I’ve been making games for 31 years (32 in September this year!). I’m probably best known for working on Deus Ex and Disney Epic Mickey, but I’ve worked on a bunch of stuff – several Ultima games… the long-forgotten Martian Dreams and Wings of Glory (games of which I’m inordinately proud), Underworld 1 and 2, System Shock, Thief: Deadly Shadows and more. I’ve also worked on lots of other concepts that never saw the light of day.

I’ve had the chance to work with some of the most talented people in the business – Richard Garriott, Chris Roberts, Paul Neurath, Doug Church, Harvey Smith, Paul Weaver and others. (Can you tell I like lists?... and ellipses?...) I’ve worked for a bunch of companies – Steve Jackson Games, TSR, Origin, Electronic Arts, Looking Glass, Ion Storm and Junction Point.

I’m now the Director of the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy in the Moody College of Communication at The University of Texas at Austin (whew, that’s a mouthful) where we’re focusing on training future creative directors and producers. In fact, several of the DSGA students are here helping this Reddit-challenged guy in the ways of AMA's. Thank god...

And I’m stupidly proud of an Honorary Doctorate I got from Columbia College of Chicago and Lifetime Achievement awards from Cartoons on the Bay and the Game Developers Choice Awards. Oh, yeah, as you’ve probably already figured out, I can be a wordy bastard!

This is my first AMA and I’m totally looking forward to answering your questions.

Proof: https://twitter.com/Warren_Spector/status/593838444276678656 The exciting scene in my office RIGHT NOW! http://imgur.com/BuW4YHk Full disclosure I'm the ONLY one answering these questions. These crazy kids are helping me sort through the questions so I don't drown!

Well, I think I've answered all the questions you folks have for me, so I'm going to call it quits for now. I'll try to check back later today or tomorrow to see if anyone comes up with anything else. It's been fun! Ceeya!

Comments: 636 • Responses: 80  • Date: 

GordanGmanFreeman83 karma

Thank you for your work on Deus Ex. The influence of your work will be everlasting on gaming.

What are your feelings towards engines such as current Unity3D and UDK that enables anyone to make games?

WarrenSpector73 karma

Thanks for the kind words about Deus Ex. It freaks me out that people still talk about it and even play it fifteen years after it came out.

My feelings about the availability of engines democratizes game development in a way I find super exciting. The fact that they're free is just the cherry on the icing on the cake (or whatever that expression is).

In fact, the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy participants are happily working in Unity on the game they're making - The Calm Before

GordanGmanFreeman11 karma

Thanks for the kind words about Deus Ex. It freaks me out that people still talk about it and even play it fifteen years after it came out.

I still give it a play through once a year or two.

My feelings about the availability of engines democratizes game development in a way I find super exciting. The fact that they're free is just the cherry on the icing on the cake (or whatever that expression is).

I absolutely love Unity for that reason. Some software cost hundreds if not thousands, so when unity is free until you're successful it's really helpful.

In fact, the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy participants are happily working in Unity on the game they're making - The Calm Before

The Calm Before looks really neat and unique, will we be seeing a commercial release?

Thank you for your time and contributions.

WarrenSpector27 karma

The Calm Before doesn't just look neat; it IS neat. Since you asked about commercial release, we'll release it. How's that for service? (It's going to be free to download from the DSGA website and The Calm Before website. Keep your eye there.)

botherer60 karma

I recently replayed Deus Ex for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, chronicling my time, to see if it was still the best game ever. And gosh, it's still possible it is. Do you think this is down to the exceptional nature of Deus Ex, or a poverty in the ambition of games since?

WarrenSpector58 karma

I think there have been a bunch of great games since. Maybe not as many as I'd like - okay, DEFINITELY not as many as I'd like, but I wouldn't use the word "poverty."

I'll leave it to others to say if DX remains exceptional. I think I have a big enough ego and enough love for my old DX team to say we did something special 15 years ago. Today, who the heck knows? You tell me.

Scotch_Pie5 karma

I enjoyed your writing of your experience with replaying Deus Ex. This is one of the reasons I never want to play it again, even though in my head it was the best game ever.

WarrenSpector46 karma

Hey, go back and play it again. Replay with new, unique experiences is what the game was all about. I had a non-gamer friend who played through it seven times. And one guy came up to me at GDC, dressed as J.C. Denton and told me he'd played through DX 63 times. He scared me.

25O122 karma

Did you know you can finish the game without using any items, augs, skills, money and any previous knowledge of codes and passwords( and no cheating of course ).

This means the game can be completed solely using medbots, boxes, tnt-boxes, and every code and passwords must be found in the same playthrough.

WarrenSpector5 karma

There were a TON of ways to finish DX. That was the point. Pity the poor testers who had to play through never firing a shot... or never being seen by anyone... or never using an augmentation. I don't know how they survived the experience. It would have driven me mad. But testing the most extreme playstyles gave us confidence all the less pure playstyles would work so the edge testing was critical.

tylerthedesigner57 karma

Hi Warren! I have two questions for you related to the game industry at large. What do you think of the 'crunch until you drop' culture that is being largely perpetuated by the larger AAA studios, and its affect on the game industry culture & who does it exclude? Also, what are your thoughts on the current 'race to the bottom' in game pricing, and how its changing the landscape of game scope and revenue options?

WarrenSpector91 karma

Hey, Tyler, get the fuck back to work! You have a DSGA game to finish! (Just come to my office and ask me your question!)

