In 2014 I spoke at VideoBrains in London and shared never-seen-before design documents for a cancelled Deus Ex game. I also talked about the early prototypes of Doom by id Software and warned about the importance of game preservation and documentation.
The lecture was based on two articles I wrote for Eurogamer about Ion Storm’s Lost Deus Ex Sequels and the Deleted Scenes of Doom. You can read those features for more information or contact me for the original research documents.
This talk was filmed and is now available to watch on YouTube, but you can also find the script and slides I used below.
Hello. I’m here to talk about what I call the deleted scenes of gaming, but by that I mean all the things that are cut from games before they’re released. It can mean literal cutscenes, but it can also mean features, characters or even entire games.
Why am I talking about this? Because it’s a really important topic for me. I think deleted scenes offer a fascinating insight into the normally closed processes of the game industry and I’d go so far as to say that those of us who really care about games have a responsibility to get involved with this stuff.
To explain why I believe that, I’m going to tell you the story of how I got interested in deleted scenes and show you some of the cuts I’ve found over the last few years.
Who am I? Well, I’ve been writing about and for games for 10 years now. I used to be Games Editor at Dennis Publishing and I’ve written for everyone from RPS to Gamasutra, Eurogamer and Pocket Gamer. I’ve also written a few indie games myself.
My name’s Joe Martin, but I’d like to begin by introducing this guy…
This is Warren Spector. He’s a hero of mine and not just because he could win a contest to see who looks most like my Dad.
Warren’s my hero because he’s a games designer and creative director who has worked on some of the most acclaimed and respected games ever made. Specifically, he was the director on two games key to this story – Deus Ex and Epic Mickey 2.
For those of you that haven’t played those, Epic Mickey 2 is a 3D platformer where you’re cast as Mickey Mouse and must save Disneyland with a magic paintbrush.
Meanwhile, Deus Ex is a cyberpunk spy game where you’re cast as a cyborg spy who discovers a conspiracy extending throughout all layers of modern life. Deus Ex is held as one of the best games ever made and it’s one of my favourite games too. I know it inside-out, back-to-front and end-to-end.
Which is why I was so nervous when I met Warren at GamesCom a few years ago. I was there to talk about Epic Mickey 2 and that’s how I got introduced to this guy…
This is Oswald the Rabbit, a character created by Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney in 1927. That means he was created before Mickey Mouse.
There’s a complicated history behind Oswald, but the short version is that Disney created him in partnership with a movie studio and when it fell apart the studio kept the rights. Disney then created Mickey Mouse because it needed new characters.
Disney has since bought the rights back, but essentially Oswald himself is a deleted scene for Disney. I found all this out in my interview with Warren. If there’s one thing you should know about Warren, it’s that he’s a huge Disney nerd.
In fact, Warren said a big reason he started working with Disney after a career defined by more gritty games was that he wanted access to their archives. These, he said, were huge vaults which contained everything Disney had done, from scripts to artwork.
It was in these archives that Warren started to find out more about Oswald and hit on the idea of reintroducing the character to modern audiences. Disney’s deleted scene inspired him to make Epic Mickey as a vehicle for achieving this.
Now, I’m not a big Disney nerd, but the idea of these archives sounded interesting to me and I complained to Warren how it’s a shame game developers don’t do the same thing with their work. And that’s how we start talking about this guy…
This is Dolph Briscoe.
Dolph was a very important Texas rancher who became a very important Texas governor. What makes him very important to me though is that he has part of the University of Texas named after him.
It’s called The Dolph Briscoe Center of American History. And that’s where Warren not only archived his deleted scenes, but also persuaded others to do the same. People such as Richard Garriott and Chris Roberts, for example.
This archive is completely open to the public. It’s free to access and it contains everything from scripts and design documents to code samples and memorabilia. I’ve been telling people about this archive for two years now and the stewards tell me I’m still the only journalist to have accessed it.
Which is why nobody has ever told you about these…
These are two of six outlined plots for an unnamed and unmade version of Deus Ex 3.
This is not an early version of Human Revolution, which was made by a different studio. This is the original team’s original plans for a third game in the series. Both would have been set before Deus Ex: Invisible War.
