The Dishonored series is well known for evocative settings, and the series’s director, Harvey Smith, has recently discussed how the team achieves such feats of world-building.
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz, Smith says that one of Arkane’s central tenets is to envision a universe beyond the game. “We believe in, as a creative technique, making the world larger than what the player can possibly experience… [Y]ou have the sense of a larger world because we allude to it, but it’s not all there. That just creates a sense of mystery and a sense of a bigger world.” Smith emphasises this comment with an anecdote about a team member with parents in Paris and Ivory Coast whose experiences are “interesting, mysterious, and exotic” because they extend beyond his own.
This ethos is coupled with a high degree of player agency and the desire to create “an environment that transports you and lets you explore it and lets you do what feels intuitive.” To facilitate this idea, Arkane has frequently involved fans and playtesters in the design and development process early so that the team is able to either support novel ideas or find ways to “bulletproof” against them, depending on the level of work involved or how closely the idea hews to the game’s core philosophy.
Dishonored 2 offered a masterclass in how to integrate player agency into a linear adventure, according to OnlySP’s DJ Arruda. Meanwhile, players will have another opportunity to delve into the rich world of Dunwall soon, as Arkane will release the standalone expansion Dishonored: Death of the Outsider on September 15, 2017. This game will put players in the shoes of master assassin Billie Lurk as she quests to kill the magic-granting Outsider.