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Spare Words: Bioshock 2

Happy change of two calendar digits, younglings! While I attempt to warm up my brain farm, let me distract you by throwing my aforementioned leftovers from my recent interview with Bioshock 2’s Jordan Thomas and Melissa Miller at you. They’ll only go to waste otherwise, which would prolong my inevitable torment in Writer Hell. Read on for their thoughts on heading up a new studio and why they don’t think the game’s divisive multiplayer is throwaway…

On being suddenly promoted to celebrity designer status

Thomas: Well, after the third Thief game, I was craving something I could wrap my hands around. Something about level design scratches an itch I’ve got that is about immediate and concrete results. I had this opportunity to work on Fort Frolic for the first game as a level designer.

So coming out of that, I was ready to return to leadership, I very much wanted to build a studio from scratch, and 2K made an offer I couldn’t refuse. Both to take this IP that I love so much and to make sure that the sequel was worthy of the name, and also to hand-pick the talent from all over the world to generate this new internal team.

On the multiplayer

Thomas: And also the sense of earning the later tonics and Plasmids that you get from participating in the sort of DIY consumer rewards program that is the fictional wrapper around multiplayer, and which are small refinements. As you get to know the multiplayer and get better and better, you might want a small tweak to this function or that, because you’re starting to become a very specialised creature – and so you can pick a loadout that requires that you’re later in the ranking structure, but is better suited to your particular style.

Melissa Miller, Senior Producer:
and it offers the opportunity to co-operate with other players, to layer your plasmids and choices with them. So if Jordan and I are on a team and I hit you on the other team with a Geyser Trap, you’d be a wet state – and maybe I don’t have Electro-bolt, but Jordan does. So once you’re in that wet state, he zaps you and that does more damage. And as Jordan was saying about the civil war setting, we weren’t just “hey, we’ve got multiplayer! Who cares!” It’s Bioshock – it needs to fit within the universe.

So in addition to just the setting, there’s actually a narrative backbone in terms of the ranking progress. You’re in this pyramid scheme scam run by Sinclair Solutions [Sinclair’s also a boss fight in the singleplayer], so you’ll get to see what a shady character he is by seeing what his company did. They take these innocent people in Rapture who are just civilians, and preying on their fear and getting to be basically human guinea pigs for plasmids and weapons that hadn’t made it to market yet. So he’s contributing to creating the Splicer population.

Thomas: Most exhaustive answer ever.

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Alec Meer

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Ancient co-founder of RPS. Long gone. Now mostly writes for rather than about videogames.

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