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Irrational Games

Irrational Games closing photo
Levine forming smaller team focused on highly-replayable narrative-driven games
"I am winding down Irrational Games as you know it," wrote co-founder Ken Levine in a post that comes as an utter shock. "I'll be starting a smaller, more entrepreneurial endeavor at Take-Two. That is going to mean ...

BioShock Infinite photo
BioShock Infinite

Burial at Sea video reintroduces some familiar faces


Steven's better with the sea puns
Feb 12
// Brett Makedonski
It's not often that I post a video and recommend that nobody actually watch it, but here we are. Just like the preview clip from two weeks ago, this Burial at Sea: Episode Two behind-the-scenes video is full of spoilers...
Hats! photo
Hats!

BioShock themed goodies come to Team Fortress 2


Free with BioShock: Infinite Season Pass
Feb 09
// Wesley Ruscher
Who doesn't love a shiny new hat, or two, to wear during their Team Fortress 2 shenanigans? Well if you've been looking to spruce up the old noggin with a little BioShock love, then Irrational Games has a treat for you.....
Burial at Sea photo
Burial at Sea

The Burial at Sea: Episode Two trailer might ruin the fun


It gets a little spoilery
Jan 28
// Brett Makedonski
So, I have about a million things that I want to say about this BioShock Infinite Burial at Sea: Episode Two trailer, but can't for running the risk of spoiling it for those that want the purest experience possible. If ...
BioShock Infinite photo
BioShock Infinite

The Tea Party doesn't understand BioShock Infinite


Conservative group confuses satire with propaganda
Dec 16
// Alessandro Fillari
Satire: the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. It's not every day when an ultra-c...

Review: BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episode One

Nov 11 // Chris Carter
BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episode One (PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Developer: Irrational GamesPublisher: 2K GamesReleased: November 12, 2013MSRP: $14.99 (included in Season Pass) The setup is as simple as it gets -- in a seemingly alternate universe, another version of Elizabeth comes to the office of Booker Dewitt asking him to find a child named Sally. After "pressing X to light cigarette," bada bing bada boom, you'll jump into Rapture rather quickly -- as in, less than a minute or so, as it's literally right outside your door. At first, Burial's rendition of the classic underwater dystopia feels like a different Rapture. This time around, it feels like an actual community, rather than a series of desecrated halls with Disney robots spouting classist social commentary. But that feeling is fleeting, sadly. There is no "God Only Knows" moment of clarity like in Infinite. You simply get to see a brief glimpse of Rapture with regular people in it, doing regular things, augmented by predictable discussions like "What if the Big Daddies rebelled?" and other half-hearted fanservice teases. The facade quickly devolves even further after the first quest (a series of errands), and you embark upon the real bulk of the game -- the messed up part of Rapture we all know so well on the eve of its collapse. At first, you may feel excited at the prospect of returning to these hallowed halls, eager to see how all of your old favorites are doing. But you'd be extremely disappointed once you dive in, as there is very little here to placate you outside of the mere existence of Rapture in the DLC. Burial at Sea is content with namedropping characters from BioShock, but not actually providing anything substantial outside of a five-minute conversation with Sander Cohen, followed by more namedropping. [embed]264966:51208:0[/embed] It knows its audience, and it's very much fanservice from an environmental perspective, since much of the selling point is the mere return to Rapture. Not much happens as you're spelunking through it, however, because you're basically just fighting splicers (again) until you reach the poignant conclusion. Eventually, Burial lets you know that it is intertwined with the main story (you should complete Infinite first to fully understand the end of the DLC), but it isn't until this brief moment that anything important actually happens. What is neat about Burial is the juxtaposition of Booker knowing intimate details about Rapture while Elizabeth pretends to know nothing. There's one part specifically where she explains her wormhole power as a "new Plasmid," and you can almost feel the shiftiness of her eyes in her voice. I would have loved more exploration of these themes, but there's one major problem: this Elizabeth just isn't compelling enough. Period. Don't be fooled by the "noir" setup in the intro -- that theme is not carried into the DLC proper. Burial's version of Elizabeth is less endearing, less interesting, and gives you no real reason to care about her place in the narrative. She'll still throw you health, EVE, and ammo just like Infinite, but now more than ever she feels like a delivery system rather than her own entity. With Infinite, I was always left guessing at how Elizabeth would react to a certain situation, and I'd feel like I was in the same moment right alongside of her -- sharing those experiences. But in Burial, she conversely feels predictable and soulless, adding nothing more to the plot than fundamental intrigue and a new outfit. Gameplay-wise I think Burial is a step in the right direction for a potential Bioshock 4, as it feels like a slightly refined Infinite. The weapon wheel returns (thank goodness), allowing you to switch between any given tool in your arsenal at any time, rather than pointlessly limiting you to two tools. The Skyhook is also back in the exact same capacity, but this time it's called an "Air Grabber," as to fit into the Rapture-centric lore. A new weapon called the Radar Range is extremely fun to use, and functions like a high-powered microwave laser gun, adding a bit of silliness to the proceedings. The design is tweaked as well in Burial, with a mostly positive outcome. In the original BioShock combat felt unique, in the sense that one Big Daddy could be the difference between life and death. But with Infinite, forced wave-based arena combat sections often made a mockery of the original's design, seemingly doing nothing more than padding the game for the sake of it. In that sense Burial feels like a solid compromise, because while combat isn't quite as nuanced as the original, it definitely feels less forced than it was in Infinite, and strikes a good balance that should placate the majority of fans. Elizabeth's tearing power can still be used to summon objects like samurais (yeah, you heard me), robot patriots, gun stashes, and medical supplies just like Infinite, which helps add another tactical layer to combat on top of those refinements. Don't expect a whole lot of playtime without the second piece of the package, as Episode One's narrative will last you a solid hour or so (which isn't a problem for me, but a fair warning), and you can tack on another hour or two (at maximum) if you want to explore everything. While I don't want to spoil it for you, Burial leaves off on a massive cliffhanger at the very end, which is pretty much the only point where it feels relevant. I wasn't too impressed by Burial at Sea Episode One, mostly because it just doesn't add a whole lot to the overall franchise outside of the last 30 seconds, and it's simply not compelling enough. While it's quite possible that Episode Two will tie everything together in a neat bow and blow us all away, Irrational Games has yet to make a legitimate case for a return to Rapture.
BioShock DLC REVIEWED photo
A conflicted return to Rapture
BioShock Infinite was one of the most polarizing releases in recent memory among the gaming community. While a number of critics lauded it as an apex for Irrational, many fans were left feeling underwhelmed by certain facets ...

