The blank canvas of creating an original game can be daunting, so relying on a few tried-and-true mechanics or a dependable setting is common. Even then, nailing the perfect environment for the player to experience can be an iterative process, as Arkane Studios found when creating the world of Dishonored.
Sebastien Mitton, art director on the game, recently told GameSpot that it took a few attempts before the developer settled on the European-themed city of Dunwall and its 20th century influences. In fact, feudal Japan was the original flavour Arkane tried to replicate.
“We felt that Japan wasn’t good for us, because we don’t know this culture as Europeans,” said Mitton. Arkane has an office in Lyon, France, where Mitton works, as well as a second office in Austin, Texas. “So we wanted to move the setting to London,” Mitton continued. “We decided to use London because this is a city that Europeans and Americans know well.”
The article states the events of the Great Plague were chosen to fill out the historical details, but was in no way an anchor securing the game’s timeframe. The idea of diseased rats (and a general grittiness) appear to have stuck with the game, but Mitton says that Arkane “slowly shift[ed] to the 20th century”, resulting in a fusion of periods and a “science fiction” feel.
In the end, the decision was made to conjure up a new city and call it “Dunwall”, to reflect that the setting was not based on just one place or idea.
The interview over at GameSpot also delves into how the mechanics of magic changed over development and features a few insights from creative director Harvey Smith.
The Dishonored that never was [GameSpot]