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Bioshock Franchise Pack
Ubisoft Montreal is making an effort to present players of the upcoming Watch Dogs with a more realistic depiction of hacking than usual. The studio behind Far Cry and Assassin’s Creed is recruiting help from internet security firm Kaspersky Lab to flesh out the “sexed-up” depiction of hacking found in, oh, every Hollywood movie ever.
“ really hardcore experts there on hacking. We send them some of our designs and we ask them feedback on it, and it's interesting to see what gets back. Sometimes they say, 'Yeah, that's possible, but change that word,' or, 'That's not the way it works,'" Watch Dogs Senior Producer Dominic Gray told Joystiq.
I'm overjoyed that the dreaded hacking minigame will be a restrained animal in Watch Dog’s futuristic Chicago setting. Unlike other games, hacking won’t be a word puzzle or a series of tubes that unlocks a secret room or a treasure chest full of gold. Hacking is Watch Dogs protagonist Aiden Pearce’s bread and butter, his main weapon in daily life. The challenge for players won’t be successfully beating a Frogger emulator, but in shooting a guard while they jump into an alley and hacked traffic lights stop traffic long enough for their explosives to go off.
"It's not about the minigame that will let me open the door, it's the fact that I'm making a plan,” Gray said. “I'm making a plan of how I'm going to chain hacking, shooting, traveling the city and driving to achieve an objective."
As someone who is routinely terrible at hacking minigames, this news could not be more welcome. A 100% true depiction of hacking, of course, probably wouldn’t make for a fun game, so I expect there to be plenty of liberties taken. Anything that keeps us out of Swordfish territory, though, can only make for a better game in the end.
Watch Dogs will be released this November. Check out our full preview here.
Shacknews - Steve Watts
Harmonix has gone through transitions today. The developer behind Rock Band and Dance Central has confirmed a small number of employees were let go, just as news hit that the studio had hired Zak McClendon, lead designer of BioShock 2.
"We can confirm that a small number of Harmonix employees were let go today," a Harmonix spokesperson told Polygon. "This decision was made due to shifting staffing priorities for Harmonix's multiple future projects." A source claims that the layoffs impacted 10 employees in all, and were typical of a development cycle drawing down. The company recently stopped development of both Rock Band and Dance Central DLC.
This came just as Superannuation noted that McClendon's LinkedIn profile now lists his title as "Design Director" at Harmonix. Michelle Mangio, formerly of Turbine, also started at Harmonix this week as director of quality assurance.
The picture of Harmonix's next game is still fuzzy, but getting clearer. We know that as of August, the company was seeking a combat designer, and next-gen job listings called for skill at telling an emotional story. Both of those seem up McClendon's alley from BioShock 2. Harmonix has three projects, and recently received venture capital from The Foundry Group.
Apr 22, 2013
Are mute heroes better than verbose heroes? Does a voice-acted player character infringe on your ability to put yourself into the story? In this week's debate, Logan says "Yes," while his character says nothing. He wants to be the character he’s playing, not merely control him, and that’s easier to do when the character is silent. T.J. had a professional voice actor say "No." He thinks giving verbalized emotions and mannerisms to your in-universe avatar makes him or her feel more real.
Read the debate below, continue it in the comments, and jump to the next page for opinions from the community. Logan, you have the floor:
Logan: BioShock’s Jack. Isaac Clarke from Dead Space. The little boy from Limbo. Portal’s Chell. Gordon Freeman. These are some of the most unforgettable characters I’ve ever played, and they all made their indelible impressions on me without speaking a single word. In fact, they made such an impression because they didn’t say a word. By remaining silent throughout, they gave me room to take over the role, to project myself into the game.
T.J.: All of the games you mentioned were unforgettable narratives. But everything memorable about them came from the environments, situations, and supporting casts. Gordon Freeman is a great example. What can you really say about him, as a person? I find Shepard’s inspirational speeches to the crew in the Mass Effect games far more stirring and memorable than almost anything I’ve experienced in a silent protagonist game. I was Shepard, just as much as I was Gordon. But I didn’t have the alienating element of not having a voice making me feel less like a grounded part of the setting.
Logan: Ooh, Shepard. That was cold. I’ll happily agree that some games are better off with fully written and voiced protagonists—and Shepard’s a perfect example. But it’s a different matter, I think, with first-person games in particular, where your thought processes animate the narrative: “OK, if I jump into a portal here, I’ll shoot out of the wall there and land over yonder.” In this way I’m woven into the story, as a product of my own imagination. If the character is talking, I’m listening to his or her thoughts—and they sort of overwrite my own. It can be great fun, but it’s a more passive experience.
T.J.: First-person shooters are probably one of the best venues for silent protagonists, but lets look at BioShock and BioShock Infinite. I definitely felt more engaged by Booker, who responded verbally to the action, the story twists, and the potent emotions expressed by Elizabeth... than I did by Jack, who didn’t so much as cough at the chaos and insanity around him.