WarrenSpector7 karma

Hey, upon reflection, my attempt at humor here pretty much failed miserably. Tyler's been a valued participant in the DSGA program and I knew I could have some fun with his question. Pretty lame, in retrospect. I should have just said "get back to work." No need to curse. (Okay, still joking and still not funny. Damn it.)

WarrenSpector6 karma

Joking aside, by telling Tyler to get back to work, I inadvertently answered his question about the pervasiveness of crunch in game development culture!

info_player_start45 karma

Hey Warren, thanks for doing an AMA. Could you please tell us more about Junction Point Studios' cancelled Half-Life title? Also, do you happen to remember anything about Looking Glass Studios' video game project involving a cult located inside an abandoned asteroid mining colony? Bonus: Here's a cool photo of you while you were at E3 1999.

WarrenSpector30 karma

Wow, that's a cool pic! It was a thing for a German magazine or website or something with a bunch of great people. I remember sitting there thinking "What the heck am I doing here with these guys!"

info_player_start8 karma

I wish I was clear enough in my previous message. The cancelled Looking Glass Studios Game (on the Dark Engine) was called "Junction Point". I know this was the codename for System Shock 2, but this is something completely different. This might help you recall it: Steve Powers' portfolio

WarrenSpector21 karma

Ah, I was thrown by your description of the story. That was just a small, small part of what we were trying to do. I totally recall the Junction Point game (and spent many nights worrying that someone would come along and tell me I couldn't call my next company that!). Though it evolved over time, the ultimate plan was to make an MMO unlike all the others that were out at the time. Frankly, there are a ton of ideas in the design doc we generated that STILL haven't been tried. If I were an MMO guy, I might give those ideas a whirl, but I'm pretty much not an MMO guy.

Xifer-D-NAND44 karma

What do you think of the new Deus Ex games and are there any Japanese game designers you like?

WarrenSpector131 karma

I think people expect me to be pissed about new Deus Ex games that I'm not making but it's really not like that at all. I'm just excited (thrilled might be a better word) that I was part of the creation of something that's bigger than myself, that has a life of its own.

What did I think of DX:HR? Well, for starters, I don't finish a lot of games and I finished DX:HR. That'll tell you something. When I DID finish it, I kinda sat back and thought, "Wow, I just had a Deus Ex experience." It sounded like DX and felt like DX. It was pretty cool.

The Eidos Montreal guys made some design decisions I wouldn't have made, but overall, I was really pleased.

Now, having said that, my one regret is that the movie deal I had back in 2000 never made it to the screen and now there's no chance it ever will, 'cause DX, the original, is kind of old news.

WarrenSpector149 karma

Forgot about the Japanese designers question: Does anyone not love, admire and respect Shigeru Miyamoto. He came and visited the Disney Interactive booth at E3 once and I stood within 6 inches of him and couldn't bring myself to say anything. I was in awe. A couple of years later, I presented Epic Mickey at the Nintendo press conference at E3 and, backstage Mr. Miyamoto touched my arm and I instantly became a better designer. No fooling.

Sandvich1840 karma

Hello Warren!

Thank you for doing an AMA. Could you please shine some light on Junction Point Studios' cancelled Half-Life title?

WarrenSpector170 karma

I'm not sure how badly I'm going to get sued by someone for talking about this, but here goes.

Junction Point had a project cancelled (we can talk about that, too, if you want). There was no money. Basically, Valve came in like a white knight and offered us some work on a Half Life episode set in a part of the Half Life universe that hadn't been explored deeply. In addition, just because my team couldn't just do anything the easy way, we decided to add a new tool to the Half Life universe - the magnet gun. We came up with some COOL stuff to do with the magnet gun. Valve decided to move in another direction but I still wish they'd do something with the magnet gun. It was fun.

Sandvich1840 karma

Was the Magnet Gun a variation of the Gravity Gun or something entirely new?

WarrenSpector74 karma

The magnet gun was entirely different than the gravity gun. The two would have been super complementary.

OneLameStabber36 karma

1) in the original Deus ex you have the chance to stick with the Brutal policy of the Unatco for a while but then you are forced to stick with the NSF, some hidden audio files hint that there was the intention to give to the player the choice to stick with the Unatco is it true? 2)You seem to care a lot about "player empowerment", do you think modern games are developing this aspect enough?, why do you think it's so important? 3)What do you think went wrong with Invisible War and Epic mikey 2?, what would you change about those 2 if you had the chance?

Thank you so much for doing this btw, Deus ex is imo the best game of all time, and it's a shame that you are not being so active in the gaming industry right now, don't waste your Genius talent man!

WarrenSpector31 karma

Taking your questions one at a time:

I don't think you can EVER have enough player empowerment as long as it's in the context of an overarching story created by someone with some real storytelling talent. (I'm not a huge fan of purely sandbox games...).

I don't think anything "went wrong" with Invisible War or Epic Mickey 2. They were attempts to address specific concerns or express specific creative desires and were the best games they could be given limitations of time and budget. I'll always be proud of the creative and technical risks those teams took, how hard they worked and how committed they were to each other and to the games.

And thanks for the kind words.

ChuckEye30 karma

Why haven't you, Richard Garriott, and Steve Jackson done a game together that would demolish all games that have come before it?

WarrenSpector56 karma

If the three of us ever worked together the world would explode in a matter/anti-matter conflagration of epic proportions! (Actually, I can't speak for Richard, but I'd love to do a TOON game... or an Illuminati game... or an Autoduel game. That'd be awesome.

skner24 karma

Hi, Warren! Thanks for doing an AMA :)

So, you often said that game makers should focus on making believable characters instead of believable guns, which is I wholeheartedly agree with.

