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Shacknews - Steve Watts
Word of a BioShock movie adaptation is starting to bubble up yet again. This time, the impetus is from Sony Pictures, which has registered three new domains related to the adaptation. This appears to be an effort to lock down the names, though, so once again we may not see anything come of it.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Nathan Grayson)

SOMA didn’t scare the scuba suit off me, but I did find a creeping sort of potential in its soaked-to-the-bone corridors. Amnesia: The Dark Descent 2 this ain’t. Or at least, it’s not aiming to be. Currently, it still feels a lot like a slower-paced, less-monster-packed Amnesia in a different (though still very traditionally survival-horror-y) setting, but Frictional creative director Thomas Grip has big plans. I spoke with him about how he hopes to evolve the game, inevitable comparisons to the Big Daddy of gaming’s small undersea pond, BioShock, why simple monster AI is better than more sophisticated options, the mundanity of death, and how SOMA’s been pretty profoundly influenced by indie mega-hits like Dear Esther and Gone Home.>

… [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

BioShock Infinite’s DLC, BioShock Infinite and BioShock 1 concludes with this second, longer, stealthier half of last November’s return to Rapture. It’s out now. >

You’ll hear no politics from me, though by God it’s tempting to correlate Burial At Sea Part 2′s status as a swansong for two BioShock universes with the recent, shock closure of Irrational. Whatever else there is to both tales, at least this concluding DLC for BioShock Infinite reverses the sense of decline we’ve seen since the original BioShock. Despite a multitude of sins it does leapfrog both Infinite and its own, irritatingly slight if visually flabbergasting Part 1. It also includes the single most unpleasant – and frankly needless with it – moment I’ve ever experienced in a videogame. … [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Irrational Games: a fond farewell">Shodan

Last week Ken Levine announced that Irrational Games as we know it is coming to an end. Most of the team are to be laid off as the studio that gave us System Shock 2, SWAT 4, Freedom Force and Bioshock shuts its doors. The world knows them as the Bioshock developers, but for PC players, they've offered much more. We gather to reflect on the end of a great studio and celebrate their output.

Tim Clark

Group senior editor

Having experienced several redundancies firsthand, I feel beholden to say that it will be a hugely traumatic time for those involved and that our first thoughts should be with them. Equally, having been there, I know that those sort of public expressions of sympathy, however well meaning, ultimately feel hollow and don t help you make the rent. But completely selfishly, as someone who plays and writes about videogames, who loved the original BioShock and with minor caveats also loved Infinite, I feel a sadness that we won t be any more visiting worlds cut from Irrational s cloth.

Whatever your issues with those games themes and mechanics, in terms of pure art design there are few destinations in the canon as startling and memorable as Rapture s watery mausoleum and Columbia s star-spangled inferno. If you believe, as I at least partially do, Kieron Gillen s idea that games writing makes us travel journalists reporting from imaginary places, then it s hard not to (selfishly) see the closure of Irrational as also being the destruction of worlds we ll now never get to explore.

Sam Roberts

Editor, PC Gamer UK

I think BioShock popularised the first-person shooter/RPG hybrid, non-cutscene storytelling and moral choices in games that, to me, is Irrational s legacy, getting developers to rethink the presentation of story or the depth of their combat systems. System Shock 2 introduced much of what made BioShock special, but for many of those millions of players entering Rapture, this was an entirely new phenomenon that broadened their perception of what interactive narrative could achieve.

Infinite continued that, for me, and like BioShock explored the kind of mature subject matter that is rarely touched upon by triple-A games. That Infinite was contentious is fine with me it s big, beautiful and incomprehensible, but worth talking about in a way that games so rarely are.

The people at Irrational have changed immeasurably over the years, of course, but what a legacy to have every one of its seven titles be lauded by players and the press. That moniker will always stand for quality. If you re mourning the studio, I recommend listening to the Irrational podcasts, which offer a fascinating cross-section of a studio loaded with talented people it s a real sadness that this culture no longer exists, and I wish the very best to those affected by the closure.

Tom Senior

Web editor

"I am winding down Irrational Games as you know it," Ken Levine wrote last Tuesday. Whether or not the Irrational name lives on in Levine's new small new endeavour seems moot. This will be the end of Irrational's output as we know it. Console players will know Irrational as the BioShock developers, but we knew them first as the team behind System Shock 2 and SWAT 4. Their first game a cyberpunk horror set in a drifting space hulk, complete with a manic rogue AI. Their last a blitz through a collapsing society in a floating city. In between they made a great co-op friend-tasering sim called SWAT 4, and a superb superhero adventure Freedom Force. And Tribes Vengeance. Man. It s painful to lose a studio with the imagination and boldness to build those worlds.

