Arkane on Arx Fatalis 2 and becoming two studios
Following on from the success of Dishonored and its acquisition by Bethesda, developer Arkane is expanding its horizons.
With only four games to its name, it’s hard to believe Arkane Studios was founded back in 1999, 18 years ago. While it has not been prolific, the studio has earned my respect by always walking its own path, happy to experiment on the fringes of the RPG genre with interesting and challenging concepts. With Dishonored in 2012, it had a true hit on its hands, a blockbuster, and the studio has since levelled up.
Suddenly, Arkane had two massive triple-A games in development at once. Last year's released Dishonored 2, and this year's space-set, psychological thriller Prey. The latter is looking quite incredible; borrowing from both Dishonored and BioShock to provide an open-world playground where aliens, alien powers and zero-g revolve around a story focused on the deepest of questions – “who am I?”
How Prey is shaping up
Arkane's latest is a generous arrival that gives as much as it takes from those that came before it. Check out our final review. Read more…
We were lucky enough to sit down with Arkane co-founder Raphael Colantonio and lead designer Riccardo Bare to talk about Prey and the studio’s future. We used the opportunity to discuss how life has changed at Arkane since the first Dishonored, and whether the new dual-studio setting offered scope for an Arx Fatalis 2.
How has it changed the dynamic of the studio now that you’ve been working on two AAA games at the same time with Dishonored 2 and Prey?
Colantonio: It’s changed things big time as we used to all collaborate on the one game. Then we decided to do Dishonored 2 - so Harvey Smith went to Lyon [France] and that game was 100% made there – and Prey, which is being completely made in Austin [USA]. So it has been a completely different chapter for us. There was still some collaboration between the studios, though. The director from Lyon came to Austin to help us as we were working out exactly the theme. So we are still one company, just two studios.
Bare: Plus we had to grow the Austin studio, which was part of the challenge of making Prey. As the team was small. Even when we were doing the first Dishonored, it was small compared to the French studio. It was about 15 to 20. So for Prey we had to do a lot of recruiting, which was tough, but fun.
Colantonio: In a way it is good that we are physically separated, as opposed to some companies that are making two games in the same location. That is more of a problem as they start pushing people between the teams as they try to hit a milestone. And that is the beginning of the end. In our case, we are so physically separated that development stays pretty natural.
Now that you have two teams, is there scope to revisit Arx Fatalis in the future?
Colantonio: Yeah it’s always in our hearts. We always joke and talk about it. There is no plan or anything, but often we think, “wouldn’t it be cool if we did another Arx Fatalis.” I think at some point we will do something with it.
It’s great to see a studio like Arkane expand so successfully as bothDishonored 2 and Prey don’t feel compromised by the separation of the teams (both in focus and geographically). I’d love to see Arx Fatalis revisited – such an atmospheric RPG filled with so many neat little ideas. Thinking of that game world unfolding with the technology and know-how in which the studio now trades fills the heart with want. Especially as the likes of Todd Howard are now just a phone call away as a Bethesda stable-mate.