"Some teams use an unlock schedule which is much easier because you know, at level three, the guy’s never going to have possession or whatever. We don’t do that...it's much more expensive and much harder, but it ensures it's fluid - your choies and my choices will probably be different."
- Designer Harvey Smith on how Arkane's predilection for prioritizing player choice colors its development process.
When Arkane released Dishonored in 2012, it proved popular in part because it afforded players remarkably unique experiences based on how they chose to overcome the stealth action game's challenges.
Now Arkane is working on the sequel after studio co-creative directors Harvey Smith and Raphael Colantonio debuted it during Bethesda's E3 stage show, and in an interview with The Guardian to promote Dishonored 2 Smith sheds some light on his contemporary approach to game design that fellow developers may appreciate.
"I hate to use the term realism, but we look at every place to see if it’s plausible," said Smith, elucidating Arkane's approach to level design. "Does it have a history? How does the guard in this room get to work? We’ve built levels before and then looked at them and said, ‘Really? The guy starts here on the terrace, then has to get to the dock, and he needs to walk a mile and up ten flights of steps? That doesn’t make any sense.' We approach it very plausibly but it’s very interconnected – you see the tower you need to get to, but your path will be different to mine."
This is a very specific, production-level breakdown of a design philosophy that Smith has espoused for some time. In a 2012 interview with Gamasutra conducted before the launch of Dishonored, Smith told Gamasutra that he and Colantonio wanted Arkane to be a bastion of choice-driven game design.
"We are not content with games where you march down a linear bridge and shoot a monster and don't have any choice but that and to exit," said Smith. "We like multiple solutions, multiple stylistic approaches, and multiple moral compasses in a game."
The veteran designer provides more examples of how the studio is turning this design philosophy towards the development of Dishonored 2 in his interview with The Guardian, which is well worth your time.