Dishonored: The Onion

By Alec Meer on October 8th, 2012 at 7:00 pm.

I want Samuel the boatman to be my uncle

There’s going to be a backlash against Dishonored. It can’t be helped: when a game makes big promises, a justice squad will quickly arise to loudly demand that it accounts for not meeting them to the very letter, and in this case I suspect there’s an additional flock of people who have been led by marketing to expect an all-out action game. I can predict, even sympathise with, some of the complaints, others I suspect will be absolutely mystifying to me. It’s the finest hour in what we might loosely but innacurately term ‘blockbuster shooters’ in years – I’d feel petulant were I to demand it give me even more. But there is one complaint that may reach a crescendo in short order, and that is the issue of length. For me, Dishonored was a deliciously long game, clocking in at about 25 hours even without the total replay I intend on having very soon. For someone else – someone who has a lot of numbers in the name they use when playing Halo 4, say – it will be insultingly short. It may not even make a double figures quantity of hours. That’s not the game’s fault, it’s theirs (or, perhaps, the fault of the marketeers who sold the game as an action opus). They gobbled the onion up whole, too greedy or too lazy or too accustomed to inflexible fare to peel apart its layers.


When you start a mission in Dishonored, your main objective/target will, if you not deliberately deactivated it on option, appear on the HUD as an ever-present marker. In most cases, the objective will be under 300 metres from your position (though will require a transition from an outdoor space to an indoor one). You can take out your gun, your crossbow, your grenades, your sword, your razor mines, perhaps your windblast power if you’ve been minded to acquire it, and you can run towards that marker.

You will have to do some jumping, you will probably have to do some fighting, and you’ll almost inevitably need to do some saving and reloading, but with a bit of skill and a bit of luck you will make it to that marker in a matter of minutes. This is certainly the case if you play on Normal, though expect a need for greater caution and precision on Hard. I have tried it myself on a couple of missions, and lo, it can indeed be brief.

If that is your Dishonored, your Dishonored will last but a handful of hours. You will have followed a cursor and you will have shot some men, and you will perhaps be questioning why there was so very little of it. Dishonored does contain that game, but Dishonored is not that game.

My Dishonored was largely spent in a crouch, in the shadows, killing no-one, collecting everything. That is not the necessary way to play it to get more out of it, but it’s certainly one way to do so. Dishonored’s levels always appear, at a quick glance, as straight, albeit lavish, runs across short distances with perhaps a couple of dozen enemies to contend with. You can do this, if your skill at shooters so allows, but by God you’re denying yourself so much.

Power upgrades, vignettes that flesh out this broken world, capsule puzzles and magnificent sights are hidden away to the sides and most of all under the skin of the map. Events and choices with some pretty huge repercussions on not just plot, but the contents and nature of later levels. What looks, superficially, like a small area is dense with layers, both of possibilities but also architecturally – maze-like buildings with satisfyingly inconvenient access points and hidden rooms, tragic notes from plague victims, books from lost authors, references to the unseen monsters which pull at destiny’s strings, and even requests for lengthy assistance from the occasional damned survivor. Things that change matters, things that flesh out a world that largely avoids open exposition, but also things to be seen for the simple joy of seeing.

Ignore the objective marker. Turn it off, ideally, but if you must have it on because otherwise you feel too unfocused, don’t even look towards it until you’ll teased open all the layers, scoured every corner whether for loot, for context, or for spectacle. Creeping around the back entrance to an enemy-occupied townhouse, I stumbled across a narrow, flooded street stretching off into the distance. Dunwall’s metal-plated walls towered at either side, suggesting something massive, fortified, impregnable. In the water below floated rubble, bodies, misery, but the light played across one iron face of this artificial valley in a sharp white beam, bleaching out the dirt and death, turning this bleak scene of ruin and oppression into one of stark, unblemished beauty. It became a hint of the gleaming metal-Victorian metropolis Dunwall once was on the way to becoming, before the plague, before the death of its beloved ruler, before man’s awful hunger for power laid it so low.

It wasn’t a scene to do anything with, or in. But it was clearly hand-crafted, put there by someone proud of it, who wanted to describe Dunwall in a single scene. Had I run from A to B, I would never have seen it – never even have known it was there. It was put there for people like me, who will play the game not to complete the objectives, not to get the end and kill anything that moved, but to explore for the simple, pretention-free pleasure of exploring.

I want, with perhaps unhealthy compulsion, to see everything that’s there, everything that’s been made for me. It’s not just that I want to find all the Runes, Bonecharms, paintings, side quests and money (I do though – oh, I really do. Even though, as a non-lethal player, most of the things I can buy with this loot are of no use to me), it’s that I want to know that I have not missed anything. It agitates to me to even suspect some stone was left unturned. If the level results screen shows I’ve missed something, it burns me. This is nothing to do with kleptomania or achievement-hunting, and everything to do with the knowledge that something was created and I didn’t get to see it. I don’t know why it matters so much, but I know that Dishonored is a game designed to meet this strange, silent, selfish need.

In almost any game, should I encounter a hallway with one staircase going up, towards my target, and another going down, towards nothing obvious at all, I will go down. In the vast majority of shooters – and I lump Dishonored into that category even though I shot no-one in it, bar the occasional emergency stun dart – that stairway will end abruptly, in a fallen bookcase, a crumbling sofa, a pile of bricks or a mysteriously damage- and jump-resistant Closed For Maintenance sign. In Dishonored, it goes somewhere. An alternate route to your objective, perhaps. A path to a different objective. A letter or character who will reveal how to neutralise your assassination target non-lethally. A Rune, a nest of maddened plague victims, a key that won’t serve a purpose until the next level, or just a new perspective on part of this infected, drowned, proud, painterly world.

So fearful of missing anything was I that I felt compelled to knock out or stun-dart every guard I saw, purely to ensure I could then explore unfettered. Even once everyone was sleeping their bruised-necked sleep, I would creep and Blink about the place, possessing rats and fish, combing every corner. The maps felt palatial to me. The idea that that they contained just 200 metres or so of space ludicrous. Because they didn’t. They contained kilomotres of it, folded in on itself, braided, shielded, but all there to unravel for those willing to do so.

If you want to rush around with a gun, shooting anything that moves, don’t buy Dishonored. It has put those things in there for you, and it offers slick, brutal, varied permutations on how to use them, but they are not its all. If you’re looking for 10+ hours of shooting men, or even stabbing men, you are well-served already and forever by games that do that, do it well, and do it for a long time. You and those like you are the victor of the great games race, and you have the spoils, many times over.

So let us have Dishonored. Let us have this one expensive, luxurious game that only truly works, only sings a glorious tune, only becomes a 20+ hour game if met by those who treat it in the spirit with which it is offered. Don’t tell us it’s too short and too slight just because you don’t find combing through its many layers, peeling back every last millimetre of artfully subdued skin, of interest. Because you want to rush to the conclusion, and you don’t believe anything that doesn’t explicitly inform reaching that conclusion is worthwhile.

As for me, I ignore the objectives. I wait, I watch, I wonder. Eventually, with a working knowledge of guard movement patterns, I run a careful knife across the surface, make myself a way in to what’s underneath. I start peeling and that deceptively short 200 metre sprint sprays open, exploding into a sprawling, handmade world of navigational puzzles, short stories, unspoken character studies and bespoke beauty spots. Dishonored’s Corvo has bullets, blades, bolts and black magic to call upon, but it’s Blink that is the game’s bedrock. The power that lets you reach more places, because, underneath all the distorted Victoriana stylings, that showy skull mask and the artful violence, Dishonored is a game about going places. And there’s no hurry.

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349 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Revisor says:

    Thank you.

    • aliksy says:

      Yes. Bravo.

      • RedFaust says:

        He basically told us to play dishonored how i’ve always played the deus ex, thief and bioshock series. It was brillant to point that out.

        • Lemming says:

          I try to play every game this way. I’m what is known as a ‘pack rat’. I will look, explore and collect every damn thing I find. It’s what comes from being raised on Black Isle RPGs and Legend of Zelda games. It’s just how you play games anyway.

          I’ve been aware that not everyone does it this way of course, but it never occurred to me that these people are actually ruining the industry for players like me, so maybe now I’ll call them on it when I meet them (politely of course).

          • Premium User Badge

            Vandelay says:

            It comes from being raised on old games. I never played RPGs in my youth, always being more of a Quake, Dark Forces, etc. fan, yet I still long for the days when I could have a game that actually let me explore an environment to unearth its secrets, as you had to in those games.

          • crumbly says:

            Uhh the number of hours I still don’t feel were wasted attempting to make jumps I know now were impossible in the Ocarina Of Time all flashed through my head. Those chickens made anything feel possible…

          • Lemming says:

            @crumbly I think I went through the game about 4-5 times before I discovered you could get Nayru’s Love. There’s probably still stuff I never found in it, but not for want of trying!

    • Arclight says:

      Hear, hear.

    • mouton says:

      That is why I read RPS.

      *clap* *clap* *clap*

    • Baardago says:

      Alec, you are a scholar and a gent.

      Thank you.

    • Wololo says:

      If Alec was a woman, I’d make him lots of literate babies.

      Seriously, this was godlike.

      • Rawrian says:

        Like, genius babies that are literate right from birth?

        • Wololo says:

          That’s the kind, yup. Of course, I wouldn’t be the one they’d get those genious genes from.

    • President Weasel says:

      testify, Mr Meer, testify!

      I vote we promote Alec Meer to Jim Rossignol immediately. It will be confusing for all concerned but that’s the price we pay for enacting stupid ideas!

    • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

      This, along with the GMG discount, have tipped me over the edge. Preloading now.

      Great piece Alec.

      • Inglourious Badger says:

        Thanks for pointing out the GMG discount, I was hoping someone would en-cheapen this before launch. This article and the review have confirmed my long held hopes for this game. And with 25% off I am now pre-loading also :D

        • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

          I found out from some helpful souls in the WIT comments, so I’ll deflect your cosmic thank-rays towards them.

      • chris says:

        Also, for those who are looking to buy from GMG but haven’t yet; head to topcashback.co.uk, sign up and get an extra 6.06% off. Presumably UK only though.

    • Premium User Badge

      tomeoftom says:

      Alec, you’re an absolute gem. Every one of these kinds of pieces (I distinctly remember the Dear Esther one) is just stand-out life-affirming good taste.

