Irrational has done a tide of interviews for their recently announced BioShock prequel, BioShock Infinite. They provide little answer to the question of if this title contains much in the way of RPG elements. Destructoid interviews director of product development Tim Gerritsen.
Going back to, I guess, the cynic's perspective... from a gameplay perspective, it looks [very similar to BioShock] -- first-person-shooter style gameplay, but with powers. BioShock 2 expanded on the powers that there were in BioShock 1, and here it looked like you have a lot of similar stuff -- the electric shock, and other stuff -- so what I was wondering is, how are you differentiating this from BioShock 1 gameplay-wise?
Shacknews. interviews Gerritsen as well.
There's so much that we're doing differently this time around. Elizabeth creates so many new opportunities for you as a player. She's not just this drone who comes along and, you know, (Press A to use Elizabeth.) That's not what she's about. You can not use her, and you have to deal with the consequences of that. It takes it out of her, and it takes it out of you, to use these powers. [As] you saw, she's winded; she's got a bloody nose. This isn't a game about superheroes who can just, you know, (I am the greatest superhero in the world; I can do whatever I want,) you know, this power-trip fantasy. There are consequences to all of the actions in the game. There are all of these abilities and new weapons and new powers that you have access to; we're not just going to do the radial dial, where you have eight selections of this, and eight selections of that, and that's it. There's going to be opportunities for you to mix things up in a way that is uniquely new to the game.
One of the things we discovered in BioShock 1: we felt like everything kind of felt like a nail because all you had was a hammer. You got to the point where there was this weapon, this plasmid, and you could just keep using them for the rest of the game once you got them. We wanted to change that up and make a new game that's much more about, (What am I dealing with right now? How do I get through it? The thing I was using before doesn't work anymore, so now I have to change it up.) And now, with Elizabeth added to the mix, she creates these unique opportunities, and you have to decide: (Do I want to use her power, or what is the cost of her power -- and how is that going to change things up? How do my powers affect things? What powers do I want to go for? How are these powers going to grow?)
And so there's so much we want to dive into and really show you, but really, what we showed you tonight was just the tip of the iceberg of what this game is. There's so many more aspects to it, that really, one of the proud problems and challenges we had in revealing [it] was, (How do we create a ten-minute experience to show people the basic core elements?) So we didn't get into a lot of the depth. We didn't say, (Oh, here's our combat system; here's these weapons.) We didn't want to do that; that's, again, not who we are as a company. But we really wanted to just pick -- (What are the beats, what are the high moments, and how do we carry those across?) And down the road, we will get into much more detail on that. But I can assure you, there's so many new aspects to this. And one of the mantras we went by, as a development team, was, (Create player opportunities; don't restrict player opportunities.) So once we get to that round where we can say, (Okay, here's what the details are; let's sit down and show you [them],) it's going to be very exciting.
Shack: The "plasmids" I guess I'll call it. In the demo, Booker drinks a liquid out of a bottle and gains the "Murder of Crows" ability. But before that Shacknews interviewed the big boss, Ken Levine.
Timothy Gerritsen: For us it was about what do we do "powers" wise. How do we create combinations and opportunities? Our core design philosophy throughout the entire game is opening up possibilities for players. We didn't want to create this, "Here's this radial system. Here's these eight weapons. Here are these eight powers. How do they fit?"
The problem we ran into with BioShock is that, you could get to a point where you could have one gun and one plasmid and pretty much just go through the game with that. Like I said, we're our own worst critics. So that was one thing we identified. Like, if all your have is a hammer everything looks like a nail. We didn't want to create that situation where people would just use the same thing over and over again. You saw some powers and some weapons tonight, but there is so much more to it than that. It's about creating opportunities where, "Oh, I used this shotgun and this power and that worked. But it's not working here anymore. What do I have to do?" It's about changing it up. "Oh, if I combine this with this, what happens? And now I'm adding this Elizabeth character." She brings a whole different set of variables into the equation.
Shack: On the Irrational Blog, your team have been showing off some of the design documents from the original BioShock. How has Infinite evolved over time since your team began working on it?
CVG interviews Levine.
Ken Levine: Quite substantially. We had a city in the sky very early but the whole notion of "Columbia" and "American Exceptionalism" is actually about six or eight months old for us. We had the city in the sky and we start with this central idea and then that expands out, and expands out and expands out.
We worked that way with BioShock and that gives us a certain amount of freedom. And in making the demo for you guys, we learned so much about the game and how it would work and how it would feel. In fact, when we started this demo, we didn't even have the whole "American Exceptionalism" concept, it wasn't actually central to it. It just evolved. You know, we put ourselves in the shoes of the audience. We ask, "What is interesting to the audience and how to be engage on that?"
Will we still see returning staples of the genre, such as the audio diaries from BioShock?
Eurogamer has Levine on time as well.
KL: I'm a fan of the voice recorders for a couple of reasons. Our goal is always to see how much story we can tell in the world. Some things stick out like a sore thumb - like the guys stuck behind glass windows. But some things are important tools that can flesh out narrative in a way you can't do any other way.
I like audio diaries, and I think we'll be continuing with those, but our goal is to expand upon that vocabulary. Another thing we thought that was getting a little old was the idea of someone in your ear, radioing you your mission. In this game, Booker will say, "I need to find Elizabeth." Your character can define his missions, and interpret what's going on around him, and give feedback and drive his thoughts using his own voice. It makes you feel more active in the world.
Eurogamer: What does BioShock mean, in that case? There are things about the tone and the art that are familiar, but the world seems very different.
Rock Paper Shotgun interviews the man as well.
Ken Levine: I think that's what we wanted to do. We're the guys that created the franchise, but BioShock was an extension of work we had done before in a lot of ways, and this is an extension of work we had done in BioShock.
But I think that it's very much a BioShock game in the sense that it's about a place. It's very important that it's a shooter set in a place where ideas are very important and ideas are the things that drive the action, and there's a notion of history, and you are empowered to go through this world and discover its mysteries and deal with the challenges in a broad range of ways.
To us, that's really what makes a BioShock game; whether it's Rapture or whether it's 1959 or it's the bottom of the sea - those things are far less important to us. Those are the expression of an idea, and the idea for us was always a lot bigger than a particular location.
RPS: Bioshock was highly noted for the binary moral system of either killing or saving the little sisters. Are you exploring anything like this area here?
Ken Levine: It's clear that the notion of morality in videogames is a narrative theme that's very interesting to us. Obviously you can see themes of morality not preaching morality but moral themes in this universe and they're larger themes than (This is the good guy/this is the bad guy). The particular mechanistic approach we did in Bioshock and they followed in 2. I think we've explored that mechanic. And we're not interested in taking that particular mechanic any further. We've said what we need to say about that. And so anything about any kind of mechanic would. well, be something that we're not talking about now.