BioShock began "on a tropical island with Nazis"

Developer talks about watching its child become a man

BioShock senior designer Joe McDonagh has been talking more about the birth of the 360 and PC shooter that's been getting many gamers a bit uncomfortable under the collar. For those among us with really good memories, BioShock started out as something quite different as McDonagh explains...

"Every studio has its own dynamic, but we believe that original games require a lot of iteration and sudden changes of direction," McDonagh said. "It can be terrifying and ageing at times. But it's impossible to sit down at the start of a project and say this game will be XYZ and it will be fun. Bioshock for instance started out on a tropical island with Nazis.

Back in 2004CVG wrote: "It's set in the near-future, from what we know so far, with most, if not all of the experience taking place in an abandoned World War II laboratory complex that's now become the home of bio-tech experimentation and gene-splicing skulduggery." How things change...

Above: A crude artist's rendering of the BioShock that almost was

McDonagh continued, "You have a high level direction, but most of the time you get something working, then realize it's rubbish. You then work away at it until it's fun. Sometimes the best things are total accidents (think about the rocket jump in Quake).

"The magic of game design lies in rigorous analysis, careful research and thousands of hours of play testing. Elixir took the same approach; we just weren't very good at it. There's a lot of passion. I remember Ken and Nate (Wells, the Technical Art Director) shouting at each other about the Splicers' 'morphology.' Passionate debate is the anvil on which great ideas are formed."

Pitching what nowis a heavy contender fora game of the year was no simple task back in the early days either. "I remember pitching the game to one publisher who later told a friend of mine that it was 'just another fucking PC FPS that's going to sell 250,000 units'."

August 15, 2007