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BioShock Infinite Day One Developer Interview
Post by Dan @ 04:33am 13/08/10 | Comments
Following up the long-awwaited reveal of their new game, AusGamers hits Irrational Games' Director of Product Development, Tim Gerritson with some of the burning questions gamers likely have about the next offering from the creators of the accalimed BioShock.

AusGamers: Welcome back to AusGamers, we're here with Tim Gerritson, Director of Product Development at Irrational Games to talk about the newly revealed BioShock Infinite! First of all Tim, how relieved are you guys to be able to finally talk about the game after three years of secrecy and how hard was it to keep everyone in the team so quiet?

Tim Gerritson: That's it, we're incredibly relieved. It's been our baby for three years now and it's so hard when you've got a whole team of people who are so passionate and excited about what they do and day-in/day-out you're making cool stuff and challenging yourself; coming up with amazing things and not being able to talk about it or show it. So to finally be able to throw that out there for the world and let people see what we've been working on -- even just the tiniest glimpse that we did show last night is really a huge relief to us all.

AG: Irrational Games has deservingly built it's acclaim off the power of the narrative, now what has been the process of creating these video game stories and how many people have a hand in that process?

Tim Gerritson: Well at the end of BioShock One, we retained a large majority of the folks that worked on it. So we had that core team, but really this is a super-ambitious product so the first challenge for us was that we knew we were going to have to build a bigger team. Irrational has this really amazing culture that's developed over the years and we wanted to retain that culture but we had to double our size. That's never a very easy thing to do so we took it very slow with our approach to getting people who were ambitious; who didn't want to just take no for an answer; who wanted to challenge themselves and do something amazing, not just another sequel. My next game project in my carreer, we wanted people who were really going to dedicate themselves to make this what it is. Because that's really what the core of Irrational has always been about.

So we're very slow and very methodical, we've gone out and chosen some specific people. We've gotten other people that have come to us and we've looked at them very carefuly as we knew that we needed more tech people, more designers, more artists, more animators because this is a much more ambitions project. So that has consumed a lot of our time and actually to this point we still don't have our full staff because we've been so slow and methodical about it. We really beleive that we need to find the right people rather just filling seats.

AG: Alright, now back to the narrative, BioShock obviously borrowed from elements of System Shock 2 but Infinite is definitely blazing it's own trail. Now would you say there is any specific influences from other media -- books and movies?

Tim: Well as a studio, we are culture whores. We're people who consume all media: movies, books, television -- all of these are influences on us of course and we're dealing with a historical setting. The game isn't about the history, but it takes place within the history and our job -- what we try to do at Irrational -- is try to create a setting where people really like they are immersed in that world but don't get a lecture. It's not one of those games where you boot up and you get four pages of "This is what happened in 1902 and this is what happened in 1903". Instead, we just have you live it and it's interesting and it's cool. We want to get into the culture, not just the political history, but the societal history of what's going on.

So we looked at things like the Columbian Exposition of 1893, the White City which was this World's Fair event and that's the first big thing that really inspired us. That time setting was so amazing to us. We looked at advertising; What do people do when they get up in the morning? What do they do for entertainment? How do they interact socially? How are things sold and bought? All of these things influence us and our job really as entertainers -- not just making a game but making entertainment for people -- is to translate that into something where you just live it and see it and are a part of it, rather than us presenting it to you in some sort of lectural way.

This isn't a game about "oh you play in 1906, or 1912". This is game where you live it and you enjoy it and it's just cool in and of itself.

AG: In the past there's been collaborations between you guys and other 2K studios, like with the Canberra studio [2K Australia] on the original BioShock. Will any other studios have a hand in Infinite, or is this one just a Boston solo project?

Tim: This is a Boston solo project. It was hard for us because Canberra were really kindred spirits and really part of who we were as our original Irrational identity, but they've moved on and they're now working on Xcom. Losing those guys is very hard for us, because they really are our brothers and sisters down in Australia, but at the same time they want to go out to their own projects. And for us, we don't want this to be a project where we have lots of teams in lots of places. Irrational is really about making a really tight-knit experience and that is somewhat difficult to do that with multiple studios. Obviously we pulled it off with BioShock One, but for this one we're doing it all in Boston.

AG: Now the engine and everything about the new game Ken [Levine] mentioned as having been built from the ground up -- a complete restart since the original BioShock technology, so are there any plans to re-license that tech later on for use by others?

Tim: Well let me clarify that first. We are actually using Epic's Unreal Engine 3 as a basis. BioShock One and Two were based upon an older version of the Unreal Engine, the old 2.X engine if you want to get really nerdy. With this one, we've used Unreal 3 as a basis but we've gutted it essentially. We've got our own lighting system, we've built our own floating city system. One of the things we wanted was this realistic city to float; it actually had to be above the world it had to be precarious and give this real sense of vertigo and we wanted to tailor an engine that allowed us to do that without performance hits.

So we created this amazing piece of technology that allows us to literally move these islands of city in the sky around one another without a performance hit.

AG: Just on that note, several other upcoming FPS titles are making a point of shooting for 60 frames per second on the consoles now. Is Infinite likely to be among those?

Tim: Well we are still early in the process. This is our first "coming out" of the game and showing it to the world, sort of our debutante's ball saying "here we are" is what it is. So at this point, we're not getting into the really low level technical details --that's something that we'll leave for another day. With framerate though, we're a narrative game. You know, not a twitch shooter. So framerate is obviously important to us, we don't want it to feel stuttery or staggered, but at this point it's just too early for us to say "Oh yeah, we're definitely going to have this vs that" on a technical level.

