I've argued in the past that learning about what developers cut from games can be as fascinating as what they leave in, showing how creative priorities have shifted in the course of the project. There are few better examples of this than Arkane and Bethesda's Dishonored, the most impressive new IP of recent years.
It's simultaneously a work of incredible imaginative generosity, littered with lorebooks and evocative incidental tableau, and a product of chilly refinement - all the quests and scenarios are hand-crafted to drive the global narrative and expose the applications of your weapons and tools. For all Dunwall's scale and opulence, Dishonored is an incredibly lean game - you can complete the campaign in 10 hours or less if you're efficient, though you'll be cheating yourself of umpteen side quests, secret areas and extended experiments with Corvo's powers and gadgets.
The below is a scraping-together of various Dishonored snippets from around the web, revealing a few of the features, areas and abilities Arkane toyed with as it elaborated on the concept. Assuming none of them turn out to be stealthily pre-planned DLC, they're a testament to the rigour which sets this game apart from bloated blockbusters like Resident Evil 6 and Darksiders 2.
1. A real-world setting
Dishonored was originally set not on a phantasmagorical archipelago, but in seventeenth century London. "We started with 'London 1666, the year of the great fire and the last year of the plague', not coincidentally," Arkane co-founder Harvey Smith revealed in a Reddit AMA. "But eventually moved closer to the 1800s and made tweaks that made the world weirder. Finally we said let's set it in our own world. It just drifted as we went with our passion. Plus art director Sebastien Mitton and visual design director Viktor Antonov added stylistic elements that led us toward our own version of steampunk."
Talking point: evolving a historical premise into a fantasy game makes for a more grounded fiction, as you've got a rich body of architectural trends, fashions, social mores and the like to trickle through the clockwork of your abstraction. Similarly, Halo's hierarchical AI is smart because Combat Evolved began life as a RTS, a genre which hinges on clever relationships between different unit types.
2. Bend Time was once a fussier business
Corvo's time-pausing ability underwent several revisions. Initially, simply bumping into people would have brought them into your time frame, allowing players to mess with NPCs in some eccentric fourth-dimensional ways - you could toss bottles at people to jolt them into your present tense, for instance. However, the results were too fiddly for comfort. "It was frustrating, moving around and accidentally triggering people," Smith reflected during the same AMA. "Now, it's 'anything you interact with moves into your time' in the words of our lead programmer, Stevan Hird. Dynamic objects fall again briefly if you bump them, but for enemies they don't move again unless you attack; then an enemy frozen in mid-swing will hit you."