Logan: But was the result that BioShock Infinite was a better game, or just that it delivered a traditional main character?
T.J.: Booker? Traditional? Did we play the same game? I mean, it’s a tough call to say which was out-and-out better, as there are a lot of factors to consider. But zooming in on the protagonist’s vocals (or lack thereof) as an added brushstroke on a complex canvas, Infinite displays a more vibrant palette.
Logan: Do you think that Half-Life 2, in retrospect, is an inferior game as a result of its silent protagonist?
T.J.: Half-Life 2 was great. Great enough that we gave it a 98. But imagine what it could have been like if Gordon had been given the opportunity to project himself onto his surroundings, with reactive astrophysics quips and emotional back-and-forth to play off of the memorable cast around him? We relate to characters in fiction that behave like people we know in the real world. So yeah, I’ll take that plunge: I think I would have bonded with Freeman more, and therefore had a superior experience, if he hadn't kept his lips sewn shut the whole way.
Logan: A scripted and voiced Gordon Freeman may or may not have been a memorable character, just like a scripted and voiced Chell from Portal might have been. But in a sense, that’s the problem! Because some of my best memories from games with silent protagonists are the memories of my own thoughts and actions. I remember staring at the foot of a splicer in BioShock and realizing that the flesh of her foot was molded into a heel. I was so grossed out that I made this unmanly noise, partway between a squeal and a scream. I remember getting orders shouted at me in FEAR and thinking, "No, why don’t you take point.” I’m glad these moments weren't preempted by scripted elements.
T.J.: You were staring at the Splicers’ feet? Man, in a real underwater, objectivist dystopia ruined by rampant genetic modification, you’d totally be “that one guy” who just stands there dumbfounded and gets sliced into 14 pieces.
Logan: No, I’d be the guy at Pinkberry with his mouth under the chocolate hazelnut nozzle going “Would you kindly pull the lever?” But my point is, I remember what I did and thought at moments throughout all of my favorite games, and those are experiences that are totally unique to me. And that’s at least part of why I love games so much—because of unique experiences like that.
T.J.: I see what you’re getting at. Likewise, a lot of my love for games is driven by their ability to tell the kinds of stories other media just aren’t equipped for. Silent protagonists take us further beyond the bounds of traditional narratives, accentuating the uniqueness of interactive storytelling. That being said, really good voiced protagonists—your Shepards, your Bookers, your Lee Everetts—never feel like a distraction from the mutated flesh pumps you come across. When the execution is right, they serve to enhance all of those things, and lend them insight and believability.
There’s nothing like being pulled out of the moment in Dragon Age: Origins when the flow of an intense conversation stops so the camera can cut to the speechless, distant expression of your seemingly-oblivious Grey Warden.
Logan: Oh yeah, there’s no question that voiced protagonists have their moments. But they’re not my moments, and those are the ones I enjoy the most in games. Valve seems to understand this intuitively, and that’s why it’s given us two of the most memorable characters in videogame history: because I think the developers deliberately build into their games moments that they all understand will be uniquely owned by the players; “a-ha!” moments when the solution to a puzzle suddenly snaps into focus, or narrative revelations like watching horseplay between Alyx and Dog that instantly tell you a lot about how she grew up. Voiced protagonists can give us wonderful characters; silent ones let me build my own.
That’s the debate! As always, these debates are exercises meant to reveal alternate viewpoints—sometimes including perspectives we wouldn’t normally explore—and cultivate discussion, so continue it in the comments, and jump to the next page for more opinions from the community.
@pcgamer it really depends on the writing. Some voiced characters are amazing, and some are whiny and annoying.— Ryan H (@kancer) April 19, 2013
@pcgamer In many cases, yes. I am forced to substitute the absence of a developed personality with my own words and thoughts. I like that.— Rocko (@Rockoman100) April 19, 2013
@pcgamer The volume of the protag doesn't matter, only the skill of the writer: hero voice is just one tool of many in a master writer's box— Jacob Dieffenbach (@dieffenbachj) April 19, 2013
@pcgamer The most interesting characters are the ones with a history, with regrets. Blank characters don't have that.— Devin White (@D_A_White) April 19, 2013
@pcgamer Most voiced characters seem to disappoint. I think silent ones express the storyline better through visuals which I prefer.— Casey Bavier (@clbavier) April 19, 2013
@pcgamer Definitely voiced. Having an NPC talk to you directly, then act as if your lack of response is totally normal feels eerily wrong.— Kirt Goodfellow (@_Kenomica) April 19, 2013
@pcgamer Silent! #YOLO— Michael Nader (@MNader92) April 19, 2013
Apr 20, 2013
“Let’s Reboot” takes a look back at a classic in need of a new outing or a beloved series gone stale and asks how it might be best redesigned or given a kick up the backside for today’s gaming audience. The Rules: Assume a free hand, and a decent budget, but realistic technology and expectations. This week’s sacred cow – the cyberpunk adventure from 1994 that sparked the 'Shock series.
