Dishonored EP8: The Lousiest Man in Dunwall

  By Shamus   Mar 19, 2013   117 comments


Link (YouTube)

If you watch this episode very closely, and if you squint very hard, and if you watch the video many times, you might just barely be able to make out the fact that Josh was half in the bag for this recording session.

Remember kids, killing more than 19% of the people around you is chaotic and bad. Try to keep your murder quota to 19%. If you’re some kind of crybaby sissy-pants bedwetter, maybe you’ll bump that down to only killing 1 in every 10 people you meet… you spineless bleeding-heart coward who doesn’t deserve to have an awesome roboskull mask to hide your teary-eyed shame.

Like Chris said, this is where the game starts to get good. You’ve got lots of room to move around and you’ve probably unlocked three or so powers to play around with.


A Hundred!17117 comments. Quick! Add another to see if this message changes!


  1. GM says:

    Okay i..oh look video let´s watch.

    • Jokerman says:

      It feels so good to be able to just pop these comments in nice and fast eh? You would of been able to watch the entire video while that comment was loading before…

  2. Nytzschy says:

    Is “half in the bag” another way of saying tipsy? Because I refuse to believe, based on his play style, that Josh would take half-measures when it comes to alcohol.

    RE women characters: the idea that a story should be able to get a pass on solid female characters because the society of the setting is oppressive to women is total baloney. If anything, it means that the writer ought to work extra hard to subvert the androcentric ideology of the society they’re depicting. Otherwise they are just echoing the propaganda of historical and present hegemony, and that’s as lazy as it is dangerous.

    • MrGuy says:

      Re: female characters, I agree with you. There’s the opposite lazy extreme of dropping the bland sassy “look at me!” tough chick who doesn’t fit with the setting at all because “See? We’re edgy and subverting the historical gender roles!”

      It takes skill to create a character who can play against type while still being a believable member of the society they’re ostensibly a part of. This is particularly true in a society where role expectations are so strongly entrenched.

      Which is kind of the problem with most of of the characters in this game. They’re so bloody one dimensional. Pulling off a believable and interesting female lead would likely be beyond them. And the half-ass attempt these writers would likely make might be worse than not trying.

    • False Prophet says:

      Precisely. Here’s a good topical guide: George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books. In A Game of Thrones, Martin describes a fictional society much like England of the High Middle Ages, where a woman’s value is solely to seal political alliances through marriage. And even so, they have power behind the scenes such that most of the major plots and events of the book are put into motion by women.

      Granted, Martin muddied the waters later on by continually adding sword and spear-wielding action girls to his growing cast. I like most of those characters, but they do kind of weaken Cersei’s one moment of pathos. (“My brother was given a sword. But there was no sword for me.”)

      • Chamomile says:

        Except not Danaerys Tagaryen. Danaerys Tagaryen is a terrible, shallow character who should be used as a yardstick by which we measure failed characters.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Yeah, “in the bag” generally refers to intoxication. In this case I believe it was Migrane related.

      “If anything, it means that the writer ought to work extra hard to subvert the androcentric ideology of the society they’re depicting.”
      Well, that is assuming that:
      A. Writers have a duty to vocally support social change.
      B. All people do (or should) think as you do in regards to gender roles.

      Suffice to say that neither of these points is a given at this stage. I would say the writers “ought” to write an interesting, internally consistent story. If the story is also uplifting, instructive, and/or revolutionary, that’s the writer’s prerogative. It kind of sounds like you’re saying: “All writers have a duty to advance my social views.” Which (if that is what you mean) is kind of silly.

      • Nytzschy says:

        Well, that is assuming that:
        A. Writers have a duty to vocally support social change.
        B. All people do (or should) think as you do in regards to gender roles.

        I’m not sure why “do” is in there, or why “or should” is in parentheses. That’s like saying “‘Thou shalt not murder’ assumes that all people do (or should) agree that murder is bad.” It’s kind of a weird way to put that.

        I also don’t understand why you put it in terms of my beliefs. For the record, I do not expect everyone to share my beliefs, and alter my beliefs often due to new evidence or arguments. Putting it in terms of “my beliefs” artificially inflates my “silliness.”

        Here are my actual assumptions:

        A) Purveying sexist ideology is harmful.
        This one can be and has been tested empirically.
        B) Art and entertainment have the capacity to contribute to the spread of sexist ideology.
        Also testable.
        C) People have a responsibility to avoid purveying harmful ideologies.
        A question of values, e.g. whether harmful ideologies are bad. I’m going to say “yes”. It’s also a question of responsibility, and I maintain that in the age of the Internet ignorance is no excuse.

        In my view, writers can write whatever the heck they want, but if what they write contributes to some retrograde ideology I am certainly not going to refrain from criticizing them for doing so.

        • Decius says:

          Now you’ve moved to “Writers should be consequentialist”, which is a very different normative statement.

        • Ib says:

          Forgive me if i’m straying too far into the realms of the political here, but given that the definition of “sexist” is inevitably arbitrary, and varies from person to person, I can guarantee that at least assumptions A and B are demonstrably false.

  3. newdarkcloud says:

    I honestly think the game would be in the clear regarding claims of sexism if it wasn’t for two events, both of which occur at roughly the same time.

    1.)The peeping tom scene with Piero and Calista. This is worsened by the fact that Piero asks you to pay for brandy in the very same breath if you want to be nice to Sokolov. It’s like it happens, then the game suddenly forgets about it.

    2.)Lady Boyle’s Last Party. The justification and the non-lethal option. I like the mission, but damn.

    • Eljacko says:

      As to the first one, I don’t think the brandy conversation is supposed to happen then. It happened in Chris’s video, but that’s the only time I’ve seen those two conversations happen together. When I asked him about the brandy he was in his office. It really just depends on what order you do things in.

      As to the second one, the non-lethal option is pretty terrible but I don’t see what’s wrong with the justification. The idea is that she’s financing the military. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but it’s not sexist.

      • newdarkcloud says:

        The point for the first one is that Piero peeps on Calista and there’s absolutely no way to reprimand him for it. Why wouldn’t Corvo use that as a way to blackmail him to get the brandy for free? Why can he stare at a woman taking a bath with zero consequences?

