Dishonored: The game publishers thought you weren't smart enough for

Arkane breaks down its world of magic, machinery and subterfuge...

We say all the time that players are smarter than most publishers give them credit for," says Dishonored's Lead Designer, Harvey Smith.

"Players do not shy away from depth. They play games like Skyrim, like Fallout, in mass numbers. Yeah, they can handle Dishonored."

A former tester at Looking Glass studios, Smith left Looking Glass to join Warren Spector's team at Ion Storm as Lead Designer on Deus Ex. Ten years on, and Smith is co-Creative Director at French developer Arkane, the 'co' part he shares with Arkane's CEO and fellow co-Creative Director Raphael Colantonio.

"A lot of people create game companies and they say 'do whatever it takes to stay alive'," says Smith. "Do a driving game, do a licensed game. Whatever.

But we really just want to do immersive first-person games that create a world and a new story, with some role-playing features, some stealth, and the ability to solve problems creatively or with improvisation. Those are our values; they aren't the same values every studio has, (but) they've unified us and guided us and led us to make Dishonored."


Part Hitman and part Deus Ex, Dishonored is about assassination and stealth in the city of Dunwall, the capital of Dishonored's fantasy world. It's a world where technology came too soon thanks to combustible whale oil which powers industry, and thanks to the very real magic which plays a role in every part of society.

The narrative begins with the death of The Empress and the false imprisonment of her bodyguard Corvo, who immediately escapes and sets about unravelling the conspiracy behind The Empress' assassination.


It's a conspiracy which touches every element of Dunwall's corrupt government, and so Corvo hunts those responsible whether they're hiding in Dunwall's slums or its most opulent palaces.

Every inch of Dunwall is decorated with lush, hand-painted textures and populated by enemies and architecture by Half-Life 2's Viktor Antonov, working in collaboration with Art Director Sebastien Mitton.

It's an unmistakably European look, and is unmistakably Antonov - his segmented mechanics, absurdly tall machines and structures, and bulky armoured vehicles appear everywhere in the city of Dunwall in designs seemingly lifted straight from Half-Life 2.

It's Valve's Combine technology if it had been built in the late 1800s then dragged back to the London of 1666, when the plague was claiming thousands of lives and the city was headed for disaster in the Great Fire of London.

"Everything we design, we think choice," says Raphael Colantonio. "When we design an environment, we don't think 'okay it's an apartment, it's part of a building. If it's an apartment then it's got a kitchen, it's got some bathrooms, some space to live... So we design all of it, and then we fill those areas with characters and give it a story. You build this world that has real spaces and multiple paths so it feels like a real world.

"And then you do the same with the systems - the rats, the guards' AI... Then the magic happens when one system interacts with another system and then you go 'wow! We never thought about that!' We support the things that are cool - the emergent situations we didn't plan. Designing them in a simulated way creates content."

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