I know that, Harvey, this is probably something that you have strong feelings about given your last mainstream commercial product. How empowered are you to follow your intuition, and how important is that when you're selecting projects, when you moved to Arkane, and that kind of thing?
HS: Well, this has been a collaboration from day one. It's a blend of things. And Raf and I are quite a bit empowered; but we're also deferential to each other and to the passions of who we are. Raf built Arkane as a company to make this type of game: very immersive first-person games with mixture of action elements, role-playing elements, stealth as a component wherever possible, emergent situations instead of everything hand-scripted. Dishonored is coming together so well. Frankly, we're so passionate about this type of game, that I feel like Bethesda approached us because we love this type of thing; it's kind of like the stars aligning.
You alluded earlier to the fact that you can complete the game without actually participating in violence, which is interesting, but still the worldview -- the fact that you're an assassin and the fact that your main metaphor for interacting with the world is through conflict... Do you see a point where games can get away from that? Is that interesting to you?
RC: I think, in our case, what matters is really the possibilities and choices that we give to the player. Play style has always been something that we really want for the player. Why we expect people to stealth kill... We also like the fact that you can avoid that.
Initially, we just did it because we had passion, and we believe that only a very, very small percentage of players would do that. Then it kind of became bigger than we thought as we started to talk about it and to add to the game: you actually can avoid killing people and can finish the game without killing people. Yes, it's true, and it's part of our values. But also the fact that you could not kill them gives more meaning to the times you do; it was a choice between killing or not. Yes, it is important.
As to the point of it's possible to have a game system where you do not kill people, of course Portal is a good example of that. But, for sure, for a game in the kind of genre we're in, I think removing the choice from killing would be a problem. A lot of people, they want to have that choice.
You say fact that you don't have to kill people makes their decision to kill people more meaningful. Do you think players feel that?
RC: I do. I do think that, certainly, they feel. They feel in an environment which is simulated. As opposed to "this is what we want you to do," it's more like, "Hey, what are you gonna do?" In this case, when they do something like killing, and they knew that they could have avoided to kill, they might regret it a little bit. They might feel emotions that they would never feel otherwise.
In the games which are very directed, it's just like, "The only option is to kill, and then we give you a reward for killing." It might be very satisfying, but there aren't definitely going to be some of the emotions that you want players to feel, such as, "Hmm, maybe I should really try not to kill", or "Maybe there will be consequences later", or "Am I a bad person?" All the things they will definitely feel more in a game where you have the choice not to, than a game that forces you to.
Do you think that player agency is prerequisite for people actually feeling the impact of the decisions they make? That's the vibe I'm getting from the stuff that you're saying.
RC: There are probably many ways to get at the emotions of players. In our case, player agency is what we like; it's our style. It's what Harvey and I have always intuitively liked. In the very, very early games that we played, the games that inspired the most were based on that. That's probably one of the reasons we do it. But I bet there are other ways.