        And I had that happen to me on my very first playthrough of the game. If you didn’t see the event, Piero sits there until you do. Then, he goes right back to normal, as if nothing happened. As a result, I’m sure it happens fairly often.

        For the record, I don’t think Arcane or the game itself is sexist, but there are quite a few things that are questionable. I’m sure this debate will emerge once again as we go on.

        • Jokerman says:

          The only thing you can do to him is tell Calista about it, by uhh waltzing right into the bathroom and having a chat with her….obviously. He does mention it when you talk to him if you do that.

          As far as the quest goes, i don’t think as many people would mind that if it was not presented as the good option of the two :D I have enjoyed other games with “slavery as punishment” in them and enjoyed the option to be really dark and evil. it not being seen as evil in anyway is what makes it feel sexist.

          • Haha, I remember when I walked in on her and tried to join her; somehow she killed me?

          • Nimas says:

            Er, the problem I had was not that it was portrayed as good (never really felt that) but that it was borderline unrepentant evil. Selling a woman into sexual slavery almost puts Corvo at the very top of the villain list in this game.

            The only way I actually resolved to get through this one (couldn’t really accept killing an innocent civilians because of her taste in men) was to assume that Corvo went and released her as soon as Emily became Empress (yes I know the heart directly contradicts that, I needed that to keep on playing)

  4. Nano Proksee says:

    Idea:

    If the mask where presented as a plague doctor’s mask kind of thing all the chaos thing would have made more sense:

    More bodies => more food for the rats => more rats => more plague! => Corvo’s mask always on.

    And it would give a purpose to the mask.

    But either way it doesn’t explain the different endings.

    • Eljacko says:

      Corvo’s mask does actually protect him from the plague, but it’s not made very clear.

    • X2-Eliah says:

      Afaik the first character designs for Corvo were basically using the whaler-assassin model. They changed over to the skullface mask to.. I guess to get more advertising coolsies.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      And let me tell you another thing about those masks: they are creepy. Seriously, as much as I know they were meant as a protective measure I just can’t help but think “carrion bird” the moment I see that silhouette in any source, the whole plague context doesn’t help either.

  5. lostclause says:

    So I like the idea of of the chaos system but couldn’t they have mixed it up a bit, made sure that not all the bad stuff was on one side I mean. For instance the slave mines you guys mentioned. A high chaos (but moral) action would’ve been to bust them out but that destabilizes the established order, increasing chaos. That way it really is orderly succession vs. reform of the system, neither is necessarily better.

    That’s my two cents anyway (note I haven’t played the game so things like this might happen later).

    • newdarkcloud says:

      I think most of us here agree that whatever their intentions, the Low/High Chaos didn’t work. Honestly, I like Ruts’s suggestion to make it notoriety instead.

      I also think that the ending probably should not have been affected by it. I don’t mind that the world becomes darker and more security is generated the more you kill. I even like that because it gives you more of what you crave. However, whenever an ending is dramatically changed by a single all-encompassing stat, it will inevitably look like a moral choice system. There’s no avoiding it.

      • lostclause says:

        Oh I realise that its not a particularly original insight, I’m just surprised they didn’t try and counterbalance it to be less one-sided (some good, some evil on both I mean).

        Again, I haven’t played the game, but changing the ending would be fine with me. It’s just that it’s binary that really would annoy me. Sticking in a couple of ones for ‘a little bit of chaos’ and ‘a decent amount of chaos’ might’ve been better but perhaps that’s just a personal preference.

      • What if the ending had been changed – but according to more stats? (do a fallout style ending). Probably wouldn’t have worked as well with this kind of game, but if you plan for that from the beginning, maybe it could have worked? I don’t know, though.

        I agree that notoreity would have been more interesting. In fact, what the people in the world think you are is a much more rewarding stat than the Developer’s Divine Judgement.

      • Cupcaeks says:

        I think had it not been for the split ending the chaos system would’ve been fine. Up until that point, it felt for the most part like the city was reacting to your actions in a mostly logical manner (the whole thing with the weepers still bugs me). Even having certain characters react to you differently felt fine to me, because it was the characters judging you, and their personalities were clear enough that you understood why you were getting that particular reaction from them. The ending, however, really does make it seem like the game is passing judgement on you. Maybe it wasn’t intended to be a ‘good end/bad end’ kind of thing, but the way the ending narration is framed it seems pretty clear, to me at least, that one outcome is more desirable than the other. Outside of having just a single ending, I think maybe making both a little more ambiguous would’ve helped. As it is, the ‘good’ end seems to have nothing but pros, while the ‘bad’ end has nothing but cons, though this may just be my own moral prejudice affecting how I’m seeing things.

        • Sleeping Dragon says:

          I think the idea was to convey the “bad” ending as you caring only about revenge, succeeding in it to your satisfaction and leaving because you don’t really care about the people of the empire. It doesn’t work primarily for two reasons. Firstly, Corvo is extremely weak as a character, as was discussed on the show the game lacks the proper introduction to create an emotional connection between him and the player and so his motivations carry over poorly. Secondly, both endings are actually focused on Emily and the empire, having the emotional impact of either winning (Emily is a good empress, the plague is contained and a new golden age begins) or loosing (Emily tries to be a good empress but the plague spreads and the empire enters a new dark age). The “chaotic” win simply doesn’t feel rewarding (and while we’re at it killing them simply removes the people in power who stand in your way, non-chaotic solutions pretty much sentence them to shame, humiliation and life of suffering, which sounds much more vengeful in my book).

          Maybe the way they should have handled it would be less about some fixed matter of “killing is chaotic” but more about “you may need to ignore personal feelings or even plain justice if it helps the country.” For example make it a choice between endangering Emily (consciously, as opposed to how it is resolved in the game) and letting one of the main participants in the coup escape, for that matter even subvert it, and make it so that chasing after them and killing them is good for the country (because they won’t be able to, say, sow discontent) but alienates you from Emily in the ending. Or leave somebody from the conspiracy alive and even in power because it will help stabilise Emily’s rule, someone like Pendleton because his support will ensure she has less problems with noble families trying to take over and he is enough of a coward and opportunist to make a deal like this.