But for that, one crucial (and tricky) thing to do is implementing believable conversation between player and characters.

Many modern games are using dialog trees or likes for it, and I think it's an inferior solution even than keyword systems in games like Ultima 5~6 (which you are worked on) and Wizardry 8.

How do you think games can be improved on this aspect? Should we wait the advent of super intelligent AI? Or do you think this could be achieved with some elegant design in near future?

WarrenSpector46 karma

This is another one of those things - better ways to do conversations - that I'd do if I knew how. I think it's pathetic that we've made so little progress in the last thirty years. I mean, we're still doing branching trees but NOW WE'VE ADDED TIMERS! Woohoo!

I'm counting on some indie developer somewhere coming up with a way to do conversations that blows my mind and makes me feel inadequate.

usaokay23 karma

Hi War Inspector.

What was your favorite game you have worked on and why was it the Bullwinkle and Rocky Role-Playing Party Game?

WarrenSpector43 karma

Someone remembers the freakin' Bullwinkle and Rocky Party Roleplaying Game? No way! I loved that game. Here's a secret (which I shouldn't share): Zeb Cook and I worked on that one. We were in NYC to see the old B&R cartoons (which weren't available for home viewing). After melting our brains by watching for 8 hours straight we went to a bar and just looked at each other and said, "We're screwed. There's no way to make a game about this!" Then we had a gin and tonic. And we started getting ideas. On about the third gin and tonic, we had some brainstorms - like hand puppets and spinners and we were off to the races. Only game (I know of) that was designed drunk. (Man, I'm never going to work again!)

usaokay11 karma

If this was how you managed to envision the idea for that game, I'd hate to think how much alcohol was consumed during Deus Ex's development!

DiggityDongs23 karma

Favorite Ion Storm debauchery memory? Favorite "drinking with the game magazine crowd" memory?

WarrenSpector66 karma

Favorite drinking story? I never asked for this...

WarrenSpector96 karma

Okay, here's the drinking story. I was giving a lecture at the New School in NYC. After, I was hanging out with some of the attendees (which I always) do (it's fun hanging out with gamers...). A couple of them asked if I wanted to go to a bar and hangout there (which I never do...) but for some reason I said yes. Hours later, I was sitting there with a very drunk gamer who gave me a hard time about how DX was right wing propaganda. Before I could respond, another DX fan came up and said "Right wing propaganda? It was left wing crap all the way." Funny thing was that they were both right. It all depended on how you played. That was a drink-driven super-cool moment for me.

OfficialMeskY17 karma

Why do you find appeal in a "HD" remake by Square-Enix when fans have gone above and beyond what your average industry HD remake consists of - without charging players (obviously) - in the form of various graphical update mods (HDTP, New Vision, DirectX renderers)?

WarrenSpector34 karma

I want so much more than just HD graphics. I want a truly updated game - grapics, sound, UI, everything except the story and gameplay. That's what I want to play. I mean, it's hard for me to look at the old DX and not wish I'd made it in the 21st century.

GingerCactus16 karma

Wow, thank you for doing this AMA Warren! I don't usually post in AMA's but Deus Ex is my all-time favourite game and I couldn't pass this up.

My question is about the cut content from Deus Ex - I guess this contains spoilers for anyone who hasn't played it: Were there any plans for options to not betray UNATCO, and were there ever any planned story reasons for the White House and Moon levels that ended up getting scrapped?

WarrenSpector27 karma

I thought I already replied to this but my answer seems to have disappeared. Let me try again.

We talked about the UNATCO scenario but decided against it. That was one of the reasons we tried to open things up even more in Invisible War. As far as the White House goes, we actually built a test mission set there (built the White House from actual blueprints!) but, at the end of the day, it just didn't fit the story we ended up telling. It kind of brought things to a distracting halt.

The biggest thing we cut, probably, was the Russo-Mexican war and a large-scale attack on Austin, Texas. That would have been insanity to try to implement!

Alunar16 karma

Hey Warren! I am a giant fan of Deus Ex! The only tattoo on my body is that iconic logo, and I want to firstly thank you for shaping so many of my philosophies.

I was wondering, could you give us a detailed opinion of how you feel about the new DX's by Square Enix? I remember in interviews they said they consulted you, and your (or someone else's) responses were "Don't fuck this up." I think they're doing a good job so far!

WarrenSpector30 karma

Deus Ex tattoo? That's even more hardcore than I am!

GlassesOff15 karma

What are some great easter eggs in your games that have or have never been found?

WarrenSpector47 karma

Well, my favorite is that every game I've worked on has a basketball court in it, where you can actually shoot a basket. They're all hidden and I make sure my teams don't tell me where they are so I have the fun of finding them. The DSGA participants put one in The Calm Before and I haven't found it yet, damn it.

There's also a dance party somewhere in Deus Ex...

st1ka15 karma

I came here expecting a War Inspector, instead I got Warren Spector. Did you even inspect any wars? More importantly would you ever consider developing an Ultima Underworld 3?

WarrenSpector21 karma

I have inspected many wars but can't talk about it. Sworn to secrecy.

Would I develop an Underworld 3? I'd love to. Right now, I'm consulting on a game called Underworld Ascendent which is being worked on by some members of the original Underworld team. I'm hoping/confident that will scratch your UW3 itch.

