Dishonored developer interview
Fri, 14 Sep 2012 2:04p.m.
By Daniel Rutledge
Action adventure game Dishonored was among the most talked about titles at this year’s E3 conference.
The first-person action adventure, developed by Arkane Studios, won praise for its versatile gameplay that aims to encourage player creativity.
I caught up with Dishonored executive producer Julien Roby to discuss the game ahead of its October release.
If I can just start by asking you a little bit about your role as executive producer of Dishonored.
I manage the whole project and do things like make sure everyone meets their deadlines. Basically I'm in charge of understanding what we want to do with the game and making sure that it can happen in terms of planning and production.
What were some of the most important things for the team in the vision for the game?
Right at the beginning we knew we wanted to make a game with a vibe like Deus Ex. The thing we didn’t know was where we wanted the game to sit in terms of stealth/action, so we had a lot of discussion about that. We initially started looking at setting the game in 17th and 18th century London, and then little by little as we were working on it we moved away from London and created the fictional city of Dunwall. As we removed some of the historical constraints, we were able to come up with some of the very specific visual stuff that we have in the game. But you can still see influences from London in the architecture.
Tell me more about what you added to the game once you decided to remove the historical constraints.
Well most of the things we did were related to the technology like the Wall of Light and the Tall Boys. At some point we had a back and forth between the story and the gameplay, so the story informed the gameplay and vice versa, back and forth. The story has this guy called the Lord Regent who is taking over Dunwall and becomes a little too powerful and harsh in terms of controlling the city and fighting the plague. So we needed a layer of oppression all over the city, and that’s where we started to bring in all those elements like the metallic things crawling over buildings to protect the city and seal off areas.
It's interesting that in a game where players take control of an assassin, they can play through it entirely without killing people. Why that was important?
It was important because the initial proposal of the game was to let players play the way they want. So it would have been a kind of betrayal if we’d told the player, ‘oh you have to kill the target and there’s no way to do it otherwise’. So it was really important for us that the player is always in control and there’s nothing we force them to do. People who want to avoid killing because they don’t like that, or for when it doesn’t match the moral choice they want to make, they can play through and totally avoid any killing.
What are your favourite powers or abilities in the game?
One would be Blink, because it changes the way you move around the map and changes the dynamic of the game. It can make the game a bit more physical. And my other favourite would be Possession, because it opens up a lot of imaginative gameplay everywhere. Like if you move an enemy of a guard near a group of guards to trigger a fight, you can then gain access to a passageway. Things like that.
There does seem to be many ways to get through each level. Are you still finding new ways each time you play?
There has always been guidelines for the designers to make sure there are around three or four different ways to do things each time. But because of the very organic way you can use the powers, we very often discover different ways to access certain passages and so on. So we're still discovering new things as we play, yes.
What has been the most encouraging bit of feedback you’ve had from play testing the game so far?
For us as a team looking at people play the game, we see them playing and having a totally different experiences and finding new ways to do things. It has been very rewarding for us. To see production turn into something and you can actually do it, you know, the game says yes to a player when he wants to try something.
And has there been any negative feedback that you've responded to while developing Dishonored?
Some people were worried about the balance of power in the game. With powers like Time Bend and Blink, they were afraid they'd just constantly use them and not have any challenge. But we are quite confident that that’s not a big issue, because there is an economy around the powers. It's not like you can hit Time Bend twenty times. We wanted to make sure that the powers felt really powerful and not like weak, shitty powers. And we just made sure that we developed the game in ways that is challenging in the way players use the powers to reach their objectives.
We are getting into the busy season of game released. Why do you think people are going to choose Dishonored over all the other titles coming out?
I think they are going to choose this game, at least I hope, because it’s a real game that lets players create their own experience instead of having the developers design it all for them. So hopefully people will see that in the game and see that their decisions actually count, and they can make different choices minute by minute.
If you weren't a designer on Dishonored, how many times would you play through it until you were satisfied?
I would say more than two times. I like to finish the game multiple times, and each time I go through I see things that I haven’t seen yet. So it’s refreshing to play each time, because you can try things that you haven’t tried. You already know the map, so you are not so overwhelmed, and you can start to perfect using the powers in different contexts. There are a lot of things that are mutually exclusive, so when you try to do one thing you did playing through a level the first time, you might not be able to. It’s kind of encouraging you to come back and play the game again.
Dishonored is set for release in New Zealand on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC October 11.
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