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Thinking BioShock: From Tech to Philosophy
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Thinking BioShock: From Tech to Philosophy

August 8, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

How is that going to happen when everybody's working so separately?

CK: Well, that's why we have events like GDC; we have books out there; you actually see some companies in the industry, now, looking at sharing technologies, and saying, "Hey, this is not critical intellectual property! Let's just give it to you guys; we want to see better games, too!"

I hope that starts happening more.

CK: I think that's one of the big things I've learned in the games industry: that it's really not about the technology, it's about execution.

And so, one of the great things is that at 2K Boston, we have people who've been working together for upwards of 11 years now, and we have people who are really good at what they do, so we can take our time, and focus on executing. And that's where we really want to stand out from the crowd.

I keep wondering if we're finally going to get to that place where we could stop worrying so much about graphics, and the tech, and eventually -- I mean, getting to that place where it's like, "OK, now, really, finally, yes, we have to make the gameplay be the primary thing." It felt like in BioShock there was less emphasis on "everything has to have a billion polygons", versus "the universe has to feel like a place that you can be". So it felt like one of those games that was going in that direction. Do you think that we're getting there?

CK: I think we have to get there; that's the direction you have to go in. People are reaching that plane... You can always push technology further and further, but I think people are getting tired of shelling out money for something that can push a couple extra polygons. What they're excited about is giving them those new kinds of emotional experiences, that they haven't been able to have before.

So [that's] what we're excited about, and we're starting on our follow-up project, which unfortunately I can't tell you about, but... On the record, I guess what I'll say is, we were really excited about how we were able to take a really deep and complicated and mature style of gameplay, and bring it to a much wider audience, and we're thinking, now, on the next title, maybe we can push it a little farther.

Like, now that we've figured out how to introduce complex concepts in game style and player growth issues, why don't we start introducing more depth? Can we make these games deeper, and keep the universe as engrossing and enveloping as BioShock was, but give people more choice, and even more freedom? That's our challenge, and I can't wait to show you guys.

Making a Game Work for Multiple Players

Can you do that without alienating people like me?

CK: Well, I think it goes back to what we tried to do on BioShock, which was: provide a path for every style of gamer. Or as many as you can... You know, something that Ken talked about at his GDC talk in San Francisco, was that everything has to work on multiple levels.

So, you need something there for the hardcore story nerd who's going to be picking up every audio diary, and piecing together the back story; and then people like my friend, who I watched play, and he missed almost all of the audio logs, missed everything.

But he was having a wonderful time just going around and looking at everything, and getting into crazy encounters. It's a challenge. It's a challenge to focus and drive the gameplay forward, but it's a challenge we embrace.

I think the danger is with the slightly more casual player not knowing that casual path is. I'm walking by, and I see a grate, and I see an audio thing back there, it's like, "Oh, I've got to get that thing! How do I get there?" And then I'll spend a while figuring that out. And if those options are presented, I think it's quite difficult to know, whether I am biting off more than I can chew, by going after this thing that I can see. Or by trying to mix and match plasmids, and stuff like that.

CK: Well I think another thing you'll see... We have an engineer, working for a long time, like a year, on the system. Something that we designed from the start on BioShock is something that we call the Adaptive Training System; this is a system, it's almost like a mini AI in itself, and it sits there and it knows the things you can do in the world.

More importantly, it has a concept of what it thinks you should know how to do. And it watches you as you're playing, so say, you know, you don't know how to jump, so it says, "OK, by this time, the player should know how to jump. If he doesn't, prompt him. But if he does, don't waste his time."

And that watches you throughout the whole game, because -- frankly, these games are long, and people don't have a lot of time. You play it, you put it down, and some people can't remember the controls; a system should be there to help you move forward in that kind of situation. Or you forgot that you could hide from security cameras, or something like that.

We really don't like tutorials at all; we don't want some space marine saying, "ALRIGHT, LISTEN UP! THIS IS HOW YOU'RE GOING TO WALK!" I think people are tired of that.

What they want is to jump in, start playing, and have a little system that's there, a little friend that says, "Hey! I bet you didn't know about this... Or, you used to know about it! You could use it in this situation, and I notice that you haven't used it in the last twenty times you could, so I'm just going to give you a quick reminder."

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