Deus Ex: Mankind Divided built off modified Hitman engine

Chris Stead 18 August 2016

deus-ex-hitman-engine

If you want to get an early idea of some of the systems and visual flourishes to expect in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, maybe look at Hitman.

I’ll admit to being overly fascinated by game engines. They are like a movie director – the one consistent driving force that transcends each release regardless of whoever is involved. When you go see a Scorsese film, you know how it will feel. Same goes for a game engine. And once you understand what an engine can offer a game, you can begin to see how a catalogue of titles that use that engine has evolved over time. How it has improved; how it has matured. Such thinking led me to the recent revelation, for example, that Quake Champions is not being built on id Tech 6.

When I had an opportunity to interview Deus Ex: Human Mankind producer Olivier Proulx (at Eidos Montreal), I took the opportunity to talk about the tech driving the game. I was particularly intrigued by whether the various Eidos studios – which includes teams working on Hitman and Tomb Raider – swapped much of their tech during development. Here is what I discovered.

You refer to Square Enix Montreal as a sister studio: obviously there's a couple of major franchises now coming out through this kind of bigger Square Enix umbrella, like Tomb Raider and Hitman. How much tech swapping is there between the studios?
Not much. I think when we started Mankind Divided, we started working on the Dawn Engine. We collaborated quite a bit with IO Interactive, because we started Dawn from their engine, Glacier 2, which is used for Hitman. So there was certainly a lot of collaboration in the early days. From there, our core programming and technical direction teams took what they had and just refashioned it to produce the types of experiences we required for Deus Ex. So of course, there's some discussions and collaboration between the studios, but it's pretty self-contained, I would say.
As part of building out that engine you have put a lot of effort into facial expressions, why was that an important area on which to focus?
It's a game with a lot of social interactions, so having good animations and facial animations is important. I wouldn't say that it’s a strength of our game, but something we can keep improving on because our engine is flexible and we have the power to work the areas that we feel need improvement. For us, it is important that the engine and the pipeline allow us to produce a lot of conversation, because we have so many characters. They can't be all hand-animated every time because there's too much dialogue. So we have to make good, systemic systems to help us produce all the hundreds of conversations we have in the game.+

Our Take?

While more narrow in its gameplay focus, Hitman is also an open-ended gaming experience that provides the player with a toolset and says, “now you’re on your own.” I can see a lot of the systems of that game - in particular those relating to stealth and the way the AI reacts to that approach - translating to Deus Ex nicely. The engine has been modified from Glacier enough to be renamed Dawn, too – so hopefully that means there has been significant growth into new areas in Human Mankind. Certainly what I have played reveals the game too be much more action-focused than its distant Hitman cousin.

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