Interview: Irrational Games On BioShock Infinite
BioShock Infinite aims to redefine how we think and feel about the first-person shooter genre, much like the original BioShock did. Set in 1912, and based in the sky high city of Columbia, BioShock Infinite is shaping up to be quite unique. Many gamers are looking forward to the follow-up of the critically acclaimed and hugely successful BioShock which released in August of 2007. To date, we have seen many videos, trailers and images about the upcoming game, and that left us with many questions.
We thought long and hard about what to ask, as BioShock Infinite is a game with high expectations that are far beyond any upcoming AAA game at the moment. Here are some answers from Irrational Games, in regards to our most pressing questions.
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Without further ado, here’s the interview.
eGamer: Can you briefly explain what BioShock Infinite is about, and what is the biggest reason to play the game?
IG: At its heart, it’s the story of two people, Booker and Elizabeth as they try to escape from the incredible city of Columbia. While on the surface, this may sound like a very simple story, from the moment you first set foot in Columbia, it immediately becomes clear that your objective is anything but simple.
As the stars of the show, Booker and Elizabeth will hopefully stick with players long after they’ve played through the game’s story the first time. We view our mission at Irrational with each game as making the player a more active participant in the narrative.
eGamer: In BioShock Infinite, the setting went from the bottom of the ocean to the skies. The antagonist went from a capitalistic atheist to a much more dedicated religious zealot. The main characters went from a silent and lonesome protagonist to a talkative hero with a fully fleshed-out companion. The levels are much larger and travelling has been complimented drastically by the implementation of Sky-Lines. It still feels fresh with some dashes of familiarity. When you approached this project, did you go the complete opposite direction in most of these cases on purpose?
IG: While it’s true that there are incredibly stark contrasts between Columbia and Rapture, the intent was never to just do the opposite. We felt that it was really important for a BioShock game to create a setting that allows us to tap into that same sense of awe you felt when you first stepped foot in Rapture. Columbia poses an entirely new set of mysteries and gave us the opportunity to create an entirely new, fully-realized world.
As for the gameplay reasons, with Columbia, the amount of variety is pretty broad. You’ll go from tight, Rapture-like interiors to enormous city squares. This allows for a more diverse toolset and exotic enemies. We’re no longer constricted to combats with a maximum of 4 enemies. The combat space is also not all on the same vertical plane either.
eGamer: What inspired tears and the use of dimensional rifts in the story? Where did that idea spring from and how has it been moulded to the experience, apart from the gameplay videos already shown?
IG: I can’t speak for Ken on exactly where the inspiration to incorporate Tears into Infinite’s story since I don’t recall him ever saying exactly where it came from.
eGamer: According to the achievements list revealed the other day; there’s a total of 8 Vigors in the game. “Murder of Crows” and “Bucking Bronco” have been seen on posters, and the effects could be seen in gameplay footage. Could you perhaps tell us about some of the other Vigors?
IG: Each of the Vigors also has several upgrades. Well, I do like to leave Vigors for the players to discover in the game for themselves. There’s something special about picking up a Vigor, drinking it and then trying it out for the first time.
That said, I can talk a little about Possession, a Vigor that turns foe to friend. By hitting an enemy with this Vigor, they’ll temporarily become transfixed with you and will defend you to the death. The power starts off only working on mechanical enemies, but with Vigor upgrades, you can use it on humans as well. My favorite part of using this Vigor is watching what happens to your target after the effect wears off. Let’s just say that your enemy can’t live without you.
eGamer: Audio logs gave BioShock a daunting and wonderful atmosphere. BioShock Infinite’s achievement list revealed the game to have Voxophones. Are these only from the perspective of the Vox Populi?
IG: Voxophones. are a widely used device in Columbia. And, just like in Rapture, they’re a great way to get information on the world and insight into the perspective of the citizens of Columbia. They’re too important to limit to just one faction!
eGamer: How has Elizabeth’s character changed (including her clothes), and where did the inspiration for her character come from?
IG: Her inspirations are too vast and too varied to list here. We looked to film, books, history – you name it! As a player you’ll quickly find that as she evolves as a human being, Elizabeth ain’t no Disney princess. She’s an incredibly powerful and strong-willed woman. In fact, just about any story starring a strong female lead was probably closely studied at one point or another.
Her clothes didn’t change, the “new” outfit you see is actually just her earlier in the game.
eGamer: Does the Songbird receive a lot of screen-time, or will he remain more ominous, while watching from the background?
IG: He’s certainly ominous. The people of Columbia have turned him into the stuff of legend. The children sing songs about him and there are propaganda films about him. But all the mystery that surrounds him is part of what makes him so enigmatic.
eGamer: With the inclusion of the Heavy Hitter enemies; gameplay seems to provide a lot of different challenges throughout. Did the Heavy Hitters enter the fray from the very start of development or later on?
IG: The goal was in fact to diversify the types of challenges you’d face. We’d always felt that a lot of the combat experience in Rapture became a little too familiar too quickly. In fact, one of the first things we discussed was how to really expand our combat experience. We wanted much more variety in things like engagement distances, the number of enemies and their behaviors. Before we knew it, we had this notion of these game-changing enemies who would radically alter your combat experience as soon as they entered the fray.
When a Handyman shows up and starts hurling people at you, everything shifts – you need to think differently about your tools, your priorities and your environment. The Heavy Hitters create opportunities for the player to craft some amazing war stories. When you’re able to fight them for yourself and see how they play off the world, the other enemies and your tools, I think you’ll see just how much they change up your challenges.
eGamer: BioShock had some interesting and controversial themes throughout the game. BioShock Infinite doesn’t shy away from that at all. When writing about these racial and religious themes and how they impact the city of Columbia, was it a very conscious decision from the start or did they accompany the rest of the ideas later on during the development process?
IG: Every time we show the game, journalists and gamers react to what we’ve shown and develop a theory about what the game is about. The first time we showed it, the prevailing theory was that the game was about right wing politics in America. The next time we showed the game, people began to dig into the notion of multiple realities. And with the hands on first couple of hours of the game, people began to tune into the aspects of religious fundamentalism and racial bias that exist in Columbia. What I’m looking forward to is the conversation that will occur when people finish the game, and what they take away as the real themes. My sense is people haven’t picked up on it yet. There’s lots of hints in what we’ve shown, but to really understand what’s going on this world, you really have to play the game to the end.
This concludes our interview with the team at Irrational Games. We hope that you are excited for BioShock Infinite’s upcoming release, on the 26th of March. We, here at eGamer, would like to thank both Irrational Games and Megarom for making this interview possible. Look out for the full review of BioShock Infinite when the game lands on South African shores. Until then, read our preview.