Ken Levine. Kenny Lovin’. Kenbo Baggins. The Manly Jowelbeast. I recall an interview with King Divine, in which he said that System Shock 2 was not, contrary to all common sense, a perfectly-realised vision of the authors’ intent. That the monotonous corridors of System Shock 2’s Von Braun were as much a product of technical limitations, as the thundering powerhouse of the creativity behind it. Learning this, I had a brief teenage response. I felt like a Belieber trying to process Justin tweeting, “Did I say I love my fans? Naw. They’re dicks, and that includes hypothetical ones like Anne Frank. #worldwarPOOmorelike”
I wanted to defend SS2 against one of the guys who made it.
That’s an argument I’d probably lose, so let’s just reboot the bugger. Commence spoiler warning klaxon for System Shock 1, 2 and BioShock Infinite: AROOGA AROOGA AROOGA etc.
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A ROGUE AI LIKE SHODAN?
"What can we do with Shodan that hasn’t already been pre-empted by GLaDOS?"
You can hear Shodan’s tame, morality-restricted voice during the optional intro to System Shock 1. And at the risk of spoiling a 14-year-old game, at the end of System Shock 2, she collapses cyber and meat-spaces to occupy the body of Rebecca, turning her into a kind of hard-wired fusion of Tron’s MCP and Bonnie Tyler. One of the best moment of going back to SS1 is watching that optional intro, and hearing her voice change as she narrates the story of the hacker removing her morals.
But what can we do with Shodan that hasn’t already been pre-empted by GLaDOS’ tale of unexpected humanity, humility, and anti-redemption?
How not to do Shodan:
1. Law Of The West-style conversation simulator, in which Shodan and minor SS2 character Tommy share awkward chats as the AI discovers her new sexual urges;
2. Multiple body-swap comedy in which she learns how difficult it is to be a Californian teenager, a rock star, and a single mum;
3. Endlessly looping animated GIF of Shodan's face slowly appearing and disappearing from Anton Corbijn’s iconic 1981 photo of Kate Bush.
I'll bust more than your clouds mate
Look: it’s fine, but it’s not a video game.
So, why not make Shodan the playable character? She’s totemic enough to step around that pervasive bullshit about gamers not wanting to play women, in case we all start spontaneously trans-identifying, or something.
Plus, in the body of Rebecca, she’s a total unaugmented newcomer to meatspace, a perfect way to put her at the bottom of the skill tree. Stranded in her new body, her only access to computers would be hacking - a process that would be disgusting to her. Imagine having to use arthritic bones, where once was a sheer force of will.
"Potato-GLaDOS was sympathetic. Shodan's tale could be a study in psychopathy."
This might seem like I’m trying to turn System Shock into a comedy. Insane, ambitious evil is innately comical when it’s powerless - but that’s forgetting her sinister history with comedy. She was powerless in SS2. She needed you, and it actually was pretty funny that even then, she couldn't hold back the insults.
Besides, even Portal 2 didn't plunder the comedy mine of malevolent impotence too deeply. For potato-GLaDOS, it was a chance for sympathy. Shodan's tale could be a study in human psychopathy: there are real people who think like Shodan. The bastards run the world. And being a psychopath would reduce the sense of disconnect, when the inevitable “snap their spines, slashing blood across the screen” moment comes, as it probably must.
You’d need a mutual cause to give Shodan an air of possible redemption - and as the player, we’d need to believe there’s genuine conflict between the megalomaniac AI, and the new unaccustomed waves of hormones and humanity.
(Again, GLaDOS has taken the best line, with “Caroline deleted”. Note to self: ask Valve if System Shock can be part of the Half-Life multiverse. Half-Life 3, maybe. Cool? Cool.)
BUILD A GRAND UNIFYING THEORY OF *SHOCK
Bioshock Infinite’s Sea of Doors was a massive pull-back-to-reveal that can’t ever be matched in the Bioshock universe. You really get the feeling it was a final defiant piss on the franchise that was Irrational’s way of saying, “Oh, you just try another Bioshock 2.”
Is there room for another, crashing, pull back? Can we fold System Shock into the world of lighthouses, men, and doors? “There’s always a sentient thing, there's always a location. And space. That’s just how it works in this, even more generalised, multiverse.” Shodan collapses meat and cyber in the same way Elizabeth collapses branching universes - they could be distant relatives.
OK. Maybe not. In that case, I've got another idea:
OH MY GOD GUYS WHAT ABOUT A MINI-SERIES
Bioshock Infinite didn’t feel to me to be quite as important as it wanted to be. I’m aware that there are dozens of people more intelligent, sexy and taller than me who feel otherwise. But taken on plot alone, it felt like a Doctor Who season finale. This similarity includes the fact that my family still look at me like a demented adult baby because I tell them to shut up on Christmas day while we all watch a kid’s TV show. Only, you know, with this it's my choice of career.
