Cross-Examining Jordan: Bioshock 2

By Alec Meer on December 21st, 2009 at 8:03 pm.

Over on Eurogamer are the fruits of my recent sit-down with Jordan Thomas, the Lead Human on the upcoming Bioshock 2. I’ve got some leftover material from that I may lob up here later, but in the meantime pray enjoy the great man’s high-speed thoughts on Bioshock 1’s backlash, the thinking behind the multiplayer mode, and whether dark metal corridors are more blessing than curse after all. Also, ‘riding seals to freedom.’

(Oh, please steer clear of the vicious war raging in the interview’s comments thread: yes, it’s exactly the same war as breaks out upon any mention of Bioshock anywhere on the internet.)

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  1. nabeel says:

    I would be greatly interested to read the extra bits of the interview Alec, please do post it.

  2. Vinraith says:

    Lots of very encouraging answers in that interview, I’m happy to say. Not listening too much to the internet egomass is always a good thing, frankly, as trying to accomodate it is rather like designing by the largest and most incoherent committee ever conceived.

    More meaningful choices, better shooting mechanics, and more character specialization possibilities all sound great, here’s hoping this thing lives up to its substantial potential.

    And like nabeel, I’d certainly be interested in seeing the extra bits if you get around to it, Alec.

  3. VHATI says:

    I just cant get excited about this sequel. I really enjoyed the first, it was no System shock, but it was fun. i never did finish it. i got to just before the final battle with whats his name. How can someone play 99% of the game and simply stop right before the last boss.

    Somehow that happen to me, and i think that is why the sequel isnt going to pull me in either.

  4. Jeremy says:

    I like that he’s really embracing the concept of tragedy, because to me, Bioshock 1 was still more about the tragedy of an ideal going horribly wrong because of the failure to understand human nature and the impossibility of utopia. Sure, there was all of that about freedom of choice, and what it means to have choice, philosophy and such, but the tragedy of Rapture resonated more with me than anything else. It was a sad story all around.

    • VHATI says:

      I can agree there, but to me. It felt forced. Like it was written to be that way, and it never really proved itself to me in that way.

    • Jeremy says:

      Gotcha, I think it hit me in those early tape recordings, little elements along the way like the stroller right at the beginning, the family that took pills to escape in death, that kind of thing. It seemed like there were little details all throughout the game that struck me as just terribly sad and set the tone for how I experienced the game.

  5. zzzzzzzz says:

    Bioshock 1 is way better than Bioshock 2.

  6. Shon says:

    The internet has taught me that I should demand that Bioshock 2 be released as a free DLC for the owners of the first game.

    • Premium User Badge

      Christian says:

      We shall boycott Bioshock 2 then! How dare they release a sequel so soon?

    • Vinraith says:

      Really? A month later? At least troll about something original.

    • Jazmeister says:

      How dare you insult my good friend _______! TIGER KNEE!

    • Gorgeras says:

      That would be reasonable, considering the thread(the largest ever non-sticky on the 2K forums) about the physics engine being locked at a ridiculously low FPS was ignored and Bioshock still has a shit, console-accommodating physics setting. A very simple patch could have sorted that but it never came.

      For that reason alone, I’m avoiding Bioshock 2. It’s hard to have fun with a physics engine when it’s like a distracting bad special effect.

    • Premium User Badge

      oceanclub says:

      “It’s hard to have fun with a physics engine when it’s like a distracting bad special effect.”

      The horrible thing is, once you notice you, you can’t unnotice it. Very very distracting.

      P.

  7. Heliosicle says:

    Like Vhati I never finished the original, it just lost me after I thought I’d got to the end but then suddenly I was back with the little sisters, can anyone tell me how far into it that actually was?

    • Vinraith says:

      About two thirds of the way through, IIRC.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      And you missed the really good bit, which was the residential area (and the really bad bit, which was the final boss).

    • Vinraith says:

      @Alexander Norris

      Yes, some of those final areas are among the best in the game. And while the final boss is a total disappointment, at least he wasn’t preposterously difficult on top of that. If a boss fight is going to suck, it can at least have the decency to be short and easy to blow past.

  8. Pidesco says:

    The first Bioshock was schizophrenic in the way that the game appeared to be designed towards creating tension and stress in the player, like SS2, but actually the gameplay was fastpaced, mindless action that had nothing to do with messages the rest of the game conveyed. This coupled with the fact that you are playing the game in a series of ultra linear tunnels, instead of in a supposedly massive underwater city, turned Bioshock into a massive disappointment, for me.

    It’s still a beautiful game with interesting things to say, but the gameplay just can’t keep up with what the developers were trying to say. Focus testing for the lose, I guess.

    I think Yahtzee said it best: you’re in for a kick in the balls. Maybe a gentler kick in the balls than most, an extremely pretty, well executed kick in the balls with the best of intentions, but at the end of the day you’re still walking funny.

  9. dadioflex says:

    The only backlash I remember to Bioshock was for the activation. Is that what they’re talking about? The activation?

    I am SO beyond activation worries now. I just wait until it’s in the bargain bin and I don’t care if I own it any more. I assume the relentless downward pressure on game prices is what the DRM-happy publishers were wanting to achieve. Job done. Three weeks after release most DRM-infested games are in the bargain bin. Gamers win.

    • dadioflex says:

      WAIT! There was a backlash to the story??? Ack. Best FPS story ever, in my book. Holy cow, what do people want? A seamless gritty drama, like Far Cry 2? Or a freeform/scripted soap opera like Stalker Clear Sky?

    • Pidesco says:

      The story in itself was ok, if at points a little too reminiscent of System Shock 2.

      The problem was that the story and themes said one thing, while the actual gameplay said the exact opposite.

    • lintman says:

      I was wondering what the “backlash” they were talking about was, also…

      There was the DRM fiasco, which annoyed the hell out of me because the 3-activation limit wasn’t generally known until right before release (which screwed me, who had pre-ordered it).

      Then there was the “This game isn’t worthy to be called a sequel to System Shock 2!!!” people.

      Neither of those seems like the backlash they are referring to.

    • diebroken says:

      Try reading through : http://www.ttlg.com/forums/showthread.php?t=119159, which discusses the ‘backlash’ from a number of sources (some still available via archive.org), such as the Idle Thumbs articles:

      The “backlashers” did not arbitrarily decide that they hated something they loved a month ago. It was not a contrarian position. They did not invent faults. They were discovering legitimate flaws in the game that for some reason critics had chosen to ignore. And when the backlash took shape it was met with incredible condescension. “I guess it’s cool to hate BioShock now.”

    • Damien Stark says:

      Yes, during the week before and the week after release, the 5/5 and 10/10 reviews poured in. About a month later, there was quite a backlash to all the glowing praise. Typical for any game getting perfect reviews, there’s always flaws with any game, and people bothered by those flaws are even more bothered by seeing perfect review scores attached to them.

      If we’re talking specifically about the story/plot, there’s three big things I remember people getting pissed about:

      1. The big reveal – many people felt it was insulting or cheap.
      MINOR SPOILERS:
      2. The Good/Evil choice thing.
      Everyone used to Bioshock style good/bad choices was expecting big rewards from the Evil “path” (harvesting Little Sisters) and moderate rewards from the Good “path”. Turns out you get big rewards from the Good path, and not much from the Evil, and harvesting even one Little Sister before changing to the Good leads you to the Evil Bastard ending. Lots of people felt this was “unbalanced”, which is factually true, but I think Kieron summed it up the best (I now paraphrase) – They’re not presenting morality as a game mechanic. Morality is still morality, and it’s not okay to murder little girls. Period. You
      will not be rewarded and encouraged for this.

      END MINOR SPOILERS, BEGIN SLIGHTLY LARGER SPOILERS

      3. The part where you become a Big Daddy. While Tenenbaum’s dialog describes it as a massive, permanent change, after you complete that section of the game the lasting effects are almost non-existent.

