Thursday, September 1, 2011

Analyzing Deus Ex: HR

I announced yesterday that I will examine other games in addition to the WoW questing game according to how well the journey keeps your mind busy. I am going to start with DX:HR (I love to abbr.).

DX:HR missions can be played in drastically different ways. You can sneak past each and every enemy or kill everything on the map and/or explore every corner. Or you can just kill everybody between you and the 'X' on the map that tells you where you have to go.

All these different play styles are essentially different goals. And thus they have different respective journeys. A lot of players will probably play the explore-everything-and-kill-if-necessary style. So I am going to have a look at this. As to whether it is smart to leave the player the choice of such high-level goals is something I intend to write about .. eventually.

While playing Deus Ex missions ..

- You read/listen/comprehend/learn the mission objectives and maybe even the story

- You explore the map
- and decide which way to go
- or plan a way to a location
- and decide which way to take
- and execute that plan

- You watch enemies
- and make educated guesses about which enemy would see/hear you
- and make educated guesses as to whether you can win
- and make plans as to how to attack or whether and, if, then how to sneak past

Each plan entails that
- You decide which weapon(s) to use
- and decide when and whom to attack first
- and decide when and where to get out of cover and whom to shot into the head first
- and decide whether to run in and finish in close combat
- and decide whether to throw a grenade / use an augmented ability

- You execute the plan
- while you watch (explore) the enemies' behavior
- and potentially lose hit points
- and decide whether to wait until your health is back up
- and execute the plan
- while you adjust it: watch, plan, decide, execute

- You experience tension, climaxes and relaxing situation.

- You explore the 'circuits' in the hacking mini game
- and make plans
- and decide which plan to use
- and execute the plan
- while you adjust it: watch, plan, decide, execute

- You explore secretaries, emails, newspapers, ebooks
- and decide which are worth reading
- and read (=explore) those worth reading.

- You enjoy gaining new stuff, especially weapons
- and explore how these weapons work
- and manage the inventory

- You fear death
- and anticipate the penalty
- and hit F8 (=quick reload) if you die. Execution

- You anticipate a new praxis point (=level up)
- and every now and then gain a praxis point
- and decide where to put the praxis point
- and explore newly gained abilities

- You anticipate returning home and the next step in the story

- You listen to enemies talking
- and listen to your boss talking to you

This list is probably not complete. I have a hunch most of my readers won't even bother to read through it all ;). Point is that there's a hell of a lot going on while on this kind of journey. It's a good guess that is does not become boring soon.

And that remains true even if a lot of players skip many of the activities; especially when they play in story mode, instead of the Deus Ex difficulty mode. But even then many players will not bother to read the newspaper or every message on every computer. That's perfectly ok. Since there is no need to do that, reading the newspaper is never frustrating. It probably were frustrating for a lot of players if there was an external reward for reading it.

What's important to note is how often the listed activities happen. The story mode can probably be a lot of fun, because the few activities that remain, happen very frequently. Of course, the story mode also drastically reduces the duration of the game. Another high-level choice for the player. Note to self: I need to write about that .. eventually.

Some of the listed activities can be frustrating. For example hacking a computer for the experience even though you have the password. That's clearly something a lot of players feel like they shouldn't have to do to gain the experience; I know I do. I want to be rewarded for finding the password. And I certainly don't want to be penalized for using it. Therefore, this particular part of the journey is not well designed.

My updated list of basic things to do while on a journey:

- learning/exploring/searching/listening/watching/reading/information gathering
- understanding / comprehending / setting into context
- decisions
- educated guesses
- planning (=imagining the the consequences of different potential decisions)
- optimization/management under constrains
- tension/relaxing/climaxes/adrenaline
- gaining/growing/losing/rewards/penalties
- fear/hope/anticipation of learning/gaining/losing.
- Execution: pressing buttons/moving the mouse
- interacting with other humans (that's a category in its own right)

Next in line is looking at a typical MMORPG's "travel" this way!


  1. It probably were frustrating for a lot of players if there was an external reward for reading it.

    Reading Hugh Darrow's e-books gives XP, and reading every single one of them gives an achievement.

  2. You are wrong, Ephemeron. Clicking on them gives EP and achievements and I can promise you that I make sure that I click on every single one I find.

    Do I read them? Hell, no !