    • DevilSShadoW says:

      Also felt the compulsive need to say “thank you” for this. You’ve put a feeling that I’ve been trying to describe to my friends into such an amazing string of words. There aren’t enough bottles of beer in this godforsaken world i could offer you as a token of my appreciation.

    • mr.black says:

      Encore, encore!

    • ninnisinni says:

      Thank you, Alec, for the wonderful evening reading material. Pure RPS gold!

    • Cheese says:

      Beautiful, thank you.

    • Ateius says:

      *Tear-filled applause*

      Bravo, Mr. Meer. Bravo.

    • Premium User Badge

      cspkg says:

      Brava! Best art-icle ever. I do enjoy games the least when rushing through them (I’m looking at you, MW3). And given the rewards for exploration, it looks like I’ll be taking my sweet time with each level of this beauty. Whilst being a pacifist supernatural ex-assassin. Cannot wait!

  2. Premium User Badge

    ordteapot says:

    From the writing here, it almost sounds as though the inclusion of objective markers was a design mistake. Or that at the very least they should have defaulted to ‘off’. Is that the case for the harder difficult modes?

    Plus it would make the shootem-up play style more gruesome (and longer): instead of a mystical revengeman-with-purpose on a beeline for his target, you’d have a deranged one just shooting up everyone and everything he didn’t like the look of until he found his target by chance.

    • tobecooper says:

      It seems to actually be a conscious design decision, because this:

      Without clues Dishonored was too difficult

      But to, be honest, this seems like an overreaction and a misreading of player’s actions. Of course, they didn’t go for the target! The target can wait. Exploring is more fun.

      • HothMonster says:

        ““People would just walk around. They didn’t know what to do. They didn’t even go upstairs because a guard told them they couldn’t. They’d say ‘Okay, I can’t go upstairs.’ They wouldn’t do anything,” explained Arkane’s Julien Roby to Games.On.net”

        Too funny. I’m going to see how far I can make it through the game obeying every command given to me. Like I traded my free will for my super powers.

        • Nihilist says:

          Some gamers got raised with game design that honored a slave mentality. Because of that Bioshock was so much fun. You had to laugh about yourself at the end.

      • Amazon_warrior says:

        Where the heck did they find their playtesters? :| I’d have volunteered like a shot!

      • Grimstone says:

        I for one am grateful for the target markers, it lets me know which areas to avoid, well, avoid until I’ve torn apart every square inch of the map. Love it…

    • noom says:

      I am going to remove that quest marker so hard that it’ll hopefully remove itself from at least 20 other player’s games too without them knowing it was ever there. I’m going to be in the options removing that shit before the game’s even finished loading.

      • Premium User Badge

        particlese says:

        Spoilers: You will have removed it so hard that it tore open space-time to remove it from my DX:HR and Skyrim. Well done, sir.

        Edit: And, to be a broken record, well done, Alec Meer.

        • Premium User Badge

          Hanban says:

          I’m afraid Noom also removes the sperms’ quest marker to the egg causing the end of mankind. A thousand curses upon you Noom! Hope this is what you wanted!

  3. cliffski says:

    A 2 hour movie will cost me £10 to buy. Anything more than 3 hours of gameplay for my £27.99 and I’m already quids-in. The incredibly vocal minority of people online who demand 50+ hours of gameplay for £27.99 are just that -> A serious minority. Anyone who has access to gameplay duration stats knows that the vast majority of gamers aren’t playing double digit hours of ANY game these days.

    • Uthred says:

      I dont think movies are the universal metric for entertainment to cost ratio that you think they are

      • mouton says:

        I don’t think hours of gameplay are an universal metric of entertainment either. I will always prefer a short but brilliant game that lasts a few hours (like Portal) over bland padded “blockbusters” which drag on for weeks (say, Diablo 3).

        Of course, many AAA titles are both short AND poor, heh

        • Uthred says:

          I agree, how long something is should generally be (at least) secondary to how good it is. But when comparing things its much more likely that people will compare like to like in which case length (or value for money if you will) does become a factor. I dont think many people whould look at Dishonoured and think “Oh I could see X amount of movies for this much!” theyre much more likely to compare it to another game, say XCOM. In that situation the fact that you can get a longer but equally polished experience for the same price is a factor.

          Or to boil it down. Why would people compare a game to a move in terms of entertainment hours/pound when they could compare it to another game. (and if compared to another equally good game then it makes sense to buy the one that offers superior value for money)

          • Premium User Badge

            jezcentral says:

            Yes, but although Cliffski’s maths sucks, he has a point. The ones who complain invariably say “I wanted more game than just X hours for my Y pounds/dollars/euros.”

            I think we can all agree they are wrong to say this, but it won’t stop them saying it, all the same.

          • Vorphalack says:

            ”Or to boil it down. Why would people compare a game to a move in terms of entertainment hours/pound when they could compare it to another game. (and if compared to another equally good game then it makes sense to buy the one that offers superior value for money)”

            That’s the real issue when discussing game length. It’s never as simple as £ / hr entertainment value, that has always been a gross over simplification. It is (in this case) Dishonored vs GW2 + TL2 + DotA2 + Borderlands2 + whatever else you might be playing this month. We are in a bit of a purple patch for PC releases this year so there are a lot more quality games making demands on peoples time. I doubt i’ll pick up Dishonored until after christmas, partly because of the pre-order bonus farce, partly because of the aforementioned other games, but also because I want to see what they do with the DLC and how much they charge.

          • SiHy_ says:

            The way I see it sometimes you want a Sunday dinner, sometimes you want a chocolate bar. They’re both satisfying in their own way.

      • Ragnar says:

        That’s true, movies are only comparable to games if you enjoy them equally, and you value your time being entertained more than the entertainment.

        But the problem isn’t that movies are not directly comparable to games. It’s that entertainment in any other medium is never judged by its length.

        A longer book is not better than a shorter book. A longer movie is not desired over a shorter movie. A longer song or album is not superior to a shorter one. Does anyone really evaluate their food or drink based on how long it takes them to consume it? So why do we evaluate games based on how long they are?

    • SiHy_ says:

      I understand what you’re saying, quality over quantity and I wholeheartedly agree. However, I cannot fathom your strange equation:
      A 2 hour movie costs £10. Ok so that’s £5 per hour.
      A 3 hour game costs £27. That’s £9 per hour. That’s getting on for double.
      How are you already quids in?

    • Obc says:

      “…these day”.

      but why should we not have long games like back in the days. ok, some games were only long because of ridicilous difficulties or because they were padded. some jrpgs had a great length without feeling padded because they were tuned well (Chrono Cross, FF8)

      but if we want to stick to action games: i spent hundred of hours in MGS and only after spending so much time was i able to beat it in under 3 hours. MGS3 was also very rewarding the longer you stick with it.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Personally, I find I have less time, but there are many more interesting games being made, and I can afford more of them. I’d like to finish more of them, too, so I only want to play the bits the developers had good ideas for and made fun. Unfun padding is the worst thing in the world, because time is now more valuable to me than money.

        Personally. But as a lot of microcomputer-era gamers move into the tedious grown-up world of dayjobs and other commitments, and pocket money/parents’ wallet changes to what is petty change compared to other bills (I spend way, way more on petrol than Steam/GOG/Humble Bundles can get out of me), I suspect it casts fairly wide.

        (That is not the same as long games = bad. Hell, I have spent many an hour in Just Cause 2 knocking over villages—sounds grind-tacular, but there are so many toys in its box it didn’t feel it. And there will always be a place for burning a whole weekend on Civ.)

        • Ragnar says:

          Exactly. For those of us in our late 20s / early 30s, particularly those of us with families, time is a much scarcer resource than money. When I was 8, I was happy to grind for gold in the Ogre tunnel in FF1. That shit doesn’t fly anymore. I have too much to do, too many games to play, and not enough time for everything. As it is, a 20 hour game will take me at least 2-4 weeks to finish. I’ve been playing Valkyria Chronicles on and off for 2 years now and still haven’t beaten it (4 battles left).

          As such, I would much rather have a tight, focused game that’s been trimmed of all the excess padding. A great 5 hour game is better than a good 10 hour game, which is in turn better than an ok 20 hour game or a mediocre 30 hour game. Hell, many games would be improved by trimming them down to remove the padding (Alice 2, for example).

    • dE says:

      I wish I’d get a dollar everytime cliffski fires a “Hit and Run Sweeping Generalisation Missile MKIII”. I’d be bloody rich by now.

      • cliffski says:

        Sorry i don’t spend my whole life on here arguing, but I actually have a very time-consuming day job. Those £0.0001 per hour value games don’t make themselves.

        • Aedrill says:

          I don’t think you get his point. It’s not the problem with one post only policy, it’s because your posts are often very debatable (like in the piracy discussion when you said that EVERYONE can pay by card on the Internet and if they say otherwise, they’re filthy liars. Or here, where you based your point on terrible maths) and then you disappear. Someone with less good will than us could call this trolling, you know?

          EDIT:
          One more thing – if you’d invest some time into writing slightly more elaborate posts in which you’re backing your claims with some actual arguments, not assuming that people will take your ungrounded opinion as a word of God, you wouldn’t have to come back too often to add anything.

          • cliffski says:

            Yeah I totally called people filthy liars. thats exactly what I said.
            Get a fucking grip.

          • dE says:

            Basically what was said, the one hit posts aren’t an issue. Folks get it, you’re busy with your life. As are many others with theirs, me included. My issue is with research done from the ivory tower, then coming out and proclaiming you have done the research, possess all the facts and everyone disagreeing is spreading “FUD” (your words) and lies.

            I love your insight as an Indie Dev, I love GSB and bought all expansions to it, but every once in a while you feel compelled to make these badly researched posts with a rather aggressive and unmoving stance.

          • Aedrill says:

            Oh, so you don’t like generalizations and they annoy you? Wow, that’s a surprise!

    • alundra says:

      Yeah, first, keep you “incredibly vocal minority of people” bullshit on the door, not everybody is a fool lacking all sense of ROI.

      There is a reason why special sales drive Steam’s numbers up, people don’t like to spend a lot to get little, it’s the other way around, so what are you going to argue?? That the user base on the biggest e-tailer out there is a minority?? Please, cry me a river.