      OKAY, DONE WITH THE SPOILERS.

      Personally, I wasn’t particularly bothered by most of that stuff, my only real lasting complaint was that the guns felt far too puny and generic. This was possibly intentional, to make the plasmids more appealing by contrast, but the game is ultimately a First Person Shooter, and the shooting felt weak.

      Still, quite a great game.

  10. bhlaab says:

    He gave some good answers in that interview and it seems they are differenciating this a bit more from the first game than I assumed in terms of theme.
    Still not convinced that a sequel is altogether necessary, and I’m definiately not convinced that they’ve tidied up the gameplay and choice structure. If I can still buy 90% of all the plasmids this time around, they have failed. If constantly doing the “good” thing nets rewards while the “bad” thing nets nothing but punishment they have failed.

    • dadioflex says:

      Technically, if you BOUGHT the plasmids, then YOU failed.

    • Pidesco says:

      In any case the one positive lesson of Bioshock is that the industry doesn’t have to repeat the same shit over and over again to be successful, and if well done and marketed, any sort of game setting can be turned into a huge success.

      And what do we instantly get: Bioshock sequel with multiplayer and the death of Irrational Games.

    • Bhazor says:

      @ Pidesco

      Bloody. Bloody. Bloody. Bloody. Bloody. Bloody. Bloody. Publishers.
      Killing Irrational (renaming them and splitting the team down the middle) is one of those bizarre decisions that only a committee could come up with.

      Personally I think the only reason it was marketed so well was that Levine referred to it as a successor to Shock 2. Which caused a huge surge in the blogs and really upped its profile in the mainstream games press so the publishers pumped money into the electric circle jerk that is a marketing department. Which sadly meant the publisher took greater control and made the changes they made (demanding two endings, censoring the harvest sequence and doubtless more tweaks).

      If he hadn’t said that this may very well have sunk along with most of Ken’s other games.

    • bhlaab says:

      Technically, if you BOUGHT the plasmids, then YOU failed.

      I’m not sure what you’re saying here. They gave me more than enough Adam to buy as much as I wanted so I did.

      And I was even playing the good path which is supposed to give you less Adam overall to tempt you to do evil (making the binary choice that much more irrelevant)

    • Funky Badger says:

      I was quite disappointed when you got rewarded for making the good choice – bit of moral cowardice there.

      Game was great though…

    • lintman says:

      Why must doing the good thing always be painful while the being bad must always be rewarded? Personally, I find that annoying in games. In reality, choosing to do a good thing or a bad thing both have different benefits and drawbacks – some short term and some long term.

      In an FPS, why can’t the good choice make some helpful allies where the bad choice might give some useful artifact/weapon but result in another set of powerful enemies? In RPG’s, why can’t we see towns close their gates and shops lock their doors to evil players? And maybe some discounts or other benefit for the player who saves the town without demanding to be paid for it first?

    • Starky says:

      @lintman

      Way, way too many games take the do good deeds and good deeds will happen to you route, and most take the evil equals short term power but ultimate loss and failure route too.

      It’s nice to see games take the (more realistic in my opinion) route (of which Bioshock isn’t one of them – no in the way Dragon age is), that evil men with no scruples will quite often get the rewards they seek and get away with it.
      In Bioshock the get almost the same total reward on the good path as you do the evil – like 250 less if you go good, of a total of around 3k, and you get a whole load of other goodies ammo and such probably worth more. So in Bioshock you probably DO get more stuff by going good, you get less Adam from the little sisters, but the gifts you get more than make up for it.

      Ironically the higher you get the more horrid crimes you commit the better your chance of getting away with it. With a few notable exceptions (Saddam recently), most Dictators, or those who commit the most horrid crimes against humanity in the name of wealth and power get away with it.
      Exiled comfortably in foreign countries, living under assumed identities in Europe or America (north and south), quietly living a comfortable life on the money they made/stole.
      Drug Barons and Arms dealers, diamond smugglers and mercenary leaders more often than not (a lot more often) get to retire quite comfortably on their ill-gotten gains.

      The ones that get caught, the ones who get punished are usually the underlings, the middlemen or the goons.

      And very quickly the people forget, new crimes happen, new politicians have new concerns, and in the 3-4 year life cycle of western politics utterly horrendous acts are forgotten about as ancient history after less than a decade.

      Which is kind of why I wish Atlas aka Fontane got away with it, instead of having that stupid final boss battle, have him escape with all the Adam and power.
      Then have the ending be a choice between grabbing his leftovers which would still be a hefty total, like getting 1% of Bill Gates fortune left to you, 1% ain’t much, but 1% of that much is a hell of a lot of money.
      Or, saving the little sisters – but it should not be a “help them or they die” option. To fit with the whole tone of the game it should have been a “survival of the fittest, uncaring “make your own way out”, and maybe in the ending some of them, but not many do manage to survive.

      Bioshock, never has such a brilliantly written game, has so many fan “how it should have ended” opinions that actually would have been better than the one in the game (not saying mine is among them, anywhere outside my own head though).

    • Damien Stark says:

      @Funky Badger
      There is a definite gameplay imbalance, but I’m baffled (and a little frightened) that someone would label the stance “It is not okay to murder little girls for your own benefit, we will not reward you for doing so” as “moral cowardice”.

      I know that many games choose to view good and evil as gameplay options, rather than real-world approaches to living amongst other humans, but really? “Moral cowardice” for saying that it’s better not to murder little girls?

      and no, I’m not convinced by Starky’s “in the harsh real world, bad guys win!” either. The evil dictator examples are so noteworthy specifically because they’re rare. I’m not saying nobody steals and gets away with it, or that only good people succeed, but the majority of successful people in the developed world stick pretty close to their society’s accepted norms, especially on major issues like murder.

    • James T says:

      There is a definite gameplay imbalance, but I’m baffled (and a little frightened) that someone would label the stance “It is not okay to murder little girls for your own benefit, we will not reward you for doing so” as “moral cowardice”

      I’d say it’s equally baffling and “a little frightening” (ie, not very) that anyone needs a videogame to tell them that murdering little girls is bad. I agree that Bioshock’s “stance” is not “moral cowardice” — it’s moral pointlessness.

      Although you claim there’s a “definite gameplay imbalance”, I must disagree; the game is extremely easy for any remotely capable FPS gamer, whether you kill children (or use vita-chambers — I didn’t) or not, and this is (one) criticism which is being made — you’ve simply chosen to frame it as “Why isn’t Bioshock rewarding me enough for killing little girls?”. An equally valid way to frame the scarce difference in difficulty could be: “Why isn’t Bioshock punishing me enough for killing little girls?” Well! That’s a good question: why aren’t they? So much for Irrational’s brave, maverick moral stance against child murder!

      But gameplay alone isn’t the only aspect of the “moral quandary” which is criticised; there’s the aesthetic aspect too (“why is it easier to do the morally obvious thing in this game?”). It seems to shock you that the question is being asked, so let me explain why (hint: it’s not because Bioshock’s critics love child murder).

      Providing an impetus for you to do an “evil” thing (ideally a strong impetus, as in, “you’re in for some deep shit if you DON’T do it”) creates a moral quandary, a tension between two drives, Moral quandaries are interesting; they can lead you to question yourself, and your assumptions. Simply giving the character an opportunity to kill children for no reason, on the other hand, is completely inane; it is uninteresting to anyone save idiots and tabloid news media (“Child-Murder Simulator Provides Sick Thrills to Perverts!”). It asks nothing, it challenges nothing, it says nothing. Philosophers find the “trolley problem” compelling because it presents a moral quandary. Bioshock’s moral aspect is essentially a “trolley problem”, and it looks like this: A runaway trolley is heading for a fork in the path, and you have control of the switch. If it goes down the right path, it will kill dozens of little girls, but you’ll make it to your bus. If it goes down the left path, it will harm no-one… but you’ll have to wait for the next bus.