TheManTh3yCallJayne14 karma

I remember when epic Mickey was first announce, there was concept art that showed a really dark looking Disney game. I was pumped about this but was sad that this dark game never saw a release. What happened during production that changed this idea to a more lighthearted one? And will it be possible that a game like that could still come to fruition?

Images of concept art mentioned: http://static.giantbomb.com/uploads/original/0/3569/1094170-03_noscale.jpg

WarrenSpector32 karma

That concept art was leaked and never intended for public consumption. I had the team do that because I needed to know where the line of acceptability was for Disney. What would they be comfortable with and what would they not be comfortable with. The way to find where a line is is to cross it. By a lot. Do something really out there and have them go, "No. Too far." Then do something a little less radical... and less radical until, frankly, you get where you want and they don't even realize you've gotten there. I think we pushed things further, darkness-wise, than anyone thought possible.

Will a game in that crazy, over-the-top, dark as the pit style ever see the light of day? Probably not from Disney!

Psyladine14 karma

Hi Warren,

In one piece of yours I read years ago you referred to your works not as video games but as "interactive simulations". What difference do you believe exists between the two?

WarrenSpector38 karma

I just prefer games that are less puzzle oriented or "single-solution" oriented and games that offer deeper simulations. Simulations allow players to explore not just a space but a "possibility space." They can make their own fun... tell their own stories... solve problems the way they want and see the consequences of their choices. That's the thing that games can do that no other medium in human history has been able to do. It's kind of a moral obligation to do what makes you unique, isn't it?

SenatorMcGibbens12 karma

Hey Warren, thanks for doing this AMA!

You mentioned you're working with people now to train future creative directors. What do you think is one of the biggest challenges in learning creative leadership?

WarrenSpector19 karma

There are so many challenges in learning creative leadership we have to take nine months to teach them! The biggest one? Probably how to maintain a consistent vision when you're working through a team of people that might be 800 people. (I'm never working on a game that has 800 people working on it again. Ever.)

liamquane11 karma

Hi Do you believe a gender divide exists in gaming? Thank you :~)

WarrenSpector63 karma

Sure. Just look around any game development studio or publisher. Just look at games and how many strong female characters there are. It's pathetic. I mean, let's just ignore half the population. We're idiots.

howardcs10 karma

There was a lot of drama during your years at Ion Storm. Are there any stories from that period you can tell us that haven't already been written about?

WarrenSpector21 karma

Drama? What drama? ;-)

coldfire20110 karma

Hey Warren! Huge fan Deus Ex is my favorite game of all time! I have 2:

1) What did you think of the Mankind Divided Teaser? 2) Have you ever played the tabletop Arkham Horror? I think it would translate well into sleuth-y looking glass esque video game.

WarrenSpector33 karma

I thought the Mankind Divided trailer was pretty violence-o-rific, which bugged me a little. I mean, the DX game was never about killing stuff. It was about picking your own playstyle, which MIGHT involve killing stuff. Given how well DX:HR did at the whole choice and consequence idea I'm hoping - and have confidence - the actual game will be a little more in the playstyle matters mold. In trailers, you just have to give people the most action-packed stuff you can, I assume. The best thing about the trailer was that it made clear the fact that there'll be a powerful story that's "about" something important. That's totally Deus Ex-y and made me very happy. I'll definitely be playing Mankind Divided. Ask me then.

specques9 karma

In an interview a while ago you said something to the effect of 'a lot of games are a mile wide but only an inch deep.' I can't actually remember the question exactly but I suppose you would've been talking about player autonomy, about how their quests will take them on grand adventures but give them few if any real choices that lead down fleshed-out paths.

What would be a game you've played that comes to mind as an example of real player agency, and how important is this aspect of game design to you?

WarrenSpector30 karma

There's probably an entire design course in the answer to this question, but at the high level, I just look at games (which I will NOT name) that talk about open world stuff and just think they're open to the extent you can walk around and do different stuff, but if you REALLY stop to think about it, the range of options is fairly small BECAUSE they're trying to simulate entire worlds. You just can't do it - at least not well enough to suit me.

Instead, I try to make relatively small, concentrated environments that allow players to really explore - go into every building, talk to every person, pick every lock, kill (or don't kill) everything that moves... In a smaller environment you can do much more. Sometimes less is more.

I still want to make the One Block Roleplaying Game someday.

selib8 karma

Hey Warren! Thanks for doing this AMA! :)

If a publisher gave you unlimited budget and full freedom, what game would you make with that?

WarrenSpector30 karma

A deeply simulated, musical comedy.

WarrenSpector20 karma

I'm serious as a heart attack about this...

syn0n8 karma

Hello Warren! Broken record, etc, but I'm a huge fan of Deus Ex (and Invisible War!).

One of the things I've found since I first played the game, almost 12 years ago, is how many times I hear about something in real life, or on the news, that brings me back to a little storyline or fact from the DX world. I was reading this New York Times story (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/24/health/chinese-scientists-edit-genes-of-human-embryos-raising-concerns.html?_r=0) about the genome editing of human embryos, and I thought, "My God, Versalife, biomods, it's really not that far away!"

Do you end up stumbling on things in real life that you threw into Deus Ex just on a whim and it ended up being something that you recognized in real life?

WarrenSpector13 karma

The way the world is reflecting what we came up with freaks me out and pleases me beyond my capability to express.

cowfish138 karma

I was curious about how you handle negative outcomes in digital games, where the player can reload the game and avoid that negative outcome for a more favorable one. Do you compel a player to keep on the same path by giving them substantial content or a minor reward? Can you circumvent it simply having great writing? Or do you never make an outcome purely negative and always aim for a black and white perspective?

