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Harvey Smith (game designer)

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Harvey Smith
Smith in Seoul, 2006
Born1966 (age 57–58)
Other namesWitchboy
Occupation(s)Video game designer, writer
Years active1993-present
EmployerArkane Studios
Known for

Harvey Smith (born 1966) is an American video game designer and writer, working at Arkane Studios.

Smith has lectured in various places around the world on topics such as level design, emergent gameplay, leadership, game unit differentiation,[1] future trends and interactive narrative.[citation needed] At the Game Developers Conference in 2006, Smith won the Game Designer's Challenge: Nobel Peace Prize, for his design featuring a mobile video game that facilitates political social action.[2]

Early life


Smith was born and raised on the Texas Gulf Coast.[3] He grew up playing games like Pong[4] as well as Dungeons & Dragons.[5] He read books by Ursula K. Le Guin, William Faulkner, Vladimir Nabokov and Roger Zelazny, among others.[6] He served six years in the U.S. Air Force, including tours in Germany and Saudi Arabia.[3] Smith moved to Austin at the behest of a friend to try his hand at video game design.[7]



Early in his career, Smith worked in quality assurance (QA) at the Austin-based Origin Systems, where he became the QA lead for games including Super Wing Commander and System Shock.[8] In 1995, Smith became an associate producer for Ultima VIII, working with co-founder of Origin, Richard Garriott. Smith then pitched his own game, Technosaur, a real time strategy game inspired by Dune that would have featured "cybernetically augmented velociraptors". The project was canceled by publisher Electronic Arts after 18 months of work.[9]

After leaving Origin in 1996, Harvey Smith went to work at Multitude where they released FireTeam.[10]

After Multitude, Smith's game development career continued in Austin, Texas working with Warren Spector at Ion Storm as lead designer on Deus Ex as well as its sequel, Deus Ex: Invisible War.[11] After this he unsuccessfully pitched a further game in the Thief series, to be called Thief: Modern, in which central character Garrett lived in modern-day New York.[11]

Smith then left Ion Storm to work at Midway Games, originally to work on a title called Criminal with "immersive sim values" inspired by Michael Mann's 1995 crime film Heat, but shifting ultimately to work as lead designer on BlackSite: Area 51.[11][10][8] On November 29, 2007, Smith came out publicly to announce how unrealistic the BlackSite: Area 51's development schedule was and through mutual agreement left Midway a day later. He claimed the schedule caused the low reviews due to the fact they were not able to test the game properly.[12]

In 2008, Smith became partner and co-creative director of Arkane Studios in Austin alongside the company's president, Raphaël Colantonio.[10] They went on to release the stealth-action game Dishonored in 2012, which won many Game of the Year and Best Action/Adventure accolades including the 2013 BAFTA award for Best Game[13] and 2012 SPIKE VGA for Best Action/Adventure Game.[14] Smith also co-directed the sequel Dishonored 2 and its standalone expansion Dishonored: Death of the Outsider.[15] Smith is co-director on Arkane Austin's Redfall, an open-world first person shooter, which released on May 2, 2023.[11][16]

Smith's semi-autobiographical novel, Big Jack is Dead, was released on April 2, 2013, by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.[17] That same year it was on Kirkus Review's list of "Best Indie General Fiction".[18]



Video games

Year Title Role
1994 Super Wing Commander Quality assurance
System Shock
1995 Ultima VIII: Pagan (CD-ROM version)[19]
CyberMage: Darklight Awakening Producer, designer, writer, voice actor
Technosaur (cancelled)[20]
1998 FireTeam Designer
2000 Deus Ex Lead designer
2003 Deus Ex: Invisible War Director
2004 Thief: Deadly Shadows Designer
2005 Area 51 Designer, writer
2007 BlackSite: Area 51 Executive creative director
2009 Spider: The Secret of Bryce Manor Quality assurance
2012 Dishonored Creative director, designer, writer
2013 The Novelist Quality assurance
2016 Dishonored 2 Creative director
2017 Prey Quality assurance
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider Creative director
2023 Redfall Studio director


Year Title Category Publisher ISBN
2013 "Big Jack is Dead" Fiction CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform ISBN 1482563657


  1. ^ "Harvey Smith's GDC presentation on Orthogonal Unit Differentiation".
  2. ^ "GDC: The Game Design Challenge: The Nobel Peace Prize". Gamasutra.
  3. ^ a b "Harvey Smith". www.amazon.com. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  4. ^ "Gamasutra - The Subversion Game: An Interview With Harvey Smith". www.gamasutra.com. October 5, 2007. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  5. ^ "Building a World with Dishonored 2's Harvey Smith". pastemagazine.com. December 21, 2016. Retrieved May 11, 2021.
  6. ^ "Dishonored 2". Game Informer. Minneapolis: GameStop. June 1, 2016.
  7. ^ Grayson, Nathan (October 17, 2012). "Interview: Unmasking Dishonored's Harvey Smith | Rock Paper Shotgun". Rock, Paper, Shotgun.
  8. ^ a b Lane, Rick (September 21, 2022). "Harvey Smith is in uncharted territory". NME. Retrieved January 13, 2023.
  9. ^ McKeand, Kirk (2022). The History of the Stealth Game. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: White Owl. p. 74. ISBN 9781399096911.
  10. ^ a b c "The mirror men of Arkane". Polygon. September 28, 2012.
  11. ^ a b c d Peel, Jeremy (March 2023). "Collected Works: Harvey Smith". Edge. No. 38. Future Publishing. pp. 70–79.
  12. ^ "Confirmed: Harvey Smith Leaves Midway". 1up.com. November 30, 2007. Archived from the original on May 22, 2011.
  13. ^ "BAFTA Awards Gaming 2013". BAFTA.
  14. ^ "Around the Web: Award Season". The Bethesda Blog.
  15. ^ McKeand, Kirk (September 5, 2017). "Why Dishonored: Death of the Outsider needed new writers, according to Harvey Smith". PCGamesN. Retrieved March 18, 2023.
  16. ^ Makuch, Eddie (January 25, 2023). "Redfall Release Date Confirmed For May 2, As Lots Of New Gameplay Footage Debuts". GameSpot. Retrieved March 18, 2023.
  17. ^ Futter, Mike (May 29, 2013). "Get Big Jack Is Dead By Dishonored's Harvey Smith For Free". Game Informer. Retrieved March 18, 2023.
  18. ^ "Best in Indie Books 2013". Kirkus Review. Archived from the original on March 27, 2014. Retrieved April 22, 2015.
  19. ^ Gillen, Kieron (November 23, 2007). "The Making Of: Harvey Smith". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Gamer Network. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  20. ^ "Technosaur [PC – Cancelled]". Unseen64. April 7, 2008. Retrieved April 17, 2020.