      Do you see now why people might be disappointed that Bioshock’s moral quandary (easily one of the most publicised, prominent, buzz-generating elements of the game) isn’t a little more compelling?

      Lots of reviewers gave it 5/5’s or 10/10’s, prompting a storm of “No inventory system! 10/10 is INCORRECT! You are not allowed to like it that much! You must be a dumb console player!”

      Why spend so much time and effort telling people that their favorable opinion of a game is WRONG, especially when they’re bound to know more about that game than you do?

      You say that those who dislike the game are “bound to” know less about it than you (which is unlikely, since there’s very little depth to Bioshock, and ironic, considering you complain about STALKER and either haven’t played it or failed to understand it — items are not “inventory trash” if they actually HAVE A USE (as every single item does), and you’re free to drop/stash anything that is surplus to your immediate needs), and rail against a complete strawman (consisting of cherry-picked secondary criticisms made by Red Avatar, who quite reasonably criticises other, more fundamental aspects of the game, not the “talking animals” and “taller hero” tripe of your laughable film analogy); you’re in no position to complain about respect for others’ opinions. And you’ve made four posts railing against this fictional objectivist Bioshock-hating strawman, so I’m not sure you’re in any position to posture about how others spend their time and effort, either.

      This thread’s given me a great idea for a game mod; take Super Mario Bros, and insert a screen saying “Do you want to rape an old homeless lady? Y/N” inbetween stages; if you hit “Y”, the game shrinks you back to normal-Mario size at the start of the next stage (if you’re already at normal size, it won’t do anything). It will provide valuable new food for thought in the thorny ethical minefield that is bag-lady rape!

    • Damien Stark says:

      @ James T

      Wow.
      Your rhetoric aside, this seems pretty straightforward to me:
      “I was quite disappointed when you got rewarded for making the good choice – bit of moral cowardice there.”

      This quote, to which I replied, pretty clearly frames “rewarding good behavior” as “moral cowardice”. The fact that you prefer a moral quandary where bad behavior is rewarded does not constitute an objective game defect. The specific good/bad choice we’re discussing is not the “decline reward for quest” vs “demand more reward for quest”, nor even “flip switch kill one person” vs “don’t flip switch kill five”, it’s “murder girl” or “save girl”.

      I would posit that in real life AND in most games, people who choose not to murder girls are usually rewarded for it (or at least those who do murder girls are punished). I suppose we could launch off into a vast tangent argument about dictators and Wall St moguls, trying to determine if life itself is just, so to save some time just call me naive and move on.

      I never actually complained about STALKER, not sure where you got that. I really liked STALKER (SOC at least, I haven’t played Clear Sky). I can’t really see how selling stuff would make much sense in Bioshock, nor do I think weapon degradation would have made it more fun, and the fact that they worked for STALKER doesn’t make me think I should hate Bioshock for not being STALKER.

      You don’t like my statement that those who dislike the game are bound to know less about it, but that seems almost self-explanatory to me. Anyone who doesn’t like the game would either not purchase it, not complete it, or at the very least not fully explore it. Someone who disliked the game but thoroughly played every aspect, just to make a fully informed argument is either a reviewer (who mostly rated the game quite highly) or a resolutely argumentative person. An unusually diligent AIM, I suppose. Certainly not representative of most people.

      Yes, this argument has gotten quite long and I’ve contributed to that. But fundamentally it all stems from lots of people saying “wow, I loved this game!” then others saying “No, you’re wrong!”. If your opinion is that something other people enjoy is objectively bad and their enjoyment is invalid, then yes, I do not respect your opinion, and no, our positions are not equivalent.

      The film analogy, which you also disliked, is meant to convey the fact that the absence of an element you desire (be it an inventory with sales, or talking animals in a movie) does not invalidate all of the good elements that are present, nor does it invalidate the enjoyment of others in a particular creative work. Also, those who did enjoy Bioshock likely did so because of large subjective criteria, like atmosphere, sound, or story, and view the attempt to reduce the experience to a back-of-box check-box-list of technical features, like “Inventory”, “Permadeath”, “Trap making” as disheartening. If you prefer a game comparison to a film one, it’s like someone saying “World of Goo” was rubbish because it lacked XP-gain and leveling up.

      Lastly, this – “you’ve made four posts railing against this fictional objectivist Bioshock-hating strawman”
      When did I reference Ayn Rand fans? And why would they hate Bioshock? The Andrew Ryan narrative wasn’t flattering?

      I’ve responded to very specific individual criticisms, which you alternately label “strawman” – as though I made them up – and cherry-picking – as though I “unfairly” picked out the false arguments, rather than arguing against the legitimate ones. Well gosh, sorry about focusing my criticisms on the things I meant to criticize. Here, I’ll make it up to you, I’ll tick through the list:

      – poor FPS combat — subjective, but I’ve agreed that the guns feel puny and generic. I think the plasmids are much more interesting than typical FPS weapons, and the weak guns may have been a conscious attempt to focus on the plasmids, but yes, it’s no Serious Sam or Modern Warfare.

      – poor respawning model (behind you in a closed room for example) — pretty much par for the course on games that are trying to be “scary”. I agree with another commenter that I prefer this to feeling like I have de-populated Rapture entirely, but I suppose there’s better ways to implement it.

      – poor balancing — agreed. The first couple hours of the game, the difficulty felt about right, but then you build up a big stock of ammo and money and recovery items, and they keep flowing even on Hard.

      – plasmids were poorly implemented — pretty vague and subjective. I thought they were pretty cool.

      – no permanent death — again, pretty subjective. Frustration and repetition are not desirable to me, and hammering the quick-save button every few minutes to avoid it is a burden I’ll happily give up. Perhaps the vita-chamber should be a bit more punishing, but I still prefer it to “Load Last Save”

      – linear design — so what? It’s not an open world game. Are you really going to make me list all the games that are “linear” but still great?

      – no interaction with your environment — Wrong on its face. The fire/oil/electricity/water thing clearly counts, even if it doesn’t satisfy whatever particular detail you seem to be looking for.

      – not enough variation in combat — This is pretty fair. Splicers, “bosses”, and Big Daddies don’t constitute much of a bestiary. Then again, COD4 was pretty well received with “lots of guys with guns” as its opponent list. The environmental stuff, turret/camera hacking, and ability to play Big Daddies and splicers against each other provides a little depth, but certainly room for improvement.

      – a story that gets worse and worse as the game goes on — highly subjective, and highly disputed.

      – no inventory — As I’ve mentioned, there clearly is an inventory: multiple ammo types for each weapon, recovery items, and the parts used at “U Invent” to assemble other things. If you really feel the game would be improved by carrying 10 bags of chips to the boss battle, or by selling spare ammo, or by dropping some of your guns to save space/weight, then we just have to agree to disagree.

      – a lot less depth than System Shock 2 — Fair enough. If we all agree that it’s NOTHING COMPARED TO SYSTEM SHOCK 2, are we allowed to like Bioshock?

    • James T says:

      Wow.
      Your rhetoric aside, this seems pretty straightforward to me:

      A lot of things seem straightforward when you confuse basic logic for rhetoric; it must be nice.

      “I was quite disappointed when you got rewarded for making the good choice – bit of moral cowardice there.”

      This quote, to which I replied, pretty clearly frames “rewarding good behavior” as “moral cowardice”.

      “Moral cowardice” was clearly the wrong term, but it was equally clear that Badger was referring to the vapidity of the choice (unless you actually believe he considers child murder to be a good thing, in which case you’ve given me a good chuckle, thank you).

      The fact that you prefer a moral quandary where bad behavior is rewarded does not constitute an objective game defect.