WarrenSpector25 karma

That's like ten questions in one, dude! Let's see what I can do with it.

The funny thing is that my games actually encourage people to try something out, reload and try for a "better" result. To be honest, I kinda hate that. I just want people to play the game the way they want to and find their own fun. But once a player buys a game, it's theirs and they can do whatever they want with it.

I NEVER compel a player to take any one path. That's SO not my thing. It's about players finding their own way, their own story through the game.

Great writing can make a huge difference to a game - just look at what Sheldon Pacotti did on Deus Ex. A lot... most... okay, maybe all of the "intelligence" people see in Deus Ex is down to him. Bow down before the mighty Sheldon!

bonananza8 karma

Hi Warren! I wanted to ask you about your recent return to academia - is the experience living up to what you had hoped? It may be (okay, definitely) early but would you consider the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy a success thus far?

WarrenSpector13 karma

When Junction Point shut down I kinda took some time to think about what I wanted to do next. I had game ideas and thought about another start-up, but I'd already done that and wanted some new challenges. Academia has certainly offered me new challenges! And the opportunity to build a game dev program from scratch doesn't come along every day.

Is the experience living up to my expectations? Yep. Working with the students is great. (Dealing with University bureaucracy not so much...). I've been surprised how attached you get to students. And I like talking, so lecturing has been fun - I've given lots of talks at conferences and universities, but lecturing on a really regular basis is a ton more work. I like keeping busy. Is the DSGA a success? I think we've done well given that I warned the students that this first year was DSGA Beta 1.0 and they'd help us make it even better in future years. We've learned a lot, that's for sure.

Dannilus7 karma

Who were some of your mentors that helped you maintain your focus in the games industry?

WarrenSpector14 karma

I was lucky enough to have several mentors in the game business who taught me a TON.

Steve Jackson gave me an "undergraduate" education in game design.

Richard Garriott and Paul Neurath were the chairs of my "masters" degree committee.

Rich Hilleman taught me how to be a leader (assuming anyone thinks of me as a leader!)

I can't tell you how important it is to find mentors and learn everything you can from them.

Terence_McKenna7 karma

What is your personal favorite game of all time?

WarrenSpector14 karma

Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past (which is weird since it's a kind of game I'd probably never make but as a gamer I totally love it)

HyperDan20007 karma

Can there be a Deus Ex Machina Game?

What has been your favourite game to work on and favourite game to play?

Thanks for your AMA Warren. You're a boss!

WarrenSpector19 karma

I'm a boss? Does that mean you're going to beat me to get to the next level?

My favorite game to work on was either Deus Ex or Disney Epic Mickey. DX because it came closer than anything I've ever worked on to what I imagined it would be when I closed my eyes at the beginning of the project and imagined what it should be. Epic Mickey because how many times in your life do you get to work with THE MOST ICONIC CHARACTER ON EARTH? And I think the team did Mickey proud. (And Oswald the Lucky Rabbit! We got to reintroduce Oswald!)

northern_reach7 karma

I heard a rumor that Disney would have kept Junction Point open if you had left the company. Is there any truth to this claim?

WarrenSpector11 karma

None whatsoever. I've never actually mentioned this before, but I even volunteered to quit or be fired if it would keep the studio open. Disney just wanted to move in a different direction. Probably the right decision for them, frankly. No regrets. I had a great time working for Disney.

White0006 karma

Hi! Thanks for an AMA! I was always wondering is there something you would like to change in your previous games (especially Deus Ex, since, as we know it now, it's almost perfect gameplay-wise - it didn't even age as poorly as some other titles) that you didn't think of during the developement? Is there something you realised after the release that you'd like to come back and fix?

You've also already mentioned that Eidos Montreal guys made some decisions you wouldn't make. What are those particular choices? What in Human Revolution made you go "yeah, that's Deus Ex!" and what felt wrong in your opinion?

WarrenSpector20 karma

Well, let me be clear - I never said (and never would say) the DX:HR team made "wrong" decisions. Just different ones.

I mean, I'm not a fan of modular cover systems. Don't see the point. Clearly the DX:HR team disagreed.

I'm a big believer in giving players at least one "free" weapon, one that doesn't require energy to use. There's a reason why every game seems to have a crowbar. In DX:HR every weapon required energy. What happens when you run out?

And I thought the AI was too unforgiving. Once you failed a stealth attempt, the AI got really aggressive and took a long time to time out and forget about you. I felt like a failed stealth attempt turned the game into a shooter, which kind of undercut my playstyle.

But again, THESE WEREN'T WRONG DECISIONS. Just different.

Kredbull6 karma

Hi there first let me congratulate you working on the Deus ex, one of my favourite series of gaming.

My question is, were you a Fan of P.T (silent hills) and is it a missed opportunity to enhance a genre now that this title is canceled?

WarrenSpector4 karma

The DSGA students never stop talking about it. That's annoying. That's how I feel about it.

pbrand6 karma

In 2012 you said that "ultraviolence has to stop" in the games industry. Games in general have long used violence as context for mechanics, even going back thousands of years for Go and Chess in terms of piece removal from the gamestate.

Why do you think game designers have largely failed to popularize alternative systems? What can the game industry do to systematize/gameify non-violent actions?

WarrenSpector15 karma

It's just so easy to simulate the pulling of a virtual trigger. And positioning one pixel over another pixel kind of simulates the act of aiming. Violence is easy (and, as you say, it's been a part of games for thousands of years - in fact, it's been a part of all entertainment and art forever).

