Austin-based Arkane Studios releases “Dishonored” video game

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Austin-based Arkane Studios releases “Dishonored” video game

The video game

The video game "Dishonored" was developed by Arkane Studios, an Austin-based company.

The video game "Dishonored" was developed by Arkane Studios, an Austin-based company.

The video game "Dishonored" was developed by Arkane Studios, an Austin-based company.


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Austin has an alleged supernatural assassin on the loose, but luckily this suspect cannot escape the TV or PC monitor.

Arkane Studios released the video game “Dishonored” on Oct. 9. The company has two branches: one studio in France and the other in Austin. The Austin branch opened in 2006. The studio’s new game is turning heads in the gaming industry.

The game is set in the late 1800s with a technologically futuristic setting. The game tells the story of a bodyguard framed for the murder of the Empress he was protecting. The hook is that the main character possesses supernatural abilities, and uses them to fight off authorities after being suspected of assassination.

Harvey Smith, co-creative director of the game, is closely tied with Gregory Perry, assistant professor of digital media management at St. Edward’s University.

“We’re good friends,” Perry said of Smith. “Harvey came to St. Edward’s and spoke to our Game Design class last year.”

Both Smith and Raphael Colantonio, co-directors of the game, were able to take some time out of their busy schedules and answer some questions about development in Austin.

“Austin is smaller than some areas, but innovation and deep player experience are valued by the developers here,” Smith said.


He said he was inspired by games such as “Thus Ultima,” “Wing Commander,” “Ultima Online” and “Deus Ex” that were developed in Austin.

Smith also offered advice to students who are interested in working in the gaming industry.

“Make games with small groups so that you learn multiple roles on a team, and you learn to collaborate over intense, completely subjective creative disagreements,” Smith said.

Having two studios across the world from each other does not seem to hold back the studio.

“It’s very much interlaced; not set up with discrete departments in different locations. In Lyon, France, we’ve got our stellar art team, our tech programmers, the executive producer, half the level designers, the audio lead, and a couple of producer-game systems designers,” Colantonio said.

“Here in Austin, we have half the programmers focused on gameplay, the two co-creative directors, half the level designers, a couple of artists, and a producer-game systems designer. We used video conferencing all day, or at least when the time zones overlap, up all the time, not just during meetings. Plus, we fly people back and forth,” Smith said.

The two weighed in on making their new game stand out in a market dominated by sequels.

“You’ve got all the usual challenges of making a very ambitious game like this, but you have to figure out a thousand details related to the world: religions, governments, the calendar, what animals live there, the history, etc. Further, the look and feel, how to communicate the ideas to players, the name…it’s a huge challenge,” Smith said.

“We’ve created a setting, which people refer to as steampunk, which is novel for games. Further, our game is a blend of combat, mobility and stealth. It’s a game about an assassin where you don’t have to kill a single person, it has an unusual ‘painting brought to life’ art style and it is systems/simulation based, so the player can experiment and play creatively. The gameplay we love is all dynamic, unscripted and driven by the player improvisationally,” Colantonio said.

Arkane Studios was founded in 1999 and released two games before “Dishonored.” This is their first major release since 2006. They did additional production work on “Call of Duty: World At War” in 2008 and “Bioshock 2” in 2009.

The studio earned itself some big financial backing. ZeniMax Media bought them during the production of “Dishonored” in 2010. Many developer studios go out of business without support from publishers, so this was a big step for their business. ZeniMax also owns Bethesda Softworks, which is a big publisher and developer known for the Elder Scrolls Series, whose latest release “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” took in around $640 million in its first month last year.

“Dishonored” was very well-received by critics. Critics seem to agree that the game is fresh, the gameplay mechanics are interesting and it is the game from 2012 that really stands out from the others so far in terms of innovation. There have not been any major complaints from the majority of reviews.

Pete Hines, VP of PR and marketing at Bethesda, said via Twitter that the new game is selling very well.

“Sales folks are all smiles today after another big weekend,” Hines said.

Sophomore Michael Haywood likes that “Dishonored” combines some of his favorite games together.

“It’s a cool steampunk-Bioshock-Assassin’s Creed game. It looks like it has a lot of room for personal playing style.”

The game is available for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.