      It’s not that I prefer a particular moral quandary. It’s that Bioshock does not present a moral quandary. (see “quandary”.) The “moral decision” trumpeted as one of Bioshock’s most interesting and powerful elements is meaninglessness — it is a fait accompli (“Of course I don’t want to kill little girls, Mr Levene; what’s the point in even asking me? A minor rearrangement of my powerup timetable is meant to sway me? Are you thick?”). And whether or not real-life bad behaviour gets rewarded (let alone the particular bad behaviour exhibited in Bioshock — I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but in real life you can’t draw super-juice out of little dead girls) is completely irrelevant; if you’re going to present a moral quandary as crude as “Should I kill a little girl?”, then the only way to create any sort of tension is to provide a compulsion to do the obviously wrong action. You’re wrong, I don’t “prefer a moral quandary which rewards bad behaviour” (amusing that you try calling your assertion a “fact”) — I just recognise that there isn’t any quandary otherwise, because nobody thinks that there is a moral imperative to kill little girls.

      Even if Irrational had successfully created that quandary, by rewarding badness/neglected goodness, it would still be laughably artificial and crude. See “The Witcher” for a game which does put you and your character in a moral quandary (basically, between fascistic peace, terroristic liberation of the oppressed, and morally abdicated neutrality; there are compelling arguments for and against each of these three main paths).

      I never actually complained about STALKER, not sure where you got that. I really liked STALKER (SOC at least, I haven’t played Clear Sky). I can’t really see how selling stuff would make much sense in Bioshock, nor do I think weapon degradation would have made it more fun, and the fact that they worked for STALKER doesn’t make me think I should hate Bioshock for not being STALKER.

      It was your griping about “dragging around vendor trash” (which you continue in this post) — if you’re treating anything in your inventory as “vendor trash” and “dragging it around”, you’re making the game a more-difficult chore for no reason; while you’re free to do that, STALKER is about travelling light so that you can move quickly and have the capacity to carry the useful things you might find. There’s a tradeoff between weighing yourself down and being under-supplied; again, tension adds interest. Red Avatar saying he would’ve liked Bioshock to have an inventory plainly implies that he thinks the game would be better if it were challenging and big enough to -need- an inventory (so you can store the things you need for a tight spot — that’s the point of an inventory, “selling stuff” is a sideline).

      Shopkeepers and weapon degredation are a red herring; Red Avatar uses them to contrast the complexity and challenge of the STALKER system with the shallowness and ease of the Bioshock system; he doesn’t even specifically request them in Bioshock (see his first post). He simply requests a challenging, complex game. The game was sold as integrating RPG elements, so complexity is a fair request, and challenge is a fair request because, again, tension is interesting, while fait accomplis are not.

      You don’t like my statement that those who dislike the game are bound to know less about it, but that seems almost self-explanatory to me. Anyone who doesn’t like the game would either not purchase it, not complete it, or at the very least not fully explore it. Someone who disliked the game but thoroughly played every aspect, just to make a fully informed argument is either a reviewer (who mostly rated the game quite highly) or a resolutely argumentative person. An unusually diligent AIM, I suppose. Certainly not representative of most people.

      (Hint: people who talk about “AIM”s undermine themselves; if you’ve got a solid argument, you won’t need to make mindless ad hominems about those you disagree with). This is an unfalsifiable position — you can dismiss anyone who understands and dislikes a game’s systems as an “AIM”, and you can dismiss anyone who didn’t complete it as not knowing the game’s systems, and thus unqualified. Cute. But the depth with which someone explores a game’s systems is dependent on their ability, not their taste alone; they may slack off if they get sick of a title, but they may complete it despite their misgivings, hoping for improvement. They may complete it and find it playable but unsatisfying, and disappointing given perfectly reasonable expectations established through news, interviews, studio precedent etc. They may abandon the game at a late enough point that they know all of its systems. They may feel compelled to play the game through because of the money they put into it — it’s not the greatest motive for spending one’s time, but there’s absolutely nothing objectionable about it, and it doesn’t invalidate their opinions.

      Yes, this argument has gotten quite long and I’ve contributed to that. But fundamentally it all stems from lots of people saying “wow, I loved this game!” then others saying “No, you’re wrong!”.

      Bullshit. Point to one. And remember, if simply criticising Bioshock counts as an attack on its fans, then anything positive said about the game must count as an equally presumptuous and unacceptable attack on its critics. Hypocrisy would be bad!

      The film analogy, which you also disliked, is meant to convey the fact that the absence of an element you desire (be it an inventory with sales, or talking animals in a movie) does not invalidate all of the good elements that are present, nor does it invalidate the enjoyment of others in a particular creative work. Also, those who did enjoy Bioshock likely did so because of large subjective criteria, like atmosphere, sound, or story, and view the attempt to reduce the experience to a back-of-box check-box-list of technical features, like “Inventory”, “Permadeath”, “Trap making” as disheartening. If you prefer a game comparison to a film one, it’s like someone saying “World of Goo” was rubbish because it lacked XP-gain and leveling up.

      Your analogy is poor because it doesn’t engage with what’s actually being criticised; you dismiss all dissent as being mere quibbling over details. You paint a picture of yourself as being concerned with the big picture, while petty squabblers wish to unweave the rainbow; you describe the elements that you liked in Bioshock as “large”, and describe others’ criticisms as small, mere pickiness (it’s particularly ironic that you characterise pleasant but peripheral elements like atmosphere and sound (and arguably story) as “large”, and concerns about how the game plays as “small”, but that’s by the by). But the reason criticisms and suggestions sometimes (and only sometimes) sound like dot points is because these critics are trying to describe solutions to a problem — you don’t have that burden, because you don’t see a problem. “Inventory” and “permadeath” and “trap-making” (not that the latter is particularly typical) come up because they are suggestions as to how the game might be made more complex, creative and/or challenging; they are criticising the ease and lack of complexity of the game (and most critics here are not exactly hiding that opinion behind a bushel). Do you think that challenge or complexity are negligible elements in a videogame? (Would you place them above or beneath “atmosphere”, sound and story? If the answer is “beneath”, may I suggest abandoning videogames for film?) Complexity is even a measurable aspect! You seem to thirst for some sort of objectivity to give the debate some grounding (what with all the dismissing of ‘subjective’ criticisms); shall we use complexity? That wouldn’t exactly flatter Bioshock…

      Lastly, this – “you’ve made four posts railing against this fictional objectivist Bioshock-hating strawman”
      When did I reference Ayn Rand fans? And why would they hate Bioshock? The Andrew Ryan narrative wasn’t flattering?

      Objectivism like that of Rand’s especially deluded followers (described by Nat Brennan) who believed that any opinion that conflicted with theirs (ie, hers) could not be truly rational, and thus could be dismissed. You ascribe this behaviour to others, but I think you evince it the most on this page with your unprovoked denigration of the game’s critics.

      I’ve responded to very specific individual criticisms, which you alternately label “strawman” – as though I made them up – and cherry-picking – as though I “unfairly” picked out the false arguments, rather than arguing against the legitimate ones.

      Not “false arguments” — secondary, minor suggestions which come as part of greater criticisms (I already specified that in my first post; read closer). You dismiss or do not appreciate the greater criticisms, so, by accident or design, you’re cherry-picking stuff that you can characterise and dismiss as mere quibbles.

      Well gosh, sorry about focusing my criticisms on the things I meant to criticize.

      Sorry, did I give you too much credit?

      [FPS combat, respawning model, poor balancing, plasmids, permadeath]

      Interesting that you dismiss so many of these as “subjective”. Of course they’re subjective; you can find someone out there who’ll love or hate any game mechanic. So what? No-one here — literally no-one — is claiming otherwise. If you’re complaining about some of the posturing idiots at that TTLG thread, why not go over there and post? They’re not going to read you here.

