Posts Tagged ‘2K-Boston’

What’s In A Name? Irrational Returns

Ahhh, that's better.

There’s power in legacy. It’s a power, a significance, this industry is only just old enough to offer. Which makes it peculiar that publishers so often seem determined to conceal it all with the incessant anonymisation of acquired studios. As Ubisoft, EA and 2K (among others) buy and rename studios, we’re left with a collection of studios that presumably present well on a Power Point demonstration in a shareholder meeting, but do little for allowing gamers to associate a particular studio with a particular legacy. I think the importance of this has been severely underestimated. We seek out the films from particular combinations of actors or directors, we buy the next book by the same author, and I think that very often people are loyal to studios. There has to be a huge audience who would have bought anything with the name “Irrational” on the box, who aren’t going to remember 2K franchise they were. Oh, wait, that example’s no good any more. No more are they 2K Boston! Game Informer reports they’re Irrational once again.

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Why BioShock Isn’t A 10/10 Game

So obviously spoilers. All the spoilers ever, completely ruining every aspect of the game. There’s not a sentence of this you should read before finishing what is a very good game. Spoilers. Spoilers. Have I mentioned, stuff here will spoil surprises? And ruin the game.

This isn’t a list of reasons why BioShock is a bad game. It isn’t. It’s an excellent game. This is a list of reasons why I think it doesn’t merit the highest score possible.

Close your eyes!

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2K Say: “Oops”

2K are scrabbling around, trying to make up for the bit of a whoopsie that represented BioShock’s PC launch. While a 360 player can indulge in such crazed madness as lending the game to their friends – gasp in horror and disgust – PC players were limited to two activations of their code, and three re-installs (meaning anyone with a typical crappy PC would be screwed in moments), as well as being scuppered by scrappy driver issues. To run the game with any success, you need beta drivers, and the game failed to come with the latest version of Direct X. Not pretty.

So in an effort to apologise, it seems that 2K are listening and responding to the moans. As of now, the activations have been raised to five, and the number of re-installs on the same machine is up to five. (Although why this should be limited at all is bewildering). They continue,

“As for other technical issues, we are bringing on a team of tech support that will be on the 2K forums 24/7 to help people resolve their technical issues. Our QA guys are in the offices and on the forums, too, reproducing issues and looking for workarounds and compiling information that they can put towards making you a patch and updating the knowledge base.”

There’s an updated FAQ, along with a fix to prevent yesterday’s collapse of the activation server, and they’re even addressing the widescreen woes.

“And as for widescreen, we also want to say we completely understand a user’s desire to augment their FOV. BioShock is a harrowing experience, but we don’t want anyone to feel limited (or motion sick!). So we are in the process of working on an official PC patch to give widescreen PC users a choice to expand their horizontal FOV, and are investigating creating a similar update for the 360.”

And finally, for those disappointed by the pathetic and irrelevant 3-track Moby single stuck in the collector’s edition purporting to be a “soundtrack”, they’ve even addressed this. You can download the 12-track score (composed by none other than the guy who wrote the A-Team theme) album everyone was likely expecting directly from The Cult Of Rapture here.

EDIT: Ken Levine is interviewed by Joystiq about Bioshock’s success and the issues. Relevant quote…

There have been some concerns that the copy protection was something nobody had ever seen before, except for the online procedure, there’s nothing different. There’s nothing wacky going on there, at some point we’ll move back from online activation. If people want to play BioShock ten years from now, they’ll be able to play it. We have a commitment from 2K that that is going to happen and we’ll hold them to that commitment and they’re serious about it, we’ll make that happen.

In other words, the online activation will be turned off eventually.

Rapture’s Required Reading

I love things like this. I’ve got into some of my favourite things via creators of things I’ve loved recommending them – following the trails to interesting places. Because if they’ve inspired something you’ve loved, they’ve got to be pretty good, yeah? That thought process has lead me to everything from Vonnegut to the Buzzcocks to Nethack.

