INTERVIEW: Julien Roby talks about depth and stealth in Dishonored

Leigh Harris
INTERVIEW: Julien Roby talks about depth and stealth in Dishonored

Last week, MCV went to a humble but classy preview event for Dishonored at the Royal Automobile Club of New South Wales.

Whilst there, we spent some time with the upcoming shooter from Arkane Studios and spoke to Excutive Producer Julien Roby.

Do you feel there's a dearth of more cerebral shooters right now which Dishonored can capitalise on?

I think so. The kind of game we at Arcane really like as players has a little more depth than just shooting and running in corridors. So we want to give the player these tools to let them express themselves as they move around to reach their objectives.

Are there any games which you’d say have directly inspired Dishonored, or any games which you feel it follows?

From our point of view, it follows the Looking Glass types of games, so System Shock, Thief and those kinds of games. Those games have definitely been an influence on us.

We actually have a lot of people on the team who worked on the first Deus Ex, so we’ve got a lot of experience with this kind of game design.

And amongst these styles of game, Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Bioshock etc, where does Dishonored fit?

I think Bioshock and the last Deus Ex were really good games; they really kind of helped to bring back this kind of game into the spotlight, emphasising a degree of player choice and helping them to understand that they got to choosehow to play and which direction to go and all of that. Players can be confused by how these games work, but they did a good job of mixing systems and action.

Dishonored is kind of in this same vibe, but with a different experience, one which I hope will be just as good and provide lots of player possibility.

Given the amount of time spent observing NPCs in stealth games in particular, AI is more exposed and obvious than in other genres. Has that been a big focus for you?

Yeah, it’s a big focus. We want to make sure that people who want to play the game through in stealth will still find the game interesting and challenging, so of course they have to have AI in front of them which will react to what they’re doing: if they make noise, if they’ve been spotted, all that.

The challenge we’ve been presented with is trying to strike a balance between making the AI smart and making the AI too smart.

If we do make it too challenging, then as a player you won’t have a way to win against them. We’re trying to find a balance where the AI will at least look smart, and present a challenge, but still be able to be overcome.

How generous have you been with punishing players when they’re trying to play through in stealth mode? Is the necessity for checkpoint altered by the play style?

One thing we wanted to do is  not make it too unforgiving for the player. By that I mean that the player shouldn’t be made to lose the game the moment he’s been detected. The idea is that you can still recover from this, so you can momentarily go into full on action if you need to, kill a few people then get back to a situation where you’re unknown.

Or you can try to escape and hide and wait for the archers to cool down a little and get back to your stealth situation again. To do that, you can either run away, pull something out and hide somewhere.

Considering the game's more self-directed pace, players can opt to observe the game world and its goings on at their leisure. Is that why you’ve gone to the trouble of enriching it by adding things people can read, much like in an RPG?

It’s for that and also because we like the idea that the player has the ability to explore and getting little bits of background on the story and the world. We’ve designed it so that any player who wants to play it kind of straightforward can do the objectives and all that, but those who want to spend more time sneaking around in the world can get a bounty of more information, can spend their time reading books, getting more information, listening in on conversations between two characters.

Sometimes it’ll be background, other times it’ll be useful info about your objectives, so it pays to do it too.

There was an article recently which suggested that easy mode was killing gaming. What are your thoughts on that? Are you happy with an easy mode for newcomers?

Yeah, we’ve got an easy mode, which is much more forgiving.

We wanted to make it so that people who want to play the game for the world and the story can do it without being killed in five seconds. But also, we’ve made it so you can change the difficulty of the game at any time, so if it is too easy for you, you can easily switch.

Given the subject matter, is there a specific political influence for the game?

Um, I don’t know. There have definitely been many influences from political regions in different countries. There are certainly elements where the game reflects countries have big oppression and all that, so there’s definitely a political message behind it in that sense, but ultimately it’s the player who is making the choices in the game.

Thank you for your time!

 

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Tags: interview , Development , arkane studios , stealth , dishonored , shooters , Julien Roby , Bethesda Softworks , difficulty

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