      - linear design — so what? It’s not an open world game. Are you really going to make me list all the games that are “linear” but still great?

      It is perfectly fair to be disappointed that a game supposedly including RPG elements is a corridor shooter; some Japanese RPGs are about that linear, but there was no reason to expect that Irrational were making a JRPG.

      - no interaction with your environment — Wrong on its face. The fire/oil/electricity/water thing clearly counts, even if it doesn’t satisfy whatever particular detail you seem to be looking for.
      – not enough variation in combat — This is pretty fair. Splicers, “bosses”, and Big Daddies don’t constitute much of a bestiary. Then again, COD4 was pretty well received with “lots of guys with guns” as its opponent list. The environmental stuff, turret/camera hacking, and ability to play Big Daddies and splicers against each other provides a little depth, but certainly room for improvement.

      Look to the Half-Life 2 series for places of environmental interaction that leaven the shooting, and don’t merely consist of shooting at select patches of ground for area attacks. In all of Bioshock, I can think of a single such place: Kyburz’s room with the electric bolts. Also look to Half-Life 2 for an enemy cast (and ammo distribution) which encourage variety in weapon use and strategy. (“But Bioshock isn’t Half-Life 2!”, one might protest. Yeah — it’s just a highly comparable game with no genre-mixing pretensions which nonetheless has far more variety!)

      CoD4 was indeed well received, as if that matters; personally, I found it pretty tedious, and in any case I wouldn’t look to it as the model for a Shock game.

      - a story that gets worse and worse as the game goes on — highly subjective, and highly disputed.</blockquote
      Not that it matters — because popularity and subjectiveness are irrelevant anyway– but I wouldn't say it was THAT disputed, considering the number of people who say the story takes a dive after the Ryan/conditioning reveal.

      - no inventory — As I’ve mentioned, there clearly is an inventory: multiple ammo types for each weapon, recovery items, and the parts used at “U Invent” to assemble other things. If you really feel the game would be improved by carrying 10 bags of chips to the boss battle, or by selling spare ammo, or by dropping some of your guns to save space/weight, then we just have to agree to disagree.

      I don’t think that would improve the game — it’s already insultingly easy. But if the game were actually challenging, then having to gauge the dangers ahead, take risks and be able to conserve and carry resources would be a welcome addition. It would slightly increase the game’s depth and complexity, and liberate the careful player from his immediate circumstances (“There is no health here, I will die” vs, “I kept a medkit spare for this situation”.)

      - a lot less depth than System Shock 2 — Fair enough. If we all agree that it’s NOTHING COMPARED TO SYSTEM SHOCK 2, are we allowed to like Bioshock?

      You were always allowed to like Bioshock, and no-one on this page (nor, I’ll wager, anyone in the vast majority of Bioshock threads) ever, ever claimed that you were not. If only its critics went similarly unmolested.

  11. Count Elmdor says:

    Irrational’s not dead, they’re just 2K Bosto-zombiefied.

  12. poop says:

    Bioshock’s biggest problem was that it had an excellent, original setting but the gameplay and actual plot werent really up to scratch.

    so with that in mind I think they should really just make simcity: rapture and leave it at that

  13. medwards says:

    And that’s the civil war of Rapture – that turned from utopia into hell underwater.

    I thought the entire point that it was only utopic for the upper crust participants? Like the only reason the other side of the war has anyone fighting is because they’re all the serving labourers who have no real upside to their lives…

    I thoroughly enjoy the concept of ‘tragedy’ as a game though.

  14. Anthony says:

    I’m still not convinced it needs a sequel, but I do loves me some Rapture.

    Even if the shoosting wasn’t 100% solid, the pipe puzzles sometimes infuriating, the moral choices more or less irrelevant and the last quarter of the game a bit lame in comparison to the rest, I still think it’s a great game. The art direction was second-to-none and aspects of the story quite awesome (up to and including the Shamalamadingdong “What a twist!”)

    Fort Frolic and Arcadia still rate as some of the best game levels ever in my book.

  15. Idle Threats & Bad Poetry says:

    I was interested to read in another interview or article how they were planning on bringing in people who wanted to represent even more philosophies from those who wanted control of Rapture, i.e., collectivism and whatnot. I’ve been wondering why people would still give a flying streak about that when the whole city has gone absolutely mad! “Oh, if I am Grand Poobah of Rapture, I will make sure the psychopathic freaks will have an even distribution of wealth and other resources.” It seems like a little too late for that when everything is in chaos.

    I’m sure I won’t be playing this game. I don’t have the budget for it, and my hardware probably couldn’t handle it.

  16. Pellicle says:

    A couple of choice quotes from the article:

    “And they, like us, saw potential in the combatorial expressions that the single-player supports but does not mandate.” (talking about whether the multi-player component was added due to market pressure)

    “This game is about coming from the philosophy of 2K Boston and even before that, about discrete results as following from meaningful and strongly differentiated choices. It’s just a less noisy system deliberately – and that’s because I hope that you actually notice the change to the story this time.” (talking about moral choice in the game)

    Am I the only person who thinks this guy has been to one too many marketing meetings and is subsequently talking ass? It certainly isn’t inspiring me with confidence that this game will be anyhting more than a cynical cash-in on a game that already sold-out a lot of it’s creativity in the first installment.

    Sorry, miserable jaded gamer here :D

    • Funky Badger says:

      So, because you don’t follow, he’s an ass?

    • Pellicle says:

      @ Funky Badger

      No, read what I said. And are you actually defending his use of nonsensical language? The only reason I can see to talk like that is to disguise the fact that you have nothing interesting to say.

    • Alec Meer says:

      I can assure you that he was engaging and entertaining company, and not ass-like at all.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Pellicle: He’s talking very precise, technical language actually.

      KG

    • Funky Badger says:

      Pellicle: you say non-sensical, everyone else says precise/technical.

      End result, rag on the guy because he doesn’t talk down to his audience?

    • Zero says:

      At risk of adding to this dogpile, I’d like to assure you that this is valid technical jargon and not marketing speak.

      I think what the guy was getting at with “combatorial expressions” was that the whole point of the plasmid/weapon duality was giving the player a pantload of solutions to any given problem. Where I might light a dude on fire and shoot at him with my machine gun while he runs away, you might go with the wrench/lightning whack, Alec might like throwing a decoy and setting tornado traps and proxy mines, Kieron might laugh senselessly as he launches bees into a room, and John might use telekinesis to launch objects at people.

      A “less noisy system” implies cutting of bullshit — there are people who think that inventory tetris is stupid, choosing a subset of weapons a hassle, and opening your inventory in the middle of combat to eat sixteen bags of chips in the blink of an eye patently absurd. The guy is using technical language to express a simple concept in the hope of removing ambiguity. And perhaps because he knows what he’s talking about.

  17. ChampionHyena says:

    Ignoring all the cranky wonkery that comes with every mention of Bioshock in any capacity, I have to point out that this interview is the first time (I think) I was told that UT co-conspirator Digital Extremes was handling the multiplayer. I’m actually pretty excited now.

  18. Starky says:

    Bioshock is fast becoming the new Deus Ex in that every time someone mentions Bioshock, someone re-installs Bioshock.

  19. Red Avatar says:

    I still think this would have made a much better RPG. I didn’t like Bioshock. I’ve tried to play it four times now and the same elements still kill it for me:

    – poor FPS combat
    – poor respawning model (behind you in a closed room for example)
    – poor balancing
    – plasmids were poorly implemented
    – no permanent death
    – linear design
    – no interaction with your environment
    – not enough variation in combat
    – a story that gets worse and worse as the game goes on
    – no inventory
    – a lot less depth than System Shock 2

    It’s a game with a great setting wasted on a mediocre FPS. I mean, let’s be honest here: this game has so little interaction and such basic combat, I don’t see the big deal. The story is given to you by audio tapes and the occasional voice you hear – talk about being disconnected. With proper combat I’d have enjoyed this a hell of a lot more. If only this had been an RPG in the vain of FO3 …

    • Pidesco says:

      …and it would suck more.

