Now Prey is out in the wild and Dishonored’s story has wrapped up with the release of Death of the Outsider, what does the future hold for Arkane Studios?
Arkane has always been the immersive sim studio, creating games with deep worlds you can lose yourself in, filled with details that make the places you visit appear believable. We’ve always explored these worlds from first-person, and we’ve always been equipped with an array of powers that allow for experimentation, usually interacting with each other in surprising ways.
The future of Arkane will retain these core tenets, but it seems like the developer will also experiment more and test the bounds of what an immersive sim is.
Arkane previously experimented with incorporating multiplayer into the genre with a cancelled game called The Crossing. The Crossing aimed to make one person the protagonist, while player-controlled characters interrupted their story and attempted to stop them.
During QuakeCon 2018, I asked Arkane lead designer Ricardo Bare if it’s likely we’ll see a return to something like The Crossing.
“Not literally The Crossing, but for sure some elements,” Bare explains. “Being able to incorporate more online sharing or multiplayer type stuff, we totally might do that. It’s interesting because, for a while, there was this push with a bunch of big publishers to force teams to include multiplayer modes. I feel this was super destructive because you end up with a team that’s made a really compelling single-player game, but they were forced to tack on this deathmatch mode or whatever.”
You only have to look at games such as Spec Ops: The Line to see what Bare is referring to here.
“It was super distracting and resource-draining to the team,” he continues. “And, as it turns out, it didn’t help some of those games anyway. But what I feel like is happening now is way different – it’s more community-oriented, it’s more about what gives your game legs, builds community, sharing, and things like that. Games are approaching that with lots of different models.”
As for the studio’s most popular series, Dishonored, it seems like it might be a while before we see another, if we do at all. With Arkane’s assassination series, the story came to a natural conclusion with the last release, Death of the Outsider.
“I can’t say definitively what might happen down the road, anything could happen, but [Dishonored] is resting for now,” Bare tells me. “As far as pure immersive sims go, I don’t know if we’re going to continue to make like carbon copy – this qualifies as an immersive sim and it’s the only thing we’re ever going to make.
“The things that are important to us as a studio are coherent, deep world building and environmental storytelling – we’re always going to craft spaces that you feel like you’re visiting, whether it’s Dunwall or Talos 1. It’s just as important a character as the player or the people you meet. Then it’s improvisational gameplay – giving players a bunch of cool abilities and tools, then saying, ‘You figure it out, you be creative, you own the experience’. And, typically, we stick to first-person, though that’s not a hard rule and we might try other things from time to time.”