Some people love to talk. Jordan Thomas, 2K Marin’s creative director, is one of those people, providing so much information that it simply wouldn’t fit into one article. To deprive you of so much juicy truth nuggets would be doing you a disservice, so a second set of pages were forged in your honor. Trust us when we tell you this vast amount of words (and those in the last feature) was but the tip of the iceberg - thousands more words still reside on our Seld-M-Break hard drives. But enough of that - below Thomas talks about front-loading, internal workings and how young people and women reacted surprisingly well to being asked to play a struggling father.
Friends and enemies
“I think given how controversial the multiplayer was when we started, the reaction’s been surprisingly positive. I don’t mean that the product development department was particularly surprised because they always believed, but it was controversial and every preview we had had some skepticism about the multiplayer game. Digital Extremes, and a couple of the internal people who were assigned to work with them, deserve a lot of credit for having brought multiplayer to Rapture in any kind of way that keeps the property bar high.”
Sphere of influence
“If you stand still in BioShock, things are designed to drift to your area of influence and back out of it. You’ve got security, wandering Big Daddies and splicers on patrol. So gatherers looking for Adam, protected by a protector, get menaced by aggressors. The thing that was broken with the ecology of BioShock was that aggressors would systemically attack the protectors. That’s wasn’t cool as it leads to you turn a corner and find everything’s dead. The idea that patrols of aggressors and protectors might overlap, so that you might use one or the other, or accidentally gets involved, is how we built them.”
“BioShock 2 is about psychology intersecting with philosophy, while the first game was economics intersecting with philosophy. I hear a surprising number of one-off kudos who got one piece of it and loved it to death, but a total comprehension rate is unlikely, because there’s a lot of small references in there. But BioShock doesn’t require total comprehension to be enjoyed. The backbone story is extraordinarily simple, and we had to boil it down further and further and further before shipping the original. It was way more complicated to begin with, and the same was true of BioShock 2.”
“Very early on we determined that narrative in multiplayer, and any kind of subject that you might mine out of it, would be discovered by the player through dozens of random interactions that weren’t directed, or at least not guided. In a multiplayer game you have to be honest about how likely it is that people are going to hear and comprehend this stuff, because they’re even more freaked out: they’re even more concerned about every little moment, worried that someone might attack.”
“At first, there was some really subjective, dreamy stuff. There’s one sequence in the game where you see from the perspective another character. There used to be more like that, but it made for terrible gameplay.
“You were exploring Eleanor’s back story in person, so you saw her twisted memories of the place, through this filter. You’d see that freaky harlequin which is in the art book, and that’s the dream space version of the ceiling crawler. And it was very cool looking, but again the gameplay was really, really bad. We couldn’t destroy anything to close off areas while pretty people fired Tommy guns at you - just didn’t work. Things like oil slicks, the environmental hazards which are so critical to a well-tuned BioShock level, didn’t work in that setting.
“I had to be slowly and painfully schooled by cooler heads, because I was very into that stuff, and I would still love to do a game that has that general aesthetic.”