Ken Levine photo
Ken Levine

Levine to receive recognition at Golden Joystick Awards


The show's first ever Lifetime Achievement award
Oct 23
// Brett Makedonski
Ken Levine, one of the most well-known and respected developers in the videogame industry, will be honored at this year's Golden Joystick Awards with a Lifetime Achievement award. Throughout the course of the show's 31-year h...
BioShock Infinite DLC photo
Spoilers, obviously
BioShock Infinite's Burial At Sea Episode 1 is on the way, and you can get a quick look at the first five minutes courtesy of Irrational Games above. Although there are obvious spoilers as to the setup of the DLC, not a whol...

Ken Levine on the evolution of Elizabeth in Burial at Sea

Oct 04 // Caitlin Cooke
In Burial at Sea: Episode 1, Elizabeth seemed a little bit jaded, if not completely cold, in comparison to her personality in BioShock Infinite. I asked Ken to elaborate on what's happening with her character, and he explained, "In [Burial at Sea: Episode 2], there will be even more changes and each experience. It's really about taking Elizabeth from the woman you met in the tower [in Infinite], this naive person, to the person at the end of Infinite who's gone through some terrible things, [then] to this femme fatal, opaque, cold and then going inside and seeing what caused all of that." "When you get to the end of this, where does that leave her and what does this experience do to her? We basically want to show you the world from her perspective [...] that's a journey that you can complete only when you step into her shoes." After learning about the "lighthouses" from BioShock Infinite, it can be confusing to understand where Burial at Sea falls in the timeline and how it fits into Elizabeth's world. Ken Levine clarified that "This is 'Elizabeth prime,' this is the Elizabeth that went through the experiences in BioShock Infinite and this is the Rapture from BioShock. We're not splintering that." Elizabeth's combat style in Burial at Sea: Episode 2 hasn't been announced yet, but the gameplay will be more of the survival-horror variety. Ken elaborates on the gameplay that "It's probably even more resource management intensive and stealth oriented. Elizabeth is a different person, she's not a "guns blazing" person. "Without going into too much detail, it's the world through her eyes. Each game (BioShock Infinite, Burial at Sea: Episode 1) are bespoke experiences, we're working on game experience stuff that varies from each of them." Perhaps we will be getting a completely different gameplay mechanic when we step into Elizabeth's shoes. There is no official release date for Burial at Sea: Episode 2, but I imagine we'll have our answers when it's most likely released sometime next year.
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A cold, jaded lady
Warning: Minor plot/theme spoilers  BioShock Infinite - Burial at Sea: Episode 1 ends on an interesting note to say the least, and I'm curious to see what is in store for the next episode. When it was announced, Burial a...

