Dishonored Designer Urges Developers to "Specialize"

Dishonored Designer Urges Developers to "Specialize"

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According to Harvey Smith, a game doesn't need to do everything - it just needs to do one thing very well.

Every once in a while a new trend emerges in the gaming mainstream. Publishers will naturally want to capitalize on this: when online multiplayer exploded in popularity, every game had to find a way to include a competitive multiplayer component. Lately publishers have been pushing to incorporate social media tie-ins, because evidently that's where the market is. Harvey Smith does not subscribe to this trend-chasing theory. He doesn't think that the expanding market is killing old-school sensibilities. And as co-creative director on Dishonored (an offline single-player stealth game that was awarded Best Game at the BAFTAs), he should know.

As Smith sees it, the interests of the gaming masses aren't shifting, they're just growing. "What the reality seems to be is we keep adding types of games and finding new player groups for those," he says. "The market seems to be expanding." Smith admits that while some fans have complained about the lack of multiplayer in Dishonored, many more have expressed gratitude for the game's polished single-player experience.

The rising development costs of modern games are one of the biggest obstacles to innovation - trends can generally be milked reliably for a while, but new ideas don't have as much guaranteed return on the investment. Interestingly, Smith hopes that increased costs will actually force game studios to try new things, rather than cling to whatever the current craze is. "I hope people are specializing and going deeper on given mechanics," he explains. "And I actually hope it gets to the point where there are so many people competing - indie developers and commercial developers - and they're so good at this one thing they do that in order to win, you have to differentiate. You have to do something well that the other guy's not doing. That'd be nice, right? Instead of a handful of games that all try to do the same thing, I hope there's some specialization happening and people are going to have to do one thing well or three things well instead of trying to do the same 12 things everyone else is doing."

Smith and the rest of Arkane Studios are currently working on the next piece of Dishonored DLC, The Knife of Dunwall, which is due to launch on April 16.

Source: Games Industry International

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Agreed. Dishonored does what it does and it does it very damn well. As much as I'd love to put its sweet swordplay to test against other players, I can't complain.

Considering all they did was make a poor-mans' Deus Ex in a steam punk setting, perhaps they're not the ones to speak up about differentiating, hmm?

Still, he's not wrong. It would be nice to see a few less grizzled white guys walking away from fire with a gun on the box art.

But, but, but every game should be all things to all people. What about my social multiplayer FPRPGS/city builder? Call of ZombievilleCraft Online (for Facebook)!

Don't treat gameplay like a checklist, treat it like a stress test.
See how far you can go.

Well the only thing that that game did right was stealth combat. So, good job? Your story was terrible, had bad pacing and you took the Strider idea form HL2 and put it in your game. Had a good/evil system that was not ever explained and amounted to nothing. The game was still fun, I enjoyed playing it. Interesting idea though. Have a bunch of niche game industry's.

Mcoffey:
Considering all they did was make a poor-mans' Deus Ex in a steam punk setting, perhaps they're not the ones to speak up about differentiating, hmm?

Still, he's not wrong. It would be nice to see a few less grizzled white guys walking away from fire with a gun on the box art.

But but. Deus ex is a poor mans thief clone set in a cyberpunk setting???

In other words, they're not talking about inventing new genres, they are talking about choosing one and stick to doing it well instead of trying to pander to everyone.

TorchofThanatos:
Well the only thing that that game did right was stealth combat. So, good job? Your story was terrible, had bad pacing and you took the Strider idea form HL2 and put it in your game. Had a good/evil system that was not ever explained and amounted to nothing. The game was still fun, I enjoyed playing it. Interesting idea though. Have a bunch of niche game industry's.

That would be because it was the same person who did all the concept art for hl2 who did dishonoureds. No love for the level design and visual style? :(

Mcoffey:
Considering all they did was make a poor-mans' Deus Ex in a steam punk setting, perhaps they're not the ones to speak up about differentiating, hmm?

Still, he's not wrong. It would be nice to see a few less grizzled white guys walking away from fire with a gun on the box art.

I disagree.

It seemed more of a poor-man's Splinter Cell:Chaos theory. It had the right idea although the mechanics gave you god power.

flarty:

Mcoffey:
Considering all they did was make a poor-mans' Deus Ex in a steam punk setting, perhaps they're not the ones to speak up about differentiating, hmm?