It's a sad fact that studios are downsized, moved and disbanded all the time, but Levine's message, in which he seems to take personal responsibility for the studio's downsizing, has made this a slightly unusual case. Overzealous corners of the internet jumped on the wording of the post in minutes. The idea of a great studio meeting its demise at the hands of an auteur gone mad is seductively simple, and travels well in 140 characters.

The real story is likely a more familiar one. The huge costs of blockbuster development continue to grow, and Infinite languished in development for many years. In the high-level staff changes, rumours of scrapped multiplayer modes and regular delays, there were hints at a fraught development process. In that scenario even millions of sales can deliver below-estimate profits. A few years back, 2K Marin were smushed into 2K Australia. Like any publisher, Take Two are happy to reform their brace of studios. But with Irrational breaking up, who will take over the Shock series?

It won't be Ken Levine. He's heading up a team of 15 to work on "highly replayable" games that are "narrative-driven." Perhaps he's taking notes from the success of former Irrational and 2K Marin designer Steve Gaynor and, formerly of 2K Marin, Karla Zimonja. With Johnnemann Nordhagen they founded the Fullbright Company, who turned around their narrative-driven debut game, Gone Home, in less than two years to critical success.

If market forces have put an end to Irrational, then the studio has suffered the same fate as Thief and System Shock developers, Looking Glass Studios. The parallels between the two stretch beyond their shared staff members. The design ethos that built System Shock has filtered into the BioShock games, and there's tremendous variety to the output of both studios. Irrational's demise is a blow, but those design ideas, and the flair and skill that went into the construction of the floating city of Columbia will continue to coarse through the industry, as the talent of Looking Glass and Ion Storm did in the 2000s. I'll remember them for the clinical blue-white corridors of the Von Braun, the disturbing scenes at the Fairfax residence in SWAT 4, and those tense first steps into Bioshock's lighthouse. We'll surely see flashes of Irrational's brilliance in many games to come.

Wes Fenlon

Features Editor

BioShock was a masterful maze of abandoned homes and once-thriving businesses, with the remnants of former lives told through scattered items and bodies and audio logs. It had personality, even when it was haunting. But nothing else in the game could compare to Fort Frolic, the weirdest, creepiest, funniest place in Rapture. It's easily my favorite level in BioShock, and one of the most evocative video game levels I've ever played. Sander Cohen's artistic presence permeates every corner of Fort Frolic he made that part of Rapture his canvas, and he painted it with madness.

Later in the game, the showdown with Andrew Ryan is BioShock's big thematic reveal. It says something very direct about how we play games, and player choice, and the dissonance between our thoughts and actions. But Fort Frolic has a subtle, perfect moment of dissonance of its own, when The Nutcracker's Waltz of the Flowers begins playing and Cohen's horribly disfigured, beautifully acrobatic Splicer ballerinas come for your life. I was in awe, and completely freaked, as I ran from the Splicers, the music crescendoed, and Cohen yelled "Smile! Smile!" in the background.

The dissonance between the Waltz's beauty and the game's horror that's the moment from BioShock that's going to stick with me forever, and it's on a shortlist of never-forget gaming memories for me. It's a shame that everyone at Irrational who collaborated to make that moment possible artists and animators and writers and sound designers won't have a chance to make another one together.

Phil Savage

Staff writer

It feels callous to look to the future when so many of the studio's staff will now be looking to secure their present. The thing I hope for is that, as Irrational's former employees move on to new things, the ideas and ambition that the studio strived to achieve will germinate throughout the industry. A lot of studios are going to be hiring some phenomenal talent, and I suspect a lot of new indie teams are about to appear as well. Both are an exciting prospect, because, while few development teams could boast the budget of late-era Irrational, the design-led philosophy has already paid dividends for smaller, more focused games.

It's telling that two of PC Gamer's favourite games of last year Gone Home and Card Hunter had former Irrational staff among their teams. One provided an engaging, character-led narrative through atmosphere and exploration, while the other deftly weaved two genres into a inventive and satisfying hybrid.

