Recently we sat in a room with Jordan Thomas, creative director at 2K Marin, and questioned him about BioShock 2. There were so many sentences and words to listen to, the poor fellow who transcribed the interview broke down in tears and fled the building, his poorly constructed headphones still plastered to his sweat-matted hair. Fortunately for us, we managed to retrieve the following spoiler-peppered words for your delectation.
Above: 2K Marin's Jordan Thomas
“Originally the game was a hybrid, there were a number of playable flashbacks, which had a prequel-like flavour, but were much more subjective, like memories that you were uncovering. But they were terrible. What Rapture was like in its heyday appeals on paper, but it meant you really couldn’t play the game. Players sleepwalked through each scene, which was pretty, but not particularly convincing.
“We spent a lot of time on that because it was something that I very much wanted to do, but it just didn’t make sense. It would’ve been such a radically different game that we couldn’t really call it BioShock anymore. Anybody who came from the original would be saying like, ‘What about the gameplay?! I liked that too.’”
One trick pony
“I knew that the people who came back expecting a giant twist would be disappointed with its lack. But I also feel like repeating that formulaic kind of Shyamalan-style of one-trick storytelling would have led to people saying BioShock 2 was a carbon copy of the first game.
“Frankly, I was much more interested in doing the opposite of ‘Would you kindly...’, zooming out to show your effects on the world in a way that you didn’t anticipate, than to pull another ‘Gotcha!’”
“Before we got out of formal pre-production, we started speaking about multiplayer, because we were informed that the sequel would have to expand what it meant to be a ‘BioShock’ game. We started thinking about what that meant, and came up with some very loose ideas. More experienced multiplayer gamers would have seen them as too complicated to drop in and play, but Digital Extremes countered with their own pitch, and we hired some internal people whose job it was to work directly with them.”
“A few months after BioShock shipped, Alyssa Finley [BioShock’s project leader] told me she was starting a new studio, and that Ken Levine and the guys at Irrational were moving on. Eventually it came down to about eight of us who seeded 2K Marin, and we just started talking about BioShock 2. Our main objective was to make sure the name was treated well.
“Each of us had worked on BioShock and were proud to have been involved, and we wanted to make sure that the very sort of baroque and spiny Rapture canon was properly protected. Eventually we kind of distilled down to a couple of core ideas: the Big Daddy/Little Sister relationship was going to be humanized, a former sister would factor in a big way, and that we would set it in Rapture.”
“Splicers have an array of possible remarks based on their state. The only difference is that BioShock 2 has dozens of states for them to be in. So them being frozen, covered in bees, hypnotized, running to cover, deciding to flush a player out with a grenade or just fighting a protector – a Big Daddy relative to fighting a player – all of those things have very unique writing associated with them.
“The biggest ones are the hypnotized state’s unique content, which reveal a different aspect of the character. Every splicer is a duality. For example, the brute is a raging homophobe, foul-mouthed and despicable. But if you hypnotize him he hits on you, and he reveals that he got strong because he was afraid of being found out as homosexual in Rapture’s unforgiving socio-political climate.
“Hypnotize is my favourite plasmid, specifically because it unlocks this other side to characters.”