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In the seventh episode of developer Irrational Games internal podcast Irrational Behavior, BioShock head honcho Ken Levine and his crew dish out subtle trivia associated with the premier trailer for BioShock Infinite. Here’s what we heard, what we hope, and what we extrapolated from the 40 minute show.
While specific answers to lots of questions aren’t answered directly by the artists, musicians, and designers of the upcoming game, lots of tidbits ranging from hand design to the Wilhelm Scream were discussed in length by the team. Before you read on, though, here’s a quick refresher of what we’re talking about (as if you needed another reason to watch it):
The Big Daddy-like robo suit is formally, at least as of now, called Alpha. For the beginning of the trailer, there was a problem with how much to show of it, too. The team decided early on for a full view of Alpha, or “handyman” as they playfully call him, but they knew it would seem ridiculous and over the top. He originally had a big goofy mustache and a bowler hat. “He looked like he was gonna come hug you instead of do any damage to you. Ken [Levine, creative designer] said that he was from an Italian kids’ menu.”
The team tried really hard at the beginning to set expectations and then destroy them by making you think that you were going to be in Rapture before having the rug pulled from you as soon as possible. How did they do that? With a toy castle and a statue of a deep see diver. Lots of different models were used for the backdrop of the World’s Fair in the background of the aquarium to make it look like a cityscape. At one point they even used a toy castle before settling on the final image and dropping the World’s Fair logo and date to give you a taste of the time period you were in. Eventually, they also used what we thought was a statue of a Big Daddy for some spice, but if you look closely, it’s just a deep sea diver holding a disproportionate conch shell. You can’t even clearly tell until Alpha stomps it.
The designers mused how you were going to fight it out with some sort of crab-like Frankenstein at first, but then they realized that crab claws are for grabbing, not throwing you into a tank and then punching you. There’s also something scary about actual hands. “Claws have no bearing on humanity. When you bring it back to hands, it brings it back to the humanity of the character.” Is Alpha a real person in a suit like the Big Daddy? Signs like the exposed heart and the ears visible on the silhouette of the creature point to yes.
You may not have noticed that Alpha is completely silent, other than the squeaking of his gears. That wasn’t always the case. The team thought of making him vocalize in some way for the trailer, and Levine eventually wanted you to hear him cry before tossing you out the window. It turns out that they went through many, many iterations of men crying, but they ended up cutting it. “There’s something about men crying that’s uncomfortable.”
When hanging from the blimp and passing by the opera singer (whom many believe is a younger Andrew Ryan), it was originally a person with two mouths singing Pagliacci, the famous Italian tragedy. They found the song didn’t fit with the theme of Americana, so the team went with Grand Old Rag (later renamed Grand Old Flag). However, a song that’s 100+ years old is tough to track down the rights to, even if there was a Cagney movie about it. How is that not public domain yet?
Above: Remember, this guy was almost Robin Hood, too. There’s your movie trivia for the day
The team had serious problems with visualizing how to telekinetically levitate in the air without relying on cheesy sci-fi visuals that wouldn’t have fit the mood or theme of the trailer. Eventually, they settled on the fact that Elizabeth’s flower garden would float out to you to make it seem like you were being “caught” by them. Whether this is a motif that will carry through the game for its final stages still isn’t clear.
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