Interview: Dishonored 2’s Harvey Smith discusses the game’s devious Jindosh Lock puzzle

Last Updated January 19th, 2022

Dishonored 2 is out now for PC, Xbox One, and PS4. You can read our full review to find out why we think it’s better in every way than the first game in the series, but one of the very best parts of the game is the creativity displayed in level and gameplay design. Players can overcome challenges in an enormous variety of ways (not excluding creating personal clones that you use to break your fall when jumping from rooftops), and puzzles that may seem traditional at first glance are often more involved than you might realize. 

The Jindosh Lock is a puzzle players encounter about halfway through Dishonored 2. You can read all about it in our solution guide, but in short what makes it so special is that it’s a complex combination lock you can get past by either:

1. Taking out a particular NPC and bringing his body to another NPC.

2. Searching for clues throughout the urban areas around the Lock and finding the solution to the lock written down.

3. Solving the Jindosh Riddle, a logic puzzle presented as a word problem right next to the Lock itself.

If you want to tackle the lock in this third way, you’ll actually be able to skip an entire area of Dishonored 2 (and you’ll earn the Eureka achievement in the process). This is such a surprising inclusion in the game that we had to know more about how it was developed, so we reached out to one of the game’s Directors, Harvey Smith, for answers. Smith has been busy post-launch as the developers work on improving the game’s performance on PC, but still managed to find the time to give us some answers about the Jindosh Lock and Riddle. Where did the idea for the Jindosh Lock and Riddle come from?

Harvey Smith: Level Design Director Christophe Carrier and I were discussing Kirin Jindosh. How to *show* that he was a genius. We wanted to populate the game with some of his inventions, and this seemed like a good way. I asked Christophe to come up with a puzzle, and he came back with a modified version of the Einstein Enigma, which we then adapted, creating the Jindosh Riddle. The programmers, artists and audio team all deserve credit too, of course, since like most game assets, it’s made of a bunch of parts, working together.

We almost made it a simpler book, but in the end wanted a more grandiose feeling, so we made the entire door and the reader mechanism that provides the riddle itself. It’s ornate and a bit over-designed, in keeping with Jindosh as a character. 

GC: Was it always part of the plan to provide a Riddle that people could solve without any additional information (and skip most of the Dust District)?

HS: Early on, we decided we were comfortable letting a subset of players skip and entire mission (and a mission that we love, the Dust District). It reflects our commitment to the player’s own unique experience.

In addition to solving the Jindosh Riddle, to get through the Dust District and into Aramis Stilton’s manor, you can take out Paolo of the Howlers, or Vice Overseer Liam Byrne, or you can nonlethally eliminate both of them, or you can sneak into the Overseer outpost and find the way to open the Jindosh Lock there.

Some players love difficult word problems and puzzles. And we like to randomize codes in a limited way, so they’re harder to just look up on the Internet. 

GC: How many different solutions to the lock are actually built into the game? How does the randomization work?

HS: We randomize the names and objects in the riddle, and there’s one more than needed. I’m not sure how many possible riddle combinations; two people having the same riddle would be rare. But then there are only so many solution-combinations…a smaller number. A more math oriented person would have fun working this out.

GC: What were the programming and/or writing challenges to make the riddle work?

HS: Technical Level Designer Stephane “Kiki” Aili actually did it with our custom scripting tools, in the Void Engine, working with Christophe. They checked it against their spreadsheet formula and went around asking people on the team to try to solve it. 

Even the art was interesting and problematic. We needed icons when possible to avoid translation and for space limitations. Generally, people recognized the bird pendant or diamond, but originally the diamond was a ring and people confused it with the war medal. Initially, no one recognized the snuff box.

Actually writing the clue was also challenging. We tried to use gender-neutral language, but that does not work in some languages. (Dishonored 2 was translated into 10 languages!) So we ended up using the ladies, which felt appropriate for the event described in the riddle and the era.

A video game is a dialogue between designer and player. In that sense, every part of communicating with players requires thought and effort. 

GC: Any tips for solving the Riddle, for folks who want to do it without “cheating” but are having some trouble?

HS: Use a spreadsheet. There’s a formal method or two for solving this kind of logic puzzle. Alternately, you can go kill Byrne or Paolo, or sneak into the Overseer outpost and steal the code. (The text of the note itself – in the Overseer interrogation room – also reflects the randomization of the lock.)

If you want to tackle the Jindosh Riddle as a logic puzzle, our guide lays out all you need to know. We even created an online spreadsheet so you don’t have to set it up yourself. 

Visit our Dishonored 2 page for tips, tricks, and ongoing coverage of the game. 

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