“Fontaine Futuristics is a really good example of the creative relay race. The original idea for Gilbert Alexander came from myself and designer Tynan Wales. It was very loose back then, the level was wildly, wildly different. At some point it was handed off to Dean Tate, a BioShock veteran who’s now at Harmonix. It’s really his level design magnum opus, and he worked on it exhaustively out of the Australian studio.
“The script and the character of Alexander were my department, and John Hillner who plays Gil Alexander is bloody brilliant, and so he brought a lot to the character himself. I’m very proud of the level, because I do think that it is probably the single most BioShock level in the game.”
“One thing that’s been cited is that the beginning of the game is kind of slow, and that’s because it was reworked a lot of times. I think the biggest mistake I made was starting too big.
“A lot of the ideas for BioShock 2 added weirdness and were cool on their own. You could talk about them and get excited, but the fact is that investing in them would’ve taken polish away from the core. If I’d dialed that focus in earlier on, in a smaller story in a larger setting, then the beginning could have grabbed you earlier, and that would’ve been worth it.
“Just playing a level that feels like it belongs in Rapture has an immense cost, and so I think that I underestimated that cost, and as such I’m much more proud of acts two and three than I am of act one.“
“The people that seem to get the game at near-100% comprehension level are brainy gamers and your Tom Chicks for whom it resonated personally. I think part of that comes from a mature perspective, but it doesn’t guarantee that they’re parents themselves, but they have at least considered the implications their legacy will have.
“That said, I’ve met very young players who’d never considered themselves in that role before. So that expansion at what happens near the end where they realize their significance was a big moment for them, and it also meant some people entirely whiffed. It’s like ‘You know what? Not for me,’ and that’s OK too.
“I’m personally interested in relatively mature themes, but I also knew that in a shooter, with a limited budget of comprehension given the fact that bullets are flying past your ears every few minutes, I knew that I had to focus, so the number of inputs into that system are relatively few – there are more than the first game, but still a modest amount.”
“We tried to front-load decisions with grey context to offset the fact that your inputs had to be very honest. We have strict interactive fidelity rules in BioShock, because you’re a wrecking ball rolling down corridors with dozens of flavors of death to serve up - it’s not cool to let you into a room with somebody and dial those down to just two. That meant that all of our story characters need to live behind glass, and that when you’re finally alone in the same space with them you can do whatever you want, but that the two outputs that are easy to read - your intent - are live or dead. The challenge in the writing became about making you feel differently about each one in turn.
I wouldn’t say that it’s a massive leap forward of morality in videogames, but it’s an honest way to try to divine the player’s intent. Just to front-load you with as much as we can and to let you make a very simple choice.”
Jul 10, 2010