BioShock: Irrational Games Interview
Kikizo talks to BioShock boys Joe McDonagh and Joe Faulstick to discuss the stunning title that could change the way we think about first person shooters.
By Kikizo Staff
It's still early days for 2007, but already gamers are circling the big games to look for this year, and one of the titles getting more attention than most is BioShock, a new shooter from 2K Games and Irrational coming to PC and Xbox 360 this June.
Over the last year this spiritual successor to acclaimed shooter System Shock 2 has earned dozens of awards, getting praise for everything from its art-deco stylings to its new approach to the first-person shooter genre.
For BioShock, the glue that's holding the experience together is choice. The doomed underwater world of Rapture is a living ecosystem, existing whether you're there or not, and this makes for an environment that can react to your presence in it. And BioShock's sense of tension comes from its limitations. Intrigued? You should be.
We met with Joe McDonagh, Irrational Games' Business Development guru based out of Australia, and Joe Faulstick, Associate Producer working on BioShock at the company's Boston studio, to get some revealing insights into what we can expect from the final game.
Kikizo: How have you felt about the massive attention surrounding BioShock since last year?
Joe M: Well, we were incredibly surprised and flattered at the awards BioShock received back at E3. Frankly it scared the crap out of us because there's a huge weight of expectation!
Kikizo: What are you aiming to do for the FPS genre here?
Joe F: BioShock is pretty much about redefining the first person shooter genre really. We feel that the first person shooting genre has not really evolved or been refined since the first Half-Life. They're basically on-rails games and you have your set choices at each moment in the gameplay, and so BioShock is about giving the player an awful lot of choice so that they can conquer any scenario in various different ways.
Joe M: First person shooters haven't really changed since Half-Life. It's still a sequence of canned events where you're being taken along and held by the hand, seeing the same thing and what the game designers wanted you to see. We want to do for first-person shooters what Gran Turismo did for driving games. We talk about it internally as first person shooter 2.0.
Kikizo: The game has been described as a utopian setting. And yet it doesn't look very utopian, can you explain where this idea comes into it?
Joe F: Well, the basic back story of the game is that in the 30s and 40s, a Russian expatriate - an idealist capitalist from Russia - he got sick of the world after World War II and thought that World War III was inevitable, that there was going to be nuclear war. So he got the best and brightest and tried to take them underwater and build this beautiful underwater city to escape the control of government and everything so they could have a free market. And so it had the ideals of a utopia, but once they were down there, pretty much the crap hit the fan, so it's not too utopian anymore!
Joe M: We hate cut scenes. The story should be given to the player in a way where it's up to him whether he wants to listen to him or not, because frankly a lot of players don't give a shit about the story - I'm not even that bothered about it!
Kikizo: In BioShock players are always going to be desperate for power-ups, they're never going to be Superman - how does this affect the player's mentality as they play through the game?
Joe F: It's pure hunger. You're comfortable when you've got a rocket launcher with 12 or 20 rockets, but when you're down to your last bullet and you just barely have enough energy to use your special powers, you stop and carefully think about how you're going to approach any given situation; you look for other ways to spend as few resources as possible. That's what made System Shock 2 so scary; you never had the right ammo, you never had enough ammo. But meanwhile you were fighting enemies that were just as powerful - if not more powerful - than you.
Joe M: Controversially, you don't shoot everything that moves. In most FPSs, if it moves, shoot it. If it doesn't move, shoot it. But in this we've got an ecology of creatures who have lives of their own, and do their own shit, and irrespective of whether you're there or not they'll keep on going about their business.