Moving on - I would love the same prolonged sense of “what’s going on?” that Doctor Who gives. I loved the post-ending discussions of Bioshock Infinite more than I liked the actual ending. Imagine three months of constant System Shock speculation, forum chat, talking to strangers in ATM queues. I know the episodic thing is tough, and nowhere more so in the world of shooters. Half-Life, Sin, s'up. So why not stuff shooting - shall we just give System Shock to TellTale?
You want a real 1999 mode? In 1999, LucasArts had just made Grim Fandango.
"Cyberspace is a location with unrealised potential, a place where imagination is tangible."
WHERE IS IT SET?
Irrational have built a fantastical rod for their back with locations. But we've already got a location with unrealised potential, here. Cyberspace. A revamped Cyberspace could go further than the aesthetics of Monolith's Tron 2.0. It could be a place where imagination is tangible. And god knows, you could seed endless stuff in the environment when it's all conjured by the perception of an unreliable narrator. In fact, this could be the solution to the another annoying problem:
FIND THAT ALTERNATIVE TO AUDIOLOGS
I really don't like audiologs. I don't like the acting in them, because there's something about pretending to record their thoughts in this way that always rings hollow. And I don't like the fact that finding one creates an artificial zone of in-game safety, because you know the writers will get snippy if combat happens over their precious story.
(Either that, or they make it so the audiologs fade out as you walk away, and that can sod off twice as hard.)
OK: so I've been all over the place, here. But I've settled on this - a serialised TellTale adventure, in the vein of Walking Dead, that flips between the perspectives of a disempowered Shodan and a Rebecca finding her feet in Cyberspace. They're racing to Earth - Shodan to become a god, Rebecca to get her body back. Of course, many exciting things will happen on the way, but I'm not the details man. Someone start the Kickstarter and send me ten million when it’s the most popular game in the world. I'm off to eat a bunch of grapes.
Apr 11, 2013
This week’s debate asks whether or not a film adaptation of BioShock Infinite could work, or if it misses the point. "No," says the man from Michigan: Evan thinks that BioShock's themes and intricate plot don't suit a Hollywood reproduction. On the other side, Tyler doesn’t see why Infinite’s great story couldn’t become a great film, if all else goes well.
Read the debate below, continue it in the comments, and jump to the next page for opinions from the community. Evan, you have the floor:
Evan: I enjoy the wave of discussion that BioShock games inspire whenever they release. A lot of the comment threads and chatter about Infinite have circled around storytelling—whether Infinite’s intricate ending was a hit or a miss; whether Elizabeth was effective as a companion character; and whether Infinite would make a good film.
It’s an interesting idea, but I’m skeptical that BioShock Infinite: The Movie wouldn’t do anything other than soil our existing, pretty-darn-great opinion of the fiction.
Tyler: It might do that. It’s a very entertaining story told in a very entertaining way—interactively—and a movie can’t replicate that. But I’m devil’s advocate in this debate, and I say it might actually be a good movie.
Film is a different medium, so we’re talking about an adaptation. We’re talking about stripping away the game to see what’s left, and using that to build something new. And what is left? An intricate, fascinating story with characters I still want to know more about. That’s a fantastic place for a script to start, and with the right vision behind it, we’d get to experience something we love in a different way.
Evan: What would that film look like? I know it’s unfair to ask you spontaneously become a screenwriter, but what would a BioShock movie be about?
Tyler: I think we’d most likely see a new story in the “BioShock universe,” and that’s probably the best choice, but for the sake of argument I’ll test the idea of seeing Booker’s story, as we played it.
Obviously, the film would spend more time establishing Booker’s relationship with Elizabeth than showing him shooting dudes in the head. Actually, it might do a better job of that. The game’s cutscenes were fine, but Elizabeth was a very confused character when dynamically reacting to Booker’s violence. A film wouldn’t need to make that story concession, because it wouldn’t have to support gameplay.
Likewise, Comstock could be more intimidating, and all the foreshadowing could be better paced and less heavy-handed. Film is a one-sitting, two-or-so hour medium. It wouldn’t have to repeat itself to remain understandable and communicate its themes.
And when it comes to shooting dudes, imagine a choreographed skyline battle. Oh man, Evan, how cool would that be? Acrobatic ultraviolence is fun to play, but it’s also a helluva lot of fun to watch.
Evan: I think you’re underestimating how well BioShock’s good things would migrate onto film. So much of what happens hinges on a first-person perspective, on having control given and taken away during different moments. The Voxophones—being able to get on-demand exposition, essentially. Exploration. Think about the elegant way Infinite introduces Vigors with contextual, interactive carnival games. I feel like a film’s only solution to explaining something like Vigors—and they’d have to, right?—would be clumsy dialogue.
Tyler: It’s true that interactivity helps with exposition, but why couldn’t the film Booker play those same carnival games? And in this version, we could actually see his astonishment. In the game, he takes it all very matter of factly, I thought.
