Warren Spector, director and producer of the much adored Deus Ex series, has criticized Uncharted, The Walking Dead and Heavy Rain, among others, for failing to take advantage of their medium. Speaking at PAX Aus 2015, Spector explained “We are all part of a medium nothing else can do: collaborative storytelling. And I think it’s important that we embrace that capability.”
Spector went on to criticize some other much loved titles, categorizing them as low and medium expression games. A low expression game, such as Uncharted or the Last of Us, “limits your ability to interact with the game world, so the story can unfold the way the storyteller wants it to unfold.” In other words, linear games that have a single narrative path cannot be impacted by the player. Spector goes on to say that games like Uncharted or The Last of Us have great stories, but they aren’t the players story.
On Uncharted: “it limits your ability to interact with the game world.”
Naughty Dog responded to Spector’s criticism, with community strategist Anne Meyer stating “Right now, in the industry, we have such an great opportunity to create many different games, from blockbuster triple-A studios to indie studios, to address every type of play style and every type of ‘want’ that you could want in a game.”
“It’s great that you’re hearing this type of criticism towards all sorts of games, because people are starting to make games that let you explore all sorts of different genres. I think people are really starting to think about those things – about what more could games do – because there are all these games out there that are appealing to different genres and play styles, and I think that’s what’s really special about the industry right now.”
Spector then spoke about Telltale’s The Walking Dead and Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain, which he labelled as medium expression games. “I love The Walking Dead, but the choices you have to make, they’re compelling choices, but they’re designer driven, not player driven. Every choice in a game like this has been pre-scripted and handwritten by a designer somewhere, and the effects of that choice have been predetermined by the developers. There’s very limited stuff that players actually get to do.”
“Heavy Rain is an amazing experience. They can tell great stories; better than I can tell in my life as a game developer. But they tell better stories because no player will ever do anything surprising or unaccounted for. They’re basically like five movie scripts all mashed together, and you’re just picking which script you’re telling at any given point in time.”
Needless to say, Deus Ex games have always focused on player choice, both in gameplay and in the game’s narrative. The next game in the series, Mankind Divided, promises to continue this trend when it releases on February 23rd 2016 for PS4, Xbox One and PC.