There's been plenty of speculation about whether the type of games Irrational make have a future. Really, it depends on whether you associate them with sprawling spectacle, or systemic diversity. I'd argue that Irrational's strength from System Shock 2 through to BioShock Infinite has been in the latter, and in the way their systems filtered through to the story and presentation. Those lessons can be applied whatever sized game someone's making.

Whether from Levine, his former staff, or other developers who are inspired by their games, Irrational's legacy will be felt for a long time to come.

Cory Banks

Managing Editor

I want to be angry about Irrational Games. I want someone to blame. I could be furious at Ken Levine, the studio s creative director and head honcho, who authored the press release revealing that Irrational as you know it was going away. How dare he fire 90 percent of the studio s staff, just so he can make smaller games? Because surely it was just that simple, right?

Or maybe I blame Take-Two Interactive. It s been speculated that BioShock Infinite, Irrational s final game, took so long to make and had such a troubled development period that the game s $4 million in sales isn t enough profit for the bigwigs. Maybe, says the Internet, Take-Two decided to pull the plug on the beloved studio, and kept Levine around because he s one of the few "name" developers left. Because that's what corporations do, right?

Maybe I just blame the dying Triple-A videogame, or retail shops that charge too much for games and drive customers away, or any number of other variables. Would that make me feel better?


The fact that Irrational Games is gone at least as we know it is sad, as is the fact that so many talented developers, engineers, producers, quality assurance testers, and other staff now face the uncertainty of knowing where their next paycheck is coming from. And I want to yell and scream and turn on Caps Lock and launch my fury out into the ether. But it won t help.

What does help, at least for me, is believing that Levine and Take-Two are doing everything they say to help the team that made BioShock Infinite find new jobs. So does remembering that talented people can move on and continue to make their art. And what will ease the immediate pain is going back to play the games that made me love Irrational in the first place: System Shock 2, Freedom Force, SWAT 4, BioShock. Instead of raging against the machines for transgressions I neither know to be true or even understand, I choose to remember and enjoy the games that will be Irrational's legacy. It's not the act of a revolutionary, but it's the best I've got.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Irrational Games “winding down,” Ken Levine starting smaller team within Take-Two">Levine

Today, Ken Levine announced that Irrational Games will be winding down as we know it after it releases the last piece of DLC for BioShock Infinite. Levine will be starting a smaller, "more entrepreneurial" endeavor at Take-Two, which also worked with him on the BioShock games. Unfortunately, this means Irrational will let go of all but 15 employees.

Levine co-founded Irrational Games seventeen years ago with Jon Chey and Rob Fermier. The studio has developed BioShock, BioShock Infinite, Freedom Force, SWAT 4, and others.

"Seventeen years is a long time to do any job, even the best one. And working with the incredible team at Irrational Games is indeed the best job I've ever had," Levine said in a message on Irrational's official site. "While I m deeply proud of what we've accomplished together, my passion has turned to making a different kind of game than we've done before. To meet the challenge ahead, I need to refocus my energy on a smaller team with a flatter structure and a more direct relationship with gamers. In many ways, it will be a return to how we started: a small team making games for the core gaming audience."

Levine said that in time he will announce a new endeavor, which will aim to make narrative-driven games for "core" gamers that reward multiple playthroughs, that focus on direct relationship with fans, and dedicated to delivering digital content exclusively.

The laid off members of Irrational will receive financial support, access to the office to put together their portfolios, and offered opportunities within Take-Two.

Levine also said that Irrational will do its best to update the site with an FAQ.
PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to BioShock Infinite – Burial At Sea: Episode 2 gets a spoilery behind-the-scenes video">levine

Ever since Irrational Games announced that its BioShock Infinite downloadable content would take place in Rapture, fans have speculated about how the worlds in the BioShock franchise could be connected. As we get ever closer to the release of Burial At Sea Episode 2, a new, very spoilery video starts to hint at answers while showing off a whole host of returning characters from both Rapture and Columbia.

Seriously, spoilers ahead. You've been warned.

The video, billed as a "behind the scenes" look at Episode 2, shows the sheer number of characters and returning voice actors we can look forward to. Courtnee Draper returns as Elizabeth, this time as the lead protagonist that players will control. Troy Baker is also back, as Infinite anti-hero Booker DeWitt. But many of the original actors from BioShock 1 will return as well, which means you can expect to see Andrew Ryan and Atlas in your adventures through Rapture.