      As lackluster as Bioshock’s combat was it can’t really aspire to the complete brokenness that was VATS. That coupled with a variation of SPECIAL that’s empty and meaningless would turn Bioshock into a massive pit of suck.

      What Bioshock needed was to be System Shock in an underwater Art Deco city. Which is unsurprising, as it was originally designed to be just that, and changed mid development to meet focus group expectations.

    • Red Avatar says:

      I doubt it could suck more than the pathetic FPS system it has now. I wanted to feel like shooting my gun would blast a hole in the wall but instead it felt like I was shooting peas. Heck, any inventory which let you use usable stuff would have been an improvement. Even Deus Ex had a better combat model and that was the weak point of that entire game! They completely nerfed the game – the atmosphere is intact, yes, but that can’t carry a game of this size alone. Maybe people who are easily impressed love this game, but I don’t. 10/10 my ass – a 7/10 is being generous for me.

    • StarDrowned says:

      I’m not gonna get into disagreeing with you, I can tell by your complaints it would be a waste of time. Everyone has their own taste and is entitled to their own opinions. I just have a question.

      I have to ask: How is Deus Ex’s combat better? Deus Ex is one of my favourite games, but it’s combat is absolutely atrocious. You also compare it to Fallout 3, another game, I think most people will agree, that also has worse shooting mechanics than Bioshock. I don’t know about you, but to me, Bioshock’s combat actually felt like a shooter, which is more than could be said for FO3, Deus Ex, or SS2, or any other game it gets compared to. Of course, that’s just me. Not saying it’s a better game than any of those, mind you. Just better shooting.

      Also, you claim that having an inventory would somehow make it a better game. I would like to know how. It sounds very much like you just wanted Bioshock to be something that it had no intention of being.

      Most importantly, drop the “people who are easily impressed” bullshit, it makes you sound like a total elitist douche that thinks he’s some connoisseur that will only touch the finest of goods, when in reality he just doesn’t realize that some people simply like different things then him.

      One argument. The story does not get worse as you go on, but if anything seems to be a matter of taste, it’s the story. I’m just gonna say to each their own.

      Actually, fuck it. You said “Heck, any inventory which let you use usable stuff would have been an improvement” How so? That makes not a goddamn bit of sense.

      Also, how were the plasmids “implemented poorly?”

      I can believe people not enjoying the game, even hating it. Then, some people just don’t WANT to like something. I should have gotten a clue after the “easily impressed” bit.

    • Red Avatar says:

      Wow, where to start.

      I compared it to Deus Ex to show exactly how poor combat was. Hence the line “that was the weak point of that entire game”. The weapons felt weedy, the damage was unbalanced, they weren’t accurate nor fun to use and they didn’t even sound right. Not a single gun felt good to use. The excuse was that this is to make you feel weak – if anything is weak, it’s that poor excuse.

      It’s pretty funny that you can’t think of any reason why an inventory would add anything to the game – I thought it would be pretty obvious. It would let you pick up more kinds of items, of course. This is combined with me saying the game has a lack of interactivity. Look at STALKER: the inventory there did wonders. Weapons degraded, you could keep different kinds of ammo, keep food, special items to sell, etc. It adds depth to the game and gives you an extra reason to go explore. In Bioshock you had health, mana, ammo and money and that’s it! I felt like I was back in freaking Doom! Why can’t you pick up items that would help you create traps for example?

      And for the plasmids: they were too gimmicky, relied on artificially designed areas (like conveniently placed oil patches), and felt like overkill most of the time when a mere whack of the wrench did the same job. This was due to the splicers never really becoming a threat. After a while, you got into a routine as well – instead of the plasmids forcing you to think tactically, you could (and most would) just stick to the same (safe) tactics. Why use a blow torch to light a cigaret?

      I expected plasmids to add real depth to the game but they don’t and that was the biggest disappointment for me. For example: if you could pick up oil canisters (see why an inventory would be useful?) and then pour out the oil in a well placed spot, only to draw splicers near, then you could light it on fire. The result would be that YOU created traps when YOU wanted to and the end result would be a lot more satisfying than just stumbling upon an oil patch just lying around. As it is, the environment was too static and artificial in design.

      And trust me, I tried to like it. I mean, I was so foolish to believe the reviews that gave it such a high scores but neglected to mention all the flaws. For what I paid, I wanted to like it but I just couldn’t. The setting, decoration and background deserve a full 10/10 but that’s the only part that does. The rest is too basic and too much of a let down to be worth more than a 6-7/10. And I didn’t even mention the ridiculous difference between splicers and big daddies (the mosquito and elephant), the terrible terrible respawning, the scripted events, etc.

      Well, for console gamers, I’m sure this is a great shooter, but as a PC gamer, this felt like several steps backwards compared to System Shock, STALKER, Deus Ex, etc. Make the level design more open, add an inventory, get rid of the shoddy respawning, make the plasmids more vital and more tactical, balance out the damage models, etc. and I may pay Bioshock 2 a look.

    • StarDrowned says:

      Well, being as many of your complaints are a matter of taste, I’m not surprised you didn’t see the same complaints everywhere you looked.

      The inventory thing is still stupid in my mind, but I see what you mean by it at least. That would involve making a totally different game. I also doubt that it would add much. You compare it to STALKER, making me think once again that it just wasn’t the game you wanted. That’s cool. Bioshock is not designed to have anything to put in an inventory, thus an inventory would be useless. That’s a totally different beast, and would require a totally different game. An inventory and open-world? I don’t see not having these can be called “flaws.”

      The player respawn system is my least favourite aspect of the game, I’ll agree with you there. I also wish things like the oil patches were more “organic” instead of just waiting for you.

      I had no problem with any of weapons, though I could have used a few more. I don’t remember any “pea-shooter” feeling. Baddies respawning? Not a complaint from me. Hell, in the case of Bioshock, I encourage it. Not sure why everyone else has such an issue with it. I don’t want to feel like I’ve wiped out the whole population of Rapture. That’s just silly. Oh, they’re behind me? GOOD. Keeps me on my toes, instead of trudging forward, waiting for the next poor sap to walk into my crosshairs.

      The difference between splicers and big daddies was too much? I’ve never heard that complaint before, never thought I would, and don’t expect to hear it from too many other people again. How is that a complaint?

      I played on hard usually, and I used most the different plasmids pretty often, especially later in the game. Gimmicky? Artificially designed rooms to use them in? I’ll need more examples than the oil patches. Some of your complaints are tastes, others maybe slight exaggerations. Whatever, I don’t care.

      I think the sales and awards that Bioshock has enjoyed should make it clear enough that not everyone has the same taste as you.

      DO NOT go around repeatedly saying what score it SHOULD have gotten. That’s not for you to decide. It’s up to the reviewers. You don’t agree? That’s cool, maybe he thought it deserves the 10/10. Don’t like it? Become a reviewer so people can read how you felt. You can state what you would have given, that’s your opinion.. I don’t know what I’d personally give it, because the current rating system is completely fucked these days, and I honestly don’t give the tiniest of shits. Games can’t be summed up by a number out of ten.

      Every one of your posts on this topic appears to have some mention of the score being too high. Not possible, as you do not know what every other person playing felt when they played it.

      Accept that other people have taste, too, and stop shoving your opinions down peoples throats.

      To each his own.

      Oh, You never answered my first question. You repeated how Bioshock’s combat was bad, but not how Deus Ex’s can be considered better. Don’t bother answering now, please. It would be wasted. Actually, don’t bother posting a reply to this at all. I won’t be back to read because, frankly, and I mean no offense, I don’t care what you have to say.

