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From System Shock spiritual successor to a mega franchise all on its own, there's no doubt that BioShock will be remembered fondly by a legion of video gamers from our era. And with the availability of BioShock: The Collection this month, Rolling Stone caught up with creator Ken Levine to chat about the design decisions that went into the original game, and why he isn't too happy about some of them, even to this day. Personally, I wish the game would have introduced at least some character statistics to lend credence to its inspiration from one of the original FPS/RPG franchises:
Another criticism of BioShock was that, when you choose to save or to harvest the Little Sisters, there were no systemic consequences for the choice.
We didn't have a lot of debates with the publisher, but that was one. I thought the reward structure for saving should be very minimal. You should really feel it in the gameplay: "Fuck, how am I going to get through this if I don't harvest?"
Why were they opposed to that?
It's sort of anathema to game design, where you have a path for the player that is just harder – where it's worse for the player. The conventional wisdom was on their side. It was not like I could say to them, "Oh, you're just absolutely wrong. Here are 15 examples."
There was also a lot of concern that people would always harvest. They would look at it from a numerical standpoint, an optimization standpoint. I actually think that people approach harvesting and saving almost entirely from an emotional standpoint.
I have a friend who harvested one Little Sister and was so horrified by it that he never did it again. And then he resented the game for judging him at the end by giving him the "bad" ending. There are people who say the fact that there are two endings contradicts the game's central theme, about the illusion of choice in video games.
That was the other debate we had with the publisher. I thought there should be one ending.
What was it?
I never got to write it. It would be much more ambiguous. Although I did enjoy the "good" ending. I thought it was kind of nice.