Most interestingly, actress Kimberly Brooks will return in Episode Two as BioShock Infinite's Daisy Fitzroy. How Fitzroy makes it from Columbia's reality to Rapture isn't shown, but it's big news that she factors into the game.

We also get our first glimpse of the first-person view for Elizabeth, specifically in a shot of her watching an Andrew Ryan video while holding a pistol.

Irrational Creative Director Ken Levine says at the end of the video that fans will feel a "sense of completeness" at the end of Episode 2. Will this be the end of the BioShock story? We'll have to wait until March 25, when Episode 2 of Burial at Sea is available, before we can know for sure.

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to BioShock paraphernalia coming to Team Fortress 2">Biohats

Has the desire for hats, hats, delicious TF2 hats diminished over the last few years, or is the public's interest in digital head-adornment as strong as ever? I ask because Valve and Irrational are adding BioShock clobber to Team Fortress 2, and- hey, don't all load up the game at once. You'll need to buy BioShock Infinite's season pass on Steam to gain access to it, which I believe comes with a few pieces of downloadable content in addition to a very small selection of hats. Full details here.

The items are only available until the 25th of March - the date that Burial at Sea part 2 is scheduled to release - and comprise a Mister Bubbles doll, a George Washington and a Benjamin Franklin mask. It's not a whole lot of content, but if you still play TF2 and you already own a season pass, then free stuff is always nice, I guess. Here's a pic of that digital clobber, as modelled by the cast of TF2:

Shacknews - Nathaniel Hohl
On the surface, Gone Home doesn't seem to have much to do with BioShock. However, The Fullbright Company's Steve Gaynor revealed that a very tiny easter egg suggests that it is set in the same universe as Irrational's beloved Bioshock franchise--"in a totally non-litigious way," of course.

The nod takes the form of, funnily enough, a video game. BioShock 2's Minerva's Den DLC adventure was Gaynor also worked on, features an old video game titled "Spitfire". In Gone Home, a Super Nintendo game called "Super Spitfire" can be found while exploring the house.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

BioShock could have made a wonderful movie. But realistically it would never been a wonderful movie, even if plans for a Gore Verbinski-helmed adaptation of the Irrational’s opus hadn’t been abandoned. It could only have been an overload of CGI that sacrificed depth and tone for a visual onslaught. I’m sure of that, and I’m glad the movie didn’t happen. But the real reason it didn’t is that backers Universal were spooked by the commercial limpness of the Watchmen adaptation, taking it as a sign that there wasn’t enough of an audience for an R-rated sci-fi movie at the kind of budget Verbsinki demanded; he then wouldn’t agree to a much a lower one. A later attempt at a cheaper movie by 28 Weeks Later director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo was nixed by Ken Levine, who told Eurogamer that “I didn’t really see the match there.”

The movie did at least make it to concept art stage, a few examples of which have recently emerged, and depict new areas of Rapture planned for the big screen. (more…)

PC Gamer
title="Permanent Link to Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episode 1 hands-on: a return to Rapture before the fall">Burial at Sea 1

Booker DeWitt is slumped in his office, his numb stupor disturbed by a persistent knocking at the door. Historically for Booker, whatever's on the other side isn't going to be good news. And so it proves in Burial at Sea Episode 1, the first story based DLC for Bioshock Infinite. Its opening minutes follow the beats of a hardboiled detective novel. Moments later, the door swings open to reveal a girl, a case, and a whole ocean of trouble.

It's not that simple, of course. The girl is Elizabeth, the case is to find a missing child, and the ocean belongs to Rapture. If you've played Bioshock Infinite, you've probably got some questions right now. Questions like, "wha-?", "huh?", and "come again?" It's not that these characters couldn't exist in this city - Infinite's ending made sure of that - but it's a surprise to see Booker feeling so at home here, especially because this isn't some intra-dimensional knock-off Rapture. It's the Rapture, the one we knew and shot bees at, shown two years before Andrew Ryan was introduced to the business end of a 9-iron.

Such a setup could easily seem forced, but Burial at Sea is a proper follow-up to Bioshock Infinite's story - just one that happens to expand our perspective on one of the most iconic game worlds of recent years. "You could take any of these cool characters, stick them together, and there's some fan service there," says Burial at Sea's producer Don Roy about the plot, "but we wanted do it in a truly meaningful way, so that it stands on its own and is impactful."

