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More dev insights into BioShock 2

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.”


Plot points

“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.”


Balancing act

“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.”


Fancy ideas

“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.”

27 comments

  • philipshaw - July 13, 2010 10:35 a.m.

    Bioshock 2 is one of those games that got better and better the more you played. At the strat I was thinking that the game was solid but not remarkable but by the time I got to the last 2 hours I thought it was amazing and I didn't want the game to end
  • Redeater - July 12, 2010 8:42 p.m.

    Oh I forgot to mention that when you are dropped from a game you lose ALL of your hard earned xp and whatever those perk advancements are. ....and that should have been homophobic not homophobia.....sorry that rant was a little personal for me.
  • Redeater - July 12, 2010 8:39 p.m.

    @db1331 You sir are correct except you are missing one thing. The horrible horrible connections and people dropping out. Myself, I love completing hard to do (perks?) and whenever I am on fire I got disconnected because some bright boy decided that even though they didn't keep track of wins or losses (well not like MW2) that they didn't want a loss on their concience. Ah xbox live multiplayer community....how I hate you so much....from your homophobia racist remarks to your poor sportsmanship.
  • db1331 - July 12, 2010 1:45 p.m.

    I'm surprised they view the multiplayer as a success. I loved the single player, but I would never even consider clicking the multiplayer button on the menu. It may as well not even be there. I knew what it would be like as soon as they announced it, and from everything I've seen and heard, I was right.
  • HotCyder - July 12, 2010 2:42 a.m.

    I'm suprised that the Multiplayer has managed to still stay active since the release of Bioshock 2. If they ever do take on the franchise outside of Video games, I'd perfer to see it broken down into a well put together Short TV Series then a movie - that way they can drip feed all those perfect ideas from the original game in each episode without rushing to make it into a 200 minute film, it also means that it's probably more possible to have those intelligent moments in the game which were peppered between the action and violence. Just don't let SyFy get their hands on it, otherwise we'll end up with Manshark 6
  • Clovin64 - July 11, 2010 8:10 p.m.

    @Bloodstorm + Redeater Both of you make good points about multiplayer. I pesonally think that game developers should only add a multiplayer mode if it adds something new to online multiplayer rather than the same boring old deathmatches. I just read a review of Bioshock 2's multiplayer in a PS3 magazine and it actually sounds quite good with the plasmids and all. Maybe most online gamers are too busy playing Modern Warfare 2 to bother with Bioshock? P.S. I just started a new game on Bioshock 2...I still cant bring myself to harvest the little sisters.
  • Redeater - July 11, 2010 5:52 p.m.

    well I think the real problem is that multiplayer portions of games die off so quickly.....I'm looking at you stranglehold and ghostbusters... That is my main problem......years from now I can enjoy the single player in any of my games but most multiplayer parts of games die off after a few months.
  • Bloodstorm - July 11, 2010 4:38 p.m.

    @Clovin64 It goes both ways. It really come down to whether the serries began with multiplayer or not. It seem that game like this which aren't building upon an already established multiplayer from the first game tend to have rather disappointing multiplayer. But then again, it like 9 out of ever 10 shooters with multiplayer suck, so the odds are always against them. Disclaimer: I made the 9 out of 10 thing up, but that is pretty much how it feels these days.
  • Clovin64 - July 11, 2010 3:48 p.m.

    I never played Bioshock 1 yet, but I loved Bioshock2. The game did a terrific job in the emotion department and I felt really attached to the little sisters in a fatherly way. I remember the instinctive protectivness I felt when fighting off hoardes of splicers when she was gathering Adam. I breifly tried to go for the Evil ending for my second playthrough, but when I harvested the first little sister I came to, I was horrified! Seriously, I absolutly hated the way she screams "No Daddy No!!!!" and I felt so guilty that I had to start a new game and be nice again. Maybe I'm just a big cry baby? By the way, can you get the Evil ending just by killing the NPC's and not harvesting little sisters? If not, I dont think I'll ever get that ending. I just cant bring myself to kill little todlers, even if its in a game. I've never played the online mode (cant get my PS3 online!) but I've heard that its not great. I was just thinking that it seems a little odd to come across an FPS with an amazing single player story and a lacklustre multiplayer. Isnt it usually the other way around? Since I've never played the online mode I cant really comment on it.
  • Bloodstorm - July 11, 2010 1:58 p.m.

    @TooSpliced That was the good option.
  • Redeater - July 11, 2010 12:07 p.m.

