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Harvey Smith Talks Interactive Narrative at GamesIndustry

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Harvey Smith Talks Interactive Narrative at GamesIndustry

Interview - posted by Crooked Bee on Thu 26 July 2012, 07:56:14

Tags: Arkane Studios; Dishonored; Harvey Smith

GamesIndustry.biz has interviewed Arkane's Harvey Smith, lead designer on Deus Ex and co-lead designer on Dishonored, about the upcoming game, empowering the player, and interactive narrative. Here's a snip:

You have an interesting pedigree with Deus Ex, System Shock and having worked with Warren Spector. What are the kinds of things you are trying to achieve with Dishonored? Are you trying to apply anything from those past games for this project?

Harvey Smith: I was only a tester on System Shock, but you are right in the sense that I have always liked a particular type of game and always try to work on the same type of game. Raphael Colantonio is my co-creative director on this project. He and I came together four years ago and we both have this strong philosophy around these first-person action games. They are not first-person shooters; they are first-person games with depth. First-person action games are very immersive; they are from your perspective and they mix simulation, stealth and storytelling.

It is all about player freedom. We never want to make a game that is a linear canyon where you start here in this canyon, you can't go left or right. You see lots of pretty scenery, but you always arrive at the end. We never want to make that game. We want to make a game where you can go behind the building, go on the roof, swim in the river and come in through the sewer drain and come up with a fish. Because our philosophies overlap so much, like 85 percent, we both got into the industry because we both love a game called Underworld. We saw that game as the future a long time ago. So for us, we love these games like BioShock, Deus Ex, Dark Messiah, even Far Cry 2. There are all these first person games that are more than shooting. It's about how these games are implemented.

Specifically, we like games that are authored in such a way that they are systems. They aren't just a shooting gallery with scripted pop-ups for the player. So that made it all easy to come together. That's really our goal with Dishonored; to empower the player so the player can play creatively. It requires more on the part of the player; these games don't play themselves.

What do you think about the way the medium of gaming has advanced storytelling? There are people like Naughty Dog who take a kind of cinematic approach with Uncharted or David Cage with Heavy Rain and Beyond. And that's a different approach than the kinds of games that you or Ken Levine would make where you empower the player to be very active in that story versus going on that 'thrill ride.' How do you view the advancement of storytelling in games?

Harvey Smith: You've obviously picked up on the fact that there is a schism there. There are two different philosophies. Even when we were working on Deus Ex, I said that some games excel at being roller coaster rides with pop-ups at the right time, thrills at the right time and scripted breathers at the right time. Other games are more like when you were a little kid or teenager and you and your friends broke into the abandoned warehouse down the road; you were scared and didn't know if anyone was going to catch you. It was dark, it was dangerous. It was fun because you made your own fun. By exploring, you made your own fun by exploring. The pace was at your disposal. It was a player-driven pace. Those are very different experiences.

We feel that the latter is where the player is the most empowered; the player has the most agency. Raphael and I both agree that that is what we want to do. At the same time, there are ways I think to blend a bit of both. We've learned on this project that there are ways to veer people towards a haunted house, but it doesn't help to give sign-posts here and there that help attract you or guide you to up the drama.​

You can find the full interview here.

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