Anyway, Gametap asked Ken Levine for his list of works which kept the Irrational team’s creative engines fully stoked up. For example…

Animal Farm: (Book, 1945)
“You really only need to read this one book to understand power and what it does to people; it’s the ultimate story of what happens when ideals slam into less than ideal people.”

Miller’s Crossing (Film, 1990)
“My favorite film of all time. It’s all dialogue, style, and more interconnected plot threads than you can possibly comprehend in one viewing; probably why I’ve seen it 20 times. A huge inspiration when trying to create the slang and language tonality of the city of Rapture.”

More in the full article including the music-inspiring Sweet and Lowdown, the Rand double-combo of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, the entire city of New York and Gilliam’s retro-sci-fi opus Brazil (For the record, which is in at least half of RPS’ staffs’ top 5 films ever).

2Kick in the teeth

It’s certainly an interesting way to reward a development team for completing what’s looking like a shoe-in for Game of the Year: annihilating their identity. Irrational Games, with their Gold announcement of Bioshock still fresh in the air, are being rubbed out of existence, with their two studios being renamed as 2K Boston and 2K Australia.

Let’s quote a little of the press release.

“Irrational Games is widely recognized as one of the most innovative development studios in the world,” said Christoph Hartmann, President of 2K. “Following their incredible efforts in bringing BioShock to life, we are proud to make the newly renamed Irrational Games studios a cornerstone of our game development family.”

Recognizing the exceptional talent and creative vision that have made Irrational Games one of the industry’s premier developers, 2K Games has fostered the studio’s growth by substantially investing in its people, allowing Irrational Games to almost double in size since the studio’s acquisition by 2K in 2005. With the upcoming release of BioShock – one of the year’s most hotly anticipated titles – 2K Boston and 2K Australia, with the backing of 2K Games, are raising the bar for forward-thinking game design.

This is interestingly timed. While still in production, it’s usual for the actual manuals to have been printed in advance… meaning that the game may be credited to Irrational rather than 2K Boston/Australia (Assuming it’s a relatively recent decision to rename them, which it’s probably not). Which would be nice. Bioshock is something which Irrational have been working towards for as long as they’ve existed. Having Bioshock with that credit would give the Irrational story an upbeat ending. Having it credited to 2k Boston… well, seems a little sad, a corporate body parasitising the work of a mass of talented creators.

Make no doubts – the enormous financial investment which 2K made in Irrational when they purchased them outright is something that lead to whatever qualities Bioshock possesses. Bioshock has had a lot of money spent on it, which as an independent team it’s unlikely Irrational would have been able to match. And – in terms of the support they’ve offered the game, how hard they’ve pushed it and the fact that they even decided that Bioshock was something for them, 2K deserve applause and credit.

Just not the credit.

It’s not really the end of Irrational’s story, of course. If Bioshock’s a success, they’ll be the Golden Children of 2K and have freedom to do interesting stuff. Or, at least, you hope they will – when you’re fully owned by a Publisher, you can always butt into someone in Management just being insane. It’s not the end of Irrational’s Story… it’s just the end of their history. In the same way that DMA Design became a ghost when they were renamed RockStar North (And that’s a very angry rant for another time), Irrational now are the answer to a trivia question for games fans in a “What were the makers of Bioshock previously known as?” sort of way.

With hindsight, the only really surprise is that 2K didn’t press their red-hot steely-brand into their new purchase’s flesh earlier. Irrational is a name which doesn’t actually carry any cachet with anyone outside a certain hardcore of gamer (in short: They’ve never had a MEGA HIT). So while Blizzard keep their name as it serves their corporate masters better to harness their reputation for sales, there’s no profit in allowing someone without that status to have implicit of independence. Even studios did have cachet are annihilated if their star falls after being purchased (Adieu Westwood, Origin, Bullfrog, and even eventually Maxis…).

The value is clear to a publisher. By a developer sharing the publisher’s name, it means that – to a casual audience- all the credit for their best games is applied to *all* their games. This game was made by 2K. Therefore, other games by 2K are probably also quite nifty. Try them! Try them all! It’s a sensible corporate move. But, for the art, for the history, for the humanity of the form, it really fucking stinks.