Preview: BioShock Infinite - Burial at Sea: Episode 1

Oct 04 // Caitlin Cooke
[embed]258998:49773:0[/embed] BioShock Infinite - Burial at Sea: Episode 1 (PC [previewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Developer: Irrational GamesPublisher: 2K GamesRelease: Holiday 2013 Elizabeth informs you that she knows a crazy artist named Cohen (sound familiar?) who may know the whereabouts of Sally. After viewing the new areas Rapture has to offer, your first objective is to procure a rabbit mask that will grant entry into Cohen's secret party. This task introduces a new aspect of gameplay where Elizabeth distracts shopkeepers as you wait for the right timing to sneak into the back areas. I found it highly enjoyable and tense (in a good way), but also very brief as this particular mechanic doesn't show up again in the DLC. Once you steal this mask, you enter Cohen's crazy little party. From there, those of you who have played the original BioShock can assume things get dark and twisted very fast. Note: This is the last of the story I'll reveal.  The combat mechanics in Burial at Sea, including Plasmids, are very much the same as in prior BioShock installments. However, this time around resource management is much more prevalent than it was in Infinite. On medium difficulty I found myself often running out of bullets and Eve, thus having to conserve my resources to ensure I could make it through to the next area. This was intentional from a gameplay perspective, and I actually found myself getting more out of the combat situations versus the rushed combat mentality of BioShock Infinite. Enemies are different this time around as well. They were much less likely to rush at me, and often times I could observe them milling about before they were even alerted to my presence. This gave me time to plan my attacks in advance, making it easier to strategically place Plasmid traps and route enemies. Despite the lack of resources I ended up feeling more accomplished at the end of my battles, which is something I didn't really feel in Infinite despite the numerous and often large amount of enemies. The setting in Burial at Sea is gorgeous and colorful -- all assets have been redone, breathing in new life to Rapture. Bars, shops, art galleries, and even slot machines adorn the main area. One of the settings, a derelict department store, is an interesting space in its own right. Clothing, electronics, toys and various other relics from Rapture in the 1950s are scattered about in a creepy yet eye-catching way. The pacing and overall design felt much more open than Infinite as well. So much more open in fact that at one point I had accidentally skipped two parts of a quest because I bypassed it. Enemies had cropped up in the meantime making it harder every time I made a mistake in my path selection. Hidden areas are still prevalent in Burial at Sea, with Elizabeth always at the ready to help pick locks. Audio diaries are scattered about, providing extra context to what's happening in Rapture at the time and also some interesting tidbits regarding a certain "phenomena" occurring. I highly recommend not skipping these! I fully completed this DLC and truly enjoyed it. In fact, I loved it so much that it makes me wonder why it's not a standalone game. I felt like it blended the best parts of both BioShock and BioShock Infinite; the combat was challenging and thoughtful, the story was captivating, and the pacing was perfect. Infinite was a fantastic game in its own right, but bringing Booker and Elizabeth to Rapture is literally a whole new world. Burial at Sea: Episode 1 does not have a specific release date, but they do anticipate it coming out before the holidays. We'll do a full proper review closer to release. In the meantime, enjoy this ominous "Fact from Myth" video which foreshadows what may have happened after Elizabeth and Booker meet in Rapture ... [embed]262949:50775:0[/embed]
BioShock Infinite photo
All assets have been redone, breathing in new life to Rapture
Warning: minor plot spoilers I swore hand over heart that I would not spoil the resolution of Burial at Sea, so that will remain a mystery until the rest of you fine citizens get to enjoy it before the holidays. However, to g...