      If anything, the apologists who want to justify lazy work on a game, and inviting everybody to be thankful for the money spent in so little, are not a serious, just a pathetic, minority of fanboy geeks who see gaming as something more than entertainment.

    • raptorak says:

      I for one am glad the game can be so short, that shows that the designers themselves haven’t taken shortcuts in making the game have multiple ways to complete an objective. Honestly, if I want to rush in guns-blazing and complete the game in 4 hours (which I may well do, I often play the quickload creep) I am glad the option is there, but I sure as hell won’t be complaining about it.

      IMO some games are too damn long – if more games went for quality over quantity I would be very happy. A game like DE:HR could have been shorter and more open ended and would have been the better game for it.

      Maybe I just have too many games and not enough time to complete any of them these days. I often spend more time critiquing games on message boards than playing (Tribes:Ascend, looking at you!).

    • Nesetalis says:

      You are smoking your shoes. Sure many people don’t have TIME to devote to a game like that.. but.. I’ve clocked some 300 hours or more in terraria. 404 hours in guildwars 2, 20 in binding of isaac, 273 in Dota 2, 25 in dungeons of dredmor, 13 in torchlight 2, 722 in X3 Terran Conflict. So on and so forth.

      Then there are plenty of games I pick up for a few hours, then drop and never look at again. This has nothing to do with whether how much time I want to dedicate to it, it has everything to do with how much time it is worth. If it is a good game, I want to keep playing it, and not stop playing it until I’ve exhausted my interest. (I might put it down for a week or two at a time, but then come right back to it.) 25 hours is short, when I was younger, I spent weeks working at RPGs and such… hell I have no idea how much time I spent playing Uncharted Waters: New Horizons as a kid, but It has to be some where in the 10,000 hour range.

      Then came games like Dungeon Siege 3. It was fun, good mechanics, and just about the point where I expected it to pick up and the story to explode… it was over. I was pissed. I had beaten it in only 8 hours, 8 fucking hours. It was a fucking 60 dollar game, with absolutely no replayability. The developers were just insulting themselves, they spent so much time on that game engine, the details, and all they had to show for it was 8 hours… This to me is bordering on wasting lives. How many manhours were spent creating this?

      25 hours is okay, its not great, but how many manhours went in to it’s creation? Does 25 hours justify the great expense of human life trapped in a cubicle?

      • JackShandy says:

        You think the amount of work put into a game can only be justified by the amount of time it takes to experience it?

        • Nesetalis says:

          Only? no, but generally there should be some reflection upon the amount of effort put in, and the amount of entertainment that comes out.

          Yes there is a place for the short lived butterfly or what have you… but that itself is its own specific artistic genera… And this is not that. In a game, I expect at least 2$ per hour of entertainment, if I spend more than that, I feel put out and cheated. this one is a 2.40$ per hour game, its not too bad, but its not where I would prefer it.

          • Ragnar says:

            But why do you expect at least $2 per hour of entertainment from games? Where does this expectation come from? Do you judge movies, books, or songs the same way?

            I agree that coming across a game / book / movie / tv show that ends abruptly leaves you feeling cheated. You want to to get closure and resolution from a story, rather than be left feeling that they ran out of time and wrapped it up as quickly as they could. But if the story is resolved, and the game leaves you wanting more, wouldn’t you call that a success? Isn’t that the goal?

  4. Uthred says:

    Surely the games doing itself something of a dis-service by actively encouraging people to miss all this wonderful incidental content? I’m not saying the game necessarily has to hold us by the hand and say “Look, look at this thing we have wrought!”. But surely theres a middleground between “Play by numbers” and “Follow the objectives and miss everything”.

    Certainly a more considered playthrough should provide a richer experience than a quick run and gun but I think its in the creators intrest to lower the disparity between the two experiences. Reading this article it sounds like if I take my time and explore lots I’d get, say, 75% of the experience and if my friend hears about the game and isnt familiar with its nuances he just follows the mission objectives, and gets around 25% of the experience.

    “You’re playing it wrong” can be, and seemingly in this case is, a valid observation but I think the games creators bear a large measure of the responsibility for insuring this isnt the case. Based on whats been said here it seems like they could have done that better.

    • HisMastersVoice says:

      I don’t think it’s a case of the developer doing something wrong. It’s the PR department marketing the game against the grain. I’m sure people would be supremely disappointed in Halo 4 if it was marketed as a stealth game only to turn out as yet another 6 hour alienshooter.

      • Uthred says:

        Yes thats a very good point. Sometimes marketing for bigger games does wildly skew what the games focus should be/is

    • Kilometrik says:

      THere is actually no “You are playing it wrong” with dishonored. Being able to beeline to your target if you are good enough is there for the speedrunners and challenge gamers. The game doesn’t have a “good” playstyle, so to speak.

      • Uthred says:

        Surely the playstyle promoted in the article would be the “good” playstyle? I dont think anyone wants to knowingly miss a big swathe of content

        • Kilometrik says:

          Nope, there are people. An Iron man, hardest difficulty, speed run sounds right up my alley for my 4th or 5th playthrough. Thief was famous for players creating challenges like that for themselves.

          • Emeraude says:

            Thankfully, players don’t have to do that nowadays. They have achievements.

          • DerNebel says:

            How lucky we are! No more of that pesky ‘setting goals for yourself’ nonsense, just clear, concise goals toward which to strive!

            Luckily we have Minecraft et al. to show us that games can be more like music, that they can be meant to be experienced not beaten. Nobody beats Minecraft, and I would bet that most Bastion playthroughs were more about experiencing the wonderful setting and story than it was to reach the final stage.

            Tl;dr: Achiefs are good, more plz!

          • Gnarf says:

            “(…) more about experiencing the wonderful setting and story than it was to reach the final stage.”

            Having a destination does not mean that it is no longer about the journey.

            Are you seriously complaining about game designers putting in things like iron man modes (or, more or less equivalent, achievements for getting through games without dying), because then the players can’t “invent” iron man mode? It’s not like those were all the goals and now there are no more goals that the players can possibly set for themselves. And even if it was, wouldn’t it be more important that chasing those goals amounted to awesome experiences, and less important excactly who set them?

          • Emeraude says:

            And even if it was, wouldn’t it be more important that chasing those goals amounted to awesome experiences, and less important exactly who set them?

            My main problem with achievements is that the way they have generally been implemented, they are kind of predatory on certain profiles of players (the completionists being one) and contribute in fostering a generally agonistic/competitive social environment I find… ugly for lack of a better word.

          • Gnarf says:

            Maybe I just hang with the wrong people. Only ugly thing I’ve noticed is a bunch of snobs obnoxiously pointing out how very little they care about achievements.

            Mostly it’s been stuff like, guy in L4D is like, “hey, wanna try and get achievement X?” And then we have a lot of fun trying to get achievement X. It’s cool that it is shown outside of the game and you can point at it and be like, I did thing in game, but it’s not very important to anyone. Mostly just fun trying to get it.

            I might be kind of with you on the implementation thing. The only thing I strongly dislike is gamerscore stuff on the 360, but there are plenty of bad achievements and there’s room for improvement etc. etc. Plenty of stuff we can attack there, but I don’t like that they’ve become this thing that it’s cool to hate on (the “Thankfully players don’t have to blahblah” was pretty much unrelated to everything before it, and mostly just sounded like “I’m cool because I’m dissing achievements”). And it bothers me that a bunch of guys act as if you have to hate on them or, if they’re like really tolerant about it, completely ignore them, else you’re obsessed with them/winning/something.

          • Emeraude says:

            “Thankfully players don’t have to blahblah” was pretty much unrelated to everything before it, and mostly just sounded like “I’m cool because I’m dissing achievements”)

            The snark was meant to cut both ways. But I guess my kind of dry humor isn’t really fit for textual form.

            And, no I would argue it was not purely gratuitous: a good portions of the comments that preceded were about control/shaping of the gaming experience. Objective markers plays a similar role to achievement in that respect, and I found the similitude funny, though tangential.

    • jmedge91 says:

      I think Alec is saying that this is two very different games for two very different types of gamers, and thus the experience varies according to approach. I have met many gamers – specifically those that find pleasure in the point-shoot-fast fests of today – that have absolutely no interest in exploring a world and discovering its nuances; instead, they care solely for accomplishing the clearly marked objective at the end of the map because – to them – that is all that matters. In fact, many of these gamers refuse to play a Fallout, Elder Scrolls, or other similar game because there’s “too much time” between exciting ‘splosion sequences. For gamers like Mr. Meer and myself (I also expect you to being among this group Uthred) that enjoy the peripheral content (I don’t know know that peripheral is the correct word) each game presents an opportunity to unravel its secrets a bit further, even going so far as challenging us to do so. I for one cannot complete a stage on Torchlight, for example, without exploring every inch of the map. I hate fogs of war with a passion, and will hunt them down and slaughter them with my presence without mercy. When I enter a dungeon in Skryim, I make sure to travel down every corridor, pick every lock, and solve every puzzle before I leave. But, not every gamer wants this experience, and as I said above I know people who actually are deterred from enjoying games because of the games’ reputations for such experiences.

      Long paragraph made short: it’s not a matter of one experience, experienced wrongly; it’s a matter of multiple experiences, experienced according to the players’ personalities and preferences.

      • HothMonster says:

        I agree but wanted to add that certain types of manshoots have also trained gamers to ignore those other corners and hidden nooks. As Alec said most of the time in fps games that other half of the stairway ends with a barricade. If there is anything down there besides a dead-end its probably next to meaningless unless you are an achievement hunter. Some worthless collectible trinket or a newspaper most people will skip reading anyway.

        So gamers are being trained by these games, if they do not care about 100% completion they do not head down that staircase because its only going to be a disappointing dead-end down there.

        I’m not above playing the generic blockbuster AAA games from time to time but when I do, I quickly remember what type of game it is and stop trying to crawl into every cranny of the world because I know the only reason it exists is to keep the level from being one straight hallway, not because they are trying to add substance to the world. I think a lot of people just never got trained by the type of games that really do reward you for looking under every rock, and I mean reward beyond ticking off a checklist on your way to 100%.

      • Premium User Badge

        BubuIIC says:

        I just had a blast playing Black Mesa, there is so much detail in this game, it’s really a great tribute to Half Life. Beginning with the opening sequence you just can’t capture everything going on around you, also there are quite a few notes in the train you can read. Then all the whiteboards in the offices, which thanks to the high detail textures you can actually read :-). In the second Lab complex (with that laser routing system) There is quite a bit of enemy physiology detailed on the boards, including some sketches you’d otherwise call concept art.

