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Ghost in the Machine - Post Mortem 
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Mole Person

Joined: Mon Apr 02, 2012 6:49 pm
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Post Ghost in the Machine - Post Mortem
It's been over 6 years since I've made a peep about Ghost in the Machine. I did a Google search recently and saw that there's a fair amount of interest in wanting to know the story. So I'd like to share with the community that gave us so much some support an insight into how the whole project fell apart.

With over 10 people working on our team it seemed like we were on track of being THE Deus Ex mod to play, but sadly that did not happen. Lofty dreams and bad timing got in the way of something that could have been…something.

Before Deus Ex I had been involved in the Doom 2 molding community, mostly via BBS. Back then there wasn't really much of support and you had to figure out how to make maps and create new sprites on your own. It was hard, but fun. After dabbling with Quake and Half Life I found Deus Ex. Not only was it a game I truly loved, it also had an somewhat active molding community and some die hard fans. I spent a year learning and coming up with ideas and concepts for what was to become Ghost in the Machine.

After making a few weapons, instead of just releasing that as a pack or making a simple deathwatch mode, I decided to make a full on TC and recruit a team to help me build it. Needless to say this was my first mistake. Before I had a design document in place, I already had level designers churning out maps faster than I knew what to do with. The buzz around the mod was pretty big and I was in over my head.

Rushing to keep up with the amount of work coming in, I wrote a design doc and distributed it, kept constant tabs on the team, and things were running smoothly. The problem was, my goal was to make a sort of sci-fi GTA game and was not prepared for the amount of logistics that would be required for that level of scripting. So we had a lot of maps but no way to connect them together.

On the other hand, I was focused on developing all of the new features we promised for the mod. A major problem was the hover cars. They just never worked properly. We couldn't get the physics down and it was essentially fly mode but in a third person view. Another was the real-time shadows we wanted in the game.

Mind you, while all this was happening, we were making some headway. For example, we had some great looking characters ready to go and the Neromancer (one of the main factions/villains) was working perfectly with their powers. In fact, I had set up a test level where I would take on two of them (and die). I was also deep into coding the new skill and augmentation system which was semi done.

When it came down to brass tacks though, a lot of the things I wanted to do weren't even technically possible using the Deus Ex engine. Those limitations forced me to make some hard choices on what to cut and what to keep trying to achieve. In the end neither really happened. Around this time our lead programmer had to go back to school and didn't have time to work on his parts (namely the car). This might not seem like that big of a feature, but it was integral to the gameplay and story.

We were still progressing at this point. The gameplay feature list was in place and we all new what needed to be done. What was left was putting together the story and pulling together what we had. I had written around 25 pages when I got offered a job working for a cruise line. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I couldn't pass up. I figured while I was gone I would still be able to work with the team and keep going but I didn't realize how little time I would have- not to mention my limited internet access. It just wasn't a reality.

So while on the ship, I told Vavrek that it would be easier to make GITM a machine a machina film to at least give something to the community. I already had 25 or so pages that could easily be turned into a script and our Cut Scene creator was all for the idea. That was essentially the last time anyone on the team touched GITM except for me. While I did get through close to 50 pages of a film script, time limitations never allowed me to finish it.

By the time I got back from the ships 2 years later, PDX was dead. The forums were a ghost town and DX2 had already been shipped. People had moved on. I wasn't the same person as when I had left either. Priorities change. GITM was dead.

Luckily, parts of the GITM repository was given to OTP so the project didn't die in vain. You can actually see some of it in TNM (but I'll let you do some sleuthing to find out which parts).

I think that OTP will agree with me that if you're going to do a mod, start small, release often, and build upon your releases. Even with single player you can do this. Just one level at a time, nice and easy. Got a new feature? Throw it in. You're not a big studio and you can't do what they can. Trust me, I learned it the hard way.

While I've lost all of that code, I do have the script kicking around on an old hard drive and I've been thinking of resurrecting it. Who knows. Maybe one day it'll be done and you'll see it on the big screen. I work in advertising now, so anything's possible...


Mon Apr 02, 2012 7:03 pm
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Illuminati

Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2009 9:15 am
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Location: Brisbane Australia
Post Re: Ghost in the Machine - Post Mortem
Another great idea that has bitten the dust, not permanently I hope. There have been a few others post here with the same (basically) story. After years of effort, things such as team break ups, real life issues, and technical difficulties, force the cancellation or stop the forward progress of mods. It's only since I've been a member of this community have I realized how much work goes into mods that change the gameplay, let alone a total conversion of Deus Ex.