          Similarly, do something like the gates be posts where people who want to pass through are checked for the plague and turned away at the slightest suspicion no matter their situation and tears, you can either work your way around or push through, but if you slaughter your way into a new part of the city other people will take advantage of the unguarded gate and possibly carry the plague in. Make more side missions a matter of increasing the stability in the city or restoring people’s faith that this is something that can be managed, or crushing it for personal gain, because you need their cache of medicine for yourself, or because someone offered you easy entry to a location if you help them take control of a location. I realise this would be more difficult to develop, probably with a much more complex system of values, triggers and variables, but it would both make more sense and would be so much more satisfying.

  6. Keleim says:

    The thing is, they do flesh out the female characters and reveal how they feel about their place in society. The problem is, as has been touched upon, it’s all done through the heart, nothing is shown.

    Speaking of the heart, it also helps to further undermine the chaos mechanic. If you point it at some generic guards, the heart will often imply that they are causing enough deaths that their murders would be net gains, at one point explicitly stating that they will ‘kill twice more before they take their own life’. The same with the prostitutes, it will tell you that some of them know they have the plague and are continuing to work anyway. I’m not saying the moral thing to do is kill them, but given the justification for the whole chaos thing is that more bodies helps to spread the plague…

    • MrGuy says:

      Remember who the heart came from.

      I like the idea of the heart subtly encouraging you to greater chaos by appealing to your sense of nobility and the greater good. It makes the heart that much more sinister.

      Which really would have been an interesting thing to play with – the codex equivalent actually turning on you, leveraging it’s implied impartiality to urge you gradually to greater and greater feats of evil that seemed noble at the time.

      Or maybe I want every game to be Spec Ops. Not sure.

  7. Humanoid says:

    While I have no real idea what impact it would have on the narrative of the game given that I haven’t played beyond the sewer-based tutorial, I would note that due to the whole silent-protagonist and entirely first-person camera, it would have been relatively easy to implement an alternative female protagonist to this game. She would be called….

    Corvette.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      That wouldn’t make sense because Emily is implied to be Corvo’s child. With an Empress

      Nothing wrong with female/female, but that’s not going to conceive a child.

      • Paul Spooner says:

        Hey, this is a fictional setting! If they’re going to use it to justify sexism… well that argument goes both ways.

      • Humanoid says:

        I was under the impression (coming almost solely from past SW episodes) that that notion was mostly just subtly implied instead of being plot-critical. Would anything even break if that subtext was just ignored?

        • newdarkcloud says:

          In order for the whole ending to work, Emily has to see Corvo as a fatherly, or at least parental, figure. This is because her actions are dramatically, almost disturbingly influenced by your Chaos.

          I suppose it’s technically possible for Emily to consider Corvette a surrogate mother, but that seems less likely since she already has a maternal figure in both the Empress and Calista later on.

          • Nytzschy says:

            You’re assuming that a woman has to perform prescribed feminine roles in order to be seen as a parental figure by a child, I think. Unless someone at some point says something like “the lord protector probably fathered the Empress’ daughter,” (I haven’t played the game, so maybe someone does?) I don’t see why a Corvette wouldn’t work.

            I think we should also keep in mind that gender isn’t the same as sex, or reproductive capacity. Some cultures take more than the man/woman gender binary for granted as well. See: South Asian Hijra for example.

          • False Prophet says:

            I know a couple of lesbian couples raising children together. It’s possible for a child to see multiple women as parental figures. It’s not even that uncommon. It was even more common historically, for those defenders of this game’s sexism who bring up “history” as a justification.

            • Shamus says:

              Ah, the diversity trap.

              Hey! You don’t allow me to be a woman in this game. It’s a simple model-swap!

              Okay, here’s a female model. Now you can play as a woman.

              Hey! Everyone talks about my female character like she’s a man! Can’t you be arsed to record a couple of different lines of dialog?

              Fine. Here’s some new dialog and triggers so the game responds to your gender.

              Hey. This character is treating my female protagonist like a father figure. And apparently I can only be a woman if I’m also a lesbian? Gender is more than just what parts you have. Not allowing me to define me sexuality and self-view is just as restrictive as making me be a man.

              Fine. We’ll flip the genders of some other characters if you want and let you define your sexuality.

              Pfft. This game makes a big deal out of letting us choose our gender and sexuality, but it never does anything with it. It never explores what it’s like to be a woman in this setting, and nobody comments on your sexuality. It’s shallow and insulting and shows that games are still stuck in an adolescent binary gender worldview.

              This is an interesting game. The only winning move is not to play.

              To be fair, I realize that these arguments won’t all be made by the same person. And I understand that the people who make then aren’t trying to play “gotcha!” with the authors. I’m strongly in favor of more female protagonists, but I think we’re asking too much of this game.

              The characters in this game are so thin and so shallow that letting Corvette be in a lesbian relationship with the empress and be dual-parenting Lady Emily would NOT come across as progressive, diverse, or interesting. It would come off as crass or lazy. And to fix that would require depth, subtlety, and character development not found elsewhere in the game. It’s not that you can’t explore those themes in a game, it’s that this is not an easy road to go down. In the first five minutes of the game the writers kill your partner(?) kidnap a child, and torture you, and it gets barely a shrug from the audience. If they can’t get an emotional response with that explosive stuff, then they are light years from being able to properly depict the kind of relationship you’re talking about.

              • Humanoid says:

                From how this exchange has developed though, I very much see the point of how different people are making separate arguments: I disregard both the parental and romantic aspects of the relationships because I consider them unimportant. Placing the character as a close friend or aunt/uncle figure at best, leaving aspects such as sexual orientation irrelevant, seemed satisfactory for the purposes of the plot as far as I’ve seen it, yet the immediate responses more or less immediately assumed a much closer and more intimate relationship had to be present.

                Obviously my hand is weakened by having barely played the game, and once I do I may well see those interpretations being strictly required for the narrative. In that context of not really knowing how the game as it stands respond to the protagonist’s male gender, I can’t say whether a simple swap would come off as overtly lazy – such a contrast would depend on there being more depth to the handling of male-Corvo than we’ve seen so far.

                • Shamus says:

                  “Placing the character as a close friend or aunt/uncle figure at best, leaving aspects such as sexual orientation irrelevant, seemed satisfactory for the purposes of the plot as far as I’ve seen it, yet the immediate responses more or less immediately assumed a much closer and more intimate relationship had to be present.”

