Art Director Shows Us The Hidden World Of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

by Jeff Cork on Apr 20, 2015 at 09:15 AM

During our last day at Eidos Montreal, we sat down with Martin Dubeau, the art director for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. We sorted through the screens and pieces of concept art that we’d be getting for our magazine and online coverage, and he provided context for everything we were seeing. Rather than let his insights go to waste, we’re sharing them with you today. Read on for additional details on the environments, people, and symbolism that you might not otherwise have known from simply looking at the pictures.

I wrote a bit about Victor Marchenko before (pictured above), in a feature that touched on the game’s power players. There’s a lot going on with him beyond his involvement in the Augmented Rights Coalition. Looking at him, you can immediately tell that he’s been through a lot – that huge mechanical arm is hard to overlook. While Dubeau and the rest of the team are reluctant to delve too deeply into his story at this point, he did provide some interesting high-level details.

“We wanted to create someone who looked like a worker first, and who lives in the ghetto,” Dubeau says of the character. “That’s why he has this huge arm. Maybe he could have been someone who worked on something hard, like breaking brick – that was the idea.”

In addition to the arm, Marchenko has augmentations on his face that also make him stand apart from the crowd. He lost an eye as the result of an accident – possibly the same incident that forced him to replace his arm – and its high-tech replacement definitely gives him an advantage. “He can have many add-ons to it, so he can see further and better than anybody, because he has three cameras now instead of one eye,” Dubeau explains. “Imagine that he can see in more than three dimensions – it’s more than three dimensions, because if you see something with your two eyes, you never see the third depth because it’s not aligned with your eyes. But if we could have three eyes we would have a better sense of dimension. He has a super view on his camera with sensors between them.”

Marchenko is a mysterious presence in the game, and in protagonist Adam Jensen’s life. Regardless of the ARC member’s true intensions, you can be that he has all eyes on our hero. Take note of a low-tech detail you may have missed: He has an old coat wrapped around his neck like a cape. 

Note: Click on the images to see larger versions.

Rucker's Office
Everyone has a boss, and in this case Marchenko’s is a man named Dr. Talos Rucker. I covered Rucker in the same power-player feature, but Dubeau gave us more information to chew on. As an augmented person, he has a stake in the augmented-rights movement. According to Dubeau, the former medical doctor was burned in a volcanic eruption while working in Africa, in an accident that killed his wife. “If you look in his apartment, you can find a lot of hints about his backstory and what happened,” Dubeau says. “He has half of his face burned, and he decided to keep that part of himself without any augmentations. But his arms were definitely redone completely.” Half of Rucker’s rib cage was also broken, which required extensive reconstruction.

SPOILER AHEAD: Even though he’s the dominant portion of this image, there are some other details you may have missed. “You’ll notice that there’s a sunset at the end of the map,” Dubeau says. “What I wanted to do as a metaphor was when Rucker dies in the game, it’s like if the sunset linked to the renaissance is just dying at the same time – so this golden era is finishing. After that part of the game, you will never come back to something as clear as it was at this moment.”

Golem City
The early portion of the game is set in a striking location called Utulek Station, which is nicknamed Golem City. It’s essentially a prison camp for augmented people, following the tragic aug incident at the end of Human Revolution. It’s also the home base for ARC. Dubeau says he and his team took inspiration in part from Kowloon Walled City, as well as corporate housing.

Dubeau says he was curious about what living in such a large structure would be like. “It would be interesting to do something where we never see the end of it,” he says. “When you’re inside of it, you don’t know if you’re at the bottom, if you’re at the upper side – you never know where you are in this huge labyrinth. Except for one shot in the game, we never show the border of it, really. You never know where it stops and where it starts. You never know the size of it. At one point we thought maybe it would be too small, so we started to build a ghetto around the ghetto, with small houses in front of it, and we have kilometers of people that have been put into the ghetto but they have no space anymore, so they just construct their tents or small houses anywhere they can.”

Inside the city
This shot of the oppression that augmented people face in Golem City is a great starting point for several different subjects. First, of course, there’s the imagery and coloring itself. “At the beginning it’s super dark in the map, more blueish, and the more you advance into the map, the more renaissance we wanted to bring,” Dubeau notes, referring to Deus Ex’s theme of the cyber renaissance. “Renaissance for me in that map is what you cannot remove from an augmented person. You will never remove it from him. If you put them all together, they reconstruct their world as it was before. They reconstruct their world in that cubical world – that was the idea.”

Although the game is set nearly 15 years from now, Deus Ex’s art team works to ensure that they’re presenting a heightened, but grounded version of the future. And according to Dubeau, that’s trickier than it might sound. “The hardest challenge is not inventing everything,” he says. “When we have new concept artists, and people who can invent in the game, they always try to invent Star Trek or Star Wars things. It’s really, really hard to keep them closer to our reality. It’s not that easy.”

He points to a computer mouse as an example. “If I’m telling you to design that mouse in 10 years, you will try to do something with a glove or something like that. But it won’t be that far. When I have new people here, I give them an exercise – the mouse is a good example. I ask them to just do a history of the mouse – where it was 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, now, and now extrapolate where it is in 15 years, just to understand that it’s not that exponential. Imagine when we have to do a car. Someone said that in 2000 we would have flying cars everywhere just 40 years ago. But we still have this reflex in concept. It’s always like that.” Dubeau says he can spot things that are out of place in Deus Ex’s world almost immediately.

I talked to the game’s narrative director, Mary DeMarle, about why people get augmented in a previous feature. I asked Dubeau to explain why people in that world stick to traditional human forms when replacing lost limbs – even if they’re exaggerated versions like Marchenko’s massive arm. Why not go completely wild and have a dozen fingers? “I think in the short term, people want to look as much like people as they can,” he replied. “Even now, you can have a new limb, but they don’t want to put 2 million fingers on it. Even when you see someone with a hook, it looks weird, like, ‘Oh, he has a handicap.’ I think for the next 20, 30 years people will try to stay closer to other people. They don’t want to be too different.” Not a bad call, considering just what being different can get you in Deus Ex.

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