Regarding Voxophones—OK, you got me. Films are much shorter, and no one would accept watching Booker listen to audio logs. Every medium has limitations, strengths and weaknesses. I think the story could still be told, but we’d lose a portion of the backstory, the sense of being in a place at a point in time that you get from examining your surroundings in the game. The film medium would make up for that with the things it’s better suited for.
Evan: The idea of Film Booker just miming what you did as a player sounds awful. It undermines the meaning of those first impressions you have as a player. It gives me two slightly-different versions of the same events. And worst of all, it indicates to me that an Infinite movie at its best would just be a series of references.
The Watchmen film adaptation demonstrated that not every respected work of fiction should be forced onto film. The graphic novel was too long to make into a movie, and separating some of its thematic heart into a direct-to-DVD extra (Tales of the Black Freighter) was a clumsy solution that meant you were left to judge the movie itself based on how well its creators converted the frames and speech bubbles (it’s word for word, in some scenes) into moving pictures.
That’s not storytelling. It’s a paint-by-numbers exercise that lacks its own purpose, and it arises from film creators—understandably, to some extent—consecrating an original text that’s really, really good. And the alternative to rigid reproduction in instances like BioShock and Infinite isn’t any better, I think. You’d be deviating and telling a secondary story within a place like Columbia. I don’t think that’d be any more interesting, considering how integral Comstock, Booker and Elizabeth are to the setting and its downfall.
Tyler: I liked Watchmen, actually, but I was just giving an example of how interactivity isn’t wholly intertwined with Infinite’s story or the telling of it—of course I wouldn’t expect or want a film to mimic the game exactly. It should have its own purpose, and adaptations generally do.
We’re constantly telling and retelling the same stories in different ways. Are we bored of seeing adaptations of Much Ado About Nothing? Should Joss Whedon not have bothered with his new film?
Evan: I don’t buy it. An unusual amount of BioShock’s themes are contingent on interaction. Booker’s redemption and absolution are intertwined with your agency as a player, just as BioShock’s twist on free will depends on the creating the illusion of it.
I’m sorry that you liked Watchmen, but surely not every excellent work of fiction should be put into production as films, right? Game movies have an awful track record—what would you say is the best adaptation of a game?
Tyler: Uhh. I guess Prince of Persia wasn’t a total disaster? No, I can’t defend game adaptations. They’re mostly just awful.
But why is that? Is it that games can’t be adapted well, or is it that they haven’t been adapted well? There are tons of horrible book adaptations, but they’re attempted way more often than games, so we have a bigger sampling, and there are good ones in there.
A BioShock Infinite film could be terrible, but if we’re asking whether or not its story is well-suited for film, I think it is. It has a visually impressive setting, interesting characters, a fast-moving plot which takes sharp turns. Yes, its thematic connection to gaming would be lost, but it could turn the camera around on film in similar ways. I’d be interested to find out how it does that.
Evan: In the case of the original BioShock: if it was easy, it would’ve happened by now. What does it say that Ken Levine “killed” the most recent attempt at a BioShock film?
Tyler: It isn’t easy. Levine wanted Gore Verbinski’s direction and a bigger budget. He cares about how his creative work is adapted. He wants it meet certain standards, to respect his vision and introduce the vision of people he trusts. That makes total sense, and doesn’t suggest he hates the whole idea.
On that line of reasoning, what does it say that Gabe Newell is interested in collaborating with J.J. Abrams? I don’t love Abrams, personally, but is Newell known for bad creative decisions or being blasé about the official treatment of Valve’s characters and stories? It’s the opposite—he previously turned down Hollywood’s attempts to court Valve. Now he must see something he likes.
Evan: I think Valve’s fiercely protective approach to adaptations of its games is a great starting point. But yeah, part of my objection is based on the assumption that Hollywood People and focus testing would mutate BioShock into something that it isn’t. If Ken Levine thinks that a BioShock movie needs a $200 million budget, wouldn’t it by necessity need to make creative compromises to appeal to a large enough audience to be profitable? It’s an impossible situation: if $80 million isn’t enough to do it properly according to Irrational’s creative director, I can’t imagine they’d be able to retain full creative freedom and avoid making something that wasn’t watered-down at that level of fiscal risk.
Tyler: It would definitely mutate—it’s an adaptation and the script has to work for the medium—but I don’t see why it would necessarily mutate in a negative “watered-down by Hollywood” way. What’s to water down? It’s already a Hollywood-style story!
I don’t mean that in a bad way. What I mean is that as much as we might want to think we’re somehow above “mainstream entertainment,” Infinite is a gory, action-packed thriller. Yes, it has a complex plot and interesting themes, and so do some big-budget movies. I’m not talking about the latest Die Hard, obviously—I’m looking to Christopher Nolan as a good example. Can you tell me you wouldn’t be just a little excited if he were directing a BioShock film?
Evan: I’d be curious and concerned. The proposition of “two things I love... together!” is such a peanut-butter-and-chocolate way of thinking about creative projects, and I’d like to see gamers cut that s#*& out.