                  And that’s fair. I can’t speak for the others, but I think my initial resistance to that line of thought was that the ONLY things we know about Corvo are:

                  1) Is the protector guy
                  2) Probably having it on with the Empress and therefore probably in love with her
                  3) Probably Emily’s biological father, in addition to being her father figure.

                  Corvo is so paper-thin and empty, I think people are reluctant to make changes that would take away what little bit of character we have. If there was more to Corvo than how he relates to these two women, we’d have something to work with.

                  But you’re right, these details are’t really required for the story to work and they’re barely mentioned. They’re probably just cheap hacks added to try and make the player care about Emily. Once again, we’re dealing with one of those spiderweb cracks that originates at the introduction.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      I’m not sure that would work given given the implied institutionalized sexism of Dunwall. Such a character could be in the story, but she would probably be restricted to a camero appearance only.

      • anaphysik says:

        But mostly it wouldn’t happen because the industry “knows” that male gamurz can’t empathize with characters who have Volvo parts.

        • Alex says:

          I don’t know, they might be on to something there. After all, if there’s one thing men don’t like, it’s lesbians.

        • Sleeping Dragon says:

          This might have been a way to breathe a bit more life into the protagonist. As Quent mentioned below there is some obscure mention of female protectors in the past and even if the character was treated as a sort of “competent female” exception from the rule between the Empress and Corvette it would be a nice acknowledgement that even within the setting the sexism sometimes just has to give. It would also be an interesting pretext to make other female characters more developed by exploring their interactions with someone who seems exempt from the oppressive rules they are forced to follow, interactions that could range from idolising to contempt, as well as male characters, who might be uneasy about the status of their assassin and unsure of how to treat her (I’m actually seeing some of it in my Victoriana roleplay).

          Having said that the devs already explored both alternative gameplay and non-photo-realistic graphics, I doubt they’d ever think they could afFord to take another risk with this franchise.

      • Quent says:

        I think that it is mentioned in a book that ther have been female protectors (Douds room I think).

        Interestingly I played as a female in saints row 3 to offset the sexist stereotypes commonly used.

    • tzeneth says:

      Due to the suggested nature of you being the father of Emily…that may not work.

  8. newdarkcloud says:

    I dislike this particular non-lethal option because it feels like the player doesn’t really do anything. All of the actual work is being done by Slawjaw. It’s relatively easier to break into the Silver Room and torture the guy than it is to kill Pendleton.

    While this can be said for all of the targets, I feel like the non-lethal takedowns are significantly easier than they probably should be. If I’m trying to avoid killing anyone, I want to work for it. I don’t want it to be handed to me.

    • Harry says:

      I wish they’d just had the player have to knock out both Pendletons and carry them back to Slackjaw, like you have to do with Solokov.

      Would’ve made for a *very* challenging, but ultimately rewarding, mission.

  9. DanMan says:

    A song for exposition? I typically just sing (to the tune of Joyful, Joyful, we adore thee) “Ex-po-sition, Ex-po-sition, they are talking, I don’t care”.

  10. TheLurkerAbove says:

    This isn’t the first time the sword fighting has been praised in the show, and while I’ve only played the tutorial and first mission, I strongly disliked it. More specifically, enemy attacks with firearms and firebreathing/throwing/whatever were ridiculously damaging and completely disrupted any sense of flow.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      I will agree with you inso far that the fire breath is a bullshit attack. However, if you look guards take quite a bit of time to shot you with the Pistol. If your alert, you can easily either get a guard in front of you to take the blow or slash the guard out of the shot.

      • Naota says:

        Though it was likely just coincidental AI behaviour, I ended up repeatedly floored by those damned bottle gangsters time and again. Invariably, the moment I’d engage a group of them, the entire gang would step back and hit me with a rolling salvo of fire breath, then follow it up immediately with another riotous round of – you guessed it – fire breath.

        Not counting the relative lack of warning and ludicrous damage of the thing, dodging that spew would have been at least be a remote possibility if it wasn’t for the fact that the AI put the same priority on it as a normal sword swing. What is this, Dark Souls?

        Beware! Here be dragongangsters!

  11. djshire says:

    Josh, drunk during a recording? Pfft, that never happens, thats like Cuftburt being drunk…..wait….

  12. Brandon says:

    I’m really glad you used the word “grokking” during that video, Shamus. :)

    It’s an excellent word.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Go go Heinlein rangers! Mighty language morphin rangers!

    • I really don’t understand why people react to the utterance of “grok” as if it’s uncommon. Maybe knowing its origin is, but I hear/read it quite a lot.

      • Paul Spooner says:

        Well, the word is really just a synonym for “understand”. So, using “grok” instead is kind of an inside joke. If you don’t understand the word, you don’t understand the phrase, or indeed the speaker. This makes “grok” linguistically recursive (it carries its own meaning). Like a pun, it tickles the semantic senses.
        There are plenty of other phrases that serve this purpose. QED, dig it, I feel you, they are all atoms of “understanding”, re-painted to act as a shiboleth. The desire to exclude “outsiders” and confirm a shared background is very strong.
        Not that there’s anything wrong with it. Terminology shifts all the time. “Grok” is the Sci-fi version of an exploding fist bump.

  13. Sozac says:

    I’m no expert on Victorian History, but I think I remember from my US History class about the 50s which also oppressed women. But the point is when learning about women in the 50s not many of them had thought about being oppressed. I remember learning with a primary source reading that many went to the doctors because a feeling of unfulfillment which they couldn’t really put into words. You see it in many books and movies, like take Django, Samuel L. Jackson has adapted so well to being opressed that he has a sense of power and security in it (however this is different because it means he has something to say about it, as opposed to the women in Dishonored). However, the point is, I’m guessing a lot of the women Corvo run into might not have a lot to say about life because they’re adults who accept their lot in life as normal. They could’ve had a strong female character, but as Rutskarn demonstrated when talking about the morality system, they don’t really do much beyond the bare minimum for story elements and characters. I don’t know, it makes sense to me.

    Edit: Most of this was meant as an explanation for why the current characters ma act the way they do. I just don’t believe it was sexism, even unintentionally.

