BioShock 2 offers more than your standard single player interaction. This time around you're able to play as a Big Daddy. You're also able to explore creative combinations of Plasmids, dual-wield weapons, etc. And thanks to the efforts of the enterprising Digital Extreme Studios, multiplayer in BioShock 2 has been introduced. Coupled with a new story line BioShock 2 seems to have all the elements of a great sequel.
Gamecore's Alberto Araya chats with creative director Jordan Thomas about this sequel.
Gamecore: Let's jump right into it. The scope of Bioshock 2 has changed a bit. This time around you're the "Big-Daddy". Understandably the dynamics of the player's interaction with the protected "Little Sister" is exposed a bit more. However, knowing that, how much was level design affected?
Jordan Thomas: Well, in keeping with our design philosophy of player-driven challenge, choosing to Adopt a "Little Sister" is actually optional play. Meaning you choose to take out her bodyguard who is a significant fight that no one forces you into. Then you lift her up to ride around on your shoulders, and she guides you to casualties lying around in Rapture who have enough of that ADAM stuff to draw out of them. It's a precious resource because spending it gives you access to new genetic powers.
But once she starts to Gather, Splicers (our main enemy type) of all varieties come scrambling up out of Rapture's hidden places, and rain down on you relentlessly, trying to get to her. She can't be killed, but she can be interrupted, causing the encounter to whittle you down and drop you unless you keep them away.
And then, once you take too many "Little Sisters" away from Lamb - she sends a Big Sister...(a sort of ultra-agile predator designed to reclaim the lost ADAM) in response. And that's a dynamically generated boss fight that can find you anywhere you run.
So the level design had to compensate for the fact that all of this action can take place at any time, in direct response to your choices! We feel like that feeling of ownership over the experience distinguishes BioShock, and BioShock 2 even moreso. Hopefully our players will agree.
GC: I think they just might. Plasmids in the original BioShock was an element that I think many fans came to appreciate. Though the concept seemed a bit unpolished, it offered a degree complexity when it came to defending or going on the offense. Plasmids certainly proved quite useful for me when I was caught in a pinch. For Bioshock 2, has there been improvements in the way plasmids can be used or combined? Can you give some examples.
JT: BioShock 2 is all about additional depth of play - the player tools you mention are probably the foremost example. So for example, in the original game, there was a Plasmid (sort of a genetic super power) called Cyclone Trap … you lay a little whirlwind down on the ground and when an enemy blunders onto it, it rockets them up into the air, causing falling damage.
BioShock 2 allows you to upgrade that trap with significantly deeper functionality. So with Cyclone Trap 2, you can combine any of your other Plasmids with the trap, charging it with that kind of energy - fire, electricity, et cetera. If you combine Winter Blast with the trap, it causes the splicer to freeze solid in mid-air and shatter gruesomely on impact. All of our Plasmids offer new tactical uses the more you upgrade them.
GC: Sounds like a dynamic amount of work went into this product. You guys did a solid job of keeping the essense of Rapture alive while introducing these newer concepts. Admittedly I didn't see the validy behind exploring Rapture from the eyes of a Bid-Daddy. But after being exposed to the game and the play mechanics I am a believer. However it must've taken quite a bit of effort to keep the ever so familiar Rapture - familiar - to BioShock fans. Did anyone from 2K Boston happen to work on this title?
JT: Yes, although they're called "Irrational Games" again now, by the by.
GC: Aaah! Thanks for the update!
JT: Project Lead Alyssa Finley became our Studio Head and Executive Producer. Hogarth de la Plante and Jean-Paul Lebreton are our Lead Environment Artist and Lead Level Designer, respectively. Heh, actually, reading their names in tandem, they sound like a pair of time traveling euro-detectives. Carlos Cuello is now our Lead Programmer, and I took on the role of Creative Director, having been a level designer on the original game. The rest of the leads group are top-shelf humans from the SF Bay Area.
GC: I guess that answers that! [laughs]
With so many familiar faces I can only imagine how "alone" you must've felt in the new roll. [laughs]
Exploring Rapture was a key component of BioShock. Familiarizing yourself with your surroundings is the first line of a great offense. Escape routes, healing stations, hiding areas, etc. are all essential to one's survival in Rapture. To that end how much of Rapture can you explore in the sequel?
JT: Yes, the free-market utopia is the setting for both the Single Player and Multiplayer components of BioShock 2. Ten years have passed since BioShock 1 in the Single Player story, and the decaying underwater city has been seized by an idealist turned ruthless. Her name is Dr. Sofia Lamb, a collectivist thinker, who has united the survivors in a kind of unity cult dedicated to the end of self interest.
By contrast, the Multiplayer component actually precedes the original game, allowing you to participate in the civil war that tore the city apart, earn the genetic substance ADAM to grow your character, gaining new powers and abilities for your next match.
GC: The multiplayer aspect of the game seems to introduce some a different looks at Rapture.
JT: Quite a bit - in Multiplayer, familiar locations from the first game are seen in their largely pristine pre-war state. In single player, the locations you visit are entirely new, taking you on a tour of the untold story of Rapture. They range from a Hooverville-like improvised community under the railroad tracks to an art gallery that has been flooded for decades and is encrusted with wild, bioluminescent life.
That said, the city is immense - there's plenty of surface area left to the imagination.
GC: And are there any tie-ins between the original and BioShock 2?
JT: Absolutely - for example, the long-mutated former citizens of Rapture are now engaged in a fierce religious debate about the choices the player character of the original made. The plane that fell from the sky - the striking down of the city's founder… these events have been mythologized. And while it's not strictly necessary to play the first game to enjoy the sequel, it lends additional meaning to the backstory.
But this time, you take control of the first "Big Daddy" successfully bonded to a Little Sister (he's a kind of armored juggernaut in an antique diving suit, formerly enslaved to Rapture), crossing the city to find the girl he once protected. Along the way, he is drawn into a conflict with Lamb, who has a grand plan for his former charge.
Produced by Alberto Araya