Tyler: Yeah, "this and this are good, so let's put them together" is not a viable creative or business strategy 99.9 percent of the time, but I didn't make Nolan my example just because I like him—he has experience with adaptations, and the kind of tone we might see in a BioShock film. I think Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, Ratatouille, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol) would also be a great choice of director.
Evan: I’m still skeptical that someone as talented as Bird or Nolan could overcome the inherent challenges of adapting something like BioShock. I think it’s important to remember that BioShock Infinite is distinct from successful movies like The Avengers or Batman—it isn’t a spacious, decades-old body of work that a writer could pick and choose what characters and story arcs to include.
But more fundamentally, I want to prompt you and our readers to really examine why they want a BioShock movie. Are we just curious about the act of judging a movie studio’s copy-paste job? Are we just crudely lobbying “I want more of something I liked!” and not thinking critically about how being a video game contributed to why we liked BioShock to begin with?
When Watchmen creator Alan Moore was asked how he felt about the graphic novel’s movie adaptation, he very cynically responded: “I find modern form to be quite bullying. It spoon-feeds us, which has the effect of watering down our collective cultural imagination. It is as if we are freshly hatched birds looking up with our mouths open waiting for Hollywood to feed us more regurgitated worms.”
Tyler: Alan Moore is a convenient figurehead for your argument, but I think that’s hyperbolic and cynical (which I guess is what I’d expect from Alan Moore, and I’ll enjoy the film he so despises despite him). You do make good points, though. A bit of the desire is curiosity, as seeing someone else’s interpretation of something we know intimately, like a game we’ve played multiple times, is inherently interesting. And I think we also want to see BioShock succeed in other media because we want to see something we care about attract a wider audience.
But there’s a purer desire, too: we want a film because the game was entertaining and thought-provoking, and we want more entertaining and thought-provoking things. And to get back to the original question, I think BioShock Infinite is plenty rich enough to make this hypothetical film good, or even great.
Now, do I think it would be good, and do I really want my version of events redacted or rephrased on a movie screen? For the sake of this debate, I plead the fifth.
That’s the debate! As always, these debates are exercises meant to reveal alternate viewpoints—sometimes including perspectives we wouldn't normally explore—and cultivate discussion, so continue it in the comments, and jump to the next page for more opinions from the community.
@pcgamer Would be the best movie ever! If created correctly anyway :)— James King (@iKingyx) April 10, 2013
@pcgamer I haven't finished it, but I would like to see a movie made of Rapture pre-Bioshock 1. I want to watch how the people get consumed.— Peter Nguyen (@AZNguyen) April 10, 2013
@pcgamer If you think it could you've missed the entire point of the game. The entire premise only works if it's a game.— Alan Royle (@adroyle) April 10, 2013
@pcgamer Booker vs. Gordon, even better— cdomega (@cdomega) April 10, 2013
@pcgamer Yes and no. It'd probably be a mediocre movie with an interesting premise. They'd have to develop the character cast a bit more.— Zach (@ZahaianGhost) April 10, 2013
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - firstname.lastname@example.org (Kieron Gillen)
Heavy Spoilers, obv. (more…)
Spoiler Alert! Don’t read this post or its comments unless you’ve finished BioShock Infinite. Experience it for yourself so you can come back and analyze it with us when you’re done. Don't even scroll down a little. There are screenshots.
Those of you still reading can appreciate why we say that—the ending needs to be experienced fresh, but not talking about it is excruciating, even when your friends are cupping their ears. We’ve been going back and forth about Infinite for a few days, and that conversation comes in two flavors: the technical exercise of untangling all the interdimensional spaghetti, and our critical response to it.
The best way to express that conversation is with the conversation itself, so Evan and Tyler have written out their key points in the dialog below. Evan, you have the floor:
Evan: Let’s talk this out, Tyler. I think it’s fair to call Infinite’s ending one of the most intricate ever. With multiple realities being a theme, mechanic, and plot device, there’s a bunch of inherent complexity to the story. Part of the fun is unraveling the ball of quantum yarn Irrational throws at you, but more simply: did you like the ending, and how it was executed?
Tyler: I did! Well, mostly. I've been untangling it for a couple days, and that it can be untangled is pleasing. It gives me the same kind of pleasure I get from solving logic problems or riddles. Thematically, though, it's less appealing.
Evan: Yeah, I feel similarly. I feel like Infinite’s appeal lies in its complexity more than the characters and the game’s theme, which were the strengths of the original BioShock. But before we dig into more analysis, why don’t we try and unpackage what happened?
Tyler: The Internet has already done some great detective work on this, with pretty graphs! Here’s the gist: After surviving Wounded Knee, Booker DeWitt can either be baptized or not baptized. If he’s baptized, he goes on to become Comstock and create Columbia. If he refuses, he becomes a degenerate drunk. They’re two sides of the same coin.