And Burial at Sea is impactful, especially throughout its opening areas, where Booker and Elizabeth explore the commercial district of Rapture seeking an an invite to meet with one of the city's more illustrious residents. Here, the shops and corridors are packed with detail, providing insight into the workings of the Rapture before the fall. "I'm very excited to see if players and fans have that experience," says Roy. "One of the great things about Infinite was the introduction of the life in the world. So the narrative that we could tell through civilians just walking around and being there, so that is a great new tool in our toolbox that we were able to bring to Burial at Sea."

To call it "life" is a bit of a push. As in Infinite, Burial at Sea's Rapture feels more like an explorable stage - its actors dutifully perform their vignettes as you pass. But the hyper-real spectacle does sell the idea of a place where magic has become the norm - from the theatrical flourish of a Houdini splicer serving drinks to his customers, to the awkward silence that follows a line of Little Sisters. It's an effective snapshot of a growing excess that would of course result in Rapture's horrifying implosion.

Nowhere is this more apparent than when meeting Sander Cohen, one of the few returning characters from Bioshock 1. His encounter is the highlight of this short Part 1 campaign, and it effortlessly ties together ideas and plot strands from both Irrational Bioshocks. It also shines a light on Elizabeth's perception of Booker. Their relationship is colder and more formal throughout the story; a result of the fact that Booker doesn't know who Elizabeth is, and that Elizabeth absolutely knows who he is.

"I love it," says Roy of this new incarnation of Elizabeth, "because she's still truly evolving as a character. I'm interested to see how players react to her, because there is a stark difference. Her existence is now coloured by the violence that she's witnessed in Columbia - and partaken in - and the transformation at the end to be who she ultimately became. So she's coming into the situation with a purpose, but she's coloured by all those experiences."

Burial at Sea does switch pace from exploration to combat, which brings back another recurring Bioshock scenario - rooms full of crazed, magical psychopaths in need of killing. Burial at Sea sticks with Bioshock Infinite's combat system, tweaked and squashed to fit inside the rooms and corridors of Rapture. "That's one of those ones where everybody in the room is 'yeah, we know how to do this,'" says Roy, "And then you start building and you're like 'oh wait, we have to build this from the ground up.' But it's great, because you end up with the best work when you do that. Trying to piece together something is never going to be as good as holistically going, 'we're going to make this new, and we're going all in.'

"Having to rebalance and rework the systems so they fit Bioshock 1's structure - because it's Rapture, and it's hallways and it's more enclosed encounters - was a big challenge for the team. But so many great lessons learned, and we flexed muscles we hadn't in a long time. And you start getting it, and you start making good decisions about the amount of resources the player has, and one day you're playing and it's really fun. You're running for your life, and you're having to make hard decisions, but they're fun hard decisions to make."

Not everything transfers cleanly. Rapture's using Infinite's Vigors now, for instance, although the fan-designed Old Man Winter bottle does reintroduce one of Bioshock 1's powers. "That's the best case scenario," explains Roy. "We realise we need a plasmid, we know we'd like to have some functionality that was in Bio 1, and we have this thing show up. It's amazing, and it looks like it could have been done out of our studio, and it's compelling and awesome and when you see that poster you're like, 'I want that bottle'."

There's an attempt to explain the switch: a series of audiologs from Ryan's researcher Suchong, as he investigates the after-effects of Elizabeth's reality hopping. The reasoning behind the inclusion of Infinite's Skyhook, on the other hand is arbitrary and throwaway. Brief justifications aside, the combat system feels great in its new home. Where Infinite could overwhelm through numerous systems in large arenas, Burial at Sea's tighter space and lighter resources mean every element feels essential. You need Elizabeth's tears to buy you cover, Vigor traps to cut off possible flanking routes, and the scarce handful of bullets in your handful of guns. Fights feel scrappy and reactive in a way that Infinite never captured and, for all the grandness of the opening, it's this focus on scavenging, planning and scrambling through that provides the majority of the DLC's thrills.

If there's a downside, it's those thrills are packed into such a small package. At roughly ninety minutes, it's short, even for a DLC campaign, and ends with a cliffhanger to set up next year's Episode 2, in which you'll play as Elizabeth. Of that chapter, Don Roy was understandably cagey. "The one thing I will say is that she's very different from Booker. The exciting thing about doing that - the reason to do that - is to be able to see the world through her eyes. As we were talking through the possibilities, it became, 'well, we can't not do this'. It's what fans want, it's what we want."

Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea - Episode 1 is due out on November 12th.

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