We sit down with Irrational Games' general manager, Ken Levine, to talk story, characters, design, and gameplay in BioShock in this exclusive interview.
Irrational has made a name for itself by creating highly open-ended games that combine elements of action, role-playing, and stealth, among other things. The studio is now hard at work on its upcoming hybrid action game, BioShock, which will place players in the ruins of an undersea settlement in the mid-20th century. According to the game's story, the settlement, known as Rapture, was supposed to be a social paradise where the strongest, smartest, and most beautiful members of society went off to live under the ocean, free of strife (and all that pesky government regulation). Everything seemed to be going well, until the inhabitants of the undersea city discovered the secret of genetic manipulation through a substance called "adam," which the inhabitants began to use to augment their already-peak physiques and minds.
The result was a disaster that has ruined the city, turned many of its inhabitants into homicidal, mutant monsters known as "splicers," and left behind a bizarre, three-part ecology in which recycled genetic materials are sought out by splicers and harvested from the corpses of Rapture by young gatherers known as "little sisters," who are guarded by powerful soldiers known as "big daddies." The game will let players explore the city in the wake of its crisis, pick up genetic enhancements for themselves to grant them mutant powers, and use enhancements for their weapons to defend themselves using first-person shooter gameplay. Irrational general manager Ken Levine explains.
GameSpot: Give us a brief update on the game's development.
Ken Levine: Right now, our focus is on the levels--getting them fleshed out so we have a fully playable game from start to finish. Then, we can move on to balancing and tuning stuff, which we'll be spending a huge amount of time on, as you can imagine.
We're also really working on the artificial intelligence to get it to "think," because one of the coolest, and most challenging, things about this game is all the interactions that AI [characters] can have, because of all the relationships they have with each other. The more complex you make your AI, and the more things you enable it to do, the more you have to make sure it does those things well. And because it's so emergent, things happen all the time that make us say, "Whoa!" It's sometimes what we want, and sometimes we end up in the Land of Weird Bugs. So, we're putting in a huge amount of work into our AI...much more than on any other game we've ever done. But it's definitely going to be worth it.
GS: Let's talk a bit about the story. Tell us about the world of Rapture--what's the general level of technology, and in what time period does the game take place?
KL: The game takes place around 1960. It's hard to answer the question of exactly what level of technology is available in the world because it's not really concurrent with any actual historical progression. This is a society that split off from the rest of the world after World War II. But, these people also cut themselves off with the best and the brightest technologists of the time, and they went off to build this utopia called Rapture.
So, you have the best and the brightest people, and you have no government constraints on technology. There's nobody in the government scratching their heads about stem cell research or cloning--[the citizens of Rapture] just do it. It's the nature of the social system they have down there...which is "business first, business first, business first."
So, between the brilliant technologists, no government restrictions, and the discovery of this sea slug, "adam," (which can essentially make stem cells out of human cells) at the bottom of the ocean, [the citizens of Rapture] have gone in a different direction than, and far beyond, where general society was headed, in many areas.
GS: We understand that Rapture itself is more or less deserted, and that the whole place has started to break down. How will the damage to the city affect the gameplay?
KL: The primary thing that players will see is the visual tension between the idealized, beautiful city that was created, and what actually happened to it--how it's falling apart. We're not using the world to create the usual action game with destructible environments where you carve through walls as a major part of gameplay. We're also not making the kind of game that has tons of "water puzzles," because that's a little hackneyed. Just because you're under the sea doesn't mean you need gameplay like that--we're not making a Mario [platformer action] game or anything.
Water does have some gameplay elements, like how some levels and obstacles are laid out, but it's primarily a story theme and a visual theme... That's "Theme" with a capital "T."
GS: What can you tell us about the character one plays as in BioShock? Who is the player character, and why is he or she down there?
KL: You've been asking me this question for several years. [Laughs.] I think you even asked me that when we talked about BioShock when we first revealed the game on GameSpot. [Laughs.] I don't think I can give you the answer without ruining the story, though.