I just think some games - lots of games - take it to far, where it's in bad taste. And too many games just pat you on the back for engaging in violent behavior. And there are just so many potentially interesting things we're NOT doing that we COULD be doing.

At some level I don't really care about violent games. Go make 'em. Go play 'em. Whatever. I just wish we'd focus a little more on other aspects of the human condition.

mitch34826 karma

Thanks for the AMA. My question may seem a bit provocative, but I need to take this opportunity to ask this.

This fact from the "Did You Know? Gaming" YouTube channel had a fact that had my immediate attention. In Deus Ex, the graphics and disc space limitations of the time resulted in the removal of the World Trade Center from the city skyline in the game. At that time, the missing buildings were attributed to a terrorist attack in the game universe. The 9/11 attacks would take place a little more than a year later.

Did you know about this graphics issue when the game was under development and permit this explanation to be made official? Secondly, how did you react when the attacks actually happened on 9/11?

WarrenSpector14 karma

Actually, the missing World Trade Center was a result of an artist leaving them out. It was a mistake. Plan and simple. Of course, after 9/11, people read more into it than they should have.

Falkus5 karma

Hey, Warren!

The Deus Ex series was one of the driving forces that made me choose video games as a career path. I think the writing in that series is phenomenal. As someone who wants to become a writer in the industry, what is the biggest factor you look for when hiring new talent? Thanks for doing this AMA!

WarrenSpector6 karma

I'm learning that my experience differs from other people's so don't take this as gospel, but I've had the most success finding programmers who are also writers. I've found that most writer-writers aren't well-versed in INTERACTIVE storytelling, which has technical requirements unlike other media.

Asrafil5 karma

Hey Warren, thanks for DX, it's still among my top 5 games along with Planescape Torment, Morrowind, Max Payne and Shenmue. (all released close to year 2000, what a time to be a gamer!) Now the questions! What's your favourite videogame of the last 5 years? And What's your favourite story in a videogame?

WarrenSpector13 karma

My favorite game of the last five years? Probably Dishonored.

My favorite video game story? Probably The Walking Dead. Maybe Heavy Rain. But those work because they're so minimally interactive - terrific, but limited. It's relatively easy to tell a story when your script completely delimits what players can/can't do and where they can/can't go.

Flawfinger5 karma

What do you think of the most recent Thief game?

WarrenSpector21 karma

Haven't played it.

AiwassAeon4 karma

Hello Mr. Spector,

First I'd like to tell you that the original Deus Ex game is one of my favorite games of all time (and I played it in 2011!!!)

My question to you is how did your team design such intricate levels ? Why ?

WarrenSpector6 karma

How did the team design such intricate levels? Lots of hard work! Lots of creativity. Total commitment to the vision. There was a level of commitment to the vision that rarely happens on teams. I saw it on Ultima Underworld and System Shock and Deus Ex. When it happens it's really special. And once you've experienced it once you spend the rest of your days trying to experience it again, let me tell you.

Xenomorph-794 karma

Hi Mr. Spector!

When i was younger, i was absolutely hyped up for epic mickey; it was just so different and original, and still is to this day. from the minute i played for the first time, to playing it again years later, it is still a masterpiece. i want to create games like this!

I have a couple of questions:

does the epic mickey franchise still have a future? i would love to see a third one.

How do I get into game development(wanna work at Double Fine)?

Could epic mickey have worked better as a film? the story is very suited for it, especially in imax.

How was working at Disney for you?

I have a personal one here: If you can, could you send the art of epic mickey or the art of oddworld to me? I would love to own those, especially oddworld, as they are one of my main inspirations for wanting to join the industry. Thank you for being here, and hope to see more cool stuff from you in the future!

WarrenSpector6 karma

Does Epic Mickey have a future? You'd have to ask Disney about that. Honestly, I'd be a little surprised if there were any more games in the series but I guess you never know.

How do you get into game development? There are a ton of ways. I think the key is finding your passion - programming, art, design and become really expert in that. The competition for jobs is fierce. Make games on your own. Make lots of games. Prove to potential employers what you can do. Come to the DSGA... ;-)

Could Epic Mickey have worked better as a film? Better, hard to say but probably not. Could it have worked as a film? You bet. I actually put together a trailer and a budget and had a team lined up to make the Epic Mickey film but Disney didn't bite. I REALLY wanted to make that movie...

xaduha4 karma

Hi Warren,

What are your views on crowdsourcing? I for one think that there is a market for more games like Deus Ex. But publishers like Square Enix will steer to more popular/profitable markets and the next "spiritual successor" isn't going to be that close to the mark.

WarrenSpector14 karma

I think crowdsourcing is great for some people but not for me. I mean, never say never, but I can't imagine having to satisfy 10,000 masters. I'd rather serve one (a publisher or other funding source).

llliterateChild4 karma

Hey Warren! Deus Ex is my favorite game. After I played through it a second time I developed a knack for finding glitches. What is the biggest/most unexpected glitch you have seen in any of your games after they were released?

WarrenSpector8 karma

Check out the ragdolling on dead characters in Thief: Deadly Shadows.

Or check out Savage Empire where a bug allowed you to take one step in the game world and go directly to the endgame.

