Thursday, December 06, 2012

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Dishonored Players Evenly Choose High Chaos "Evil" & Low Chaos "Good" Endings; Creators Harvey Smith & Raphael Colantonio Have a Theory Why

Dishonored Endings

After finishing Dishonored, Arkane Studio's masterpiece new game, I noticed an interesting thing about it on Steam's player stats -- of the 53% who completed the full story arc, the percent who chose the High Chaos or "evil" path (and get the "Dunwall in Chaos" achievement) is almost exactly equal to those who chose the Low Chaos or "good" path (and get the "Just Dark Enough" achievement) -- 26.6% to 26.7%.

If you've played the game, you know this is pretty surprising for many reasons. To complete Dishonored on Low Chaos, you must cause little or no violence, especially to civilians, and choosing that route requires a lot of patience, stealth, and re-starting (because you often get killed trying to be the nice guy who puts guards in a sleeper hold, rather than simply cutting their throats). But as it turns out, half the players who finished the game took the time and effort to be as non-violent as possible. Rather than play Dishonored like a traditional first-person action game, killing anything that moves, half the players steadfastly killed just about nothing. (Except maybe rats, and in my case, an un-redeemable torturer or two.)

Why such an even split? I put the question to Harvey Smith and Raphael Colantonio, the game's lead creators, and they had a fascinating theory:

"Our intention was to give players choices," they told me by e-mail. "Not just a binary 'push the button at the end' choice, but an ongoing aggregate through the game. A more or less background system that allows players to ignore it if they so choose, and play how they want. Further, we didn't want one ending to feel like a failure; in fact, both are shades of gray without an iconic identity. What we've seen, and it might explain the even split in Achievements for each ending, is that people want to play both paths, to see all the angles. This seems inherent to the non-linear way in which players enjoy games: Play, follow a course of action, load earlier in time, follow a new course of action, and in the end, the memory of what happened during the game is this Run, Lola, Run mash-up of reality threads."

So Harvey and Raphael believe players end up playing both ends. That's a logical explanation, though I'm a bit skeptical -- seems to me it would take a lot of extra gameplay to switch your choices over from High to Low Chaos. (The total game takes about 30 hours* to complete.) Are half the people who played Dishonored that hardcore? Maybe. But even then, this would still suggest half the players who finished the game took the time to take the painstaking path of the righteous, so to speak, which is still pretty striking in itself. But we've seen this pattern before -- like I wrote last year, half the people who finished Deux Ex: Human Revolution Invisible War made the effort to get the extremely difficult Good Soul achievement.

Speaking of endings, Harvey and Raphael also shared with me some intriguing thoughts about how Dishonored closes -- more on that next week.

* 12/7, Update: While it took me about 30 hours to complete Dishonored in full-on, peace-and-love hippie mode, Harvey just e-mailed to note, "Most people complete Dishonored in 12-20 hours, and the second pass is faster."


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Adeon Writer

Never underestimate the achivment collectors. :)


Erm, Hamlet? For an even split ALL Players that finished the evil path then have to play the good part. If only half of them play again, the split would be 66% versus 33%. Greetings from a nerd. LOL

Emperor Norton

So the choices are; just a jerk or be a bigger jerk with being just a jerk being punished by the game. The only surprise is 100% of the players didn't opt for being a bigger jerk.

Game theory, how does it work?

Arabella Jones

How much do these games cost?

If the two paths are different enough, and individually challenging enough, you just got twice as much bang for your buck.

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