    @shadowarrior99 Well NotBlaze already explained it very well. But aside from the fact that if they had scrapped their unsupported multiplayer to create more single player levels.............the one thing I cannot forgive is the lack of dlc for single player! It's criminal how we have not gotten anything to add to the replay value of the single player. The first THREE dlc were all multiplayer. I'm not even looking forward to the protect little sister thing. Where is my new game + or new plasmids??
  • HonestGuy - July 11, 2010 12:05 p.m.

    @NotBraze actually, it's also the first thing that came into my head, there's only that teeny bit that really kept me far away from choosing him... his great habitual error of making ( i really hate this guy! ) Christian Bale as the lead character. you gotta admit, of all the cast, he's the only one that sucks in The Dark Knight. thank you Heath Ledger, God rest him... now, that aside, imagine Christian Bale as the lead in Bioshock. :P
  • 04whim - July 11, 2010 5:45 a.m.

    I've gotta admit, I've played through pure good and pure evil (and watched the others on youtube) and, while I did evil first and all 'just for fun' replays are evil (on account of more adam), I preferred the ripple effects of playing good. I'm only 17 and I've never considered myself a parental type, but if I had a daughter, I'd prefer her to be benevolent rather than... well... like me.
  • TooSpliced - July 11, 2010 5:06 a.m.

    Am I the only one who thought killing the the guy in the giant tube was good because his old self in the videos begged you to kill himself?
  • NotBraze - July 11, 2010 4:22 a.m.

    @shadowarrior99, I loved the multiplayer as well, but there are a few reasons why so many people don't want it to be a part of the next installment. First off, even though it was developed by a second studio, the multiplayer did cut into part of the budget, and therefore took funds away from the core single player experience. Second, some people think that it's very presence is distracting from the primary focus and weakens the game by its very existence. Now while I have varying degrees of sympathy for the first two sentiments, here's the one that even I must agree with: Third, 2K has had a crap-load of bad press over the buggy multiplayer in BioShock 2. The single player game was great and was receiving very positive reviews, all 2K would have needed to do was sit back and bask in success. Instead, however, they had their hands full trying to manage a multiplayer system that they didn't design, deal with the bad press, and simultaneously try to release new content which in the end added more bugs and made more people ticked off. I legitimately enjoy the multiplayer, but I would have been just as happy without it, and I know that 2K Marin's image would have been a lot better without it.
  • shadowarrior99 - July 11, 2010 4:08 a.m.

    @Redeater What do you mean leave the multiplayer out of 3? If you don't like it, don't play that part then. And yes, they did a great job making me emotionally attached to the sister, and the moral choices with the three people. I spent at least five minutes thinking about what choice i should make for the second one (i was confused) but i let the first one live without a doubt because i knew it wasn't her fault. The multiplayer is pretty fun as well. I loved the ending, where the big sister takes the memories of his father (or something like that) so he's always with her. Very unique. Im still waiting for a wtf boom video on the last level. Someone make it already! *Runs to the submarine, following big sister. Bombs cover the hallway. Big sister uses her transportation attack and flees safely (and for some reason we dont have it, and it cant save us, so even bigger wtf) then wtf boom! :)
  • Redeater - July 11, 2010 12:57 a.m.

    I still say that part 2 is better then the first. Loved the story in the first one but a lot of gameplay elements bothered the hell out of me. The gameplay in the second one has been refined to the point of perfection. And, since this is a game and not a movie......that is the reason I have gone through bioshock 1 two times and bioshock 2 four times and counting.......great job 2k! Now please.....leave the multiplayer out of 3???
  • Cleanser247 - July 11, 2010 12:44 a.m.

    The Bioshock games are really a work of art, and very great, in a really unique way. I think many people didn't give the multiplayer a chance. Maybe they never really took much interest, or invested any time in Bioshock 2's online. Either way, I enjoyed every bit of it, and still do. I just wish that the online community stays relitively big, and doesn't die down anytime soon.
  • GangsterJew92 - July 11, 2010 12:27 a.m.

    Obviously the makers of BioShock know what they're doing, which gives me all the hope for X-Com.
  • NotBraze - July 10, 2010 11:05 p.m.

    @Evil_AppleJuice, Apparently you missed it, but the writer of this article stated that this is the second part of a previous interview. This isn't the developers whoring around for attention, this is just a games journalist padding out a slow news day. and @Redeater, The problem is that the 2K Marin team has never done multiplayer before and after release Digital Extremes went off to work on other projects and left Marin to deal with the bugs that were leftover, no small task, let alone for a developer who has never done that sort of thing before. As for the DLC, the Gatherer Trials are just the first in a series of single player DLC. I imagine that further down the line is an actual expansion of the game itself.

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