How Small Lyon Studio Arkane Managed To Produce The Dishonored 2 Blockbuster

Meeting in Lyon with the designers of Dishonored 2 produced by the small French studio Arkane Studios for the American Bethesda. Or how to raise the level of play for 4 years so as not to disappoint players waiting for the sequel to the blockbuster Dishonored.

The terracotta statues that stand in the hall are now well known to gamers. The faces of the main characters of Dishonored 2 welcome the visitor who has come to meet the game’s designers in Lyon. This game, released on November 11, was at the heart of their thoughts for 4 long years, simultaneously mobilizing up to 170 people. “Our recruitment for Dishonored 2 looked like Ocean Eleven,” says Sébastien Mitton, artistic director of Arkane. We drank a lot of coffee, like George and we went to recruit the best in the world, no matter where they lived or where they came from ”. And to cite as proof the fact of being to seek the Russian illustrators Sergey Kolesov and Polish Piotr Jablonsky. “All the objects were designed as if they had to be realizable”, adds the artistic director.

In Dishonored, the player played an assassin with supernatural powers in a retro-futuristic city with a steampunk vibe. “As it is the continuation, this time you will be able to play as 2 assassins with different powers in two different cities, summarizes Dinga Bakaba,“ Lead game designer ”of Arkane. The starting point seems simple: it’s the sequel to Dishonored, but it had to be better in every way. Thus Corvo will have more direct soldiering skills than Empress Emily who will play with her manipulation of minds. “In Dishonored, we were modeled on a target that we had to eliminate,” sums up Christophe Carrier, “Level designer director”. There it is more complicated than that ”. Taking as an example a level where the player “will travel in time between two different eras”.

“Oops these are things that happen”

The designers of the game wanted to leave a lot of freedom to the player: he can progress if he wants in a very violent way or else finish the game “being peaceful”. That is, not to kill anyone throughout the story. And Dinga Bakaba to show us in practice how to proceed… before dying in combat. “Oops these are things that happen”.

The game was produced in constant collaboration between the Arkane teams and those of Bethesda in the United States, which bought the Lyon studio in 2010. The American publisher allowed the French to move up a gear: for the first Dishonored, 88 people were needed. For the rest, the double was mobilized. “We had a lot more resources to do things, analyzes Christophe Carrier. At the level of development and marketing alone, we can feel their strike force. In terms of creativity, they let us do what we wanted. Dishonored’s bet was risky because at the time everyone swore by multiplayer ”. He is satisfied that Bethesda came looking for “Arkane for what we knew how to do rather than trying to force us to do what they were doing. We felt we were talking to other developers. It was very appreciable because suddenly there was no particular interference, they supported us and it was really very appreciable ”.

“A pack of mustaches to frame”

The level of requirement has thus been raised. “The city of Karnaka where the story takes place was imagined as a character in itself, develops Sébastien Mitton. It forced us to develop the city’s past. We imagined two waves of settlers. Visually, it is a collision between the dense forest and the industrialization represented by the exploitation of the silver mine. Electricity is produced by a mix of wind turbines and factories that heat whale oil ”.

An impressive mass of details to always increase the player’s immersion in this fictional universe. 70 artists worked on the project. “A pack of mustaches to frame”, sums up Arkane’s artistic director, who understands euphemistically to exert “a lot of friendly pressure on my team”. An intensive preparation that Dinga Bakaba nicely sums up. “It’s like you’ve been planning your birthday party for 4 years. In a way you can be anxious because it can go wrong but you did it for people to come. We prepared the playing field and we couldn’t wait for the players to take over it ”.