        At one point I found myself studying a floor plan of the complex, which was placed on the wall, for at least 10 minutes. Figuring out where I am, studying all the lab descriptions, paths to the assumed objective and so on.
        This actually helped to get from the ‘stumbling along and see where the level design leads you’ feeling to a real spatial understanding of the lab complex and a sense of ‘I need to go there, but this door is blocked, so here is an alternate path through the restroom area’.
        “Oh, err, now back to shooting some military guys.”

        TL;DR: You can also spend time to admire the level design in some shooters, cue Black Mesa

        • Wedge says:

          Did I miss a setting or something? I swear I had textures set to super max and many of the whiteboards were only just barely legible on the larger texts, while still being quite blurry and difficult to make out. I did notice that pretty much every one in the game seemed to be unique, which was awesome.

    • Shralla says:

      Video games are an interactive medium. More so than any other medium in the world, the phrase “you get out what you put in” applies perfectly. There is no reason for them to funnel you through a funhouse ride full of things being shoved in your face. You’re directly interacting with the world. The vast majority of the content SHOULD be off the beaten path, because art is there for the people who want to take the time to appreciate it.

      • Gnarf says:

        I think you’re misunderstanding what (at least some of the) people are asking for here.

        It is not that the awesome bits are off the beaten path and we would like them to be on it instead. It is the beaten path that is the problem.

  5. MiniMatt says:

    Anyone else an old school b3tard who can’t help but think of yet another tedious “apologies for length” line everytime length is mentioned?

    It’s one of those words that’s now hardwired into the smirk centre of my brain.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Haha, me too!

      It’s what I think about every time I hear the word girth as well!

  6. crumbsucker says:

    This thing’s like an onion. The more layers you peel, the more it stinks.

  7. Arclight says:

    Think I would have just gone with “you’re doing it wrong, dumbass.”, but this works too.

  8. Trevty says:

    Having originally put off preordering Dishonored after having burned by previous purchases of that nature; I am now very sad about that decision. Based upon what I’ve read from you guys, this is exactly my kind of game, and something I really should be excited for.

    • mouton says:

      Pre-orders are a bad idea in general. Unless you worship a developer and will forgive everything, of course. Happens to me sometimes.

    • LintMan says:

      I was very interested in this game, until the bewildering variety of pre-order bonuses was announced, compounded by the bonuses sounding most interesting to me not being available at the places I would have ordered it from.

      So I put off preordering and then just decided this was a bunch of bullshit and would just give the game a pass. Maybe I’ll pick it up in a 50% steam sale or a GOTY edition in a year or two.

      No regrets here.

  9. derbefrier says:

    I plan on turning off any HUD element I can. Skyrim was a completely different experience when I did the same with it. Maybe its just me but even though I want to explore, for some reason if that way point is in my face I am just compelled to follow it, even if its the last thing I wanna do. I plan on turning all the hud elements off putting it on the highest difficulty and enjoying every bit of this game. games like this dont come around enough to just run through like its a Call of Duty.

    • Kefren says:

      Currently playing Dead Island, and the first thing I did was turn off as many ‘helpers’ as possible. It was even giving me a dotted line to the door I needed to go through!

      Let me find my own way!

    • Premium User Badge

      BubuIIC says:

      Also Deus Ex: HR was a more enjoyable experience for me with the object highlighting turned off. Yes, you could miss a vital weapon upgrade or ammunition but when you found something, you really found it, you didn’t just pick it up after it glowed yellow. (But I must admit, I preferred the cross hairs to be enabled.)

    • Premium User Badge

      Naum says:

      Unfortunately Skyrim is also very much not designed to be played without objective markers and the like. It’s interesting though: I realised how strange it is that RPGs generally won’t let me ask where an NPC or a building is located because they assume that I’ll just look it up on the map. Or that someone tells me “go kill the guys in XY Mine” without even bothering to give a general direction of where to find them. Dishonored with its seemingly not exactly large levels probably doesn’t have that problem, but I’d really like to see some Open World(ish) RPG cater to a UI-less playstyle. It does add to the experience quite significantly, at least for me: much less grindy checklist, overall more enjoyment.

  10. Heliocentric says:

    You could play Hitman: Blood Money like a shooter too, Really, that it can be played that way is a blessing in disguise, stops the stealth intolerant hating on it.

    • mouton says:

      Or Thief for that matter. Just get your sword out and charge.

      • Premium User Badge

        Revisor says:

        And die soon after. :)

        • mouton says:

          Nah, with some skill you can murder everyone on your way. Also, shoot them with arrows from high up.

    • DarkFenix says:

      Every now and then, I do go and play Hitman: Blood Money like a shooter. Or at least partly. With these games I’ll have a playthrough stealthily where I seek perfection. Then I’ll have a muck around as an utter psychopath, blasting a bloody path to the target in a short time. Then I’ll have the in-between playthrough, where I painstakingly search every last corner and ensure that not only was I never seen entering or exiting the area, but nothing is even still breathing in the vicinity. Doing H:BM levels like that is bloody fun, in both senses of the word.

    • Kyrius says:

      I’ve played Hitman: Codename 47 and didn’t like it much… After seeing so much discussion with the next game (Hitman: Absolution), I might give Blood Money a shot… Is it worth it?

      • Meldreth says:

        Well… Yes. I kind of had a hard time getting into the other Hitman games ( And I never really did, to be honest ), but Blood Money is different. You’ll love it for sure.

      • Premium User Badge

        jezcentral says:

        The original Hitman was a bit ropey, but the rest are great. Some swear by the second installment, but for me, HBM is the apogee of the series.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Dilapinated says:

    This strikes me as similar to discussions about open world RPGs and their Main & Side Quests (as well as collectable paraphenalia, Easter Eggs, etc).

    I think for those of us who don’t have to collect every coin in the level, it comes down to repetition. Many times (Mass Effect 1 >:|) games will have a lot of non-essential content that ends up being a cardboard copy of the last 5 iterations. However, other games (Fallout, Deus Ex) reward this kind of attention by the player with content that feels both fresh and still fitting with the game environment.

    I think it’s a hard and often frustrating task for developers, when they know that 70% of players won’t see the content they’re pouring their hearts into. But it really pays off when it results in a game world that feels alive and welcoming (in a playing sense, not hostility or lack of), regardless of which parts the player encounters. And sometimes the stuff that you don’t see is part of the story, too; make a choice here, and you won’t be able to access something there. I don’t know if Dishonored is like that or not, it doesn’t seem to be fettered with the binary morality system that these choices tend to be a part of.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      Agree; when a game places me in a new map or area, I immediately will strike out 90 degrees or even 180 from the objective, because many developers will have invested a great deal of effort fleshing out the rest of the landscape. I consider exploring it a fundamental element of my enjoyment of a title.

  12. commenter1008 says:

    just registered to say:
    beautiful writing!

    thank you

  13. horsemedic says:

    Shorter apology: It’s the gamer’s fault if he plays Dishonored in the obvious, efficient way and finds it overly easy. The proper way to play is by playing it in the “spirit it is offered,” which I guess mean counterintuitively moving away from the glowing quest objective and handicapping yourself. Halo sukz!

    • Sheng-ji says:

      We should make all our entertainment efficient!

      I’m not going to savour nice food any more, just eat as efficiently as possible. I’m not going to drink fine whiskey, when a cheap vodka gets me drunk so much quicker. I’m not going to watch my team play, its more efficient to watch on TV. I’m not going to read the whole book, just the collins guide. I’m not going to read the book, just watch the movie

      etc etc

      • horsemedic says:

        “Efficient” here would mean following the game’s instructions on where to go/what to do.

        Earlier I read this article telling me exploration was originally a crucial gameplay component. But beta testers found the exploring prohibitively difficult, so rather than fix the problem the designers simply made exploration optional by adding quest markers.

        Now I read an article indicating that without the exploration the game is extremely easy.

        To me, this suggests Dishonored may suffer from some very poor design decisions, but what do I know? I’m probably missing the spirit of the game.

        • HothMonster says:

          How do you fix the problem of gamers not being able to think for themselves and explore the world putting clues together on their own as to how to accomplish their mission? Well you can teach them how to think. You could make them play decades worth of games that forced them to do those things. You can tell your publisher that a huge percentage of the gaming population won’t be able to play this game. Or you can add an objective marker and point them on the way.

          Seriously, someone wouldn’t go upstairs because a guard said so? While I agree that games should be made accessible to as many audiences as possible that certainly doesn’t mean we always have to design for the lowest common denominator. It is not a poor design decision to cater to those of us who would explore by default and really make our experience richer by designing the world with us in mind. In just the same way it wasn’t a bad design decision for the last COD to have “follow” or “go here” on screen at all times. They were just designed for different types of people.

          I think dishonored was designed by people who want to play it like Alec for people who prefer to play it primarily like Alec but then playtested by everyone. Thief may be one of the greatest games of all time but that doesn’t mean everyone will like it. However when you convince a publisher to give you millions of dollars you can bet your ass the want it to be as accessible to as many people as possible.

          Having not played it I still really do think it was designed for those of us who will turn off objectives before hitting start. However they had to add objective markers for all the people who will by it expecting something else thanks to Beth’s huge marketing push.

          I’m excited to look through keyholes and listen in on conversations. I will be a fly on the wall. On the occasion that I fall off the wall I will be glad the game is equipped to allow me a short and beautiful bloody rampage until nothing alive knows I exist. Though the game allows you to rampage bloodily I don’t think it was designed for that to be the primary mode of play and those that buy it for that reason got fooled by marketing.

          Its not that it has poor design decisions, it that it was designed for an audience that doesn’t need ist hand held, but you don’t get Beth to throw money at you if you say, a lot of gamers will get stuck and give up in the first 2 levels by design.

          /rant

      • MacTheGeek says:

        Watching your team play on TV takes far too much time. Just watch the highlights after the game is over. Better yet, wait until the season is over, and then check the final standings to see whether you should continue to claim the team as your own, or bury their gear in the back of your closet.

        • horsemedic says:

          If you’re 7 points up in the final quarter, don’t go for another touchdown. Run in the opposite direction. Fumble the ball and give the other team a chance to make up the score. That’s the spirit of the game.