2K Games photo
2K Games

Rod Fergusson heading up new 2K Games studio


Working on an unannounced project
Sep 26
// Jordan Devore
Former Gears of War producer Rod Fergusson left Irrational Games earlier this year after joining the team during the tail-end of development on BioShock Infinite. The fact that he moved on is no secret, but he has only today ...
Burial at Sea details photo
Burial at Sea details

BioShock's Burial at Sea focuses on small scale, stealth


Sea you in Rapture
Aug 26
// Steven Hansen
The intriguing BioShock Infinite DLC Burial at Sea features a return to BioShock 1's Rapture, prior to its downfall. Also, it's film noir as heck. Chinatown with splicers. I'm all about this; I'm always ringing the "more noir...
Bioshock Burial at Sea photo
Bioshock Burial at Sea

See Elizabeth's new duds in Bioshock's Burial at Sea


Are you enraptured by Elizabeth's bioshocking new look?
Aug 10
// Steven Hansen
We recently got word that the next DLC for Bioshock Infinite would be the two-part Burial at Sea, which brings Booker and Elizabeth to Rapture on the eve of its downfall. Also, it's film noir as heck. Chinatown with splicers....
BioShock photo
BioShock

Ken Levine hasn't stopped pushing for BioShock Vita


Fight the good fight
Aug 02
// Jordan Devore
Years. It's been years since we first heard talk of a possible BioShock port to PlayStation Vita. Has any progress been made on that front? Irrational Games creative director Ken Levine tells Kotaku that he's still fighting f...
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BioShock: Burial At Sea, RIP Fez II, GTA has purple cars


The Destructoid Show says a swearword
Jul 30
// Max Scoville
Hey gang! Here's today's Destructoid Show. Because Tuesdays. The first BioShock Infinite DLC has been released, with later DLC plans revealed, and Caitlin sat down with Ken Levine himself to discuss it. Fez II has been ...

Ken Levine on BioShock Infinite's new DLC, Burial at Sea

Jul 30 // Caitlin Cooke
Ken and his team have built Burial at Sea from the ground up, including the objects and assets. This was surprising to me seeing as it's only DLC, but Ken explains, "it was a huge undertaking and I’m not exactly sure why we do things that take so much time, but we thought this was our last chance for a while to give our fans a love letter so we decided to do it.” This method seems to pay off -- when Ken describes the game to me, I can already tell how unique it will be compared to previous installments. He continues: “It’s basically two parts -- [the first episode] takes place in sort of the pristine Rapture, and that’s very much like being in Columbia at the beginning. There’s a hubspace that’s pretty…I think actually one of the best BioShock spaces that the team has ever built in terms of what I like to see. "I look at levels like the medical level in BioShock and Fort Frolick as sort of the right structural layout of things because they’re less linear, they’re more sort of the center. They feel organic to me, [but] buildings are designed in a hierarchical fashion […] where the more big action stuff tends to push you down a single corridor. It is a constant struggle to get the team around that non-linearity. We’ve definitely done a better job I think in this DLC than we did in Infinite." When I asked about the story, Ken didn't want to get too much into the specifics so as not to spoil it, but he did say that everything ties together and certain characters will make appearances. "We’re fans of integration, we’ll put it that way. We want to both give people a chance to see characters from BioShock before they splice up as much as they do and what they were like beforehand. There is a very well known character in BioShock who will be involved substantially in the story [...] It is connected to the larger story.” Ken also touched on a few themes from the original BioShock, and mentioned that this DLC will dive a bit deeper into the intricacies of Rapture. "You see this opening part which is in pristine Rapture and there’s this whole quest there that doesn’t involve combat and your journey takes you to […] a department store that’s now a prison that you’re there for a reason, you’ll find out. That’s a very traditional BioShock experience with all the fucking crazy splicers down there and the place has gone to shit. So you get both -- you get the pristine Rapture and the ‘gone to shit’ Rapture in the same package.” I prodded about the second episode, in which players get to experience everything through the eyes of Elizabeth. I was particularly interested in Booker's role, but it hasn't been fleshed out completely so Ken was hesitant to share a lot of information. However, he has an outline of a story in mind and wants it to have a different combat feel than the other games. “We’re in relatively early stages of the third part of the DLC [Burial at Sea Ep 2]," Ken told me. "It’s something that we wanted to do, we didn’t know if we could or had the time or resources but finally we decided it was important that we did it. It’s funny, each of the DLCs are a different combat feel, the first one [Clash in the Clouds] is very much like Infinite. The second one is much like BioShock, we reintegrated much more of the player-initiated combat notions of BioShock. In the third one, it’s almost like survival horror. Elizabeth is not like Booker, she’s not a huge tank. We’re still figuring out the details, everything is open to change, but we want her to feel like she’s always on the bleeding edge of resources and decisions and even push the stealth mechanic." Ken continues, "We also have this notion of grifting from the original game that we didn’t have time to do, and I wanted to show that side of Elizabeth and her saviness through her wits to get the things she needs done, done.” When I asked about everyone's favorite characters, the Luteces, Ken said that "I'm not only a huge fan of writing them but I'm a huge fan of working with Oliver [Vaquer] and Jennifer [Hale] on them, and I'll leave it at that." For now, Ken seemed excited about the future and about what fans will think of Burial at Sea. He explains, “We never know what we’re doing next but I think if we knew… it wouldn’t be surprising because we’d have to surprise ourselves. I’m just curious to hear people’s reactions. We know people were frustrated by how silent we were and how long it was taking, but at the end of the day we’re always going to make the choice to present things in a way to actually give people a sense of what we’re doing and do the thing that we think is right for the gamer in the long run, not in the short run. So they’re frustrated that they haven’t gotten the content yet, but we could have done something quicker but it wouldn’t be this. People get anxious but I think they’re going to be pretty happy.”
BioShock interview photo
Returning to Rapture on the eve of its downfall
Irrational Games, and Ken Levine in particular, have been known for creating games with innovative narratives and unique gameplay. BioShock Infinite is no different, and we expect the same for the remaining downloadable cont...