AG: Ok, that's fair enough. Now it wasn't immediately obvious from the demo as to how the title "Infinite" actually fits into the storyline and the game. Can you explain how that and the "Project Icarus" codename fit into things?

Tim: Sure. Well for Project Icarus we wanted to create a project codename that maybe had some relation to the final game. The story of Icarus is the tale of the boy who flew too close to the sun and obviously being above the world was part of that theme. But really we wanted to make sure that we could work privately and secretly without people just guessing what the project was. BioShock Infinite -- as to how that came about: after BioShock one we dove right into this project and we felt that BioShock is so much more than just one location, one place and one time setting that really, there are infinite possibilities. There's no "sacred cows" with BioShock to us, so we decided "you know what? Screw it! We're gonna throw out the rules, kill the sacred cow and redefine what the nature of a BioShock game is".

We felt that we had so much more to say with BioShock and as we started coming up with concepts and we got the setting of the city in the sky -- a city built on dreams -- we decided that there really were infinite possibilities and the game really is about creating possibilities for players. Giving you so many more options and the setting really allows us to go into infinite spaces so that's really a declarative statement of what BioShock truly is. It's more than just the original Rapture. We felt we had really said what we wanted to say about Rapture and that going back to that, we'd never really be able to re-capture that sense of imagination and wonder that the original BioShock created.

To us a BioShock game is about that. It's about a setting that feels so real that you feel like you're there and that everything makes sense. It feels like a real place and to us, that's what Columbia is all about. It is this sense of wonderment about what is going on here. How it keeps the city afloat and who are these people? Why are they here? What are they doing? In the course of the game you're going to discover what infinite truly means.

AG: Right on. Now will there be a degree of parity across platforms from consoles to PC. Are there any features that have to be scaled back for the consoles?

Tim: No. We were really about creating our own creative dreams and we built an engine to support that. So we are definitely multi-platform. It's PlayStation 3, it's 360, it's PC and frankly we've not had to tailor things and we've not had to cut back. Performance wise we've created one unified game, one unified platform to send out to all three and the lighting system, the floating worlds tech was all built with that in mind.

AG: Are there any plans for a multiplayer component? Obviously the teaming up with Elizabeth and the power combos seems to lend itself to at least a kind of two-player cooperative situation?

Tim: Well let me clarify. With Elizabeth, she is a full-fledged character in the game. You cannot play her, but at the same time she's not a quick-time event. You don't just hit A to make Elizabeth dance. That wasn't our goal and not who were are as a studio. She is a dynamic character who is working with you. You have the whole emotional bond and we've set up the animation system so that you could have an emotional bond with her. She has this mysterious power that works really well with your own powers in ways that you need to learn and understand as the game moves forward. She will bring opportunities to you within the game, but you have to make a choice of whether you're going to use them.

If you noticed in the demo, she's winded at first when she uses that power to bring up the heap of metal pieces together then later on she has this bloody nose and she's laying on the ground. It takes a lot out of her to use her powers. So you as a player have to really choose. Do I use her this time or do I not? She brings something to you, it's not just a quick-time event. You have to make a decision. The game continues on if you say "I'm not going to use her" then you have to find another solution to the problem we bring up.

On the multiplayer question what I will say is that we as a studio believe that we should only ever bring something to market if we believe that it's going to have the same kind of impact that we had with our previous games. It's gotta be something new and fresh and impacting and say something really original. We really do not believe that you should just tack on a deathmatch or a capture the flag and just ship it. That's a waste of our time, the players are going to play that? There's a game that Ken loved last year and he went and checked out the multiplayer component a week after launch and six people were playing the multiplayer of this particular game. That's gotta be devastating for that team who put all that time, effort and money into it and if nobody cares; if it's just tacked on, it's not worth it to the team and not worth it to the fans.

So if we decide that we have something that is so amazing that we feel we need to bring it to the world then we'll have a multiplayer component. If we don't then we're not going to have one.

AG: Are there any plans for the auxiliary peripherals across the consoles like Xbox Kinect and PlayStation Move or the 3D capabilities of the systems?

Tim: We're not talking about the low-level technical details just yet. There's still plenty of time for that. I will say that we don't have any plans for Kinect or Move though. For us it was really not about creating a peripheral-based game or something that is specifically for this or that gadget. It was about let's create our creative vision first. So down the road, what peripherals will or won't be supported is something we'll get into. But for us now, it's about the creative vision first.

AG: Ok, well that's everything we have for now. Thanks so much, that was great.

Tim: Thank you, nice to see you.

BioShock Infinite is currently due "during calendar year 2012" for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. For more juicy details, check out AusGamers' in-depth preview from a first-hand account of the gameplay demo shown at the exclusive New York reveal event.

Latest Comments
Posted 09:49am 13/8/10
I have to wonder how much of the concept is based on Laputa.

Should be awesome, looking foward to seeing more.
Posted 03:59pm 13/8/10
Sounds really promising. I love their stance on multiplayer, wish more developers would look at it that way instead of just throwing in some token multiplayer nobody gives a s*** about so they have another bullet point for the back of the box.
Posted 06:27pm 13/8/10
City in the clouds is more interesting, might try this one... maybe.
Posted 11:56pm 14/8/10
So far I picked out of that, high chance of 3D tech, not going to be a big graphics power house, thus why they can run it the same on all 3 consoles and no multi-player plans yet.

I don't see how he can say all that stuff about not wanting to tack on a multi-player experience and then go to say that if they feel it necessary they will put it in, games been in development for like 3 years? Would be a bit late to add any kind of multi-player that didn't feel tacked on.
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