          • JehuGarroutte says:

            Horsemedic, you are a profoundly silly goose.

          • HothMonster says:

            Those defensive blitzes you are running are way to confusing on the other teams quarterback. Rather than play to your full potential by developing a rich, diverse and responsive defense you should just have blitzing players hold up their hand before the snap so everyone is on the same page.

          • Premium User Badge

            Hidden_7 says:

            Horsemedic, I assume you play all games on their easiest settings, correct? Otherwise you’re just intentionally making it harder for yourself.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      I find it hard to criticise the “path of least resistance” mindset too much though, as I’m guilty of it myself from time to time. Something like Crayon Physics Deluxe, for example, saw me getting bored halfway through because I was basically solving the majority of puzzles using the same tried and tested techniques, despite the fact it was clear the designer wanted me to be more elaborate or indulge in my creativity more. In the case of Crayon Physics there wasn’t (for me) enough motivation to stay with the spirit of the game.

      Whether this is my fault or bad design (or both) is open for debate but nevertheless, it would be somewhat hypocritical of me to deride people who take the same path in Dishonoured for whom extra world detail wont be a motivation to do things the trickier, but perhaps more fulfilling way.

      • Hematite says:

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with ‘path of least resistance’ play, particularly if you’re bashing through to get past a tedious part of the game.

        It seems like with Dishonored an as-yet-unknown number of people will buy it, play it as a shooter, and not even especially realise that that’s not what most of the design effort of the game went in to. The fact that it’s probably a lot of fun, if a tad short, as a shooter is more likely to make people fall into this trap of dissatisfaction.

      • Premium User Badge

        ffordesoon says:

        Sounds like Crayon Physics Deluxe has the same problem the Scribblenauts series has, which I would put in the category of, at the least, sub-optimal design.

        That is to say, it goes so far in the direction of respecting player choice that it actually becomes boring, because there’s no real in-game reward for being incredibly creative with your solutions to the puzzles. I mean, you might get a better star rating, but so what?

        The difference with Dishonored would seem to be that, as with its inspirations, you get out what you put in. It reinforces and rewards exploration by tempting you with the promise of more information about its gloriously designed world.

  14. aperson4321 says:

    Thank you for the great article. It is articles like this that makes me think of this site as the best internett site about games. This is the only video games site that got the same quality of writing as “the economist”. Thank you for existing rockpapershotgun.

  15. leQuack says:

    Very nice article.

    For me, I buy games for their replayability and was actually just checking my Steam data: apparently I’ve played Civilization V for 249 hours.

    How about that onion?

    • alundra says:

      No no no, you are a very vocal minority /s

      That must be 24.9 hours /s

      Games these days lasts 24 at most /s

      We should be thankful for being allowed to spend $60 usd in disposable entertainment. /s

      That more or less sums the first two pages of comments of this article.

  16. veremor says:

    It may not be “great” in the strongest sense of the word, but games in total haven’t been worth much of a look since, well, ever since I don’t think games are automatically something great. (They aren’t in fact above bad TV, only with a different target group which feels more at home with them.)

  17. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    This article, more than any, has convinced me that I will really enjoy this game. See I love exploring in games but, quite often, I find that hugely expansive open worlds don’t draw me in. I prefer the compact Liberty City of GTA III to the vast sprawl that was San Andreas, I prefer the tightly designed but densely featured maps of Deus Ex to wandering aimlessly around Morrowind.

    So this description of how the world in Dishonoured definitely has hooked me in. I couldn’t help get the impression that it sounded a bit like Hitman: Blood Money in the way its levels are laid out, just with more incidental details and things to discover. That can only be a good thing.

  18. Premium User Badge

    Stellar Duck says:

    Reading the first paragraph of this I was sure I was about to be heart broken for having just bought it.

    Then it turns out that I wont. I was afraid Alec was going to say that the game wasn’t as layered and nuanced as I want it to be and that was why the backlash would come.

    Turns out he was talking about backlash from people who play games the exact opposite way of how I do.

    That bit with taking the stairs down, away from the objective. I do that in every game I play.

    • Shadram says:

      Same. In any game I play, if I can figure out which way the game wants me to go, I instantly turn around and go the other way. Dead-ends are the norm, but just occasionally you’re rewarded for going the wrong way.

      I had little interest in Dishonoured. Now I feel I need it.

      PS. I had a housemate at uni who ate onions like apples. It made me want to throw up every time.

      • Premium User Badge

        Stellar Duck says:

        You know what the worst thing ever is? I’m sure you do from the sound of it. When you go down on path a bit to see what there is, realise that it’s the main route, turn back to take the other one and find that something has closed a gate behind you. I hate that so much!

        Also eww on the onions.

        • HothMonster says:

          There is little I hate more. “Hmm, I can’t tell which way is right….I’ll just saunter down this hallway a little to peek around the corner and wait wait wait fuck! I can’t go back. And oh look you checkpointed me too so I can load my last save from a hour ago or just never know what was down that other path.”

          • Premium User Badge

            Stellar Duck says:

            Ugh. Check points… The bane of my gaming fun since forever.

        • Premium User Badge

          BubuIIC says:

          Oh, how I hate it! Really, I think I might need objective markers in some games, just to go exactly in the opposite direction. Also made playing Deus Ex 1 a bit awkward at first… which might be the path leading to the objective… oh no, they all do! What should I possibly do?

          • Premium User Badge

            Qazinsky says:

            Agree completely! Back in older games, not only did I follow every wall around like simple house layouts needed maze techniques to get through, I constantly spammed the ‘use’-button to find secret doors. Honestly not sure if I’m happy about the removal of secret doors hidden as part of a plain wall or not.

            I still got the Quest marker activated in Skyrim so I know where to go last.

      • Premium User Badge

        BubuIIC says:

        Was the first thing I did in Limbo… got an achievement out of it :D.

        • Premium User Badge

          Stellar Duck says:

          Been a while since I played Limbo but looked up my cheevo list. Got that one as well.

  19. The First Door says:

    This article has actually made me want to buy the game more than the review in many ways. I love little secrets, story and scenes being hidden down in every corner as it validates my near obsession with never going the right way if I can possibly avoid it. Although that did get me into trouble in Deux Ex: HR when I didn’t realise something was time sensitive…

    Anyway, I always find the discussion of length a little odd with games. First off play length is very subjective. For example, Black Mesa was quoted as being 8 – 10 hours long and I think it took me about 15, whereas I got through Q.U.B.E. quicker than the reported play time. Secondly, often the people who’ll be complaining a single player game is a certain length are the same people who’ll be saying what an amazing game something like Vanquish is, despite having a much shorter running time.

    • HothMonster says:

      Was there anything in Deus Ex that was time sensitive beyond getting to that first mission? They backhanded me right off the start for not moving it along but I feel like that was the only time in the game that it happened. Which makes it seem more like a cheapshot then anything. It seems like it is teaching you that this is a different kind of game and time does matter, if they say get somewhere you can’t spend 5 hours checking cubicles. But if I remember right you can spend the rest of the game examining brickwork and never get penalized again.

      • The First Door says:

        To be honest after that early backhand I felt so guilty that I’d gotten all of them killed, I never tested that game again! I’d go into an area and clear it before obsessively checking every computer, instead.

      • Premium User Badge

        Naum says:

        [DX:HR first mission SPOILERS ahead]

        I took my time throughout the game, read everything etc., so I suppose the first mission is indeed the only time-sensitive thing in the game. Actually, I wasn’t even aware of its time-sensitivity: When I got to the bomb there were about 40 seconds left, just enough to hack the thing, so I thought the game was fooling me into believing that I’d made it just in time for a bit of additional drama — when indeed I had made it just in time and the situation was genuinely dramatic. It’s a perfect example of how contemporary computer game design conventions sometimes spoil the experience.

  20. Ross Angus says:

    My first instinct at the spawn point of any new level is to turn 180 degrees, and start walking in the wrong direction. I often look at the architecture of levels to work out where I’m supposed to go, so that I can go the wrong way. Finding you’ve passed a valve, and the way back is blocked is frustrating. So Deus Ex: Human Revolution took me weeks to finish. And I don’t think I saw it all. Dishono(u)rd sound right up my cup of tea.

  21. Klonopin says:

    I’m having a little trouble with the metaphor of greedily gobbling up whole onions. Is this a British thing that I just can’t grasp as an american? Are people walking the streets of London chomping into raw onions like apples, stopping to occasionally dab at their streaming eyes ?

  22. Premium User Badge

    felisc says:

    well put mr Meer. *raises his glass of wine*

  23. Lobotomist says:

    One of my favorite games in ‘olde days was “Monty’s great escape”. Not to get much into game mechanics the game could be played extremely fast if one knew what he is doing. My record was 45 seconds play-trough.

  24. Dervish says:

    Addressing this problem is the real justification for Thief’s loot requirements. “Smash and grab” works well for some of the main objectives, but loses a lot of appeal when you have to stop and search most of the rooms anyway.

  25. DiamondDog says:

    It was always going to be how I approached the game, but it’s nice to know it’ll be worth it. Can’t wait.

  26. Cytrom says:

    I’m smelling poor excuses here.

    I haven’t played the game yet so I’m not judging it, but measuring game length by difficulty or playstyle is an old and total bullshit argument.

    There were a few super short games on NES that only had like a grand total of 4… FOUR, levels and a sugar rushing asian could beat them in 5 minutes flat, but their difficulty was so intense (in an unfair way) it took days for mere mortals to beat if they havent given up sooner… but *that doesent change the fact that they were super short games with very little content*. Increasing the playtime of a game by difficulty INSTEAD of actual game content is the cheapest way to make a game seem bigger than it actually is.

    About the playstyle argument. Just because My playstyle consists of me staring an hour at every wall in game doesnt make game consisting of 2 hours of narrated / scripted game content a 100 hour game. Skyrim had at least a hundred hours of playtime if you attempted to do every quest regardless of your approach.

    So the short translation i gathered from this article is this:
    “Objectively, the game is thin on content but i like it too much to admit it planly, and I’m biased enough to make lengthy excuses that sound deep, and gather some self validation in the process so i don’t have to consciously admit the fault even to myself.”

    Fanboy logic basically.

    Thats just my gut feeling though…

    • Lobotomist says:

      You can practically beat Skyrim in around 6 hours. Yet I have over 180 hours in my playtime and still didnt see everything game has to offer.

