As video games become even more mainstream in entertainment with applications like steam making it almost instant to engage many find that games are pushing the movie metaphor. It used to be some games were based on movies, then more movies based on games, now we find so many games playing like interactive movies (mass effect is a solid example). Also it seems they’ve used the voice of some prominent actors (nothing new, the Command and Conquer franchise has been using familiar movie actors in cut scenes of their game for several iterations). One such game is the latest release to the Deus EX franchise; Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
The primary story revolves around Sarif, a cybernetics company, and those that revolt against it. In addition to first person shooter, hand to hand combat and stealth opportunities (familiar from games like metal gear solid) there are mini-games to hack in and find additional files within game play.
The primary site began as a faux corporate site where one could learn more about the company. It’s interesting as it’s advertising that’s been made up to market the game (there’s a cyclical loop in there). We get to see how the company portrays itself in a positive manner similar to the umbrella corporation of Resident Evil.
Technically it’s a flash microsite, allows for full screen and has SWFAddress integration. It’s accompanied by some nice animation and audio as well. It’s a polished campaign site that one would expect for a game or a movie. Good spatial movement feeling elegant and full of air.
The primary campaign site does a good job of getting people hyped to be on the side of Sarif in desiring cybernetic implants. While not heavily augmenting reality, it still allows people to pose in front of their webcam under an image of a cybernetic element(hand, arm, etc). These images are composited allowing people to link to their enhanced image. Later once enough images are available the mosaic site shows a campaign image zoomed in until its made up of the composited images people posted, and also game footage images to plug the holes.
Technically we’ve looked into mosaics for another program and found some software to help, but to get a good mosaic image it can’t be done on the fly. They do a good job of having the mosaic pre-made and having filler images as well to make up for limits in how many posts have been made that match the color palette needed. It would appear they are using a zoomifier like component for handling the zooming in and out of the mosaic. The augmented element comes in some BitmapData manipulation which isn’t hard to do, but is quite effective in this context.
As time gets closer to the release date (8/23/2011) additional videos of game play are released, but most interesting is the promotion of a viral video (Deus Ex Purity First Trailer). It plays up the side presented by those that revolt against human augmentation. In addition to presenting the story and showing quite real protest and riot footage it ends with a message “We’ve hacked their site”. This drives people back to the site to hear more of the story.
Technically it’s a well produced video, compelling footage and soundtrack in an expose style, not only is it on Steam, but on their youtube channel and it’s now the first thing visitors see on the campaign site.
Returning to the site finds that all the content that was previously there now has the addition of overlays, in a tech graffiti style. In stead of the soothing corporate presence displayed by Sarif, it’s now accompanied by jarring animations and propaganda of the revolt. All pages of the site are accompanied by contextually relevant graffiti, some additionally by vocal tracks; a voice of the revolution. This portion of the campaign also has undertones of Johnny Mnemonic.
Technically it’s more flash motion, audio. Nothing shocking, but well produced. The revolution commentary is a good touch.
As a part of the revolt through the hacked site we can break in and experience a hacking minigame somewhat similar(based on video footage) to what the in-game hacking game experience is like. While not extraordinarily hard, it still takes several tries to decode 4 data files which unlock some additional content. There’s come character profiles, and also a map. The interesting thing about the map is it also has a link and if you goto the link there’s a video of additional footage to see. They do a good job of not just making a mini-game-for-mini-game-sake, but even a little more for those who take the extra time to notice and type in a URL. That jump was a mild reminder of some of the drastic steps one had to take in the Portal 2 ARG, perhaps there are more items we didn’t find.
Technically it’s a flash mini-game; who doesn’t love mini-games. One can probably beat it in less than 5 minutes. After you win there’s some nice interaction in the way the reward content appears.
It’s interesting that the game story has several elements that seem to hit close to recent home:
It makes players more able to connect to the story and immerse themselves in the game. The only thing that isn’t quite there yet is the real cybernetics, yet of course.
The marketing elements and the social aspect of this game work in unison to get people hyped into the story, to experience the combination of cinema and gaming theatrics. I guess we’ll see how the game turns out.
Note: we don’t know who worked on the Deus Ex campaign, the points above compose purely a review of the campaign; biased only by being gamers.
Nate is currently a Senior Presentation Layer Architect at Razorfish Chicago. As an SPLA Nate: participates in technology leadership team and resource allocations, manage fulltime and contractor resources, represents technology for groups of brands across multiple clients, furthers development of standards within the office, architects project implementations and fosters community and mentoring.