Still, he's not wrong. It would be nice to see a few less grizzled white guys walking away from fire with a gun on the box art.

But but. Deus ex is a poor mans thief clone set in a cyberpunk setting???

In other words, they're not talking about inventing new genres, they are talking about choosing one and stick to doing it well instead of trying to pander to everyone.

I may be mistaken, I haven't little knowledge of the Thief games, but I saw more in common with Deus Ex due to the RPG elements and the (limited) branching narrative. Wasn't Thief more specifically stealth? In any event you're second point is correct.

mad825:

Mcoffey:
Considering all they did was make a poor-mans' Deus Ex in a steam punk setting, perhaps they're not the ones to speak up about differentiating, hmm?

Still, he's not wrong. It would be nice to see a few less grizzled white guys walking away from fire with a gun on the box art.

I disagree.

It seemed more a poor-man's Splinter Cell:Chaos theory. I had the right idea although the mechanics gave you god power.

Now that was a good game! I don't see much in common with Dishonored though. Splinter cell had no RPG elements, was third person, and no morality system.

mad825:

Mcoffey:
Considering all they did was make a poor-mans' Deus Ex in a steam punk setting, perhaps they're not the ones to speak up about differentiating, hmm?

Still, he's not wrong. It would be nice to see a few less grizzled white guys walking away from fire with a gun on the box art.

I disagree.

It seemed more of a poor-man's Splinter Cell:Chaos theory. It had the right idea although the mechanics gave you god power.

...and yet, what was one of the greatest things about Chaos Theory? The innovative and unsurpassed stealth multi-player...

I basically agree with this. Trying to shove too many features into a game gets tiring and tends to simply waste money. I'm not fundamentally against MP or anything, but I do see that many games are trying to pack that stuff in without considering whether it's necessary or even if it adds at all to the total experience. I mean, I have yet to play a lockpicking minigame in an elder scrolls title that added anything more to the game than simply attacking the lock with a lockpick (as was done in Morrowind).

octafish:

...and yet, what was one of the greatest things about Chaos Theory? The innovative and unsurpassed stealth multi-player...

So a game has to innovative to be a good game?...Well, how innovative is Dishonored? Alot of people enjoyed the Singleplayer as well, nothing great but still better than the crap we get today.

Mcoffey:
Splinter cell had no RPG elements

Every thing but the numbers and inventory management, it had elements like Deus Ex however they were streamlined, in Dishonored they were streamlined even futher. The mortality system? Trolololo, Fable:TLC has a better mortality system and that's saying something.

Mcoffey:

I may be mistaken, I haven't little knowledge of the Thief games, but I saw more in common with Deus Ex due to the RPG elements and the (limited) branching narrative. Wasn't Thief more specifically stealth? In any event you're second point is correct.

You may be correct as i have only ever played about 20 minutes of thief 3. But since i play deus ex exclusively stealth it was the first game that popped into my head for comparison. My point with the comment was though is everyone has opinions. No need to spout em as fact.

mad825:

Mcoffey:
Splinter cell had no RPG elements

Every thing but the numbers and inventory management, it had elements like Deus Ex however they were streamlined, in Dishonored they were streamlined even futher. The mortality system? Trolololo, Fable:TLC has a better mortality system and that's saying something.

Could you elaborate? Yes, Deus Ex and Splinter Cell both have stealth, but Deus Ex was more about giving you options to complete your mission. Splinter Cell is pure stealth. And yeah the morality system is fairly laughable in Dishonered but it's still an RPG trope.

I'm not quite sure what you're arguing. I'm just saying Dishonored has more in common with Deus Ex than Splinter Cell.

There are so many concepts in gaming that overlap, heavily specializing is kind of impossible.
Still, I appreciate the plea for diversity; it's sorely lacking in mainstream gaming.

And then when your chosen genre falls out of fashion with the gaming public, you too can experience the joys of job cuts, redundancy payments and bankruptcy procedures.

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I get that he's arguing for more diversity, but I think his approach is wrong. There's already too much specialisation in the industry, and it's the reason there's so much stagnation. Infinity Ward specialised in making modern war shooters, and that's all they've done for the past decade. Blizzard specialises in Diablo, Warcraft and Starcraft, and that's seemingly it. DICE seems to have dropped what little variety they ever had, and become a full-time Battlefield maker.