Or the bug in Ultima VI where, if you crossed a region boundary on a boat, the boat split in half and Lord British turned up somewhere in the gameworld as a decorative sword.

liamquane4 karma

How do you think society sees the typical gamer now? do you think it has changed over the last few years? :~)

WarrenSpector15 karma

I think there's a still a subset of older folks we should ignore who still think of games as kid-stuff and a waste of time. But today pretty much everyone's a gamer. If you want to find the weirdo in the world, look for the non-gamer. Time will solve all perception problems. Just wait it out.

yumcake4 karma

What are the greatest differences you see in the industry you came up in, vs. the modern industry that new developers are just now entering and attempting to make a name for themselves? (In what ways is it easier/harder?)

WarrenSpector7 karma

Working with the DSGA students I'm AMAZED at how different the world is now from the world I started in. I think it's much harder to break in now than it was (gulp!) thirty+ years ago. As far as the actual changes go, it's obvious that the packaged retail business is a lot smaller piece of the pie than it used to be. Free-to-play... Games as service... Digital distribution... The rise of indie development. It's a different world, for sure.

Having said that, there are a lot of lessons still to be learned from folks who grew up in the old mainstream game development world. At some level, development is development, you know? And AAA game development is still a BIG part of gaming...

ficklepickledidly3 karma

What are your thoughts on the new DuckTales reboot?

WarrenSpector3 karma

You talking the cartoon or the possibility of comics? I'm totally jazzed about both. I can't wait to see new cartoons (hoping they adapt some Carl Barks stories like they did in the original series).

ficklepickledidly3 karma

Also, would you still like to work on a new DuckTales comic if given the chance?

WarrenSpector4 karma

Who do I have to kill to write more DuckTales comics? ;-)

I can't even tell you how much fun I had writing the four-issue story arc called Rightful Owners. I want to do more! Give me a call Disney.

TheRealMyLegGuy3 karma

Thank you for hosting an AMA Mr. Spector! I was wondering, now that you have worked on so many iconic games over the course of your career, what game(s) did you play and what actually sparked your ambition to start making games? Did you want to change certain things or did you want to make your original ideas a reality?

WarrenSpector6 karma

The games that inspired me were the old Atari game Star Raiders - the first first-person 3D game. I really felt like I was there, in the cockpit of a space fighter. And Ultima IV showed me that games could be about more than killing monsters and grabbing treasure. And, of course, D&D. We'd be nowhere without D&D. I think every game developer should face Lake Geneva, WI every day and acknowledge the god-like influence of Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

kaijerl3 karma

You're simply a legend dude, but I have to ask, What game do you think comes closest in similarity to your work that wasn't worked on by you?

WarrenSpector9 karma

I'm really not a legend - I'm a real boy!

What game comes closest? Probably Dishonored (no surprise - look at the team and you see a lot of DX-ers in the credits).

Zockman1753 karma

What did you do for EA?

WarrenSpector3 karma

I was an Executive Producer. I had multiple teams and operated as a profit center with a budget for the group, not just an individual game. But remember, my time with EA was actually at Origin after EA bought us. The experience of Origin after we became part of EA wasn't radically different from what Origin was before. At least not at first...

lantanadan3 karma

Hi Warren! Fellow developer here. I happen to be from the Boston area, and was having lunch with Tim from MassDigi. The discussion veered toward Looking Glass, and it made me wonder: what was your favorite restaurant over here?

WarrenSpector9 karma

There's a Chinese restaurant across the street from the MIT campus that I love but, damn it, I can't remember the name. They made something called Swan La Chow Chow (which I'm probably misspelling horribly). I also liked Redbones barbecue in Somerville.

Weird question...

nothinggood273 karma

Hi Warren,

Thanks for doing this!

I was wondering what your opinion is on the shift in games towards micro transactions, dlc, etc. In your opinion, do gamers still get their money's worth?

WarrenSpector25 karma

I think micro transactions are the spawn of the devil.

Geekual3 karma

What was your favorite part of Thief: Deadly Shadows? What was the hardest obstacle?

WarrenSpector6 karma

My favorite part of Thief: Deadly Shadows was the Shalebridge Cradle level designed by Jordan Thomas. It scared the piss out of me. I loved it.

idosc3 karma

Hello Warren, thank you so much for this AMA and for your wonderful games. I was wondering what are your next projects in the video game industry, and do you plan on going back to directing 3D platforming/adventure games like Epic Mickey? I feel like these two games were fantastic, pioneer additions to a personal favorite genre that's getting increasingly ignored over the years.

Good luck wherever you go, and please, frequent Facebook like you used to (or at least a bit more)! ;)

WarrenSpector5 karma

My plans for the foreseeable future are pretty much limited to the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy. I thought I'd work on some small side projects but this teaching thing is more time-consuming than I expected.

Perky_Penguin3 karma

Hi Warren,

I just wanted to say that I'm quite the fan of your work. And I can't think of a more coherent question. What's the best thing that you acquired while working for a studio? Did someone make you something and give it to you? Something you got from another vendor that was cool? Just something that lived on your desk for a while?

WarrenSpector4 karma

I've been given so many wonderful things over the years it's hard to single anything out. But some of my favorite things are a series of caricatures of me in costumes inspired by games I've worked on - one of my artists surprised me with those.

My Serpent Isle team gave me a poster they all signed and given how hard I worked those guys, I expected them to gift me with a little bottle of arsenic.

And an Epic Mickey fan made some from-scratch plush toys of Epic Mickey characters - that was mind-blowingly nice.

ThatsNoM00n3 karma

Hello Warren!

  1. You've championed a style of systemic design which, especially in the 2000's, was very rare. I feel like very systemic games in the style of Deus Ex and Theif are just now coming back into mode, though they're still not at the forefront. As money pumped into pushing pixels yields limiting returns, do you think systemic design will come back in a big way?

