Dishonored in VR: “We definitely have thought about it”

Chris Stead 31 October 2016 NEWS


Everyone is talking about virtual reality at the moment, and Arkane Studios’ Harvey Smith believes Dishonored has played a vital role in that movement.

I recently got an opportunity to spend some quality time with the full range of Bethesda titles, including Doom VR and Dishonored 2. I also got to chat to the latter’s co-creative director, Harvey Smith, about the game and his philosophies around its design. After experiencing Doom in VR – which is quite awesome – I could quickly see how facets of Dishonored 2’s gameplay would work quite well played in that fashion. Naturally, I brought that up with Smith in our chat.

Below you will find Smith's full response, which is filled with curious observations about the state of VR and also the amount of VR experimentation Arkane Studios has indulged in during the production of Dishonored 2. Here is the full conversation:

I was just playing Doom VR and it is incredible, and in particular the movement is quite intuitive. As soon as I used those controls - where you point somewhere, press a button, and travel to that location instantly - I thought of the Blink power in Dishonored. The motion controls would work so well with swordplay, so you must have thought of doing Dishonored 2 in VR?

It’s funny because in 2012 we did Blink, and while other people had done teleportation, the way we did Blink specifically - moving you though the world really fast - immediately caught on and became a solution for VR developers everywhere. I don’t know if they got it from us or got it from somewhere else, but it seems like good timing that afterwards everyone was doing it for VR. So I can see how VR could work hand-in-hand with Dishonored.

But there are other things in the game that would be very hard to get to work. Like anytime you grab the camera in VR and twist it you get sick, and that happens a lot of times when you are grappling with people. And you have to do that to make it feel visceral, otherwise it becomes a very static and dry screen you are looking at when you are fighting some guy. Nowadays you really have to do some of that stuff in combat and it really doesn’t work in VR. And running and sliding and jumping off a roof in Dishonored feels really cool. But then again with Blink I don’t know: we definitely have thought about Dishonored in VR.

But have you actually started experimenting with it?

We don’t have anything announce right now, but one thing I will say is that at the beginning of Dishonored 2, somebody on the internet did a PC mod for Dishonored using Oculus Rift. We got it in the office and played with it, and it was amazing. Being able to stand on a roof and look down at a ceramic tile or pick up a Kingsparrow Feather for money or look up into the sky or down onto a cobblestone street with a guard going past below - you’re right, the freedom of just moving around is very engaging.

So we got to experience that mod and see where the problems are and now everyone is working on solving those problems. We have to wait and see which approach is going to work; VR or AR. Which hardware is going to work; the Vive or the Oculus Rift? Whether people want to sit in a chair or walk around a small room, and whether they even have the house to do that – especially in places like New York or London where apartment sizes can be really small.

There’s a lot yet to be seen with VR. I am a big VR proponent, even a fanatic. I got to work on a game in 1994 that supported two VR headsets: I was lead tester on System Shock 1 for ten months, which we supported with two VR headsets. So I do believe it has a future, it’s just that a lot of stuff has to be worked out over the next few years.

Harvey Smith certainly suggests that there is genuine discussion occurring at Arkane Studios about bringing the Dishonored franchise to VR platforms, but it won’t be anytime soon. Clearly Smith, who is co-director of the studio, wants to wait and see how the VR market evolves over its launch years. But if all goes well, Dishonored VR could very well be on the cards before the end of the decade.

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