So kudos for *having a go, and I hope you get to see it being played down the track. Deus Ex fans are a pretty loyal bunch where DX and mods for it are concerned, so even if it takes a while to get this mod up and running, you'll have people willing to play.


*An Australianism

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Last edited by bobby 55 on Tue Apr 03, 2012 9:19 am, edited 1 time in total.

Mon Apr 02, 2012 8:02 pm
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Off Topic Productions
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Post Re: Ghost in the Machine - Post Mortem
randomatic wrote:
I think that OTP will agree with me that if you're going to do a mod, start small, release often, and build upon your releases. Even with single player you can do this. Just one level at a time, nice and easy. Got a new feature? Throw it in. You're not a big studio and you can't do what they can. Trust me, I learned it the hard way.

I do agree with that, and I don't mean to add insult to injury, but here's where I think it went wrong:

Quote:
I had written around 25 pages when I got offered a job working for a cruise line. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I couldn't pass up. I figured while I was gone I would still be able to work with the team and keep going but I didn't realize how little time I would have- not to mention my limited internet access. It just wasn't a reality.

All of those troubles and mistakes you describe leading up to that? You might as well be describing TNM. All the way from having a team producing content before you even have a design document, through spending far too much time on features that just aren't possible, to wanting to make an open world game with an engine that cannot in any way handle it and having key team members leave for personal reasons, we went through all of that.

The difference is that our core "vision holders" (damn, I hate that term) never left, and never stopped dedicating ludicrous amounts of time to the mod. As long as the person who "owns" the project is around and working hard, things will progress - frustratingly slowly sometimes, and certainly in fits and starts, but at least you're still going.

I'm not in any way saying you made the wrong decision, hopefully and presumably your time on the cruise liner was an amazing experience that taught you life-changing things, I just want to lend you my outside perspective.

Your stuff did look terrific in our game ;)

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Tue Apr 03, 2012 8:59 am
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Illuminati

Joined: Sat Oct 22, 2005 7:52 pm
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Post Re: Ghost in the Machine - Post Mortem
While I agree with Jonas that the 'leaving for a cruise' would probably kill off all projects, I totally support that. If it were me I would have done exactly the same thing, thanks for the story =D>

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Tue Apr 03, 2012 1:05 pm
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Post Re: Ghost in the Machine - Post Mortem
I agree - real life 'Big moves' generally destroy projects.

Me going to University almost killed off New Vision. though being the only one working on it I suppose that was obviously going to happen. Pretty much given the choice I'd rather have my degree than New Vision (though the degree is worthless), so even if it had meant the death of the project it was the right thing to do. Sucks, but that's life.


Tue Apr 03, 2012 7:37 pm
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Post Re: Ghost in the Machine - Post Mortem
DaveW wrote:
Me going to University almost killed off New Vision.

You should've done what I did and picked a Mickey Mouse programme like Media Studies :mrgreen:

I swear I had more free time at University than I ever did in High School.

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Tue Apr 03, 2012 9:41 pm
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New Vision
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Post Re: Ghost in the Machine - Post Mortem
Jonas wrote:
DaveW wrote:
Me going to University almost killed off New Vision.

You should've done what I did and picked a Mickey Mouse programme like Media Studies :mrgreen:

I swear I had more free time at University than I ever did in High School.


Oh, I did Television Production - so I had all the free time I could ever want - it just killed my motivation for the project :D


Wed Apr 04, 2012 4:19 pm
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The Nameless Mod
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Joined: Mon Apr 26, 2004 1:54 am
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Location: Perth, Western Australia
Post Re: Ghost in the Machine - Post Mortem
Wow, Randomatic. There's a name I didn't expect to see crop up. I remember looking forward to GitM a loooong time ago.


Thu Apr 05, 2012 2:27 pm
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X-51

Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 9:56 am
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Post Re: Ghost in the Machine - Post Mortem
Have to ask since I don't quite remember if it was this mod I read about this, but did this mod have custom clothes that if you changed say into bloody rags, you wouldn't be allowed in a nightclub, but if you had a suit on, you could enter and similar things like that?

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Thu Apr 05, 2012 10:28 pm
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Illuminati

Joined: Tue Oct 18, 2005 3:57 am
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Post Re: Ghost in the Machine - Post Mortem
yeah Uni killed HDTP for me, and I had to leave New Vision and halt all other projects due to the opportunity to work in the industry as a QA. At the moment all my projects are on hold too due to studying game art..

Yeah fyi.. Game Art is no Mickey Mouse. I so fucking tired and its only the first term lol. I'm dreading what the rigging and final industry presentations will be like. But once this bloody course is over I can finally go indie! Really looking forward to that.


Sat Apr 07, 2012 7:47 am
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