  14. Tomas says:

    I for one am glad that they did not take the long route around sexism, like having female guards or assassins. That works well in games like Skyrim but would really ruin the tone of this game. As for the lack of strong female characters, they are really in line with all the other characters in the game. And for some reason I didn’t mind at all. It’s as if there’s this grey carpet of hopelessness and despair that covers Dunwall and trickles down into the the behavior and words of each citizen.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      I was not somehow really ticked off by the sexism thing when I was playing, a bit more later when I started analysing the game. Actually when I think about it assassins could work, I’m not saying make the entire Daud cult a Daud groupies thing but seeing as they are already transcending the societal conventions by being, you know, outlaws and murderers dabbling in occult it would not be entirely unjustifiable for them to include a few women who showed promise.

      The primary reasons I’m willing to let it slide under the “it’s a Victorian society thing” is because they don’t generally do much with the male characters either. Than again sensitivity to gender issues is one of those things that vary wildly between people.

      • X2-Eliah says:

        Hm. Well, the last planned dlc (next one after the assassin dlc) will ostensibly focus around witch-sisters (that are barely mentioned in the main game through a note or two in Flooded District, and will be more prevalent in the 2nd dlc as potential foes), so that might shine more light on the whole ‘women magicusers’.

  15. Quent says:

    Well most of what I wanted to say has been said by others ill add this: I feel that Dishounored’s story is about reading into things (the biggest expression of this is the hart). From the societal make up, the characters (who primererrely needed better facial animations and better direction with voice acting to go with the more nuanced tone of storytelling), the world, the theme (order vs chaos (I thingk that it is implied that the outsider is ment to be a distabaliseing force (which leases to an interesting way that magic works) and the Lord regent’s goal seems to be order). In fact this seems to be the way the entire story is told apart from the main plot points. Kind of like half-life.
    Personally, I like this style of storytelling.

    Also one thing that I think everyone can agree on is that the ideas and goals are really good, they just stumbled and staggered on the implementation.

  16. Harry says:

    Oh my God, Rutskarn fucking NAILED IT on the sexism in this game. The issue of ingrained societal sexism depicted in fantasy worlds is something I’ve seen argued about before – in the case of, for example, the Song of Ice and Fire novels, a lot of people say that the books are sexist because it depicts a sexist society. Their argument is that, in a fantasy world, the author could choose to show a perfectly equal society, and so to choose otherwise is sexist.

    In my opinion, this is so off the mark it hurts – a core element of narrative is conflict, and a core element of fantasy is incorporating real-world values and history in order to write something fantastical that nevertheless has real-world value. In the SoIaF books, and in the Game of Thrones TV show to a lesser extent (though there are deep-seated problems in the TV shows’ portrayal of nudity/sexuality), the sexist values which inhibit the characters is actually explored and used to both reflect and comment upon on the patriarchal historical values of the real world.

    By way of contrast to this, in Dishonored, sexism neither engineers narrative conflict, nor serves a practical thematic purpose, nor is used to springboard any kind of commentary on the real world. It’s just sort of… there, at BEST just used to enhance the “Victorian-y” atmosphere. I loved Dishonored, but this doesn’t mean I can’t recognise it has some very significant problems with its portrayal of women.

    But all I’m saying is irrelevant anyway because, like I said, Rutskarn fucking nailed it in the video.

    • Tse says:

      In the Song of Ice and Fire books the weak female characters are few and far between. Their societal role may imply their submissiveness, but they usually find ways around that. Completely passive women like Sansa are not common. Neither are blithering imbeciles like Cersei.

    • Wedge says:

      Also, in A Song of Ice and Fire, while the setting is patriarchal and sexist, the female characters themselves are (usually) strong characters who have agency in the story. This is not true of Dishonored, and that’s why the sexist setting gives an air of sexism to the game itself.

  17. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Ok,now that Im done with the heart of the swarm campaign,I can give this a watch.

    Waaiit…Dont you still have to knock out the twins even if you do nonlethal?Im pretty sure you still have to do that.

    It still couldve been a simplistic system,but made more sense,if instead of lethal/nonlethal they measured how noticed you were in the mission.So whenever you interact with someone,when too many guards disappear,when you get spotted,especially when you use your powers in front of people,that would all raise chaos.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      I wish you did have to knock them out and drag them to a location for Slakjaw in order to get the non-lethal, but that’s not the case.

      You only need to get the safe combination and give it to him (you can even steal the contents of the safe before giving him the combination). And his men will do the entire thing for you. Right after that conversation, the Pendleton twins will be “Neutralized”.

  18. Regarding the murder quota Shamus mentions, let’s put aside the arbitrary “chaos” vs. “order” thing for a moment, since the quota itself brings up a problem with video games that have any kind of game response based on player actions: The player can “game” the game once the numbers are known.

    Currently, most games that have some kind of endgame result have what boils down to binary switches based on tallying your “score.” Did you kill 4 good people but 25 bad people? You must be good, then. Wait, you killed 7 good people instead? Sorry, but that earns you an “evil” rating, because that’s what was coded. Hold on, you KNOW that 7 is the cutoff, so you’ll only kill six? Is that really “good” anymore?

    I’ve seen people decry things being too random in games, especially skill checks, but would a +/- factor put onto things like death tallies or other elements make a game better or worse experience for going in not knowing precisely how your actions will be judged?

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Gamers will game, even when the numbers are random (just look at games of chance). To fix the problem, give different missions different threshholds instead of the same threshhold every time. Details below:

      If you want to make a really solid “value” system (morality, chaos, whatever), then certain actions (killing people) should be an unqualified negative mark. Then the “importance” or “value” of the goal you achieve is the positive value. There could be lots of other positives (helping people, etc) and negatives (stealing, etc). Add them all up and you’ve got your total “morality” for that level. Ends justify the means? Yes. But at least it’s internally consistent.

      Even though the “Chaos” system is supposed to be non-moral, it is still a “value” system, and we can examine it in this light. The Chaos system fails not because it had a threshold, but because:
      A. “Chaos” is poorly defined, vaguely demonstrated, and never explained.
      B. “Killing” is (nearly) the only way to raise chaos, and completing missions is (nearly) the only way to lower it.
      C. The game values each mission at exactly the same relative positive value (worth 20% of the lives you take).

