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AusGamers BioShock: Infinite Developer Interview and Transcript
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 01:47pm 24/06/11 | Comments
At this year's E3, AusGamers had a chance to catch-up with BioShock: Infinite lead artist, Shawn Robertson, to grill him about Irrational's hotly anticipated game...

Watch the full video interview embedded above, or click here to stream it in HD.

AusGamers: Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to AusGamers. You’re here with Stephen Farrelly and I’m here with Shawn Robertson who is the Lead Artist on BioShock: Infinite.

We just saw the game; I was breathless; I had to sit down for a little while, then I came and found Shawn and I’m just going to grill him now a little bit about the art -- let’s start there; let’s start where your expertise lie. Where did all that inspiration come from? Because that was just insane.

Shawn Robertson: It came from the twisted minds back at Irrational. When we decided that we were going to work on another BioShock game it really felt like we’d said about all that we needed to say about Rapture and we wanted to think about a new place that we could tell our story.

Once we got into city in the sky and turn of the century and American idealism, it really started taking on a life of its own. Everybody just came together and everybody in the art team has been amazing at putting this thing together.

AusGamers: How big is the art team?

Shawn: Oh geez, put me on the spot... about twenty-two people; twenty-three people and that’s including animators, effects artists, technical artists.

AusGamers: Was it always the goal to basically have... I mean the original BioShock had some really cool corridor bits, but this is just so open and the vistas are just incredible. In every corner in that demo there was something to look at. I couldn’t write any notes because I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen!

Shawn: [laughs] Thank you. For sure, Columbia has definitely got to be a character in the game and we really want the player to have a sense of space. We really want them to feel like there’s more to explore; there’s always something new around that next corner. And what is the story that this environment’s telling me and this city is telling me.

So we definitely like to layer on the details and make sure that the player always feels somewhat like an archaeologist, like they’re discovering new things as they explore the city. Making it a character is definitely one of our highest goals.

AusGamers: In terms of the BioShock Universe: yesterday at the Sony press event, [Ken Levine] mentioned that there was another project on the side and I know you guys probably can’t talk about that, but he used the words BioShock Universe. How expansive is that for you guys? Was it that BioShock was there and you went “You know what? There’s so much more we could do with this alternate reality that we’ve created”?

Shawn: Right now we’re concentrating on finishing BioShock Infinite. I don’t want to get too deep into the BioShock Universe or franchise as a whole. Right now our team is pretty much committed to finishing BioShock Infinite and you can see from the demo that it’s going to be a huge task. So I don’t want to get too much into what’s coming down the pipe.

AusGamers: In terms of just inspiration -- because obviously you’re going for a twisted old theme -- where did you guys go to get that style?

Shawn: One of the first things you go to is the source. We had read a lot of books on the time period: Devil in the White City by Erik Larson got us excited about the Chicago World Fair of 1893. So we started looking at the Chicago World Fair of 1893, White City, American idealism, William McKinley [25th US President]. Getting around and up to 1912 and looking at the optimism that Americans had at that time, with all of this new technology coming on and that really gets our creative juices flowing and we start riffing on things like that.

We’re always asked about if certain art styles or movements affect us and really, for us, we like to go back to the source and look at actual photographs and things of the time and that gets us enough of where we need to go so we can start riffing on it.


AusGamers: Now in the demo, there was so much going on. Especially during the skirmish with the Vox Populi. How much of that are you in control of? Because it seemed.... like, I couldn’t tell whether the game was having any scripted moments or if that was completely...

Shawn: The skyline battle is completely open to the player -- that’s the demo’er having lots of practice and making sure he’s hitting the right things at the right time for that particular play-through. But if he missed a jump or if he did something else, the game would continue and we’d have a different play-through.

AusGamers: And I noticed that there’s a fair bit of dynamic conversation going on between the two main characters. Was that troublesome to deal with? Having such an expansive world and having such expansive combat?

Shawn: Certainly not... I wouldn’t call it troublesome but it’s definitely something that we take a lot of pride in and we’re going to put that under a very big microscope and make sure that it works and that the characters really feel like they’re talking to each other and that they’re in the same space.

As far as narrative goes, Irrational’s very proud about what we’ve accomplished narratively with our games and we want to continue that tradition.

AusGamers: Now the game was running on PS3 in there?

Shawn: I think it was running on PC.

AusGamers: In terms of PC, are we going to get more out of that from you guys? Is that going to be the better platform?

Shawn: No platform’s going to be the “better platform”. We certainly.. if you look at what we did with BioShock One when we released on Xbox and PC, we had different designers working on different elements for PC versus Xbox -- treating it like working to the strengths of each console. So we’re going to be releasing on PS3, Xbox and PC in 2012, so we’ll have different people thinking about the different strengths or weaknesses of each console.

AusGamers: Alright, well we’ll leave it there Shawn, but thanks so much, the game looks fantastic.

Shawn: Okay, awesome

AusGamers: Cheers mate.
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