At the time I’m writing this we are ten days out from Dishonored’s US ship date, but that number has lost all meaning to me.
In fact the whole statement is surreal on its face. Over the course of three and half years of development, you learn to live for distant milestones of validation. Since much of the process is shrouded in secrecy, you often get friends and family that seem to doubt that you do anything at all.
“Oh by the way, when did that game you were working on come out? What? Still? The same one?”
And in many ways it’s true. As game developers our product is only a real thing when it exists in the excitement and further imagination of the fans. In that way getting that outside exposure solidifies everything we’ve done up until that point. It makes it real, and in some sense we haven’t created a thing until it passes into the hands of someone that wants it.
So yeah, those annoucements, trailers, and previews are pretty important to me. Because my life’s work is a net zero without the gamers of the world.
But a soon-to-be-single-digit countdown to Dishonored’s release? This is having the opposite effect. Instead of making it more real, these daily milestones have looped back around and are now getting stranger, more dreamlike. Maybe some of it is the numbers. When you hear pre-order projections that equal more people than one person can meet in their lifetime, that certainly can’t feel real. But I do understand the build up of fantastic, creative fan art on the Internet. I see the letters tacked up in the break room. I feel something gathering. That’s tangible.
I suspect that it’s the fact that something I helped create is now building something on its own. I’m an order of magnitude removed from it, and now I’m a spectator like anyone else, only the set dressing for the scene is very, very familiar. Play the same game ten hours a day for years on end and it gets etched into your neural pathways.
It’s impossible to be objective when you work on a game because you’re too close to it. And I don’t think it would be indiscreet of me to say that this project has been a tough one, for all the reasons that these projects are always tough. However, looking at Dishonored leading up to submission I could tell one thing pretty clearly: this game was going to be important to a small class of gamers that haven’t felt listened to for a long time. And I don’t say that as an expression of ego for my small part in its creation, because I wouldn’t dream of taking credit for it. Making a AAA game that retains a fraction of its original vision is a tricky, improbable, nigh impossible task. When I say that Dishonored feels like a gift in some way, I’m really just expressing my own grattitude. The stars aligned, not just once, but repeatedly to make this game come to be. As one of the creators I can’t enjoy it as a gamer (like I said, it’s too close), but I am very thankful that others will.
And lest I allow myself to drift off into abstraction, only some of this grattitude is for cosmic fortune and happy coincidence. A hell of a lot of it goes to my fellow team members. Guys, I can be a pain in the ass, but you should know I really respect all of you and the sacrifices we made together. On our worst days I still couldn’t doubt your passion and resolve. And I’m really glad that even when there was excrutiating friction, it still managed to light a fire.
And still the days count down. Ten to go. Good God.