The Game That Became Deus Ex Was Originally Pitched to Origin Systems

There’s a neat article up at Trusted Reviews which examines the history of Deus Ex…or, more correctly, the part of its history that involves a rather different game being pitched to Origin Systems.

Originally released by Eidos Interactive in 2000, Deus Ex introduced gamers to a near-now future in which every conspiracy theory the internet could imagine was supposed true. Majestic 12, The Illuminati, The Knight’s Templar – these and more jostled for attention in an epic plot that’s still spawning sequels today, with Square Enix’s Deus Ex: Mankind Divided due out next year.

Yet, while the legacy of Deus Ex and is well documented, the early history of the series – like the politics of the world it depicts – goes deeper than you may suspect. Deus Ex was very nearly not Deus Ex at all, but a completely different game called Troubleshooter.

What’s more, the original pitch for Troubleshooter has been recently unearthed from an archive of game materials at the University of Austin, Texas.

Looking back at Spector’s original vision for Troubleshooter however, the other lesson to take from Deus Ex’s history is how massively games can change over the course of their development. Nowadays, with the intrigues of Human Revolution a recent memory and those of Mankind Divided on the horizon, it’s hard to imagine a Deus Ex game not filled with conspiracy and epic spy adventures. Yet that’s exactly what Spector originally had in mind for Troubleshooter.

“Troubleshooter is a mission-orientated action simulation with no huge plot,” says Spector’s original pitch to Origin Systems. “Just get in and get out of each mission… None of this 100 hours to finish the game and get your reward stuff. Like a flight sim, but it’s you, on the ground, with a gun.”

While Troubleshooter wouldn’t have had a similar plot to Deus Ex, it did share a counter-terrorist premise. The difference is that, where Deus Ex cast you as a super-spy with artificial enhancements and a mission to save the world, Troubleshooter was grounded in the real world.

“You’re an ex-cop turned security specialist,” says Spector. “That just means you get all the dirty jobs no one else has the guts to do. When the government or police or business can’t handle a problem, they call you. Bomb threat? You get to check it out. Hijackers threaten to take over a plane? You end up on board.”

Spector’s two-page pitch for Troubleshooter even plans a simple gameplay loop for these scenarios, each of which was intended to take just 10-30 minutes to complete as a standalone mission.

Troubleshooter sounds kind of like Syndicate, or possibly one of the Rainbow Six games. But apparently it would still have allowed for a high degree of freedom of movement, and would have encouraged players to be inventive with their tactics, facets which Trusted Reviews notes were very much a part of Deus Ex.

Ultimately, Troubleshooter was shelved, seemingly, due to a combination of factors: the idea of creating a game with a real-world (or near-future) setting didn’t seem feasible at the time, and the technology to build the game really wasn’t there either.

(Hat tip: Infinitron Dragon)