      To make the Chaos system interesting, they should have mixed it up. Make all missions optional. Make some missions worth a lot of “order”, and therefore excuse a certain amount of chaotic actions in their pursuit. Make some missions inherently chaotic, and therefore excuse a certain amount of “orderly” actions while achieving them. Make killing some people actually lower chaos (when it makes sense) which would give the “lethal” options utility to both Chaos and Order oriented players.
      As it is they’ve got a half-baked, ill-defined, morally ambiguous, preachy “not morality” system. It could have been so much better!

  19. Daemian Lucifer says:

    19:10 – Oh god that line reading!So cheerful that her mother GOT SLAUGHTERED IN FRONT OF HER EYES!That pretty clearly tells us that the voice acting is bad because of bad/no direction.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Well, assuming they did the whole line at once… this one’s on the voice actress as much as the director. You could read the emotional intent from that line, without context, from a mile away.
      Director: “Okay, you’re excited to see Corvo alive.”
      Actress (in a uniformely excited voice): “They told me you were… Head chopped off, in the prison. Dead. Like mother.”
      Director: “Well, that was terrible. But, whatever, fine, that’s a wrap, who wants lunch?”
      So, yeah. Uniform failure by all parties. The actress could have done it well without coaching, and the director should have asked for a re-take.

      EDIT: For example, a good voice actress would have seen that line and done something like this (even with poor direction):
      (excitedly) “They told me,” (suddenly sober) “you were… Head chopped off” (starting to choke up) “in the prison.” (pause, voice getting tight) “Dead.” (voice quavering, struggling to hold back tears) “Like mother.”

      I suppose it’s possible that the director intentionally ruined it by demanding terrible voice acting, but it seems like a uniform lack-of-giving-a-shit all the way around.

  20. Daemian Lucifer says:

    About the lack of characterization and sexism:
    I dont think thats sexist,because male characters are the same.Check out pendleton and how he acts before and after his brothers are being taken care of.If you never check out his voice recordings,youd never have guessed that these guys constantly brutalized him since childhood,and that he both hates and loves them at the same time.Aside from voice recordings,everyone in this game shows zero emotions,except maybe for 1 or 2 instances.

    Contrast that with half life 2(yeah cheap shot,I know),where just by looking at people and hearing the tone of their voice you can discern zounds of information about them.

  21. Pearly says:

    About the twenty percent death rate bar: I agree that it sounds kind of goofy laid out like that, but I’ve got to say, what else do you want? In Bioshock, “good” and “evil” are separated by a single murder, even if it’s an accident. By what game metric could we decide if the death of an NPC was a mistake (whups I accidentally drowned that unconscious guy) or deliberate (haha I threw all the unconcious guys into the river while twirling my evil mustachio).

    While predicating chaos entirely on lives ended and nothing else is is a bit sideways, it we’re going to draw a line, then we do need to draw it somewhere. Just one kill is too harsh— you can do that by mistake, or by a quirk of level design and then cuss a blue streak and throw your controller. I guess 20% of dudes is a pretty low bar to jump when it comes to “not murdering dudes” but it looks like it can cascade into pretty hairy territory when you’ve goomba-stomped one guy by accident and now everyone wants your liver for his new paperweight.

    Maybe if it scaled with difficulty level, that’d be less goofy. Or maybe if you assigned a point value to all the NPCs and if you killed a cumulative level of point-value up to an arbitrary threshold you could count it as having crossed the line into chaotic— but then wouldn’t you run across scenarios where you could murder every mook in the joint and still get lauded for how low-chaos you are?

    I mean, nothing’s perfect, but I’m not sure treating all human lives as functionally equal for the purposes of whether or not you’re an evil dude isn’t a good solution to this kind of puzzle.

    • I wasn’t upset when Bioshock made a single murder (which is still a murder) be a tipping point for the ending.

      What made me upset was that the script and visuals for the “oh, you weren’t lawful good” ending was the exact same one as the “you’re chaotic evil” ending except the narrator’s voice was sad in one and accusatory in the other.

      I think the annoying thing is that (1) Dishonored doesn’t exactly know what its body count system is supposed to convey, and (2) once you’ve hard-coded a number attached to an action, there should be a reason for it that makes some kind of sense.

      As I stated above, a secondary problem comes into the suspension of disbelief when things like killing or doing “evil” acts have their limits made known, as it affects gameplay. If one wants to play through as a non-lethal character in a game and you find out that the game gives you three murders that won’t count towards your non-lethal ranking (because hey, accidents can happen), you as a player now know you’ve got three people you can just outright execute and not alter your desired outcome, even though knowing that and planning to act on it kind of defeats the outcome’s purpose.

      • Pearly says:

        I think there should be a mechanical difference, at least in scoring, between “no kill” and “low body count,” the latter of which is what I was talking about up there. Or, what I was trying to talk about, anyways.

        I’m also not sure it’s fair to at once complain about the game not giving enough visible metrics towards informed gameplay decisions and also complaining that gaining those metrics promotes metagaming to the exclusion of immersion or…or counter to the purposes of a specific playstyle goal or…Wow, I feel like I’m not actually putting down my thoughts lucidly here.

        …I’m trying to say, you can’t both kill and not kill your cat, Schrodinger. Is the secondary problem really a problem, or is it just the way playing video games works?

        I agree with you that hard-coding a number to an action/outcome set should have a valid reason, but if that reason is just “it’s what seemed to feel fair to playtesters,” then it may not be obvious from this end of things. Did you mean an in-universe canonical explanation?

        • Both. In-universe, if you’re an assassin, deaths should be expected. However, if you start murdering people in the streets on the way and some kind of “you’re not a very nice person” counter is at play, that should count towards it as well in the “this makes sense department.”

          For players, making you get an evil ending if your job is to kill specific people for a specific goal is most likely unrealistic as well.

          As for Disnhonored’s case, it’s not so much that it wants to keep track of that kind of thing, it’s that the reasons for doing so don’t seem to match up with the stated reasons or analysis of the outcome. It’s like if a Fallout game gives you bad karma for stealing from an evil person. In the context of the game it doesn’t make sense, nor does it make sense to the player.

    • Shamus says:

      “what else do you want?”

