San Diego Comic Con 2011 – Deus Ex: Human Revolution – The World of 2027

This panel focused on Human Augmentation within the world of 2027. This has us look at just how close the world is to this. Present at the panel was the Lead Writer for Deus Ex, Mary DeMarle and Will Rosellini, the CEO of MicroTransponder, the panel was moderated by Kyle Stalleck.

The panel starts presenting the two sides of the augmentation debate. The first was shown in a commercial for Purity First, an Anti-Augmentation group, then Sarif Industry showed its Pro-Augmentation commercial. Both show very different sides of the whole thing but it is well explained to be the central conflict of the game itself. The moderator explains that augmentation technology already exist and we were shown a clip from a professional runner, Oilver Pistorius in it. This double-amputee who received leg prostheses that are augmentations. To help us understand more on this, the panel itself begins.

The first question was why start with mechanical augmentation and in 2027. Mary explained they first looked at if they wanted to do a sequel or prequel. They decided to ground it in today with mechanical augmentation because of the strong prejudice around these. All this was meant to be believable and very possible from today to reach such heights in technology. They wanted to make the science as real as possible. It was about this time that Will approached them to act as a Consultant for the game. He told us that he was very irritated with Invisible War and so much of the technology rested in black boxes. He explained his company is making tiny RF implants that can change the nervous system via an implant from a diseased state (like PTSD and other neurological disorders)to a healthy state. He felt they were in the right place to help them.

Mary told us that they actually built a time-line for things coming to a head and hinted at something of a developmental time-line as well. She explained that they were working on this as Oscar Pistorius, who received the augmentations mentioned earlier had applied to be in the regular Olympics and not just the special. His application was rejected as they felt he had an advantage with his augmented legs. This was much the same tack that Mary and her team took on their time-line for the world. That became their starting point in the time-line. This brought it out from the social aspect and bring more of the reality in it. Will explained he got irritated any time they did not get to the point of be achievable.

The next question asked of the panel was if they had taken any liberties in the game. Mary explained that they looked at things from a game stand point. One of the first things was what had to come over from Deus Ex. It was only after that they looked at the rest of the game focusing on what she called “The Four Pillars” Stealth, Social, Hacking and Combat. This generated their overall list and from there they decided what things and then use the consultant to make, even the crazy things, fit into the world and make it more real. Will explained that he helped them get it so much of this is feasible within the next 10, 20 years.

He explained that there was already eye augmentation for glaucoma and later we could have something much more interactive and create a “UI” that honestly functional. He told us it is very possible that the camera on your phone could potentially replace your eyes or at least the inter-ocular lens. It was important that we could truly understand how even the visual “UI” inside the game exists. The developmental for this technology is in eight year cycles and this gives us a point that we can all understand. He related it to us that “60% of the people in this room, if you live long enough, will have that lens replaced”. He told us then of a company that is honestly working on making a smart inter-ocular lens already since the 1980's. He commented that the staff was very surprised at how much already exists in the world though it is just not as optimized.

Kyle asked Will just how science fiction inspired either Mary or himself for this work. Will explained that MicroTransponder was a research and development company. He explained them as needing to write Science Fiction at points because it was meeting an invisible need and the science did not always exist as they were doing it. He explained it within a frame of his own experience as pitcher on a professional baseball team. He had to compete against people who were augmenting their performance with steroids and wondered how he could without the drugs and felt he could not. From there he explained this inspired a novel of his “Shadow Island”, which also influenced his work on Deus Ex, by looking at things which are grounded in the technology of the day.

Kyle turned to Mary next, asking about the social ramifications of Mechanical augmentations in the Deus Ex world. She explained they really want to look at how augmentations got into the world and how are they received. The starting point is looking at the need to replace the lost limbs of the war amputees in the recent conflicts. From there the mechanical arms improve to the point that they exceed what a biological arm can do. The team needed the technology to reach a point where someone who look at their healthy natural arm and say “I need to get rid of this”. This lead to the creation of a new middle class based out of those who needed the augmentation and now have the available strength and augmentation to meet the demands. This puts those without the augmentations behind and drop out of their augmentation and that is, what they felt, what would create the prejudice. She explained that parts of it, for the detractors, are also based on religious motives. Those people, she explained, felt those with the augmentation technology were playing god and that was something no human should be able to do. Will jumped in, pointing out just how competitive the United States is. From there, he explained, it was just a question of when the technology and surgery will be convenient. It seems that some of this is almost an inevitability.

The next question was if there were already organizations like Purity First that already exist. Will took charge of that one pointing out just the amount of protest around food augmentation. He also explained that the human genome is simply too complex right now and would take many hundred years.

The next question was about the body rejecting the augmentations and if this happens in real life. Will started explaining things in terms of a splinter. That at first body responds with an acute inflammation to the site of the object and how your body eventually pushes it out. The main thing people are working on is getting the body to accept the augmentation. The best modern example he gave was with dentistry where they can replace lost teeth and integrate its substitute directly into your jaw. Mary hopped in after he finished talking about the splinter to explain that it was that very process that is causing many problems with augmentations in the game. She tells us that in the game there was a drug developed which tricks the body into keeping the augmentations.

The big question was asked was what were the neurological and psychological ramifications to the augmentations in the game. Mary explained that this was an area with very little research and people have no real idea of what it will do to our mind. We just do not know what effects it would be like for someone to amputate a limb and replace it with a mechanical limb.

The first question from the floor was what caused the change from mechanical to nano-augmentation. Mary was evasive on the subject as they had time to build it up to that point. The next was how they brought the player into the world. Mary explained there were tons of books and e-mails as well as the more traditional means to help people get into the world. She also told us there a lot of back-story for many of the important characters and that even Alex has a detailed back-story.

At the end of the panel there was a different feeling than what I would have expected. This is one that I would recommend watching if only to really get the whole impact. This looks to be a very well thought out game, story wise.