Return to Rapture photo
BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea set on the eve of Rapture's downfall
Irrational Games revealed the intentions for their remaining BioShock Infinite downloadable content plans to follow up the Clash in the Clouds DLC: Burial at Sea, a Booker and Elizabeth tale set on the eve of Rapture's down...

BioShock Infinite's first DLC is out on Steam today

Jul 30 // Caitlin Cooke
BioShock Infinite: Clash in the Clouds (PC [previewed], PlayStation 3, Xbox 360)Developer: Irrational GamesPublisher: 2K GamesRelease: July 30, 2013 (PC) / August 2013 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360) Clash in the Clouds does not tie into the storyline specifically but rather is a standalone arena-based combat game. You continue to play as Booker Dewitt with Elizabeth at your side, tearing the fabric of space and time to obtain useful items in battle (as usual).  The DLC consists of four maps (The OPS Zeal, Duke and Dimwit Theater, Raven's Zone, Emporia Arcade) with each containing 15 encounters, or waves, of enemies. The waves get progressively more difficult and sometimes require a lot more strategy vs combat in the main game, especially as the enemies grow in number. The beauty of Clash is that it can be fun for both hardcore arena players or for gamers who want a bit of challenge without the need to be ranked. If players can successfully beat all 15 waves without dying, they'll be placed on the glorious leaderboards for all to see. If the player dies at any point, they can resume the game to continue collecting cash but won't make it onto the rankings. Extra lives can be purchased at the office door in between waves, which allow players to spawn at the door with no penalty and at full health. Players earn Silver Eagles at the end of each wave, and can also get bonus Eagles by killing enemies in various ways (headshots, vigor combos, etc). "Blue Ribbon Challenges" can also be attempted to earn cash bonuses throughout each wave. For example, a few of mine were to defeat enemies only with the hand cannon, or defeat enemies only using the skyline. At the end of each wave, health and salts replenish and you have the opportunity to stock up on new guns or buy upgrades with your money. Silver Eagles can also be used to purchase artifacts from the Columbian Archaeological Society, a really neat-looking atrium with a giant bronze statue of Songbird hanging above. This was actually my favorite part about the DLC -- you can buy character statues, individual songs playing on their own phonograph, Kinetoscopes, Voxophones, and concept art to fill out the space. There's even something waiting for you when a certain duo is unlocked ... but I won't spoil the surprise. Overall I enjoyed my time with Clash in the Clouds. For $5, or included in your Season Pass purchase, you can't really go wrong. It's honestly worth it just to unlock some really cool story items from Infinite and test your combat skills when shit hits the fan.   Clash in the Clouds is coming at you later today on Steam, and will be released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 by the end of the week. Burial at Sea, the next two downloadable content packs for BioShock Infinite, were also revealed to us, and this will be story-driven content that is set on the eve of Rapture's downfall. Rapture being the setting of the original BioShock. You'll even get to play as Elizabeth here. Check out the trailer and our impressions of that here.
BioShock Infinite DLC photo
Clash in the Clouds is an arena-based combat game
We're here folks! Breathe that big ol' sigh of relief because by midday you'll see BioShock Infinite's first piece of downloadable content, Clash in the Clouds, available for download on the PC through Steam. Clash in the C...

