Joystiq interview: BioShock 2

As much as the developers of BioShock 2 at 2K Marin were eager to show us their game in action, they were (quite pleasantly) even more eager to talk about it. Following the conclusion of our demo walkthrough, lead designer Zak McClendon, lead environment artist Hogarth De La Plante and lead level designer JP LeBreton opened the floor to questions from the half-dozen game journos in attendance.

Read on after the break for the team's take on revisiting the first game's mysteries, the intricacies of plasmid mixing, the return of Vita-Chambers and more.
The original BioShock was developed for the 360, PC and then, famously, a lot of teams worked together to port it to PS3. With BioShock 2, are you developing all the versions at 2K Marin?

Zak: We have a lot of help from a lot of different people. We have people in our Australian office who are helping even on the production level, building levels and stuff right now, as far as the workload, it's split between platforms, yeah. There's people, I think we're on three continents right now, but with people who are working on the game, in one way or another, and some of that is engineering workload for one platform or another, but it's kind of all mixed up in there. There's a lot of people working on it.

We're using the same engine. Most of the work of porting the engine to the PS3 has already been done, and now it's "try to get all of that stuff working."

Going into the sequel, it sounds like you weren't quite sure exactly what you wanted to do. Is it something where there is already an overarching story, or you're kind of going to play it by ear? Are there things being set up going into the future?

JP: It isn't a planned trilogy. We tried to avoid that because that ends up, you know like, "Okay, this is the ending of the second game," so it would be really disappointing to set up the third.

It's a big enough idea, and it's a weird enough, big enough world that we've got our hands full just trying to create a bunch of compelling new mysteries and develop them satisfactorily through the second game.

We're filling in story gaps in ways people who played the first game will find really, really fascinating.

Will you be going back and explaining some of the more mysterious aspects of the universe?

JP: It's a mix of trying to fill in some of the gaps from BioShock 1 and sort of develop them more in ways that people who played the first game will find really, really fascinating and adding new mystery and new mythology to the world that will surprise everyone regardless of how well you think you know Rapture. There definitely will be some things that we're just as big Rapture fanboys as anyone else and we want to develop and go more into in terms of just the locations you will visit and what you'll learn about the maxillary Rapture, where Big Daddies come from, things like that. Definitely a lot of that will be in the game.

Will the original, "O.G." big daddy be fighting against Big Daddies that still remain in Rapture from the first game?

JP: Absolutely, yeah. It may not have been apparent there [in the demo], but you still do have to fight a Big Daddy to get your own Little Sister, and that was one of the just strongest core gameplay elements of BioShock 1, which was fantastic. We wanted make sure that returned, so you will be fighting against some returning and some new Big Daddies.

So, what's been going on in Rapture in the time between the first game and the beginning of BioShock 2?

Zak: Basically, at the end of BioShock 1, the Little Sisters were gone. So Rapture's been pretty dead and falling apart in the intervening time. And something happens to kick start that ecology up again and sort of renews the cycle when the player first gets there.

Hogarth: The good thing about Rapture, when a player gets, after this approximate decade of time since the first game, is that ... The way I think of it is that's attained this weird equilibrium. There are still splicers and people who have been living down there, but the city is crumbling and people are gathering resources and managing to stay alive for a long time down there and that's reflected.

Tenenbaum is sort of your Atlas this time around, or so it seems. In the first game, obviously, Atlas turned out to ... have his own agenda, so naturally, when I see that Tenenbaum's guiding me, she's going to be up to something, too. She's kind of devious in the first game.

Zak: What do you mean specifically?

The fact that, you know, the twist was one of the hugest things ...

Zak: It was huge because it was a dramatic part of the story, but just that it was a twist isn't what's important about it. It's more important that we appropriately tell the story that we think is dramatically interesting.

One of the best parts of the original game was the subtext, the objectivism philosophy versus humanity. Are you guys exploring things like that in the sequel or ... ?

Zak: Definitely.

Hogarth: You can't get away from it in the world.

Are you adding anything to it or exploring some of the themes that were in the original game?

JP: Some of both, actually.

Zak: Yeah, Rapture is a place that crystallized out of Andrew Ryan's ethos. But even Fontaine's purely self-interested, con-man type game. There are other ideologies in the mix and I think that's going to be part of the world as you're seeing it in BioShock 2.

Hogarth: JP and I worked on the first one but Zak didn't. There are certain things in the world of Rapture that Zak finds interesting that probably other people on the other team didn't pay a lot of attention to. So you get a fresh, interesting perspective on the world and what's in it.

If you just ride on the coattails of "Yeah, it's objectivism again" it's not going to be very interesting for a lot of people who have played BioShock.

JP: But it's not one of the core things we know we have to do for BioShock, which is explore those kinds of issues and subtext. If you just ride on the coattails of "Yeah, it's objectivism again" it's not going to be very interesting for a lot of people who have played BioShock. There are a lot of new ideas and perspectives that important characters will be bringing to the game.

One of the things a lot of people really love about the first game was the soundtrack and the focused use of music. It was really haunting and amazing and added so much to it.

Hogarth: It's going to be all techno this time. (laughter)

Zak: Yeah, the same composer is doing the score and we're still figuring out our licensed music situation, but it's going to be all period [music].

JP: But it's a super important part of the BioShock sound scheme. Rapture is kind of a time capsule, even though it's been a few years, you're still hearing the old pretty haunting stuff. We're just looking for a variety of it.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.