  2. You've been so fortunate (or savvy) to work on stuff that you just love. Disney properties, original IPs, just so many cool, innovative things. I speak with a lot of developers that have to spend a lot of years slogging away on licensed projects that they just loath in order to get the chance to work on something they have real passion for. Whats your advice for positioning yourself to work on things you love?

A little while ago you agreed to do an interview for my small website. You were really friendly and gave me excellent answers. I was really grateful for the opportunity and It was a great experience. Best of luck in Austin and with whatever comes next.

WarrenSpector2 karma

I like to think systemic design never went away. And nowadays I think you're seeing more of it than you have in a while. The reality is there's a greater variety in game styles now than maybe ever.

How do you carve out a career working only on projects you love, believe in and are creatively committed to? Be willing to walk away. I say, "if you don't want me to make the kinds of games I want to make the way I want to make them, let's part ways now and stay friends." I was always willing to go work in a bookstore rather than make crap. Still am.

TakeOffYourMask3 karma

Do you think an actual successor to System Shock 1&2 will ever happen?

And thanks for everything!

WarrenSpector3 karma

A lot of people call Bioshock a spiritual successor to System Shock. I can sort of see that. As far as an actual successor, I think you'd have to talk to EA about that. They own the rights.

Cadeamon2 karma

Hello Warren!

Thanks for doing the AMA. My question is in Honor of my 35th cycle around our glorious star today.... What did you get me? :)

WarrenSpector9 karma

Best wishes and an AMA. That good enough?

the_one_who_knocksz2 karma

What is the hardest point in developing a game, and any pointers for someone making their first game solo?

WarrenSpector6 karma

All of game development is hard. For me the hardest part is the Production phase in the middle. Concept and Pre-Production are where you determine what you're going to build (plus or minus great ideas that come up throughout) and post-production is where you make a game beautiful and fun. But that middle phase bores the heck out of me. So I surround myself with people who live for production and, as much as I can, get out of their way.

pandaman272 karma

The narrative in my head supposes the bureaucracy at Disney is what eventually did Epic Mickey and especially Epic Mickey 2 in. You have made it abundantly clear in interviews past that working with Disney was a dream, and I'm sure the NDA's won't allow you to say as much even if you wanted to.

But please, from someone who bought both games on release and found things to enjoy in these hamstrung but still exciting games.

What happened?

WarrenSpector6 karma

Well, I'm actually not under NDA or anything with Disney, so I can talk about what happened there. The bottom line is that Disney gave me and the team an almost unbelievable amount of freedom to make the game we wanted to make. I think everyone there knew I was respectful of the properties - oh, hell, I've always wanted to be Walt Disney! - so they didn't worry too much. The one thing they told me (and I still find it weird almost beyond belief)... the one thing they told me I couldn't do was show Mickey's teeth. Go figure.

WarrenSpector6 karma

Okay, Disney didn't always give us as much time as we wanted to make the games EVERYTHING we wanted them to be but (a) NO publisher ever gives ANY developer enough time and (b) no game is ever even close to what you wanted it to be.

(Actually, Deus Ex came pretty close to being the game I hoped it would be when I first started thinking about it, but that's a very rare exception - one of a kind in my experience.)

longshottie2 karma

Thanks for doing an AMA.

Might sound odd, but what are your thoughts and/or opinions on transhumanism? Nano or mechanical.

WarrenSpector4 karma

Not for me, but I think it's amazing to see it coming. I'm actually amazed and a little weirded out how much of what we did in DX is coming true now. I'm starting to believe that the world of 2025 will be a lot like the one we created. I'm not saying I'm happy about that, but it seems to be happening.

OfficialMeskY2 karma

Hey Warren! How can I get on the boat?

WarrenSpector3 karma

What the hell boat are you talking about? ;-)

If you're offering me a cruise, I'm in.

OfficialMeskY2 karma

Serious questions: Are you still in contact od in any way collaborating with the original Ion Storm Austin team? What is your opinion on Eidos Montreal and their contribution to the franchise? Are you happy with your decision to make Epic Mickey for Disney, any regrets? If you could change one thing in the latest Deus Ex (Human Revolution) what would it be?

WarrenSpector3 karma

Sure, I still talk to some of the old DX guys (and it WAS all guys, damn it...). Guys like Harvey Smith and Steve Powers and Monte Martinez are still carrying the torch. I love those guys.

I'm totally happy to have worked for Disney and made Epic Mickey. I'm super proud of the EM team.

If I could change one thing about DX:HR (do I only get one?) it'd probably be the boss battles. I mean, you train your players to solve problems however they want and then you HAVE to kill the bosses? That makes no sense. Yeah, I know everyone says that, but that's for a reason.

Rojatrotzen2 karma

What's your favorite colour?

WarrenSpector5 karma

Green. Though given that my wife has purple hair, I'm pretty partial to that, too.

michaelpachter4 karma

Hey, Warren, are you ever going to RSVP to my E3 party?

WarrenSpector11 karma

Um... er... uh... I'm not sure I'm going to E3 this year. I mean I'm teaching these days and not actually working on a game or looking for a deal.

Now, if you want to fly me out to LA, I promise I'll be at your party! I'll pick up the hotel myself. How's that for a deal?

SoG_Requiem2 karma

Do you read people's game pitches? I'm just a student who has written up a brief IP doc.

WarrenSpector8 karma

I can't really look at game pitches. If someone's working on something similar to what I'm thinking about or working on I can get in big trouble. Legal trouble. Don't send me game pitches!