It's much better to keep challenging yourself with new, fresh concepts, even if they don't always pay off. Next Level Games started off making Wii ports of games like Ghost Recon. Then they did the Punch-Out remake for Nintendo. And then they got a three year development budget, and produced Luigi's Mansion 2, which by all accounts is one of the best games to hit an already bursting-with-quality system. Retro went from making the beloved Prime games to doing Donkey Kong Country Returns, as well as helping out with Mario Kart 7. Back in the glory days, Rare were able to jump from something like Banjo Kazooie to GoldenEye with ease, and Squaresoft had seemingly dozens of unique RPGs with unique mechanics and styles.

There's room for specialisation certainly, but right now we're seeing too much of that, and not enough experimentation and leftfield thinking. Developers are specialising in giving us what they already know what we want, rather than surprising us with something we've never seen before. If we want less homogeneity in the industry, we need to encourage developers to move outside their comfort zones, and start challenging their successful formulas.

I agree. For example, look at the crative assembly. They are very good at making total war games. every other game they try to make is mediocre at best, but the total war games are always very good. Total war is where their strength is, and that's where they should focus their energy.

Bioware is another example. they started off as hardcore RPG makers, but kept adding more shooter and removing rpg, and now they've lost their RPg fanbase, without gainig any great hold on the shooter market.

obviously, you shouldn't stagnate or only make a single game over and over, but there's a lot to be said for laying your focus on the kind of games you're best at.

Games don't have to do one thing well. They just need to focus on doing only those things most appropriate to the game's concept.

EDIT: emphasis added.

You guys up there do know the reason Dishonored borrows from Deus Ex right?


I mean it's likely you know but the way you are all talking it sounds like you haven't a clue

And I'm pretty sure all he is saying here is what everyone has been saying for the last two years now. Stop trying to appeal to everyone by putting a little bit of every genre into your game and just decide on a demographics and stick to your niche.

I really do get annoyed when people say games like Dishonored need multiplayer. What you end up with is the same capture and hold, capture the flag, and death match that everyone's seen for the past 10+ years in gaming. I don't mind open world games like GTA having an online free roam, I'd would've loved for Far Cry 3 to have that instead of a glitchy co-op.

Nice sentiment but I disagree, Bioware's slavishly sticking to a single formulue every single time is arguably part of what's killing the company. The problem is not that dev teams aren't specialized, the problem is that every game is made to appeal to everyone. As opposed to making multiple games that each appeal to different markets.

Devoneaux:
Nice sentiment but I disagree, Bioware's slavishly sticking to a single formulue every single time is arguably part of what's killing the company. The problem is not that dev teams aren't specialized, the problem is that every game is made to appeal to everyone. As opposed to making multiple games that each appeal to different markets.

It's not that they're sticking to the same thing that is killing them. It's because they're fucking awful at it.

Eh, another tip I'd give is to actually be passionate and invested into your project for years to come, because if you aren't, Dishonored is what you get. Plays perfectly, but everything seems off, it's just purely mechanical with no real soul or vision behind it.

I took this to mean the developers should sspecialize their GAME, not specialize their company into making only one type of game.

He meant don't make the (individual) game try and be all genres.

A lot of you seem to think he meant keep making the same game over and over again.

mad825:

octafish:

...and yet, what was one of the greatest things about Chaos Theory? The innovative and unsurpassed stealth multi-player...

So a game has to innovative to be a good game?...Well, how innovative is Dishonored? Alot of people enjoyed the Singleplayer as well, nothing great but still better than the crap we get today.

You seem to think I am attacking Splinter Cell. I am not, well not unless we are talking about the games after Chaos Theory. Just saying that sometimes multiplayer brings something more to a game. Chaos Theory is the game that turned me onto the idea that not all multi-player was just boring deathmatches. I wasn't that impressed with Dishonour to be honest, but then again I got it the same day I got the new X-Com. It never had a chance.

T3hSource:
Eh, another tip I'd give is to actually be passionate and invested into your project for years to come, because if you aren't, Dishonored is what you get. Plays perfectly, but everything seems off, it's just purely mechanical with no real soul or vision behind it.

That's an interesting way to go about describing the games flaws. Soulless and lacking in passion?

I disagree I think that there was plenty of passion in the development of the game.If anything, possibly too much in one direction.