      I think the problem here is that it’s not clear what the GAME wants. The Red Vs Blue system is muddled and we’re not sure what we’re [supposed to be] doing. It’s not morality, because low-chaos is sometimes LESS moral than high chaos. It’s not life / death because killing people who are going to kill others makes it worse, not better. It’s not about the plague because killing weepers makes things worse, not better and killing / summoning rats has no effect. It’s also not chaos / order because killing weepers makes it worse and all the chaotic theft, non-lethal violence, and destruction has no effect. Also, the Outsider supposedly loves chaos but doesn’t really respond to the chaotic stuff you [don’t] do.

      I’m open to a system based on good/evil, order/chaos, life/death, overt/covert, lemon/lime, Kirk/Picard, or whatever other axis they want to use. The important point is that the game needed to present the player with a clear concept and mechanics to support it.

      • Pearly says:

        oh crap people noticed me now what do I do

        …I am incredibly distracted by an imaginary video game wherin the morality system is somehow Kirk/Picard, but the real drama is all on the forums where people have taken sides and declared the other to be the antichrist. That would be a sight to see.

        More on topic, I can definitely agree that the game doesn’t do enough to show you the metrics of your actions and the decisions of the designers on what constitutes “chaotic” is kind of. Well, stupid is a good word, let’s use stupid.

        Of course, you could argue that in that scenario (re: killing people who would otherwise go on to murder) the game should only account for the direct deaths as a result of player action, not deaths caused by NPC action, but that’s got at least two problems. A: It’s making excuses for the game and, B: NPCs aren’t real people and don’t actually have wills of their own, they’re just puppets to the script.

        Not that the player-character necessarily isn’t that too, but you have to work a lot harder than this to make me care about any of these NPCs as people.

        • Kirk points increase for lengthy pauses between dialog choices, trying to get off with female characters (bonus points if they’re green), and making things explode.

          Picard points increase for pulling your shirt taut after sitting, ordering Earl Grey tea (hot), and telling Wesley to shut up.

          • Pearly says:

            It’s not my fault Patrick Stewart is so amazing. It’s just how life is. :P

            • He was a lot more intelligent than Kirk was, in my opinion, as he at least sometimes stayed on the freaking ship and sent other bridge crew to almost certain death instead of leading the away mission himself.

              And yeah, I know that’s how TV works and you can’t have a bunch of nobodys go down and get killed unless the plot requires it, but still, it’s like the captain of an aircraft carrier leading every sortie.

              • Mike S. says:

                In retrospect, they could have gone the Stargate SG-1 route of making the action hero the leader of the away team, and the captain a supporting character a la General Hammond. But that’s not the Trek way. As witness the fact that TNG tried to bifurcate the roles in the beginning with Picard and Riker, and it never quite came off.

                (Riker was clearly modeled ont he popular conception of Kirk, though in fact Kirk did less womanizing and more philosophizing than he’s given credit for.)

      • Irregular says:

        Huh, I thought Chaos measured how bad the plague was. I mean, killing people (even Weepers) would give the plague rats more food, allowing them to breed quicker and spread further. In response, patrols step up and guards get even more paranoid as more and more people are infected. Societal decay speeds up as the disease runs its course, which brings the empire even closer to destruction. The disintegration of society reinforces the vicious cycle of death and infection all while the Outsider looks on with delight.

        So even if killing your way through the guards isn’t morally questionable, you’re still contributing to the problem by giving the rats more to eat and reducing the number of people policing the streets. As corrupt as the Watch may be, they’ve got a vested interest in keeping things in order since their lives depend on things not spiralling out of control.

        That’s just my take on it, though. The biggest problem with that idea is if you’ve got Shadow Kill, which turns the people you murder into ashes but still counts towards the Chaos-o-meter.

        • newdarkcloud says:

          The problem is the Weepers are ignored by rats b/c they carry the plague. By killing a weeper, you are stopping an active vector of the plague in it’s tracks.

          Another problem with the guards is that the game goes out of its way to inform you that every single guard in the city is corrupt. All of them are paid for and actively oppress the people.

          • Irregular says:

            Okay, so the rats avoid the Weepers. But that’s when the latter is alive. Will the rats ignore dead Weepers?

            Also, I’ve already addressed the point with the guards. They keep order (as oppressive as it is), so killing them contributes to societal disarray and creates more food for rats. While the tyranny is a BAD thing, it’ll be destroyed when the Lord Regent is taken down. No need to make things easier for the plague rats before that upheaval happens.

      • Paul Spooner says:

        Right!
        What we’re really talking about is a “value” system (see my above comment). If it’s the only (or primary) value system in the game, then it is indistinguishable from “score”. The player should know what their score is, how to increase and decrease it, and how it will affect the game.
        The idea that you can “finish” with either a high or low score, and that this affects the ending (IE, “win” or “lose”), is an incredibly old idea. Relabeling “score” to “chaos” and then refusing to tell players how they gain or loose points, or what their final score means, can work (See Mao) but it’s not “new” or “clever” or “innovative”. How many steps backward do we need to take before we realize we’re moving in the wrong direction?

      • I haven’t watched it in a while, but the last time I did, it wasn’t so much Red vs. Blue as Everyone vs. Tex.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      How about not focus on the number of corpses at all,but on the number of discovered corpses/missing people?For example,if 30% of the people in the level are missing(killed and disintegrated),or if 20% of the bodies are found/knocked out and stashed somewhere,or if 10% of the people are killed in front of witnesses who survive/raise the alarm,thats high chaos.That would completely separate chaos from this arbitrary “killing is bad” that games have going.It sure would make the non-lethal solution for this mission make way more sense.

      But having high authority figures disappearing without a trace at the same time when every single guard in the city wake up neatly stashed in a dumpster be low chaos is just ridiculous.

      • Pearly says:

        That’s what I’m saying. There’s no iteration of this that’s easy enough to create while also being actually this game and not, say, Thief III. What you’re talking about here isn’t some kind of minor overhaul in death vs chaos values, it’s a whole different mechanical system going into play.

        I mean, y’know. Perfect world, hindsight, armchair design, and all those disclaimers.

        I guess I just find it harder to get mad the more expensive the corrections to a perceived flaw seem to be.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Im not mad,just disappointed.Well more because of the characters and the crappy voice acting than by this.

          Though I am miffed by morality systems on a larger scale,because they are always stupid.