      I said my piece. If any of this got through to you, awesome. The opinion bit, not the Bioshock bit, that is. If not, if you still think you KNOW the review score every game should get, and want to point out your opinions as if it’s unquestionable fact… Well, you can go fuck yourself.

    • Subject 706 says:

      Whats with the ULTRO-RAGE because some people don’t like Bioshock?

    • Premium User Badge

      oceanclub says:

      “The weapons felt weedy, the damage was unbalanced, they weren’t accurate nor fun to use and they didn’t even sound right. Not a single gun felt good to use”

      “Felt” is a subjective term.

      P.

    • Damien Stark says:

      @Subject 706

      This comment war that Alec tried to avoid all began long ago with “ULTRO-RAGE” from AIMs because so many people DID like Bioshock.

      Lots of reviewers gave it 5/5’s or 10/10’s, prompting a storm of “No inventory system! 10/10 is INCORRECT! You are not allowed to like it that much! You must be a dumb console player!”

      Half of them fixated on small details or subjective complaints, others were flat-out false. Here’s a choice section from Red Avatar above:
      “Weapons degraded, you could keep different kinds of ammo, keep food, special items to sell, etc… [snip] Why can’t you pick up items that would help you create traps for example?”

      Bioshock DOES feature “different kinds of ammo” – three for each weapon. How would selling stuff even make sense in this context? Who would you sell to? And why is dragging around a bag of vendor trash to sell inherently superior to simply finding cash? And I assume we’ve all just forgotten the inventory of parts that you can use to make stuff at the “U-Invent” stations?

      Why spend so much time and effort telling people that their favorable opinion of a game is WRONG, especially when they’re bound to know more about that game than you do?

  20. continuityfreak says:

    It probably shouldn’t by now, but it still depresses me when people can look at the whole of Bioshock and say things like “I wish there was an inventory so I could use usable stuff”.

    • EaterOfCheese says:

      It depresses me that people view *less* interactivity and *more* linearity as essential to good game design.

      /sadface

      Ultima 7!
      … Ultima Underworld!
      Thief!
      Deus Ex!
      System Shock 1 & 2!
      The game wot Arx could’ve been!

      Where you gone, dreams of my youth!

      … blargh, back to killing teh zombies

    • EaterOfCheese says:

      And oh yeah, Bioshock was ok. It was fun.

      But it wasn’t a spiritual successor to System Shock, unless by *spiritual* you mean *strip out cool gameplay, swap in awesome production values re: fx, sound, etc*.

    • Subject 706 says:

      Why the hell should it depress you? Being marketed as a spiritual sequel to System Shock, a lot of people expected y’know a certain interactivity in the games environments. One that Bioshock sorely lacked.

      It was not a truly bad game, but it I found it mediocre because of this and other things..

    • Damien Stark says:

      Because it’s like someone watching one of your favorite movies – one which you felt was a beautifully-shot epic tale with memorable plot twists and compelling characters – and their take on the movie is “hmmm, lead actor wasn’t tall enough.” or “It needed talking animals.”

      It just shows that the person you’re speaking to is so fixated on the details of what the game/movie isn’t, that they’ve completely missed what it is. There’s plenty of legitimate complaints about Bioshock, but if the primary thing that comes to mind is a check-box technical feature, then you weren’t really paying attention to what the game was trying to show you.

  21. Vinraith says:

    Bioshock, along with Fallout 3, is one of the greatest victims of expectation in recent memory. It’s a perfectly enjoyable corridor shooter with a neat atmosphere and a bit of limited character customizability, and in that much it succeeded marvelously. It is not, of course, a “proper” successor to System Shock 2 (nor could anything ever be, nostalgia and freshness are not reproducable phenomena), but is an entertaining game on its own merits.

    Would I like to see an open world RPG set in a Rapture-like setting? Hell yes, but that’s not what I expected from Bioshock. To those of you that apparently did, that really sucks for you (I know the feeling, I had the same issue with Sins of a Solar Empire). I’d say it’s probably time to let it go, though. Bioshock 2 isn’t going to be anymore the game you want than Bioshock 1 was, I’d write off the series and move on if I were you.

    For my part, I’m looking forward to the new installment.

    • bhlaab says:

      I think games should be held accountable for their shortcomings, not the players for noticing them.

    • Red Avatar says:

      When you give a game 10/10 and compare it to System Shock and then show trailers of what looks like sandbox action, how can you blame gamers for expecting more than a linear corridor shooter? And even as a shooter it’s weak. Monsters respawn right behind you, weapons feel wrong, damage is unbalanced, plasmids overpowered, etc. Rapture as a sandbox RPG would get my vote – it seems such a tremendous waste to waste such a great setting to such a basic game.

    • Vinraith says:

      @bhlaab and Red Avatar

      And I say again, it’s been 2 years and you’re still here talking about a game you don’t like. It’s not a game you enjoyed, the sequel certainly won’t be a game you enjoyed, isn’t it time to move on?

    • Funky Badger says:

      A lot of System Shock 2’s design would be slated today as dreadful and old-fashioned. Respawning enemies, weapon degredation, back & forth fetch missions, dreadful final third as small examples…

    • Bhazor says:

      Don’t forget the instant respawns when you die, the fact the second ship was almost identical to the first and those fucking suicide robots. Also I’m not sure but I’m pretty certain Shock 2 was just as linear as Bioshock (key card system, point-A-to-point-B-with-side-rooms level design) it would be interesting to see a footprint break down of both games just to see which has the larger playable area.

      Shock 2 was a great game. Bioshock was a great game.

    • CMaster says:

      @Funky Badger
      Those first two issues were in fact slated at the time, never mind today. Still, for some people those features worked. Many more not so much. I liked System Shock 2 more for how scary it was than anything else – the respawning monsters seemed a bit daft though. They respawned enough to be a mild ammo drain, but few enough and isolated enough to not actually be dangerous.

      That doesn’t excuse Bioshock for ceasing to be at all scary when I realised I could win any fight just by charging with the wrench, respawn and repeat. Big Daddies sort of lost their impact at this point.

      (Note – I’m not a Bioshock hater. I played it, enjoyed it enough to play through twice. I just found it an unbeleivably forgettable game. I remember almost nothing about it, I never think about it outside of when people post BS2 stuff. At which point I think “oh yeah. Ah well, not to fussed – whatever it was that got some people excited about BS1 missed me”)

    • Jeremy says:

      @bhlaab

      Should games be held responsible for their perceived shortcomings? I would say that wanting a game to have something it never claimed it would have, then being angry it’s not in the game, isn’t a rational argument. I’m sure a lot of people will complain when Starcraft 2 comes out that it’s nothing like Company of Heroes, or DoW2, or Men of War… or whatever, but that’s not necessarily a valid argument since it’s never claimed it would ever be those things. The point I’m making is, as gamers we tend to get mad when games aren’t what we want, when we can easily just move on and actually play a game we do like!

    • Vinraith says:

      @CMaster

      Am I the only person that played through Bioshock without ever respawning? When I died, I loaded, like I do in every other FPS game. It never even occurred to me to actually respawn and run back to the same spot to fight half-dead monsters. If I died, I’d approached the encounter wrong, and I needed to try again.

      I’m not normally one for the “if you don’t like feature X that makes the game easier, don’t use it” school because I generally find deliberately handicapping myself unsatisfying, but in this case I just played Bioshock like I would any other shooter with a quick save function and I think I enjoyed it far more for doing so.

  22. Deuteronomy says:

    [I’m reallly mean to people I don’t know!] And as far as I’m concerned Doom 3 was far better than Bioshock In every respect.

  23. nabeel says:

    The second paragraph intrigues me:

    “While he doesn’t think BioShock 2 is his magnum opus – he’s clearly already planning something bigger – this is his first time fully under the spotlight, and he seems determined to make the very best of it.”