If they just chilled the beans a little and perhaps allowed a few beats/levels for character development rather than rushing the player off to the next cool piece of their world that they wanted to show off.

I think they were a little too much in love with the the world they created, and maybe not enough with their characters.

I would totally agree with you that while it was an excellent game, it could have been so much more.

Guys I know this is unrelated to the article, but are the video game Baftas becoming the video game equivalent of the oscars?

I agree with tihs guy. specializing in your type of games is what gave us the best franchises we have. Total war, civilization, and many many other.

Strazdas:
I agree with tihs guy. specializing in your type of games is what gave us the best franchises we have. Total war, civilization, and many many other.

wait didnt sid meyer do civ? and gunship, and pirates! the man did alot of games beside civ and in many very different games a helo combat sim? a pirate rpg, and one of the highest rated rts games of all time. the man got around and i can hardly say he specialized in doing just rts.

flarty:

Mcoffey:
Considering all they did was make a poor-mans' Deus Ex in a steam punk setting, perhaps they're not the ones to speak up about differentiating, hmm?

Still, he's not wrong. It would be nice to see a few less grizzled white guys walking away from fire with a gun on the box art.

But but. Deus ex is a poor mans thief clone set in a cyberpunk setting???

Isnīt it a Poor mans version of System Shock by the guy who created System Shock? :p

Not that thereīs anything wrong with that, the market isnīt exactly flooded with games similar to Thief or Deus Ex.

grey_space:
That's an interesting way to go about describing the games flaws. Soulless and lacking in passion?

I can't tell you with a straight face that I found the 2nd part of the game interesting. In the beggining its quirks and style were in motion before me, after that... nothing.

grey_space:
I disagree I think that there was plenty of passion in the development of the game.If anything, possibly too much in one direction.

Eh, at least that means that the artists tried to make it feel original, and not just ThiefShock.

grey_space:
If they just chilled the beans a little and perhaps allowed a few beats/levels for character development rather than rushing the player off to the next cool piece of their world that they wanted to show off.

They could've gotten away with A LOT more content, the mechanics are there, the level design is there, all that was left was great gameplay design. And yes, the characters could've been written and developed so much better if they hired voice actors that are trying to breakthrough rather than big names. The world was interesting in concept, but the execution was lacking in every aspect, the books filled with interesting stuff, but written in a very dull manner, everyone speaks like a robot instead of being oppressed/depressed by the setting, or trying to lighten up to avoid facing the decay outside.

grey_space:
I would totally agree with you that while it was an excellent game, it could have been so much more.

This is what about AAA games, creative works that play it "safely", aggravates me the most.

cerebus23:

Strazdas:
I agree with tihs guy. specializing in your type of games is what gave us the best franchises we have. Total war, civilization, and many many other.

wait didnt sid meyer do civ? and gunship, and pirates! the man did alot of games beside civ and in many very different games a helo combat sim? a pirate rpg, and one of the highest rated rts games of all time. the man got around and i can hardly say he specialized in doing just rts.

For one, Sid Meyer is just a name on civ and not much more since Civ 4. And secondly i didnt say do only ONE thin. i said do only what you do well (your type of games) instead of trying to do " everything for everyone".

T3hSource:
I can't tell you with a straight face that I found the 2nd part of the game interesting. In the beggining its quirks and style were in motion before me, after that... nothing.

After I maxed out blink it did get a bit samey.
I still enjoyed it though. The level of detail in every level was awesome. Right up to the last level I felt.

T3hSource:

They could've gotten away with A LOT more content, the mechanics are there, the level design is there, all that was left was great gameplay design. And yes, the characters could've been written and developed so much better if they hired voice actors that are trying to breakthrough rather than big names. The world was interesting in concept, but the execution was lacking in every aspect, the books filled with interesting stuff, but written in a very dull manner, everyone speaks like a robot instead of being oppressed/depressed by the setting, or trying to lighten up to avoid facing the decay outside.

Yes. I would also buy this game that you described. The characters were all just a bit...two dimensional for me by the end. They were just so close to being fully realised...2.5 dimensional? :) But the mood and atmosphere of the setting always spoke to me.

T3hSource:

This is what about AAA games, creative works that play it "safely", aggravates me the most.

You and me both. I suppose I am just a little bit more content to 'settle' :P

Captcha: 'it is enough'

No, goddammit! that's what we're talking about it's not!!

 

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