Now here’s the conflict: The Comstock version of Booker can’t have kids, but he can travel between dimensions, so he invades the dimension where unbaptized Booker exists and buys his daughter Anna, who he renames to Elizabeth. Booker goes back to reclaim her, but is caught in a loop in which he always fails. The loop is broken at the end, we presume, when Anna becomes a Time Lord and Booker returns to the baptism and dies in place of the version of him who would become Comstock.
Or not, we can’t be sure.
Evan: Bingo. It’s not a coincidence that Booker and Elizabeth break into the song “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” near the middle of the game. That song represents one of the central questions Infinite is posing—is it possible to make a change, to be absolved, to reverse a bad decision... like selling your daughter to “wipe away the debt,” as Booker does. It’s a pretty relatable theme—it’s human to make mistakes, and it’s human to fantasize about unmaking them.
Tyler: It’s a redemption story without a redemption, which makes it more tragic. The hero is the villain, even after Comstock is erased, because Booker is the same drunk who would’ve sold his own daughter (unless he somehow remembers his Columbia adventure, but I’d expect a plot-device nosebleed to take the place of that.)
This theme of dichotomies and sameness runs through the whole game. I took the pivotal baptism to mean that we can’t escape our past or wash it away. Whether or not he refuses, Booker is still a jackass. Even if we confront what we've done, it may still consume us.
Booker’s death in that scene meant to me that we can’t change the past, but we can try to change the future...and it really helps if we have a few interdimensional lighthouses. I don’t mean to sound glib. I didn't take it as a positive message, which is welcome. But how did you feel about how we got there?
Evan: A tiny thing that bugged me was the way the twist got telegraphed before you come face to face with Comstock. During the big airship battle at the end he says something along the lines of “Well, you always had a penchant for self-destruction,” which was too much of a wink and a nudge for me. I knew right then that Comstock was Booker.
Tyler: I finished the game at about 4 a.m., so a lot of that foreshadowing bounced off my eyelids. Looking back, it was pretty heavy handed, but I liked that line. It was fun to go “Ooooohhhh” when things started clicking. Figuring out that the Luteces are the same person, and that the coin flip at the beginning represents the number of loops, was neat.
Evan: So, yeah, I think we agree that the technical exercise of mapping out the plot is enjoyable. It reminds me of piecing together the underlying logic of Inception or Lost with my friends. But did we like the ending? Awful boss battle aside, I liked the original BioShock’s conclusion more. Hints are scattered throughout Infinite, but I didn’t like how much exposition and explanation was crammed into the final few minutes.
Tyler: Yes, absolutely. There’s this slow build during the first three-quarters of the game, where you know something is off, and then someone hits the fast-forward button and woosh, we’re traveling through time and space explaining everything to wrap it all up
Evan: Yeah, I wasn’t thrilled with that execution. It leaves you with questions that are fun to unwrap, but in the moment I felt slightly disappointed. Comstock is so central to the premise of the game, but he was weirdly underdeveloped, and that undermined the meaning of everything for me.
Comstock didn’t pester you in the way that Andrew Ryan did. He wasn’t as enigmatic or menacing. I didn’t feel let inside his head. I didn’t feel like I was being constantly watched. I’m not saying that they need to be perfect mirrors of one another in order to be good characters, but killing him felt like an eventuality, and Ryan’s death in BioShock was a dramatic surprise. Infinite also gives you less time after that climax to walk around the world with that blood on your hands.
Related to that, and at the risk of sounding completely cold, I’m not sure how much I cared about Elizabeth at the end. I think the insane asylum level made me care less about her; I had a hard time accepting that her personality just shifted into being so misantropic. I didn’t like how that level fed into her being a damsel in distress rather than the capable, human, gifted person.
Tyler: I disagree about the asylum. Elizabeth became helpless right as I was putting together that this had happened before—the message, to me, was that Booker is the helpless one.
But then, yeah, Comstock becomes a pawn—a willing victim who somehow underestimates Anna and the Luteces—and Anna becomes practically omnipotent, which I didn't like at all. She figures it all out so she can explain it to the player, but I’d have preferred to keep discovering the truth with her. It would have been great to see both Anna and Booker react to the revelation that Booker is her father. That would have been a character-driven scene, instead of a quantum physics-driven scene, which the entire ending is.
Evan: It makes me wonder what Infinite would’ve been like if it had fewer characters, or a mute protagonist. Anyway, what about that moment where you enter Rapture? It’s fan servicey, but I LOOOOVED it. Maybe I just miss being in that world.
Tyler: From the perspective of a fan, I love that the Rapture cameo lets me build theories—like, say, that Andrew Ryan is Booker DeWitt. Comstock is much older than Booker, so we already know that time is irrelevant and BioShock taking place later than Infinite doesn’t negate this theory.
But as we’ve established, that kind of speculative fun is only really fun after the fact, when I’m going back and forth with a friend like we are now.
Evan: We’re friends? Aww.
Yeah, being thrown into Rapture filled me with this intense curiosity about how far they were going to take that scene, that visit. And I think I would’ve liked the ending more if that moment were more than an empty room.