          And the fixes for high/low chaos in this one wouldnt be that hard either.The game already tracks how much you were seen by others,so just use that number instead of the kill counter and you already have a better solution.Not perfect though,because that would require much more thought and testing to find a right mesh.

          • newdarkcloud says:

            I think this game would’ve been better served by having more than just High/Low Chaos. Maybe they should have rated Chaos on the scale from 1-3 or 1-5

            Low/Medium/High or Very Low/Low/Medium/High/Very High

            Jumping from Saint to Bastard just doesn’t make sense. There needs a be a transition.

          • Humanoid says:

            Attach a chaos/order value to EVERYTHING! That’ll teach ‘em. Didn’t close the door behind you? Chaos! Wiped your sword blade clean after killing that last infected person? Order! Flushed without putting the lid down? Chaos!

            Ahem. Just saying I’m supportive of the system where plague propagation likelihood is the primary determinator of your chaos rating, instead of the current system which is basically the opposite.

            • Syal says:

              More games need a karma system for not shutting doors.

              EDIT: In fact, more games need Karma systems that are entirely focused on the trivial stuff, liking wiping your shoes before entering a house, and not bumping into people (with varying levels of negative karma depending on how fast you were going when you bumped them.)

  22. Anorak says:

    Ok. I’ve been thinking about the Chaos system a bit. Originally I didn’t really mind too much, I mean, sure it seemed a little off, but it wasn’t story breaking for me. Obviously it was for a lot of people though, especially those who had high chaos, or mixed chaos.

    An incredibly time consuming way to “fix” the chaos would be this:

    All NPCs would have a different “stability” rating. How much would this person’s disappearance negatively effect the stability of the city?

    -You brutally murder a guard captain in front of witnesses, then vanish using blink. Increase chaos by 10.

    -Guard captain just vanishes (corpse never found). Increase chaos by 6.

    -Guard captain wakes up after being drugged unconscious – he doesn’t know he’s been attacked, and can resume his duties. Increase chaos by 1.

    -Guard captain is choked unconscious – he remembers being attacked, and might go looking for people to punish. Increase chaos by 4.

    You could have a modifier based on the Guard’s own morality. Is he corrupt? Lower chaos multiplier.

    Was he a good man, actively defending citizens from the nastier things in life (like the aristocracy)? Higher chaos multiplier.

    -Weeper is killed. Decrease chaos by 3.

    -Rat swarm killed. Decrease chaos by 1.

    -Using your powers to scare people (or just using them where you get seen). Chaos + 1. If the person who saw you subsequently died, you’d knock off the +1 from using powers but still get the death chaos.

    The assassinations themselves would be difficult. How much adverse effect would the disappearance of Lady Boyle have over her murder?

    She’s high profile. The Lord Regent is going to mobilize a lot more guards to track down her murderer than if it was some random lower class person. More guards beating down doors and dragging people off for “questioning” would likely spark a riot, so chaos +100.

    If she disappeared instead, well….I have no idea. She’s financing the army, so without her support there’s less law and order, but also fewer corrupt guards maybe?

    This would be a nightmare to balance, but an interesting intellectual exercise.

    What I’ve tried to outline is that I think it would be better if all actions were judged on how they affect the city as a whole, but as everyone has been pointing out, the chaos rating as it is is only judging the player.

    Also, accolades! A kind of sweetie? I’ll take one, then.

    • I’ve no idea if this would work, but the bit you mentioned about how much effect disappearances of differently-weighted NPCs would have on the city got me to thinking about another kind of game that might make a more interesting chaos/order model.

      This is a flash game called Tangled Web. The goal is to move the points so that the lines no longer cross. Imagine that the tangle represents the relationships between the powerful in Dunwall with each other, and that killing them moves the points so they don’t cross anymore (representing the idea that while someone could be killed/removed, their position of power would remain and be filled by another).

      Now, I’m not sure this would work, as I’ve just sort of spitballed this idea, but what if your outcome (good, bad, order, chaos, whatever) was determined by your final configuration of these points? Perhaps overlaying something like the old D&D alignment chart over it would add to the strategy of who you remove and why, as perhaps removing a lot of people from the “Chaotic Evil” area results in some of your “Lawful Good” people being pulled by their connections into the “Neutral” or “Chaotic” spectrum. Conversely, the player might arrange the configuration to how they’d like the game to end, and the missions present challenges that they’d have to accomplish for that to be the case.

      ‘Twas a thought. Probably far too much work, but maybe some developer can make it happen on another game.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      I like this idea, and I don’t think it would be as much work as you fear. How many NPCs are there in the game? And they went through the trouble of adding “heart” info for nearly all of them, right? Adding a single signed integer isn’t going to break their budget, and it would tie the “heart” stuff in to the actual mechanics. It would give the player incentive to try to figure out “Will killing or inconveniencing this person increase or decrease chaos?” with a nearly trivial amount of added work.

      It kind of makes me wonder if this isn’t what they had in mind all along, but the concept got axed at some stage and what we see is the mutilated stump of once-flourishing mechanical elements.

      “This would be a nightmare to balance…”
      But these aren’t competitive sports. It doesn’t need to be balanced! It just needs to be interesting! I mean, is this a sandbox or isn’t it?

      Here we see another instance of the danger of using ill defined terms and then basing decisions off of those terms. Because we don’t know what we mean when we say “game”, we end up in these weird situations. Is the “cobblestone” block in Minecraft balanced? What does “balance” even mean in a non-competitive game?

      • Anorak says:

        Well, let me clarify slightly. It’s not so much that it would be hard to balance, or hard to implement.
        More that it runs the risk of being even less transparent to the player than it already is.

        To fix this I thought they could use the Heart to offer insight on a person, like you mentioned, but it could still be tricky to convey to the player exactly what will happen if you stealth kill a random guard.

      • Nick says:

        I’m pretty sure all guards and other non-named NPCs have a shared pool of heart information for every type that you can cycle through

  23. Decius says:

    It’s the characters and that world that are ‘judging’ you at the end, not the writers.

  24. Ryan says:

    I find the idea that Victorian settings can’t have strong female characters pretty absurd right off the bat, seeing as the era is named after the female ruler of the most successful empire in history.

  25. Arctem says:

    Just by the way, this entry is not tagged as “dishonored” like the rest of the video posts are. Means it gets skipped in the archives: http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?tag=dishonored

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