Deus Ex creator highlights character AI and emergent storytelling as the trends that will push game creation forwards

Warren Spector: ‘Triple-A development is stagnant – thank god for indies’

On the eve of his return to full-time development, Warren Spector has outlined the areas in which game creators should be working to advance the industry.

The Deus Ex, Epic Mickey and System Shock creator told Gamasutra that coming up with more realistic character behaviours and allowing players to form their own narrative through emergent storytelling was key – but added that triple-A titles had largely ignored the need to push the boundaries of technology.

“In the mainstream space I really haven’t seen a whole lot of progress,” he observed. “It seems like we’re getting more finely-tuned, prettier versions of games we’ve been playing for years.

“Thank god for the indie space; there are people trying interesting things there. I see a variety of places where we could make some strides that would help take games to the next level.

“The biggest one, for me, is more robust characters and character AI. We’ve gotten very good at combat AI – we’ve made great strides there – but I don’t think we’ve done much in the world of non-combat AI and interacting with people – human or otherwise. We haven’t done a lot with conversation, and establishing emotional relationships with characters in games. So I’d very much like to play with that.

“Also, while I’ve seen some efforts, especially from the guys at Arkane, to sort of extend the design philosophy of Origin and Looking Glass – that whole ‘immersive simulation’ and its philosophy of empowering players to tell their own stories. I’d like to go further with that.”

Spector also commented on his return to hands-on development, having served as a tutor at the University of Texas since 2013.

“I wanted to make sure I didn’t become one of those teachers who used to make games, who used to know how games were developed and why,” he said.

“I knew I needed to keep my skills honed, so that was part of it. And part of it was just, y’know, I make games. It’s kind of what I do. I’ve been getting the itch to make something. It’s been coming on for a while now.”

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