Tyler: I can’t deny that it made me a little giddy, but it reminded me I was playing a game, because all these different worlds and possibilities could have been interpreted to mean “all these different games and players.”
That’s interesting—turning the camera around and pointing it at the medium—but it was winking so hard it squished my relationship with Booker and Anna (if her becoming a god hadn't already) and made it about my relationship with the game, the series, and Ken Levine. Not that I don’t want to hug Ken Levine for making something so clearly meaningful to me.
But, there are technical issues, too. Some of the sound mixing was off—I couldn't hear half of what Ghost Mom was saying—and I can’t be the only one who started playing a Voxophone only to have an important line of dialog interrupt it, and then the sound of munching corpse food interrupt that. I know I should have taken it slower, but standing still and listening is hard when there’s so much to interact with.
Evan: Mmm, corpse food. But yeah, I think we’re coming to a similar conclusion: Infinite’s ending was cerebrally satisfying, and BioShock’s was emotionally manipulative in the best way possible and more interesting on the merits of its characters.
Tyler: Totally. Both have merits, and that’s a great point with which to conclude my critique of the execution. My biggest issue is that BioShock’s emotional narrative can be decoded by playing it naturally—however that may be for each individual—whereas Infinite is a mess if you don’t play it in a specific way. Listening to every Voxophone is essential if you want a fulfilling ending, and that’s not communicated well. There are people reading this because the credits rolled and they looked at their screens and said, “Uh, what?” I think that’s something storytellers want to avoid.
Evan: Yeah, there’s a ton of vital stuff that’s dropped in the Voxophones. There’s literally one called “The Source of Her Powers” from Lutece (“It would seem the universe does not like its peas mixed with its porridge”). Again, back to BioShock: I think it was clever for Irrational to give Rapture multiple mechanisms for the game to talk to the player: your radio, Rapture’s PA system, and audio diaries.
Tyler: Even so, whether it takes one long playthrough, two playthroughs, or reading a thread on NeoGAF, Infinite is a fantastic logic puzzle to figure out. And when you do get the complete story, the themes are there, if a bit overshadowed by all the wibbly wobbly timey wimey.
We expect BioShock to make us think and to reconfigure tropes, and Infinite does that despite the mechanical approach to narrative that tends to happen when you deal with interdimensional time travel. That’s very praise-worthy, and more than we’ve come to expect from games.
Evan: Yeah, shortcomings included, it’d be foolish not to celebrate an ambitious story like this. We need more of them. We need more big publishers to take creative risks and trust their designers to have big, insane dreams that are worthy of deconstructing and writing 2,000-word responses to.
BioShock Infinite lead Ken Levine addressed the ongoing debate about violence in games in an NPR interview (via GameSpot) yesterday. During the talk, Levine defended games by stating that using violence as a narrative device is as old as storytelling itself.
"Violence, for better or for worse, goes back to the dawn of narrative and is a part of the storyteller's toolkit," Levine said. Games, like all new things, are subject to extra scrutiny, he suggested, using his own childhood memories of nerding about in Dungeons & Dragons as an example.
"I wasn't a very popular kid," he explained. "I was a nerdy, little kid. And I didn't have friends because I wasn't very good at socializing. And I found Dungeons & Dragons—if you remember, back in the '70s there was this big human cry about Dungeons & Dragons; kids were going off and killing themselves and disappearing into caves. And that happened with comic books and that happened with rock and roll music.
"My point is, for me personally, games were a way around being 'that kid,'" he continued. "I'm not speaking as a scientist here. We can argue the science, but I'm not the best guy to do that."
Your virginal play-through of a story-driven game like BioShock Infinite is precious. And after finishing Infinite, I think Hard difficulty brings out its best aspects as an acrobatic, frantic shooter—especially if you play plenty of FPSes. Here's why I'd recommend starting the game on Hard.
If you are starting BioShock Infinite this week, read up on our settings suggestions, then let us know what you thought in our BioShock review comments. And when you're done, give 1999 mode a shot.
As it typically does for a major game launch, Nvidia has updated its GeForce card drivers to 314.22 for boosts in performance and stability. It claims recent titans BioShock Infinite and Tomb Raider both get a significant bump in frames-per-second, with the former increasing by 41 percent and the latter by an astonishing 71 percent.
Nvidia's article provides benchmark results and pretty green graph bars to scrutinize. Though the company's test hardware was an Intel i7-3960X and a GTX 680—a beefy setup most definitely on the high-end of priciness—Nvidia says the improvements apply to most other cards in the GTX family.
Other frame gains include an extra 30 percent for Civilization 5, 22 percent for Sniper Elite V2, and 12 percent for Sleeping Dogs. Smaller boosts are given to Batman: Arkham City, Battlefield 3, Borderlands 2, Black Ops 2, and Skyrim. Really, if you're playing nearly any graphics-heavy game from the past few years, and you're a GeForce user, pick up the drivers on the official website or through the useful GeForce Experience tool. It's green across the board.