On September 15, Arkane Studios released Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, a standalone expansion pack for Dishonored 2. The game was received quite warmly, but with the correction that it never reached the level of its predecessors. In any case, according to feedback from players and critics, Arkane Studios has managed to create another worthy element in their signature Dishonored universe, which is without a doubt the creative peak of the company.
Arkane Studios was founded by Frenchman Rafael Colantonio. The future game designer got into the industry quite by accident, having passed a geek contest for knowledge of the Ultima universe. As it turned out, with the help of this competition, Electronic Arts selected their employees, and soon Rafael was already working at EA, thus avoiding compulsory military service.
When the company switched to sports titles in the 90s, Colantonio decided to create his own studio by borrowing money from relatives. Despite a rather difficult start in the form of a warmly received by fans, but commercially unsuccessful Arx Fatalis, Arkane Studios still built the necessary connections with publishers, releasing Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, and in 2006 Colantonio moved to the United States and opened a new branch of his studio in the city of Austin.
It was around this time that he met Harvey Smith, an American developer who had worked with Warren Specter on System Shock and Deus Ex. Together with Smith, they immediately come up with the fundamentals of Dishonored and get to work. Their ideas came to the liking of Bethesda Softworks, who convinced their parent company, ZeniMax Media, to acquire Arkane Studios and fund the development of Dishonored.
Colantonio and Smith realized that they had never seen a first-person game where the player was an assassin with superpowers. At the same time, game designers wanted to create a game that would allow players to determine the pace of their own passage, whether it be neat stealth, or, conversely, high-speed action.
The player assumes the role of Corvo, protector of the Empress, who is falsely accused of murder and thrown into prison. He needs to escape from prison and put everything in its place, punishing the bad and freeing the good.
One of the fundamental ideas of the project was the greater freedom of the player in completing missions. Like The Thief, Dishonored lets you progress through levels in a variety of ways and decide how much dead bodies you want to leave behind. The game has a so-called “Chaos” stat, which makes changes to the setting based on the player’s brutality. So, if you kill everyone in your path, there will be more rats and plague-infected in the city, and one of the characters may not want to communicate with you.
According to Smith, the most important thing about the game is its mechanics and interactivity, but at the same time it would be perceived very differently if it were not wrapped in a specific narrative and in a foggy city that the player gradually explores. So Smith and Colantonio came up with the overall concept of the game, and the creation of a unique world was entrusted to two professionals in their field.
Art was led by artist Sebastian Mitton, who joined Arkane Studios back in 2004 and has worked on several titles, including an unreleased Half-Life episode, Return to Ravenholm.
Design development was called to lead Viktor Antonov, best known in the gaming industry again for his work with Valve on Half-Life 2, for which he created City-17.
Mitton and Antonov worked well together and began searching for the best character designers across Europe. At the same time, they did not force them to work in Arkane, so as not to disturb their usual working rhythm. Together they spent a lot of time studying Anglo-Saxon morphology in order to faithfully portray the characters that could be in the intended universe.
By the way, about the universe itself. The setting of Dishonored went from medieval Japan to London in 1666, which was later overlaid with elements of England and Scotland of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The game takes place in the non-existent fantasy city of Dunwall with its own dictator. The creation of such places Antonov considers his specialization. By the way, Arkane Studios specifically asked the designer to make certain elements in the spirit of his work for Half-Life 2, but fortunately everything was limited to trifles.
Antonov did not try to look for inspiration in other games or films in order to avoid creating a cliché. Instead, he prefers to turn to paintings, sculptures, photographs and books. As a result, the main reference points for the team of artists were pulp magazines of the 30s, mysticism and symbolism in painting and photography of the 20s, the work of horror writer Howard Lovecraft, and illustrators such as Norman Rockwell and Dean Corwell.
But it was one thing to capture the desired visual style on paper, and another thing was to transfer it to the finished 3D models, because it is necessary that a variety of characters fit perfectly into the created setting. The developers wanted to get as close as possible to the fact that the player perceives the characters in the game not as computer objects, but as drawings that have descended from the artist’s canvas to the screen.
Together with Mitton, Antonov traveled to Edinburgh and London for photo shoots, from which the exterior of the city of Dunwall was then built. Antonov’s task was to depict a fairly realistic place without giant spaceships and the like, which could exist in some parallel universe.