      What is he saying that lot of attention was given to detail and richness of the world. And if you just beeline for the goal you are simply going to miss it.

    • The First Door says:

      Hang on a second… you read an article which talks about how much content a game contains, and instantly compare it to a game with very little content? Alec is trying to make the point that the game is FULL of random little bits of content, but you have to go looking for it.

    • BarneyL says:

      I can run through my local library in under a minute, does that mean that it’salso lacking in content?

    • Savagetech says:

      “Skyrim had at least a hundred hours of playtime if you attempted to do every quest regardless of your approach.”

      Right, if you play it exactly the way Alec is suggesting you play Dishonored. I’m smelling a lack of reading comprehension here. “Events and choices with some pretty huge repercussions on not just plot, but the contents and nature of later levels” are hidden off of the beaten path along with “power upgrades and vignettes.” Is providing optional plot and loot for the adventurous not the exact function of 99% of Skyrim’s quests? You could blow through the main storyline in under 10% of the time you’re quoting; the fact that it’s there is irrelevant unless you take the time to look for it. Which is… exactly what he’s saying you need to do with Dishonored. Is this so hard to understand? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills here.

      • Cytrom says:

        I just find it weird that the fact the game has lots of content needs to be emphasized in an article of its own. It gives me the impression that this is a defensive response to many people who think otherwise for some reason which may or may not be valid.

        • Totally heterosexual says:

          It’s not that weird. Alot of people have been looking forward to this and when a lot of really dumb people (read: you) start complaining when they dont even know what they are talking about, it can be expected for someone to elaborate a bit on the subject.

        • Zeewolf says:

          It’s because games with lots of content that you may have to look for, are for many of us better than games with little content that forces you through it all in a linear fashion that lasts 10 hours.

        • HothMonster says:

          I think it’s in defense of people who got suckered into this game from the marketing campaign expecting it to be like most AAA fpses and have the vast majority of the content dropped in front of them as they walk from point A to point B. It is more of, look CODlikes have trained you to experience games like so if you try to experience this game like so you will be greatly underwhelmed.

          As much as this article excites me I hope it keeps some people who would have been buying it for the wrong reasons from doing so.

    • Dervish says:

      Describing difficulty as “unfair” is usually a poor excuse itself. Attempting to measure “content” as if it’s a volume of liquid that you slurp through a straw at a set rate ought to be a disdainful metric for anyone, especially if “hours spent slurping” is the only measurement people are using for how much “content” you get.

    • specksynder says:

      “…fanboy logic…”

      I vastly prefer reading commentary to participating in the internet, but felt compelled to log in just to tell you to suck it. I can’t fathom how you could read the entire article with your brain and then use the same brain to present the “short translation” you provided. Your head’s like a waste-water treatment plant some mad person is running in reverse. Crystal Clean In —-> Effluent Out.

  27. Wololo says:

    This is exactly how I’ve spend the last week or so playing Skyrim, just enjoying to see everything the devs made for us. And I’m playing on low graphics.

    I’m most likely going to get Dishonored as soon as I’m able to, as I’m not really keen on preordering.

  28. wodin says:

    Hmmm…would have been better design then if it utilised as much of the world as possible before you even get too your objective maybe. Instead of giving you what seems more or less direct and quick access to your objective.

    Just a thought.

    • Premium User Badge

      AlwaysRight says:

      No, because it would feel forced and unrewarding.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Like a sort of linear corridor, with every bit of content crammed along it on the way. Think about it, you can use things like invisible walls to give the illusion of freedom whilst still guiding the player along the corridor! If we put doors along the way or high drops which can only be traversed forward, then the door locks or the drop can’t be climbed we can stop them going back and keep them on the straight and narrow.

      If we give them less to think about, less to work out, less to explore, surely the game will be more fun!

      • Premium User Badge

        Hidden_7 says:

        To be fair, there are ways to do this without resorting to linear corridors. If you have an open environment composed of say three distinct areas you can have a gating mechanism for your ultimate objective by requiring you complete non-linear objectives in each area first.

        Plenty of Thief maps, for example, required you to complete a few different objectives in different areas of a large, open environment. Of course, Thief had the benefit of not having an objective marker. Really the objective marker is the problem here. It leads to a follow the marker gameplay where stop paying attention to your environment. I understand how adding it as an option must of seemed like a simple concession to what were no doubt developer demands brought on by focus groups for more accessibility, but I wonder if it might not have been to their benefit to spend time working out solutions that avoided an objective marker. It certainly sounds like the game is designed that it can be played quite successfully without it, it sounds that turning it off is the intended way of playing the game, and I have no doubt most people who read this site will turn it off before playing even a second of the game, but having that option there I think will poison the discussion around the game some. Hell, it’s already come up as a point of contention.

        I think the best option at this point is a concentrated campaign by both players and journalists to brand the objective marker as “easy baby mode.” Launch an effort to stigmatize playing with it on. Call it cheat mode. Start every review with a reccomendation to turn it off immediately. Lead every discussion about the game with friends with claims that “it doesn’t count” if you played with it on.

        Hopefully we can erase it from existence if enough people consider it shameful to play that way, and the discussion around the game needn’t get hung up on issues surrounding this unfortunate concession to design.

        • wodin says:

          Thanks mate..exactly what I meant. There are ways of designing that allow you to explore and utilize whats on offer before you get to the main objective without it being force fed or linear.

          Just takes some thinking about.

  29. Casimir's Blake says:

    I’m far, far more concerned that they included OBJECTIVE MARKERS.

    This “feature” should never ever have infected modern gaming, it’s a get-out clause for game designers that don’t have the courage to trust the gamer to be intelligent enough to find their own way through the game. It bothered me in Sega’s Aliens Vs Predator reboot, and the idea that it should be present in a first-person sandbox immersive simulation bothers me even more.

    Are Arkane really trying to pander to the mainstream 360/PS3 player by stooping this low?! Yes, clearly, they are. Everyone and anyone with any sense should disable the feature immediately, or face even shorter playing times. And little or no exploratory challenge, which would be a complete waste.

    • Premium User Badge

      AmateurScience says:

      But hey, you *can* turn them off, so no harm no foul.

      I would love it if ‘off’ was default, and there was a little tooltip saying: ‘hey, if you’re really lost put these on, but we think you’ll get more out of the game if you try it with them off first’

      On a more general note, it might be cool if they started doing whatever the gaming equivalent of a preface or introduction would be, like ‘hi: we’re the game designers, this is what we were shooting for here…’

      • Premium User Badge

        Stellar Duck says:

        I’ve got a few manuals where that happens. Mind you, it’s mostly stuff like Europa Universalis, Hearts of Iron, Galactic Civilizations 2 and stuff like that so it’s not really main stream.

        But I love reading them.

        • Premium User Badge

          AmateurScience says:

          The manual for Civ 2 was brilliant. I think I still have it kicking around somewhere.

          • Premium User Badge

            Stellar Duck says:

            Oh! Oh! The manual for Alpha Centauri is the best manual ever I reckon.

          • Zanchito says:

            Let me recommend you the original Homeworld manual. It’s a proper novel-encyclopedia, giving you the background of the original space-faring civilization BACK TO THE STONE AGE. Impressive and truly delightfult to read. I believe the digital versions of the game come with the manual in PDF format.

    • HothMonster says:

      Playtesting, publishing and marketing. The people who paid for the game want tens of millions of people to be able to play it and not give up in the first hour. They really don’t care if the game was designed for those people or if pandering to the lowest common denominator spoils the artistic vision.

      Maybe that is a bad thing, but I can still turn the markers off and Beth still threw millions of dollars at Arkane to make it in hopes of selling it to those millions. So I guess unless you got fooled into thinking you were buying a blockbuster linear manshoot then everyone wins.

  30. Dominic White says:

    The guys who burn through Dishonored in 4-5 hours and then complain about it being short and ripped off are the same breed that went through Bioshock using nothing but the wrench and lightning plasmid, then complained that there was no variety in the combat.

    There are a lot of gamers out there who will obsessively seek out the most efficient way to play a game, to the point where they no longer enjoy it, then kvetch about how boring it was. Self-flagellation combined with the ability to blame everyone else for your pain. It’s sad.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      I have to say that even then, as someone who went through the game with wrench and lightning mostly, it was still a very satisfactory experience. Hell I would have been happy just walking through the levels with no enemies.

    • horsemedic says:

      > There are a lot of gamers out there who will obsessively seek out the most efficient way to play a game, to the point where they no longer enjoy it, then kvetch about how boring it was.

      For better or worse, making players obsessively seek out the most efficient way to play is the primary design principle of most games on the market, including this one. You start off inefficiently, end up a pro, and have a blast along the way.

      A good game makes this process challenging and interesting. A great game (like chess) makes it challenging, interesting and ultimately impossible. A bad game makes it easy, and requires players to read 1000-word RPS articles about how they should walk backwards through the map and handicap themselves if they want to have any fun.

      • Eddy9000 says:

        When RPS writes an article like that be sure to let me know, because all I’ve ever seen are suggestions that different games might suit people that have different play styles and expectations.

      • Sheng-ji says:

        Horsemedic. You don’t get it do you. There are people in this world who want to challenge a different part of their brain, They want to explore a world without an NPC telling them which bit of the world to explore next. They want to figure out where the ballroom is, without a pointer pointing at the ballroom and a distance counter telling them how far away it is. They want to read a book in game and later find graffiti on a wall which quotes the book, or maybe misquotes it. I get that you don’t understand why this is fun for some people, but as the article says, you have plenty of games, we don’t. Get off our case – don’t buy this game, go spend your money on the latest cod or whatever it is you feel nice and efficient in and leave us to enjoy this one gem.

        • horsemedic says:

          Yeah, and from what I’ve read of Dishonored’s development, they tried to make a game like that but ended up with an overly difficult mess in which players were wandering around aimless and frustrated. Then, rather than fix the design, they just stuck quest markers everywhere to make it easy. The result: you can follow the markers and play a very easy game, or wander pointlessly through the 90% of the level whose purpose was discarded at the last minute.

          Maybe I’m misreading these articles and the game will turn out to be awesome, but everything I’m seeing now indicates a design cluterfark.