The first is about an augmented Black Ops soldier who goes AWOL upon discovering he’s been used for dodgy dealings. His handlers find him and threaten him with either court martial or his wife’s execution if he doesn’t do one final job.
What’s interesting is that the missions would have fluctuated between flashbacks and new stories. Harvey Smith, designer of the original Deus Ex, used this structure years later on his next game, Blacksite: Area 51. Harvey didn’t actually work on this version of Deus Ex 3, but it’s interesting to see the idea preluded.
The second story begins immediately after the ending for Deus Ex in which you destroy all global communications. In this story you’d investigate the collapse and try to save your sister from a cult which arises in the chaos.
This is oddly similar to one of the original plots for BioShock, which also had you saving a woman from a cult. Again, BioShock’s Ken Levine worked with the Deus Ex team before and, while he wasn’t involved with Deus Ex 3, these ideas were obviously on other minds too.
Now, you may think storing deleted scenes in universities is a bit overkill. And don’t developers store their stuff personally, in portfolios?
Yes, that does happen and here’s concept art from the original Deus Ex from such a portfolio. Here you can see designs for a female player character that wasn’t available in the finished game, as well as concept box art. (More about the Deleted Scenes of the original Deus Ex)
But the trouble with personal archives is that they’re much more fragile. Not every developer wants to or can store their work – and even then, they can only store their own contributions. The information ends up fragmented. There are at least two semi-finished but completely lost levels from the original Deus Ex, for example.
That’s why, if professional archives aren’t an option, it’s better to release content publicly, like this…
This is Doom. Or, rather, the design document for the original version of Doom.
You can see character and story outlines which show Doom was initially intended to be much closer to Left 4 Dead than anything else. It was an episodic, open-world FPS that had four players co-operating to rescue their friend from a demon-infested military base.
You can also see further proof that developers are crap at choosing character names. (More about the Deleted Scenes of Doom)
Thankfully, because Doom’s files were released online, you can see much more than that…
These are screenshots from Doom’s prototypes, which you can still find online. They show how the game changed, aggressively scaling back until it was the Doom we know today.
You can see the earliest version (bottom left) was info-heavy to support the intended features, for example. There’s an inventory and mini-map for tracking allies, for example. Later versions have none of this.
This change comes down to one person. Tom Hall was the one who designed the original vision for Doom, but during development he was opposed by other voices on the team.
One of these was John Carmack, who seems to have been less interested in the story and more on driving technical innovation…
Another was John Romero, who said in a Doom post-mortem later that his issue with Tom’s design was the focus on realistic, unfun levels…
So, Hall was eventually forced out and Doom changed into the game we all know today. It’s only because Hall released these files that we know so much about how the game could have progressed.
As a journalist, that’s a wake-up call for me. Doom is one of the most important games of our generation and the only reason we know this story is because a developer leaked it online years later?
Bluntly, this leads me back to my original point. Why do I think we all have a responsibility to get involved with these deleted scenes of gaming? The answer lies with this guy…
This is Warren Spector.
Warren is a game designer. Beyond Deus Ex and Epic Mickey, he’s worked on games such as Ultima Underworld, Wing Commander and Thief 3 – some of the best and most important games in our still-evolving medium.
Warren is a collaborator. He’s worked with and shaped the careers of such people as Harvey Smith (Dishonored), Richard Garriot (Ultima), Doug Church (Portal), Chris Roberts (Star Citizen), Ken Levine (BioShock) and many more.
Warren is a teacher. His lectures at the University of Texas may have inspired the next generation of games industry professionals – and what he said at GamesCom certainly inspired me to change my approach to journalism.
But one day Warren will go from that, to this…
This is a picture of Walt Disney’s memorial, by the way.
This is why we have a responsibility to preserve deleted scenes. Because if we don’t, they’ll one day be lost forever.
Without them, we’ll be unable to build an understanding of how to make games and games studios better; we’ll lose the collective history of our medium and we’ll let our most important stories go untold.
Every day we don’t do this we do a disservice not only to ourselves but also to our medium as a whole. And it’s the developers and gamers in the years to come that will suffer.
Thank you for listening.
Thanks to Michael Cawley for his help.
Tell me what you think…