Antonov’s initial specialization is industrial design. So at one time he spent enough time drawing non-existent machines, which, however, should not have been too unrealistic in appearance. With technology prevalent in Dunwall, Antonov wanted to show the local dictator’s obsession with technological progress. On the contrary, the design of the mask Korgo wears, which gives him superpowers, is the opposite of Dnuwall’s technology. It is made in the neo-Victorian style and represents the world of mysticism and magic.
Arkane Studios brought in celebrities such as Carrie Fisher, Michael Madsen and Chloe Grace Moritz to voice the characters, while the recently deceased Daniel Licht was commissioned to write the soundtrack.
When the release finally happened, the resulting Dishonored was mostly scolded for its slurred narrative, which some critics called “just a set of spectacular scenes”, and for the balance between the ways of passing this or that place that was not brought to the ideal. However, such dissatisfaction was a drop in the ocean of delight that Arkane Studios managed to give to the players.
Also, in support of the title, the free game Dishonored: Rat Assassin was released on iOS before the release, and in 2013, as many as four DLCs were presented.
Dishonored 2 (2016)
Even before the release of the first part, Arkane realized that they had created something worthwhile. Bethesda also considered it, and even before the release, she started talking about the relevance of developing a sequel. When Dishonored came out and racked up an incredible number of awards and a bunch of recognition from the players, not to mention impressive sales, Smith and Colantonio set about creating the second part.
Dishonored 2 takes place 15 years after the stories that took place in Dunwall. This time the player is given a choice of two characters: the main character of the first part, Corvo, who acquired his own voice, and the same, but already grown up, Emily.
Smith went to Lyon to develop Dishonored 2, while Colantonio stayed in America. Despite the fact that the designers communicated regularly, Colantonio’s role was more of a consulting one, since he spent a significant part of his time on the development of Prey, which was released in May 2017. Viktor Antonov also limited himself to the role of a consultant, due to his busyness with other projects.
If Dunwall was based on England and Scotland, then Karnaki was based on countries such as Italy, Greece and Spain, as well as photographs from Mitton’s trip to Los Angeles, which is known for its hot climate.
In order to make Karnak believable, Mitton thought out its history two centuries before the events in the game, the consequences of which are displayed in the details of the setting. The developers wanted the player to gradually immerse themselves in the city, understand how it works, how people work and live in it, and how it differs from Dunwall.
Then it was time to bring that same industrial flavor to the game that everyone loved so much in the first Dishonored. Mitton wanted Karnak to be distinguished by some unusual structure, unlike what we saw in the first part. And if Dunwall lived by obtaining whale oil, then Karnak exists due to the wind, which, passing through a giant mountain, fell into special wind corridors and fed the entire city with power.
As for the levels, the developers decided that they should add some kind of zest to the already proven level formula, creating some kind of epic for each mission. Thus, in the “Crack in the Slab” level, the player gains the ability to move back and forth in time, and in the “Clockwork Mansion” level, the player can move walls and ceilings while unraveling the inventor’s secret.
Corvo has all the same powers that players saw in the first part, with the exception of small adjustments, and all the new features are centered mainly around Emily. If desired, the player at a certain point in general can refuse any superpowers and go through the whole game, so to speak, with his bare hands.
The developers have also added enough opportunities to “turn off” opponents, while leaving them alive. By the way, the “Chaos” system, known from the previous part, has also changed. The rats have been replaced with cadaverous wasps (“bloodflies”), nesting in dead bodies that the player chooses not to clean up. As a result, the more corpses left behind, the more wasps flying around the city attacking the player.
In general, Arkane Studios tried to take all the ideas that were implemented in the first Dishonored to a new level, and add a couple of new ones. They managed to offer the player even more freedom of action, increasing the variability of passing levels.
However, after the release of Dishonored 2, much less was praised than the debut part, but this was primarily due to technical problems, to fix which Arkane Studios had to subsequently release three patches.
And yet, most of the feedback has been positive, because at the very least, Arkane Studios was able to satisfy all those players who liked the first Dishonored, but they wanted more and more beautiful.
Now, after the release of Death of the Outsider, it is not yet clear what will happen to the series next. Two months after Prey stepped down as president of Arkane Studios, founder Rafael Colantonio stepped down, leaving Harvey Smith in his place.
Today, the franchise is already popular enough to migrate to other media. Dishonored comics and books have already been released, and no one hides that the games in the series are cinematic enough for Hollywood to look in its direction.
Smith himself is sure of only one thing:
“The only thing I’m sure of is that if we make any more games in the Dishonored universe, it’s definitely not about Corvo and Emily.”
Author — spades62