Dishonored Isn’t Steampunk: Arkane Talks Dunwall Origins

It’s hard to think of Dishonored as being set in anything other than the city of Dunwall. Yet, its developers would have us know that the game was originally set in medieval Japan—and not in the Victorian London-esque city in which the game is based.

Speaking at the Game Developers Conference in a talk called “World of Dishonored: Raising Dunwall” the game’s art director Sebastien Mitton said that he visited a wide variety of locations to study their people, their culture, and their architecture was what he used to create the visual design of the city in which Dishonored is set, Dunwall.

Mitton revealed that the studio had originally chosen to go with medieval Japan but that the idea was dropped rather early on in the game’s development because of the difficulties it presented in terms of marketing, as well as the fact that no one at Arkane knew much about the culture.

The studio shifted its focus towards 1660s London and the Great Plague, and established an early vision of Dunwall, inspired by 17th century art. The characters in turn were inspired by early English and Australian mug shots. And the game’s technology came from trips to the museum, tools and prototypes.

Like their decision to axe the Japanese setting, not all of the game’s early concepts remained. Dishonored originally featured iron clad horses, later removed in favor of the electric rail vehicles which were a better fit for the vision they settled on.

Typically, artists and architects have very little to do during game development outside of pre-production and concept design. That isn’t the case at Arkane, where the studio had architects working together with level designers. Mitton revealed that they needed specialists from a wide variety of fields to help tie all of the game’s elements together, and how all of the game was conceptualized for a long period of time before even making the transition to 3D. The team took trips to London to take architectural and facial references to design a complete vision of what everything would look like in the game before even making it.

Mitton rejects the “steampunk” label often bestowed upon Dishonored. He says that the team simply developed a specific vision and accomplished it through the game.

“Some people call this a steampunk game, but it’s not meant that way at all,” said Mitton.

Players enamored with the city of Dunwall will have an opportunity to explore much more of the city with the release of the Knife of Dunwall DLC next month.

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