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Gamasutra plays the new Dishonored adventure with Harvey Smith

September 15, 2017 | By Bryant Francis

September 15, 2017 | By Bryant Francis
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More: Console/PC, Design, Video

Arkane Studios has had a heck of a year. First Dishonored 2 launched last fall, then Prey came out to massive critical acclaim. Now, the studio has launched Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, a slimmer standalone adventure meant to complement the story of Dishonored 2. 

Today on the Gamasutra Twitch channel, we were lucky enough to get a chance to talk to Harvey Smith, creative director at Arkane Studios on the Dishonored series. Smith had joined us last year for a chat about the game’s release, but we were lucky to have him on today to dive into the development process behind the new Dishonored adventure. 

You can watch our full conversation with Smith up above, but just in case you’re beginning your journey to kill a mysterious godlike being, here’s a few key takeaways from our chat with Smith. 

A deep dive into the Semblance power that’s new to Death of the Outsider 

Smith was kind enough to explain to us the development process behind the new Semblance power (which lets you take on the appearance of any NPC in the game…provided you can get close enough), some of the challenges to implementing it and why Arkane Studios thinks challenging abilities like this help define their games. It proved to be a springboard for talking about why certain features get cut at Arkane, and the realities of developing these fluid, more expressive kinds of immersive simulators. 

The story behind why the Dishonored series lets you do nonlethal runs

Despite being thematically about killing, you can actually get through the Dishonored games without murdering a single character. But that process wasn’t a core pillar of the original Dishonored design, it was something that emerged in a conversation between Harvey Smith and Raphael Colantonio, former co-creative director at Arkane Studios. As Smith tells it, the pair were reviewing the game’s core verbs, and how you could non-lethally kill every NPC, when they realized there wasn’t a path for using those same  gameplay mechanics on the assassination targets. 

That led to a decision to extend the level design work (and game’s writing), and thus the dual-pathway of the Dishonored series was born. 

During playtesting, developers would be livestreamed gameplay of people playing the game while they were still at their desks 

This is kind of a small tidbit, but Smith says that during the process of making Dishonored games, playtest footage would be live-streamed to the desks of people inside Arkane so they could check in on how players were progressing while working on other projects. Smith says he himself doesn’t review every single playtest anymore, but some of his co-workers at Arcane use opportunities like this to take a very close look at how people play their levels. 

For more developer insights, editor roundtables and gameplay commentary, be sure to follow the Gamasutra Twitch channel.

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