I think this game will be excellent. System Shock 2 was a perfect game, and I hope that this will be made with much of ss2 on mind. But, the things that I don't like about Bioshock is the time when it happens. I don't like anything from that time (1950-1960). I think that story should happened in the future. Somehow, I don't like this past stuff.... Especially that era. Crappy weapons, crappy music, crappy everything...
I have no problem with killing mutant creepy little girls myself, and besides is just a game and nothing more. What worries me is that other persons (like, say, Jack Thompson) get on a campaign against Bioshock for this, which I'm sure is going to happen¬¬
Would dearly love to play this on PC, but im fed up with mine always breaking down or needing repair as my family use it too, so it looks like the recently announced drop in price of the 360 may entice me to buy one for this. Although id rather play with mouse and keyboard.
aha he sed 'pinpoint aiming with a mouse is easier than pinpoint aiming with a controller.' argue that for a while you loser babies w/consoles. imma go make a sandwich.
To answer the question, yes, little sisters will actually look like pale little human girls in tattered dresses, if what I saw at E3 is any indication. They look very creepy, especially when they're sucking out the innards of a dead body.
I'm definitley getting this game when it comes out....only though if it really is as good as it sounds to be.
Yeah, "Little Sisters" are creepy little girls go here (scroll down and look at the very last pic): http://www.clubskill.com/?view=article&article=4000
Sea slug money..... vending machines.... little sisters and big daddies. wow.. i mean, money from sea slugs? Seriously. "Gotta score me some Adam dude, you uhh seen any sea slugs laying around, kinda hungry and i want to use my sea slug money in that vending machine over there, which has been outfitted to accept sea slug money, which, as we all know, is money crafted from sea slugs. We like to call it Adam, you know, the sea slug money."
@farkinell I'm afraid if you go to 1up.com, they do have pics of the little sisters.... who really are creepy little girls.
Im sure the "little sisters" wont be female children, rather hideous monster things. Little sisters is just the name, like "adam" does not refer to a person and the "big daddies" are huge mutated beasties. I think your taking the names too literally.
Sounds like a great game! I've read the whole interview and they didn't mention the PS-3 a single time!?! Does that mean that PS-3 version is cancelled!:o:?:lol:
Lol they're not kids, man. Even if they were once kids (we don't know one way or another yet) they ain't anymore so go to town. You don't have trouble killing alien chestbursters in the "Aliens" games right? Think of these "little sisters" as facehuggers or alien larva or something.
I'm pretty sure that not all players want the same thing, hence if you're going to shoot children then do it, if you're not going to then quit complaining and don't buy the game or just don't do it in the game. I'm not just talking about one person here, I'm talking about everyone who has a problem with this. You don't like something, don't associate yourself with it. Kind of like people who don't like the way a house looks, yet they look at it every time they go by it. Yea, people do have a right to their own opinion, but if you don't like something don't look at it. Furthermore, some people even try to get the way the house looks changed..................."If you don't repaint your house you will be evicted." Way to encourage originality people >_> Yes, this is all related to the game, so many people say they want original games, but when news things (even the smallest things) are implemented people freak out and go "OMFG!!!1!11 NOT T3H CHILDREN!!1!!?" Seriously, just let the game developers do their jobs so we can have some games that aren't dog **** anymore. Let me get this straight SKillzonthesofa, you don't want to kill "children" because the graphics make it real?? Since your avatar is of Master Chief I assume you're a Halo fan? So then you have no problem chucking a plasma gernade on the small alien warriors (yes I don't kow the name of them because Halo is a boring ass game so I never bothered to learn) watching then run around in fear, but you prefer to not kill mutated "children"?? What exactly is the difference??
Prey was intense at the beggining and personally i didn't like it. But i read up on Bioshock and it sounds real good. But killing children? I don't do well with that. I just don't think killing children should be a NECCESARY part of the game, but you can kill children if you want for all those sickos out there. And what spartan said about just shooting them in the face... with the graphics this game will have, it'll still feel real. And it just doesn't feel right. --- Got Skillz?
@Dracogen I don't think "little sisters" are really kids more like mutated monsters that are small? and looks female?