          • woodsey says:

            That’s talking about how you’re made aware of certain opportunities. So characters might more noticeably reference them as opposed to you purely having to find them yourself.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            Horsemedic – DO NOT BUY THIS GAME. YOU WILL HATE IT AND YOU CLEARLY WILL NOT GET IT.

            And that’s OK, you’ve got plenty of games you do like, now those of us who want this type of game will have it too. Of course I could be wrong, but, despite you linking to a site which calls itself “lazy gamers” and is reporting that gamers I assume are like you were lost without having it carefully explained what to do next is not winning you any supporters. We want a game like this because finding those “pointless bits of level” is the fun.

            You are the person who when the train breaks down, you wait patiently on the platform for the next one.

            We are the people who check the timetable, go find a local bar, catch a cool new band and buy their cd, climb up to the top of a tower just to see the view, meet a new friend and still jump on that next train.

          • HothMonster says:

            They didnt just add the marker and walk away. That article states that they made some options more apparent. Also while some playtesters were dumbfounded im sure plenty of us would have had a grand time figuring it out.

            Sounds to me like they left the hard routes in for people to find and added a little hand holding for those that are not so good at finding the other routes. So im not sure what your problem is. They designed it too hard for everyone so they went through and made it more accessible, sounds like everyone gets what they want.

            You seem to think that responding to playtesting is a bad thing and that everyone who was playtesting was part of the target audience.

          • horsemedic says:

            I hope so. I really do hope I can turn the quest marker off and enjoy a balanced, intelligent game that is equal parts deciphering clues and exploding people with rats, or what have you.

            What I fear based on the reporting so far is that I can either turn off the quest marker and wander through a pretty but unfocused game where I need to stumble across nearly every square inch of the map before find the goal, or I can turn on the quest marker and sprint to the end in a few quicksaves.

          • JuJuCam says:

            The point of the previous article was that the playtesters they employed that found the game too difficult were players who have been conditioned by the likes of COD – they may even have grown up playing such games, or otherwise only started gaming in the era of COD-likes. These people are used to rollercoaster ride experiences where NPCs literally open the doors for you. Unfortunately, this variety of gamer makes up some 60 – 80 % of the Venn circle labelled “people willing to drop upwards of US$50 on an FPS game”, and it wouldn’t do to have most of your market uncomfortable with your gaming experience because their previous experience suggests that people who talk to you in the game should be trusted to lead you in the right direction. In addition, as has been suggested by others, one could almost be forgiven for expecting a COD-like experience given the marketing for Dishonored. And it’s marketed that way because that marketing pulls the numbers.

            I liken it to a test screening of an art house film by someone like David Lynch that’s packed to the gills with Micheal Bay-esque blockbuster fans. These people aren’t going to enjoy that film. There are not enough explosions, and what’s up with the midget? Does that make the film terribly made? I’d argue not. However, Arkane’s solution in the case of Dishonored would be like if Lynch went back and made a cut of the film that popped up tooltips indicating what was important in each scene and what the visual metaphors were supposed to represent according to him. But not all of them. So the Bay fans get at least some sense of the film and its deeper meaning and quality, but they’re still not meeting the work on its own terms because they’re only capable of seeing what’s made obvious to them.

            The hope, I think, is that these people will eventually discover or otherwise realise that there is more to Dishonored than the linear objective markers suggest, and perhaps start again playing with a discovery focus rather than a killcount / time to completion focus.

  31. MistyMike says:

    I think the heart of the problem here is the devs trying to make a ‘something for everybody’ kind of game. Play it how you want, they say. You want to sneak about – there are tools available for that. You want to should your way through – grab that gun and fire away. I believe the key is specialisation. This should have been a STEALTH game. You MUST be sneaky, albeit in a lethal or non-lethal manner. Weapons and violence are limited and suitable for self-defense only. You try to fight your way through and your guts get owned. That way no player would get a sub-optimal experience. There is no way of ‘playing it wrong’ in a video game.

    • Premium User Badge

      ffordesoon says:

      You’re right, there isn’t.

      Which is why your argument is silly. You act as if the design ethos behind the game is a problem, but it’s not. It’s a solution to a problem. That problem is the design you propose, because it punishes the player for improvisation and creativity

  32. MacTheGeek says:

    Based strictly on the title, I thought The Onion had written a review of ‘Dishonored’ (and was appearing here courtesy of some sort of article exchange program). I was expecting some quotes from Billy Ray Scabtrap, whining about how there just aren’t enough redneck role models in videogames today.

    • HothMonster says:

      The Onions A.V. club usually has some pretty on the money video game reviews. I mean they are usually short and from more of an outsiders prospective then the gents here who fart game mechanics but they are usually good and often have a very interesting take.

  33. ChiefOfBeef says:

    Revenge solves nothing.

  34. Emeraude says:

    I’ll be in the corner, crying some more over the fact I won’t be playing this game because of its use DRM.

    That should teach me about being an opinionated bitch.

    Have fun for me if you’re kind enough.

    • woodsey says:

      You’re on the internet, presumably you can oblige the single-time connection to Steam you need to play it.

      • MadTinkerer says:

        Well to Emeraude and Vinraith, that’s just unacceptable, you know. Requiring a one-time activation of a game you’re downloading regardless. What’s “picking your battles” mean on the Internet anyway?

        • Emeraude says:

          Your assuming I would download the game, when a boxed version is available is quite erroneous.

          Even if it weren’t, yes, I think I still would find the model proposed by Valve with Steam (which is more problematic than just “one online activation”) unacceptable.

    • Vinraith says:

      Much respect for sticking to your principles. I’d claim I was taking a stand on this one, but honestly it’s just not my type of game.

  35. Memphis-Ahn says:

    Didn’t know Meer worked for Bethesda’s damage control.

    • Emeraude says:

      Arkane: they’re so arcane everybody thinks they’re someone else.

    • Premium User Badge

      AmateurScience says:

      I can see the headlines now: ‘Game critic in expressing his opinion about a game shock’

      Are you seriously suggesting that Mr Meer was paid to write that piece just because it expresses a favourable opinion of a game that is contrary to the complaints of some people on the internet?

      Really?

    • Eddy9000 says:

      I know RPS is a pretty tolerant website when it comes to moderation but I’d just like to say that if you guys ever decided to ban people for making dumb-arsed and totally baseless accusations against your journalistic integrity then I would fully support it.

      • HothMonster says:

        No they should just go to his job and tell everyone in line that the only reason he works there is so he can have sex with the raw burgers on his lunch break.

      • Alec Meer says:

        While it is incredibly tempting to just delete The Paranoid People Who Hate And Fear Existence, they do tend to take that as validating their insane half-wit theories.

        • Memphis-Ahn says:

          You can delete it if you’d like I don’t mind, it was merely a jest. I actually do agree with you on a basic level (anyone playing this game like a run’n’gun isn’t taking advantage of the games’ strengths) but I honestly do think the fault lies with the developers for allowing such a thing to happen.
          “You’re playing it wrong” shouldn’t have to be an excuse.
          Maybe it’s a reflection of the current mass market that purchases games, maybe it was a design oversight. Maybe I’m just jaded.

    • caddyB says:

      Oh it’s that time of the week again.

  36. conceitedguy says:

    Yes, the retards may have won the War of the Expensive Luxury Entertainments, but cannot we, the intelligent, tasteful crowd of adult gamers, be allowed our own niche, a safe haven of Thinking Man’s Shooters, safe from the slavering horde of imbeciles? Dishonored is that shining, oh so rare light within the greater darkness. Well said, sir; a spectacular review. Let us drink, to the Honor, of Dishonored.

  37. MarcP says:

    “If you’re looking for 10+ hours of shooting men, or even stabbing men, you are well-served already and forever by games that do that, do it well, and do it for a long time. You and those like you are the victor of the great games race, and you have the spoils, many times over.”

    I hear this often and it leaves me feeling like a very stupid man, because as someone who loves manshooting, and to a lesser extent, manstabbing, I find surprisingly few quality games letting me do just that.

    The Call of Modern Battleface single-player stuff is more of an interactive Hollywood movie than a good shooting game. I’ve got nothing against Hollywood movies, but it’s just not what I’m looking for here.

    The Painkiller series and Hard Reset were definitely shooting games, but relatively shallow and mediocre ones.

    Certain games blending genres between shooter and RPG can be entertaining (Borderlands, Dead Island), but often moreso due to the addicting nature of RPG mechanics masking weak gunplay.

    Serious Sam 3 (2011) was great. Before that… I have to go all the way back to Crysis (1, not 2 ; definitely not 2), which was released 4 years earlier. Before that, FEAR (again, the original and not the sequels), which came out in 2005. There’s maybe 30-40 hours of game in each of these titles, for someone who really enjoys his manshooting and is willing to go through multiple replays. This is not a whole lot over 7 years, so ultimately, I always come back to Doom 2, a 1994 game, thanks to id releasing the source code and the community doing so much with it.

    It’s alright. I’m having fun. Still, I often wish I was playing something else, something equally good using tech that isn’t close to two decades old; and yet, save for the few exceptions mentioned above, there doesn’t seem to be anything worth playing.

    Oh, Left 4 Dead is also worth mentioning, although sticking strictly to solo play it’s hard to eke out more than a few hours out of it.

    So, where? Where are those numerous games made for people like me? Because I’m just not seeing them.

    Dishonored, Deus Ex, Portal, Half-Life, Vampire:Bloodlines, Amnesia, Bioshock on one hand. Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, Halo on the other one. It seems to me those who prefer a focus on stories and character development rather than gunplay have won. What differs from game to game is the quality of that story – and the target audience, with the more “mature” crowd jumping on any occasion to point and laugh at how dumb games designed for teens are.

    Sorry, not designed for kids – designed “for those who like manshooting”.

    *groan*

    • conceitedguy says:

      play doom

    • Totally heterosexual says:

      I am so sorry. Please if you want a blowjob or something to make you feel better, just tell me.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      In the last 12 months, on PC by memory

      COD: Black Ops 2
      Borderlands 2
      Serious Sam 3
      COD: Combat Evolved
      Battlefield 3
      Rage
      Red Orchestra 2: Heros of Stalingrad
      Dead island

      vs

      In the last 12 months, on any machine, by memory

      …. er….. anyone help?

