Dishonored is personally one of my most anticipated titles this October and with it around the corner we had to get a chance to talk to the guys behind the project. So we were able to get some time with Raphael Colantonio, and Harvey Smith, Dishonored’s co-creative directors.
Harvey and Raf: The short answer is that we plan for this and encourage it, and when possible we “let the systems work it out.”
The longer answer: The level designers and architects set up their mission objectives, enemy patrols and environments with ideas for the two or three most likely ways for players to complete the mission. We do this by matching player tools and archetypical play styles with mission elements: we always make sure that the stealthy player can hide, that the tricky player can hack, unlock or bribe, that the direct player can fight, etc. Plus each area will end up with a few more ideas contributed over time, as people on the team consider the situation. But much of the magic happens courtesy of the simulation: our systems interact in cohesive ways and we try not to script interactions. The assassination target is always in the world, for instance, instead of being spawned under set story conditions. When things work according to general purpose rules, it allows players many more permutations of interaction, to approach each situation as they see fit. As long as the objective is complete, we don’t care how the player did it. Sometimes we’re surprised by how creative players can be during moments of tension, trying to achieve their objectives. Sometimes they short-cut some content, but that’s cool… power to the player.
What’s the QA process been like, seeing as potential ‘holes’ found could be seen as just another approach to taking on a puzzle.
Harvey and Raf: The QA teams at Arkane and Bethesda have great experience dealing with open-ended games, allowing many play styles and player tools. They went through many play-throughs and reported every exploit, bugs or weird situation they could find. Then we evaluated and either fixed, supported or enhanced where needed.
Obviously the team aren’t oblivious to the immense buzz surrounding the title, has that made the closing stages of development any harder to stomach with the external pressure?
Harvey and Raf: It’s both encouraging and terrifying.
At Gamescom 2011 there was mention of the ‘Chaos’ ecosystem surrounding your actions, it’s been a little while since then and attention has moved onto other aspects, but is this feature still in the game, and just how much will it shape a players actions?
Harvey and Raf: We track how many people the player kills and the flavor of the game turns darker or lighter, based on some threshold. This includes things such as some of the dialog, the number of rats and “weepers” in the world, some of the encounter situations, and of course the end-game outcomes. In order to perceive the effects of the Chaos System, you might have to play the game multiple times and compare the results with your previous experience.
How did you ensure that Corvo wasn’t overpowered – seeing as he can slow time, teleport, and possess people, among other things?
Harvey and Raf: We wanted Corvo to be powerful. We did not want to Nerf him down, so we mostly focused on the fun of each move or power, and then upped the challenge to compensate, ramping up the lethality and perception of your enemies instead of going the other way around. Also, there are obvious tuning elements such as the amount of resources a power consumes and how long it lasts.
As there’s a lot for players to do and discover, how have you managed to ease players into the depth that Dishonored offers? – more so, how have you encouraged experimentation?
Harvey and Raf: It is a challenging task that requires slowly exposing the player to the game elements without overwhelming him or her. Lots of testing mostly.
With such a team of talented members who have worked on Deus Ex, Arx Fatalis, and Dark Messiah of Might and Magic to name a few, what aspects trickled down into Dishonored?
Harvey and Raf: Games like Deus Ex and Arx Fatalis share a lot of values, so the team felt at home in many ways: multiple play-styles, nonlinear environments, and visual storytelling. We also had experience with player-character physicality and first-person melee combat from Dark Messiah.
What’s the most surprising or unexpected thing you’ve seen someone do while playing Dishonored?
Harvey and Raf: Once we saw somebody finishing a mission by performing an unlikely combo of mechanics and luck: sprint plus double jump, blinking over a fence, throwing a grenade up into the air onto a balcony, killing the target. Amazing speed-run. Those things are mostly feasible on a second or third play-through, and they’re a lot of fun too; a different approach to the game, but one we endorse.
After creating such a rich world and history for Dishonored, why were photorealistic visuals avoided?
Harvey and Raf: Mostly the desire to have a distinctive look and feel for our game, but this effort was co-led by Sebastien Mitton and Viktor Antonov, and their team in Lyon, who are very talented in terms of visuals.
Seeing as Dunwall is set inside a world that’s already well fleshed out, does this mean that there’s a chance Arkane may revisit the Dishonored franchise after release? Be it though DLC or a fully realised sequel.
Harvey and Raf: We’ve just finished Dishonored. We’ll discuss what’s next for us as soon as we can.
Will there be a high-resolution texture pack for Dishonored?
Harvey and Raf: We’ll let you know of any plans when we’re ready to talk about them.
Has Dishonored been optimized for PC to an extent such as other recent PC releases?
Harvey and Raf: Each platform had a dedicated hardware team (for performance) and design team (for UI). The PC has an additional; option to increase the FOV (Field Of View).
Is there any slight differences between the console and PC versions?
Harvey and Raf: Other than the controls and the potential for 60 fps on PC, not really. Plus the PC has the option to increase the FOV.
So there you have it, awesomely cool system that reads what the player does and how much blood the player spills over the course of the game which will decide the environment in which the player lives as well as the outcome of the story. Potential for 60FPS on PC and increase in the field of view is quite cool, but fans of the PC platform may be disappointed to realized that it is not the main focus, it is to make them all equal or on the same level as each other.