Previews of "BioShock 2" are circulating the Internet. Beyond the summaries you can find elsewhere, here are some answers MTV Multiplayer got regarding some key sequel details.
Recent press demos of "BioShock 2" showed off the several ways that the upcoming 2009 first-person shooter is different than its 2007 predecessor: it presents a nearly decade-later return to the underwater city of Rapture, starring the player as the first Big Daddy in an adventure that pits him against a mysterious Little Sister who has adopted the mechanical mantle of Big Sister. The gameplay has changed. The player can dual-wield and mix an arsenal of tiered Plasmid powers while choosing to harvest or adopt Little Sisters to help in one's quest for Adam energy.
That's what was shown in the game's demonstration to reporters. But what about those two different endings of the first game? And why is this sequel even being made?
During a demo in New York City for "BioShock 2" I was able to pepper the game's senior producer at development studio 2K Marin, Melissa Miller, about these things. (Development studio 2K Australia is also working on the game)
"These people love this world."
Let's start with the ending, as it does affect the idea that a sequel could even begin. although "BioShock" presented two distinct endings based on the moral behavior of the player in the game, "BioShock 2" will work with both. Miller said the team worked hard "to not contradict either of the endings of the game." The events of the new game will be set up to allow the possibility that, no matter how your first "BioShock" game ended, the right characters will have managed to survive to get the new game going.
A more fundamental question may be why, other than for business reasons, a sequel is even being made to "BioShock," a game that to some gamers felt satisfying and complete. Miller said that the "BioShock" developers, like most game creators, see room for improvement in some flaws in the first game and simply have too many ideas for the new game to hold back. "These people love this world," she said. "They love playing in it. And they love to make new things in this world." When asked what room for improvement the team saw, Miller offered the idea that the game presents the wish fulfillment of playing as the Big Daddy, an experience not fully explored in the original game. And maybe the new game could improve the one widely-acknowledged flaw of the last game, it's tonally odd super-villain final boss battle? "We learned a lesson about that," was all she'd say.
Miller stressed that the game is being designed to retain and celebrate the things players most enjoyed about the first game. "BioShock 2" is engineered, for example, to allow players tactical flexibility, this time as they try to protect an adopted Little Sister as she gathers Adam while a dynamically-generated assault from Splicer enemies commences. Mixing Plasmids, triggering traps and other strategies are back and continue to be left to the player to fully explore. "We don't force players to use one toolset," she said. "We like to think that's what works about 'BioShock.'"
"We don't force players to use one toolset. We like to think that's what works about 'BioShock.'"
The thinking will be back too. While "BioShock" creative director Ken Levine is not overseeing this new game, Miller noted that his successor, Jordan Thomas, himself a "BioShock" veteran, is both prepared to re-visit some of the Randian philosophy from the first game and is "excited about exploring other ideologies."
Finally, I asked a question about virtual life and death. The first game's Vita-Chambers allowed defeated players to re-spawn and then re-engage with enemies. The re-engaged enemies retained the damage incurred from the player's previous assaults. A downloadable update allowed players to raise the difficulty by turning the Vita-Chambers off. Miller said that "BioShock 2" will ship with the base functionality to turn the Vita-Chambers off. She added that players who use the Vita-Chambers will find that the game world "will be different" when players are revived, suggesting that enemy health will be restored.
The original game set a high standard, and while game sequels are often improvements on their predecessors, the developers at 2K Marin and 2k Australia are just beginning what will be a lengthy campaign to convince players that their sequel can top one of the best-reviewed games of the generation. They have no easy task, but their early showing is, at least, a strong one.
There will be plenty more to learn about "BioShock 2" in the coming months. The game is slated to ship for PC, PS3 and the Xbox 360 later this year.