If PC gaming is going to survive, I believe it need's development teams headed by guys like Ken. He understands how PC is different from console. A good thing. He understands that PC gamers especially want adult games with adult stories and games that are fun, but make you *think*. Most gamers are over 25. Many many PC gamers are over 35. They have more disposable income, but are also more demanding of *intelligent* gaming. I think the days of the bland corridor shooter could be numbered - another good thing. I am worried that every subject matter other than D&D style fantasy goes mostly down the shooter route. Subject matter covered in this game would be perfect as an RPG, but it is not going to be an RPG. When you look at movies, TV and novels, most subjects are modern day, or historical, or romance, or detective, etc. They are not D&D fantasy. I believe games like Oblivion need to be produced but covering real life situations, like running the French Resistance in WWII or working as a spy behind German lines being given quests by HQ and local resistance. You could have a RPG where you are a U.S. Marshall dealing with the crimes of America 1825. But it is likely that the WWII game would be an FPS, the Spy game would be a management game and the U.S. Marshall game would be an RTS - and none of them would sell that well. We want open ended, freeform RPG/Adventure hybrids. Games that are not based around, ultimately, violence in as many varied forms as possible. Only then would we truly have a mainstream gaming hobby equatable with TV and Movies and Novels, like the hobby always says it wants to get to. Bioshock will go a very small way toward this, but ultimately, once again, we get yet another shooter.
This game looks great, I've been waiting for a new type of shooter , like BF2 was great I hope this does well. Only game I've ever seen a kid die is Prey..kinda shocked me..ah well its not real life right? I can just shoot them in the face.
Ah, fudge. I suspect this game will involve killing children. Check out this quote from page 3 of the interview: "...reward you differently for not exploiting or hurting the little sisters..." System Shock 2 was one of my favorite games of all time. And I've been itching to play this game as well. But now I suspect that this will be, like Prey, another game that involves pointing a gun at a child and pulling the trigger. Hooray.
lol sorry about the double post but everyone should go to the summary page for this game in gamespot and checkout vital stats.
it is coming out for the pS3, when the ps3 was first announced I heard about this game being developed for it. Trust me this game will not be 360 exclusive (or eve n 360 PC exclusive)
the 360 will play better if its a traditional fps but its not as far they say it is. and in my opinion it doesn't like game of the year material yet because nothing but pics/vids are revealed
I thought that this game was only coming out on the PC and 360 but if it comes out on the PS3 too. That will be good too. I wonder what one will play better the PS3 one or the 360 one.
GS: Let's get back to the gameplay. By the way, we're about halfway through this interview, so you can breathe a sigh of relief. KL: Can I weep softly, instead? GS: We'd like to remind you that this interview is being posted to the Internet, Ken. Priceless! I hope this game ends up as well as i'm hoping it to!
I love the fact that they spend so much time on the Gameplay and wants us to have an unique and atmospheric time playing trough this game. Clearly, this is perfect for me.
I read teh article, man I am so pumped for Bioshock! It just seems liek it's going to be one of the most amazing expereinces in gaming. I'm so ready.
As great as it sounds, I think the game can only meet slightly more than half of what Ken has stated. Don't get me wrong though, I absolutely love this game and can't wait for it to release, but many things Ken said seems to be too ideological. Then again, I really hope I'm wrong because I'd love to see all that in Bioshock. And hey, has anyone ever asked if the game will support Co-op?
Actually godhandiscen Bioshock is currently slated for the Xbox 360, PC and PS3. I don't know if that will change in the future or not since all I've heard talk about is the 360 version, but as it currently stands it's coming ot the PS3. Though I'll be getting the 360 version myself.
The creators of the legendary System Shock series look like they're doing it again - making something legendary.
- Release Date: Aug 24, 2007 (EU)
- PEGI: 18+
- Release Date: Oct 17, 2008 (EU)
- PEGI: 18+
- Release Date: Oct 7, 2009 (EU)
- PEGI: 18+
- Release Date: Apr 2, 2009 (US)