      That is all

      • Uthred says:

        Borderlands 2 and Dead Island are hardly pure shooters by any stretch of the imagination

        • DXN says:

          No, but they’re both oriented towards “head for this marker, killing things on the way” rather than “here’s an interesting world to explore and unravel on your own initiative”.

  38. Paul says:

    When I first finished reading this article, comments were disabled. I thought that was great decision since no fuckhead could start a flamewar by being idiotic under this brilliant article.
    Now I see they were enabled, and I am pleasantly surprised to see comments being very nice.
    Cannot wait for Dishonored. Game of the year, calling it now.

    • horsemedic says:

      So you decided to make “fuckhead” your contribution to civil discourse.

      • Gira says:

        lol, “civil discourse”. It’s an internet comments thread, pal.

        • mondomau says:

          Ignore horsemedic, he’s just sore because it it could be argued that it refers to him on this occasion.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      It will most certainly be Game of The Year, but not for any of the reasons you think.

      See also: Skyrim, Oblivion.

  39. SonicTitan says:

    This article needed to be written. It was in fact something I was toying with the idea of writing myself, but I think Meer phrased it better than I could have.

    I’ll only add that there is NOTHING wrong with power gaming – video games are beautiful partly because we can choose which ways we want to interact with them. Instead what’s wrong is the tendency to devour and shit out the remains of a game without even thinking about the experience. That’s tiresome, and there’s no more room in gaming for it. Thank God for RPS.

  40. Savagetech says:

    Sounds like my idea of a good time. In most games I refuse to advance the plot until I’ve thoroughly cased the area I’m currently in. I can’t bear to leave behind delicious loot only to find out about it later and realize I can’t return to the location.

    Can’t help but feel it’s lazy design to add quest markers you don’t really want to follow, though. I don’t mind doing some digging to get the most out of a game, but unless you’re already inclined to do so then you’ll probably use the general FPS rule of “follow the shining golden beacon and you’ll see the entire game.” If this were an RPG that sort of marker would be alright since it’s easy to lose focus when you have nine billion potential sidequests, but in a more linear experience it invites players to play the game in the least satisfying way.

    Why couldn’t they make it like Dark Souls, where your next objective is a simple description of what you need to do next? That invites the kind of “no stone unturned” exploration Alec seems to endorse here; if you don’t know the precise location of your target then you follow each side-path to its end. If some of those side-paths lead to worthwhile rewards, you’ll be enticed to explore things even after you’ve found the main objective.

    I hope this unfortunate pandering to the lowest common denominator doesn’t hurt the game more than a lack of accessibility would have.

  41. ulix says:

    “In almost any game, should I encounter a hallway with one staircase going up, towards my target, and another going down, towards nothing obvious at all, I will go down.”

    This is exactly how I play games.
    Sometimes, when its not clear which way is the “Linear” way to your target, I go in for a few meters, then maybe turn around if I think this is the “right” patch, to first explore the optional one.

  42. UncleLou says:

    What happens if you use the difficulty option – does it just make open confrontations more difficult, rewarding stealth, or does it also make stealth harder (by whatever means)? I’d like to set it up so that bee-lining to your target absolutely isn’t an option, but stealth is not impossibly hard.

  43. Iskariot says:

    25 hours is excellent for a game. Of course if a game is as good as Dishonered even 250 hours is too short.

    But as I have a very exploring nature I will get 30 to 35 hours out of the first play through with ease.
    I love worlds that suck you in with pure palpable atmosphere. Dishonered is such a game.
    I feel lucky being able to enjoy such a game in a time were superficiality in entertainment rules.

  44. jalf says:

    I mostly play games this way as well, and yet it rubs me the wrong way. Where’s the suspension of disbelief when you’re supposedly rushing to save the world, and yet you dally around *intentionally* going the wrong way every chance you get?

    Yes, I always do it, yes, I try to explore as much as possible, but I also consider such a game slightly broken. Why did the game not put all this content somewhere where I’d see it if I immersed myself into the game, somewhere where I’d see it if I didn’t metagame and consciously decide “this seems like the wrong way, so I’ll explore that first, because I might not get a chance later”?

    At the end of the day, I think that’s bad game design. Not *very* bad, you can do a lot of things that are worse, but it’s still bad.

    Ideally, the game should reveal itself to someone who played the game like the main character would have. Which would likely involve trying to go at least approximately the right way, at least most of the time.

    • affront says:

      Exactly this.
      Which is why I prefer smaller-scale, more personal stories instead of the much too prevalent “saving the world”, “epic” variants that if you really played them like the story mattered would make you speed-run them.

      It’s too bad that I seem to be in the minority in this.

      • Premium User Badge

        ffordesoon says:

        You’re in luck, then. Dishonored’s story is about revenge, not saving Dunwall. That was a brilliant decision, because revenge doesn’t have to be swift and bloody or slow and silent. Revenge can be both, or something else entirely. So when you’re exploring every nook and cranny of Dishonored, you can view it as Corvo simply taking his time with his revenge. The only thing at stake is how long the bastards get to continue being bastards.

    • Premium User Badge

      ffordesoon says:

      Totally disagree. While I think playing with player expectations through invisible time limits (DXHR, et al) is a fun mechanic I’d like to see explored a lot more, the idea that being able to take your time despite a looming threat is automatically bad game design is, to me, suspect at best. There are three reasons for that:

      1) As I mentioned in my reaponse to Affront, Dishonored’s story apparently supports multiple playstyles just as much as its mechanics do. There is thus little ludonarrative dissonance. When the narrative and the mechanics are in sync, the narrative only serves to strengthen the game design. It only fails in games where the narrative and the mechanics are at cross purposes, like Uncharted (which I quite like anyway, because I don’t lash my enjoyment of a creative work to any specific dogmas, even the ones to which I subscribe).

      2) Realism – even strict narrative realism – does not equal good game design. As a rule, it is actually pretty terrible game design when misapplied. Strict adherence to a linear narrative with very specific beats that don’t fit a game also often leads to crap design, which is why most licensed games blow. Games are like living art galleries; they tell stories through the precise arrangement of spaces.

      3) There is no wrong way to make art, which means there’s no wrong way to make a game. There,is recieved wisdom, certainly, but a great piece of art can ignore that recieved wisdom and still be great.

      • jalf says:

        1) perhaps this game is one of the lesser offenders compared to many others. But again, actively rewarding (whether via XP rewards or better/more loot, or via pure narrative) the player for going the wrong way, for ignoring objectives, seems weak to me. It’s not black and white, but in general, I think it’s much more interesting if a game encourages me to immerse myself in the game, to play as if the objectives were actually my objectives, the things I want to achieve, and the things I *try* to achieve — and not something I try to put off and delay as much as possible.

        2) complete strawman. I didn’t say *anything* about realism. I talked about suspension of disbelief and immersion. A game which maintains suspension of disbelief is, all else being equal, better designed than one which does not.

        3) that is completely and utterly pure nonsense.
        Because
        a) games are not automatically art. Some people feel that some games are art, but that is very much a subjective judgment.
        b) even if a game is art, art can be criticized too. Art is not exempt from being judged by its audience. You might even say that this judgment is the entire point of art.
        c) I am not discussing its artistic merits, but its gameplay and game design. The Mona Lisa might be great art, but its gameplay is nonexistent, and, if treated as a game, deserves to be bashed to hell and back for that. Dishonored was, last I checked, a game, which means that discussing it as a game is not just fair, but the only goddamn sane thing to do. Pretending that we are not allowed to discuss the game aspects of a game under some absurd art pretense is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

  45. Timthos says:

    I, for one, am going to loot that city into the third world.

  46. VanishedDecoy says:

    I have yet to play the game, but I actually like knowing what my main objective is so that I don’t accidentally complete it. I make sure that I hold off on it until I’m fairly certain that I have seen everything there is to see in the level. Like I said before, I have yet to play Dishonored so the structure may be a bit different to what I’m used to.

  47. MondSemmel says:

    I can’t believe nobody commented on that:
    “The idea that that they contained just 200 metres or so of space ludicrous. Because they didn’t. They contained kilomotres of it, folded in on itself, braided, shielded, but all there to unravel for those willing to do so.”
    To paraphrase Mr. Meer’s points for Metacritic or something: RPS’ Alec Meer considers Dishonored to be one-dimensional.

  48. Gira says:

    I think the fact that Dishonored’s playtimes differ wildly is a credit to it, and makes me more inclined to buy it after having been a little wary that this was going to be another BioShock.

    I really dislike Alec’s disdain for speedrunners, though, which is something I really admire about the power of emergent game design and PC gaming in general. Not everyone wants to Emotionally Immerse themselves in watching a 3D fox run across a frosty plain.

    • HothMonster says:

      ” Not everyone wants to Emotionally Immerse themselves in watching a 3D fox run across a frosty plain.”

      …..I’m sorry but, um, do you know where I might maybe be able to go to get emotionally immersed in a 3D fox running across a frosty plain? I mean I got some hours until Dishonored unlocks and frankly that sounds like a fine way to do it.

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        Harlander says:

        You too, huh?

        Man, don’t leave us hanging, dish out that sweet snow fox action

    • Alec Meer says:

      I don’t mean speedrunners at all – that’s a very deliberate, very thought-out discipline that encourages enormous ingenuity. I mean just blindly following the objective markers, really.

      (I’m actually really excited to see what speed runners manage to do with the Blink powers. Some of the routes across roofs and stuff they might find could be incredible. Though there are a few invisible ceilings in there, presumably to stop people getting up high enough to escape the level bounds, which saddened me).

    • The_B says:

      I think you’re mistaking a disdain for those who complete a game as fast as they can – and then complain a game isn’t long enough or those that buy the game expecting a run and gun and want their money back because they feel they didn’t get enough ‘value’ for their game rather than a disdain for those who know what the game is but then want to speedrun it as an option.

      And I think that’s somewhat what it comes down to, is this perception of ‘value’ for a game, and why some of us are happy to pay something for a game because of what we expect to get out of our cash. The issue that needs addressing – and I do think is exactly what Alec does here – is those who don’t get the specific type of “value” they may have been expecting, of everything handed to you on a plate in a linear fashion without having to do much ‘work’ to find it, as opposed to say a proper speedrun which would take a degree of effort to figure out the most time efficient way to do properly itself.

      EDIT: Ahh Alec beat me to it with his response.

  49. Tom OBedlam says:

    This right here is some journalism. Nice one, Alec, I cannot wait get my paws on this.