt. Weather. After building The White House level they realized that it wasn't very fun, and The White House and Mt. Weather missions were scrapped. The original plan called for liberating a concentration camp. The original plan called for a lot of stuff.

One of the reasons that this interests me is that a lot of the original plan seemed quite awesome. I've spent more time than I probably should thinking about what little is known about what might have been, and I've spent pages trying to figure out ways to potentially work some of it back into an expanded version of the game. (I write three pages every morning, at least in theory, and most of the time I don't know what to write. Writing about screwing with the plot of a video game can fill the pages pretty handily on some days.) The conclusion really has to be that it's nigh impossible, the game as it exists pushes one from one objective to the next with a fair amount of urgency. There really isn't much in the way of time to stop off in Austin, or liberate a concentration camp, or go to the moon.

Anyway, that's all out there, and I'll probably make reference to it at various points in this commentary.

As for why I'm bringing it up now, well, it's interesting that one of the few areas where no one ever thought to speculate or ask is one of the things that we can know the most about. People speculated about the possibility that JC had a completely different backstory based on the questionable application of a single rarely used word derived from the Latin. People wondered about where the main character was to go and what he was to do when he go there, people wondered about all kinds of things. But no one wondered about training.

It's training. What could possibly be worth talking about here? What changes could have been made to training?

It turns out, quite a lot. Well, quite a lot in the context of how little goes on in training. Not nearly so much in the context of any other mission.

This part of the mission, as it exists in the game, is pretty straightforward and pretty boring. It's more “don't forget to left click” stuff, basically. We'll get to that later. This part of the mission, as it exists in the dialog files, is another matter entirely.

20% of the dialog written and recorded for training was not used in the game. That's by lines, and my completely unscientific feeling is that if one did it by word count (which would take more time and effort than I think it's worth) it would turn out to be an even larger portion. Especially if one compares the dialog used in this specific map you can see a massive change. The the amount of lines omitted is 60 percent the size of the amount of lines included. (Again, by number of lines, not by word count.)

So what was omitted? Well, basically, interesting stuff.

There were, apparently, multiple target ranges that would be more interesting than the the ones that remained, one of them simulating urban combat. Which is the sort of thing one might expect to have in the training of an agent and could also be, potentially, fun to do.

There was also to be a combat arena where you fought robots to practice with your weapons, which makes little sense in universe (robots are presumably not cheap, blowing them up to train people seems unwise) but it's no more nonsensical than things that stayed in training.

Also there was a chance to use an EMP grenade, which I think makes a bit more sense as a training exercise than the explosives you did end up working with. Not only would it not kill you, it wouldn't blow up the stuff you tried it out on either. (Though I get the impression that the work with explosives would have been in the training mission regardless)

Anyway, in alphabetical order (which is how one finds them in game files), these are all of the lines from the cut content in training:

Take the weapons on the table. Each of the buttons on the table releases one robot in the room which you will face in combat. Only after the robots are defeated will the doors to the exit open. If you are as good as they say then you should have no problem in taking on all four at once.

Notice the two objects at the far end. One is a camera and the other is an autoturret. They are tough to destroy and will require an explosive or an EMP grenade. Try this with one of these on the table. Use the ledge for cover. When the devices are neutralized, the switch near the turret will open the door, and you can go up to the Combat Arena.

You have released a robot from the central bunker. Throw an EMP greande at the robot. If the grenade explodes in close enough proximity to the robot it will shut it down. EMP grenades are also useful in shutting down camera systems, autoturrets and proximity explosives, such as the LAM.

You have released a target robot. Use the GEP gun and its tracking rockets to destroy the robot.

This set of targets is what we like to call the "Prairie Dog" town. Each of the six targets will pop up in a random pattern. Try to take them out quickly and efficiently .

You have released another robot into the arena. Use the LAM, Light Munitions, to destroy it. LAMs are also useful for breeching weak walls, some fencing, and light doors. They also can destroy heavy re-inforced cameras and autoturrets.

This is the Light Anti-Tank weapon or LAW. A static target has appeared on the far side of the compund. Destroy it.

You are eager. I like that but first you will need to train in demolition before I open the doors to the Combat Arena.

You are not yet ready for this area. You need to first go to the static target range, next door.

This is the outdoor target range. Below you is a simulated section of an urban environment. Each of the buttons on the window sill will test your abilities with the weapons. When you press each button, the appropriate weapon storage case will open. Use that weapon on the targets provided. If you wish to reset the range, press the button on the wall.

Choose your pistol JC. Try to take out the static targets below as quickly as you can. If your accuracy is good you will take them all out with one clip.

In the windows of the building on the far side of the arena, you will see moving targets. Try to use your sniper rifle to take out all of these targets.

Welcome to the Combat Arena. The guard will take all of the weapons you have acquired so far. Step up to the table and I will descibe the arena.

(Typographical errors from the originals.)

There's not a lot there, there's not a lot in training in general, but it's more than we have of any other cut content. We have omitted conversations here and there, but nothing like the above. You can actually sort of work out the layout of the cut content there. You can get a feel for a level that doesn't actually exist. That's pretty much unique in Deus Ex.

Anyway, this is the part where I say something like, “Damn, I wish that they'd left in remnants of The White House mission/moonbase instead.”

Actually, there are remains of them, after a fashion. Parts of the moonbase level were repurposed for the terrestrial finale level, and some of the textures of it can be accessed. The White House items that were made can be summoned by those willing to cheat and the first family appears in one scene. In those cases what we have are artifacts, but no written or oral record to tell us what to make of them. That's annoying. It would be much nicer if we had text.

It's more than a little bit irritating that the one area where we do have text is one where there's nothing plot related happening. We know exactly what the dialog was intended to be for the cut part of training (you can even listen to it), and have almost no details about the Moon or the White House missions.


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