    Could you elaborate on that, Alec? What gave you that impression?

  24. neems says:

    Well I just had an awesome contribution to this thread swallowed by the comments system (I suspect the CAPTCHA ate it). Lost for all time.

    I’m gonna go buy some Ugg boots.

  25. Daffs says:

    “My intent this time around is to inspire moral terror. Because you have free will, and because you are so central. My hope is that you become aware of that, and are creeped out by it”
    And like that, I’m excited about Bioshock 2, despite myself.
    That’s a really cool, games-only, idea.

  26. Alec Meer says:

    Note: wording your response to this interview as ‘Jordan Thomas is a insert-nasty-name-here’ means you are a lazy and unpleasant person. Try harder.

    • Damien Stark says:

      It sounds as though you’re daring the Internet to “try harder” at being unpleasant, rather than being lazy about it. This seems ill-advised.

  27. DK says:

    They failed utterly with everything bar making pretty levels and making a game can be run at all with Bioshock (with the exception of Fort Frolic).

    Their moral choices were none, their story was undermined by everything else and their completely failed to have any meaning for anything the player does.

    “See all those Splicers? That’s what happens when people use plasmids! – Here, have a shitton of plasmids and we’ll never mention any bad side effects.” Where was the players reflection in the pools of water or mirrors in bathrooms, that could have shown his physical descent as he uses plasmids?

    “Here, have hours of us explaining how horrible and irreversible being turned into a Big Daddy is. Now we’ll shove a drill into your throat. – Congratulations you’re a big daddy and have a drill through your throat. We’ll forget all of that right after that 10 minute escort quest.”

  28. CMaster says:

    All this talk of a lot more player agency makes BS2 sound more interesting.
    I have the feeling however that sadly the degree of agency may be “decide which stuff to shoot” but still, it’s getting somewhere.

    Why does nobody seem to embrace choice of action in the way that Deus Ex did?

  29. Muzman says:

    This game’s impossible to sell to me and I think it’s true for most PC gamers who didn’t like the first all that much. Everything they say about it is going to be stuff we got in the first game “There’s gonna be one two punches” and ” There’s gonna be big closed space fights” “There’s gonna be loads of new fun plasmids to creatively dismember people on convoluted ways.”
    Yeah. Didn’t really like any of those things. I might if I felt the mechanics held together better and the game lost that squidgy feel and bad use of audio that really distanced me from the experience. They aren’t going to talk about that sort of thing. Hell you can’t even tell if a game works for you from a review most of the time.
    But, of course, they were successful, so they’re going to assume their foundation is correct in most areas and re-sell ‘the same’ to people with some ‘but better!’. We who have plenty of problems, fundamental and otherwise aren’t really who they’re talking to (and he’s right when he says you can’t design by reacting to internet criticism as players can’t really know what elements generated what aspects of the experience, good or bad).
    Stating the obvious perhaps. I’m still curious enough to read what they say though (even though it doesn’t help). They’re my peeps (kinda). They’re Looking Glass’ grandchildren. Thomas himself is still the biggest selling point. Otherwise there’s little they’re likely to tell me that could bring me back. Hopefully there’s a demo or a steam free weekend or something.

  30. Huggster says:

    The creative lead designed Shalebridge Cradle in Thief 3, and Fort Frolic in Bioshock.
    Both of those levels were the best in both games.
    I think we can give him the benefit of the doubt? I still remember climbing the staircase in the Cradle even now.
    I don’t see why there is all the Bioshock hatin’. Its basically just SS2 reskinned with new tech and outstanding Art Direction. I thought it was a really good game and it deserved its acclaim. Admittedly they sold out a bit on some of the elements which they promised, but the atmosphere was great.
    The only time I felt very vulnerable and scared in Bioshock was the first or second Big Daddy fight. But it looks like they are aware of these facts …..
    Anyway they needed a more generic shooter like this to fund more stuff. I think the console market is more accepting or stealth elements nowadays to hopefully we will see a return of the sound design and sneaking present in the Thief series. Now there is a series where you REALLY felt vulnerable. Being chased by guards was very tense.

  31. James T says:

    There is a definite gameplay imbalance, but I’m baffled (and a little frightened) that someone would label the stance “It is not okay to murder little girls for your own benefit, we will not reward you for doing so” as “moral cowardice”

    I’d say it’s equally baffling and “a little frightening” (ie, not very) that anyone needs a videogame to tell them that murdering little girls is bad. I agree that Bioshock’s “stance” is not “moral cowardice” — it’s moral pointlessness.

    Although you claim there’s a “definite gameplay imbalance”, I must disagree; the game is extremely easy for any remotely capable FPS gamer, whether you kill children (or use vita-chambers — I didn’t) or not, and this is (one) criticism which is being made — you’ve simply chosen to frame it as “Why isn’t Bioshock rewarding me enough for killing little girls?”. An equally valid way to frame the scarce difference in difficulty could be: “Why isn’t Bioshock punishing me enough for killing little girls?” Well! That’s a good question: why aren’t they? So much for Irrational’s brave, maverick moral stance against child murder!

    But gameplay alone isn’t the only aspect of the “moral quandary” which is criticised; there’s the aesthetic aspect too (“why is it easier to do the morally obvious thing in this game?”). It seems to shock you that the question is being asked, so let me explain why (hint: it’s not because Bioshock’s critics love child murder).

    Providing an impetus for you to do an “evil” thing (ideally a strong impetus, as in, “you’re in for some deep shit if you DON’T do it”) creates a moral quandary, a tension between two drives, Moral quandaries are interesting; they can lead you to question yourself, and your assumptions. Simply giving the character an opportunity to kill children for no reason, on the other hand, is completely inane; it is uninteresting to anyone save idiots and tabloid news media (“Child-Murder Simulator Provides Sick Thrills to Perverts!”). It asks nothing, it challenges nothing, it says nothing. Philosophers find the “trolley problem” compelling because it presents a moral quandary. Bioshock’s moral aspect is essentially a “trolley problem”, and it looks like this: A runaway trolley is heading for a fork in the path, and you have control of the switch. If it goes down the right path, it will kill dozens of little girls, but you’ll make it to your bus. If it goes down the left path, it will harm no-one… but you’ll have to wait for the next bus.

    Do you see now why people might be disappointed that Bioshock’s moral quandary (easily one of the most publicised, prominent, buzz-generating elements of the game) isn’t a little more compelling?

    Lots of reviewers gave it 5/5’s or 10/10’s, prompting a storm of “No inventory system! 10/10 is INCORRECT! You are not allowed to like it that much! You must be a dumb console player!”

    Why spend so much time and effort telling people that their favorable opinion of a game is WRONG, especially when they’re bound to know more about that game than you do?

    You say that those who dislike the game are “bound to” know less about it than you (which is unlikely, since there’s very little depth to Bioshock, and ironic, considering you complain about STALKER and either haven’t played it or failed to understand it — items are not “inventory trash” if they actually HAVE A USE (as every single item does), and you’re free to drop/stash anything that is surplus to your immediate needs), and rail against a complete strawman (consisting of cherry-picked secondary criticisms made by Red Avatar, who quite reasonably criticises more fundamental aspects of the game, not the “talking animals” and “taller hero” tripe of your laughable film analogy); you’re in no position to complain about respect for others’ opinions. And you’ve made four posts railing against this fictional objectivist Bioshock-hating strawman, so I’m not sure you’re in any position to posture about how others spend their time and effort, either.

    This thread’s given me a great idea for a game mod; take Super Mario Bros, and insert a screen saying “Do you want to rape an old homeless lady? Y/N” inbetween stages; if you hit “Y”, the game shrinks you back to normal-Mario size at the start of the next stage (if you’re already at normal size, it won’t do anything). It will provide valuable new food for thought in the thorny ethical minefield that is bag-lady rape!