“A three minute scene may end up being around 30 pages of script.”
While the previous game had plenty of branching narrative paths, Eidos Montreal is looking to blow that out of the water with Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. This includes the number of choices, and the effects they have on the world.
“One of the things we really wanted to do was make your choices and consequences pay off on many levels throughout the game,” Mary DeMarle, Executive Narrative Director on the game, says in an interview with PlayStation Blog. “Sometimes you may not be aware of them but others require you to choose between two specific paths which impact your end game.”
And your choices do matter throughout the game. The team is looking to make sure the end reflects that. “How you approach the final mission will depend on all these choices through the game, meaning you’ll get a different experience of the ending to someone else… From a script standpoint, every time I have to go back to that final mission and try and keep track of everything that could lead to it, my head wanted to explode!”
This branching narrative took the form of what Eidos Montreal started referring to as The Tree of Life, a flowchart tracking every decision in the game. “We did it via Excel, which was probably not the best program for that sort of flowchart!” DeMarle jokes.
From a writing standpoint, every scene became far more complex than it first seems on the surface. “As a writer you still have to get the scene to an emotional beat which makes sense, taking into account the variable player choices,” she explains. “So a three minute scene may end up being around 30 pages of script.”
Beyond all that however, there is still the question of the environmental storytelling. Demarle and the team wanted the side missions, even if they didn’t pertain to the central narrative, to flesh out the world in meaningful ways. “Some of my favorite stories in the game are the ones which are totally optional, but you could still miss an awful lot if you ignore them,” she says.
“You can solve some side missions in 10 minutes, but if you take your time and explore you can start peeling away at the story and meet additional characters.”
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided hits PS4, Xbox One, and PC August 23.