[Interview] A Casual Chat with Jonathan Jacques-Belletête

The art director for Deus Ex: Human Revolution shares insight on cyberpunk, anatomy, and texturing furniture.
Author: J.D. Cohen
Published: April 1, 2011
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In early March, PAX East attendees were given a live gameplay demonstration of Deus Ex: Human Revolution by Eidos Montreal personnel, including Game Director Jean-François Dugas, Art Director Jonathan Jacques-Belletête, and Community Manager Kyle Stallock. The demonstration consisted of around 20 minutes of an early level in which the protagonist, Adam Jensen, infiltrated a warehouse using a combination of stealth, computer hacking, sharp implements, and bullets. Following the demonstration, I had the opportunity to sit down with J.J.B. and ask a few questions.


Though footage of the demonstration is not officially available, there is a walkthrough of the same portion of the game floating around on YouTube.


So, Deus Ex: Human Revolution. First of all, tell me what you do.

I’m the art director, so I’m trying to make it look pretty.

All right—

Really hard.

Managing a lot of people?

Yeah, I am managing a lot of people, definitely. I mean, there’s a structure. There are artists; there are leads on everything that have their units and whatnot. Overall, we must have close to 60 artists on this game, not counting outsourcing; we’ve had some people doing concept art and modeling outside, but in the studio, we must have a good 60 artists.

Speaking of outsourcing, the pre-rendered cutscenes are, I assume, done by another—

Yeah, all the trailers—in the game, it’s all in-game cutscenes, but the marketing stuff, all the big CGI, the E3 trailer, the extended trailer that you guys saw, that was all done by Visual Works, which is the cinematics department at Square Enix. You can’t ask for better than this. It’s like, “What!?” It’s so weird: one day, you wake up and suddenly your company is owned by Square Enix, and then two months later, you learn that you’re going to work with them on a trailer.

Is it a little intimidating knowing that now people have that in their minds, the look in those trailers, and now you have to sort of, in real-time, try to meet those expectations in the game?

Totally a legitimate question, and you’re absolutely right, but the way that it happened is that we had already set the style of the game’s visuals before we did those CGI trailers. At the same time, as an art director, I’m highly influenced by—I love anime and Japanese videogames; we concede, and I say openly that there’s a strong Metal Gear influence on the game, and stuff like that. When Square Enix took our material to do the trailer, it was like we already spoke the same language. The way that I treat the textures in the game, there is no photographic material, just like the Japanese also almost never do that. Everything is done by hand or procedurally, so everything already seemed well-prepared for them to deal with it. So, yeah, you watch the trailers, and then you watch the in-game, and obviously there’s a huge gap, but it still seems to be a part of the same style; the aesthetic essence is exactly the same. I’m actually quite proud of that, really.
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