An Honorable Interview with Dishonored’s Julien Roby: Part 1
“First game you can play an assassin and don’t kill anybody”
by : Arthur Kotsopoulos
©2012 Arthur Kotsopoulos
Three of our staff have previewed and played the game and all three have emerged impressed.
Here we interview Julien Roby, Arkane Studios’ Executive Producer to find out how this refreshing experience has come about.
The following phone interview has been transcribed as best as possible taking into account accent differences.
Arthur: First up, and don’t scold me for this, but I haven’t exactly had the chance to play the game yet or check it out… but our North American rep has.
So I wanted to know from a new player’s perspective in terms of button configuration, with the use of the skills, weapons and powers, is there a lot of button memory involved?
Say, with newcomers is there going to be a difficulty in that area in terms of the possible combinations of skills, powers and weapons involved and needing button memory?
Julien: Oh, yes so the way it works is when you start the game you don’t actually have any powers yet. You don’t have gadgets so basically you start the game learning the very basic controls for the game and little by little you’re going to collect runes and basically they are like the currency to get new powers.
So you’re not going to start the game with 10 powers and be overwhelmed, it’s more about expanding the runes to buy new powers and then buying them one by one, little by little and also making choices because you can’t actually get all of them in a single play through.
And the same thing is true for the gadgets. The gadgets you can get by getting new blueprints, upgrades and that kind of stuff, so it’s really things you’ll get little by little as you play the game then trying to experiment with what you’ve got and trying to combine the powers with the gadgets together.
So yeah it’s more prolonged throughout all the game.
Arthur: Oh ok, now in comparison to say a company like Ubisoft with Assassins Creed or Treyarch with Call of Duty, you’re not known as a massive mega-developer; did the ambitious scope of the game pose any kind of special challenge to a studio like yours?
Julien: I think the main challenge with the game we are doing is not, like, cover and scripted or very directing by trying to lead the player by the nose, so it was a real challenge to get a video game that is really, like, open in the way the player can approach it.
So the thing I like to mention is that we had to face it as a team and no matter what was decided, it needed be a challenge for everybody because of the open nature of the game-play.
Arthur: So basically there’s going to be a lot of variety of gamers playing Dishonored; the video diaries obviously demonstrate the game can be approached in a variety of ways.
Do you think that most gamers will find this sense of choice coming naturally to them or will they be confused by the fact that they aren’t actually being shuffled along in a corridor and told exactly what to do?
Julien: Yeah that’s a good point actually we ah…we kind of came up with this problem when we play-tested the game a few months ago: players were not expecting to be able to do 10 different things in the same area because there was just one path on the street and they didn’t think of looking at the rooftop.
So what we tried to do was at the beginning of the game show the different options and teach the player about these options initially and then let them try to explore and experiment with things.
We didn’t want to fall in the pitfall where we’re just drawing the player by the nose because then that defeats the point of letting them find their own way, so yeah just trying to strike a nice balance between teaching the player what they can do and then letting them actually do things.
Arthur: A lot of games lately have you playing, you know, some kind of an assassin, why do you feel that assassins generally make a good game protagonist? And the inclusion of fulfilling missions without killing enemies seems to be incredibly refreshing and surprising since many games that have you play an assassin are usually either capture this person or kill this person.
What do you think makes an assassin such a good protagonist for a game like this?
Julien: Well the reason that we went with an assassin; we were trying to come up with a type of gameplay to let the player play his own way.
I would say the archetype of the assassin has this kind of idea that I can just sneak around and not be detected at all or just kill everybody because he’s an assassin.
So it was kind of good for that and also, as you said, because the fact a player who does not want to kill anybody could still play the game and play around this constraint.
So it’s like the first game where you play an assassin and don’t actually kill anybody, haha.
Arthur: And in terms of the Victorian Steampunk look, it’s very distinct and atmospheric.
Why do you think there aren’t many games that have a heavier emphasis on combining a mix of realistic historic architecture as well as created environments?
Julien: Well I think there are challenges for that, like there is a lot of work, time and preparation to find a world and know what it’ll look like, so it’s probably something not everybody would like to tackle because it takes a lot of time to work on that, and also again the fact that it’s kind of different.
I’m not sure people are going to like it because it IS different so it’s probably safest to stick to what you know.
What we wanted to achieve on our end was to create both something that was unique and that you could recognise for the first time, so when you see a screenshot from Dishonored you know it’s Dishonored and it’s not from some random game.
It was about bringing something fresh and something new that the player could and would want to explore and discover because it’s unique.
Be sure to check out part 2 of OXCGN’s interview with Julien Roby soon.
- An Honorable Interview with Dishonored’s Julien Roby, Part 2: HERE
- Dishonored: most underestimated game of the year, HERE
- What Dishonored has on Assassin’s Creed, HERE
- A Delightfully Different Outing, HERE
- QuakeCon 2012: Harvey Smith Dishonored Interview, HERE
- Dishonored’s Game World: Soup of Ideas or Creative Genius, HERE