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Super Best Guide is the best guide to super games!
Happy Indie Pendants Day! Your ol' pal Jim Sterling is British, which means he has to hide indoors today, lest the Americans find and murder him. Fortunately, it's allowed me time to polish my ultimate guide to BioShock Infinite, the hot new game everybody's talking about.  Learn the best tactics, the most useful skills, and the weapons you'll need to blow Columbia up! What a lovely time.

BioShock Infinite DLC photo
BioShock Infinite DLC

Find out about the BioShock Infinite DLC later this month


Late-July announcement confirmed
Jul 01
// Jordan Devore
With the lack of specifics on Irrational Games' first major DLC for BioShock Infinite, I had almost forgotten it was happening, but then again, I'm not a season pass holder. For some of you, "Columbia's Finest" was an unpleas...
BioShock Infinite photo
BioShock Infinite

BioShock Infinite releases 'Columbia's Finest' DLC pack


This is NOT part of the Season Pass nor is it story related DLC
Jun 26
// Chris Carter
While we sit and wait patiently for the Season Pass story DLC for BioShock Infinite (despite zero updates from Irrational), Steam has launched a new add-on for the game, titled "Columbia's Finest." Essentially, this is a $4.9...
Logan's Run movie photo
Logan's Run movie

Ken Levine will write the new Logan's Run movie


Welcome Humans! I am ready for you.
Jun 18
// Joshua Derocher
A remake for Logan's Run is in the works, and it's surprisingly going to be written by BioShock Infinite's master guru, Ken Levine. He isn't leaving Irrational Games or anything like that; he is just writing this as a side pr...
BioShock Infinite photo
BioShock Infinite

BioShock Infinite's alternate ending is less depressing


Alternate reality that is, har har har!
May 21
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Are we past the point where I can stop warning people about spoilers? Well just in case, don't watch this if you haven't beaten BioShock Infinite yet. Actually, this won't even make sense until you have gotten all the way th...
BioShock Infinite photo
BioShock Infinite

You can now get your very own BioShock Songbird plushie


NECA Toys making huggable Songbird
May 07
// Hamza CTZ Aziz
Irrational Games has teamed up with NECA Toys to produce cute little Songbird plushies. The plushie comes in at 7" tall, has an outstretched wingspan of 14" from tip to tip, and is going for $55. The design was created by sen...
BioShock Infinite DLC photo
BioShock Infinite DLC

BioShock Infinite DLC appears to have a new AI companion


A 2K employee's LinkedIn page outs the info
Apr 29
// Brett Makedonski
Not much has been said about post-release content for BioShock Infinite to this point, but some juicy morsels of information may have dribbled out today. If a 2K employee's LinkedIn page is to be believed, the first DLC ...
BioShock board game rules photo
BioShock board game rules

BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia rulebook posted


Read how cardboard Columbia will function
Apr 24
// Darren Nakamura
We first heard about BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia just a few weeks ago, and this week, Plaid Hat Games has released a PDF of the game's rulebook for your perusal. Board game geeks may want to read it from cover to...

What BioShock Infinite could have been

Apr 24 // Taylor Stein
As a spur-of-the-moment present (my friends are amazing), I was given The Art of BioShock Infinite, an art book showcasing a collection of illustrations, concepts, and ideas crafted throughout the game's development process. I'm not a game designer or an artist, and as much as I admire the aesthetics of a game as beautiful as BioShock Infinite, I didn't exactly jump for joy at the sight of a book full of drawings. That is until I took the time to flip through each page, examine every picture, and peruse all the hand-written annotations. You would be quite surprised to discover just how different Infinite was in its early stages. A city of fragile perfection, the Columbia that we know floats in-between heaven and Earth, residing amongst the cloudy skies of idyllic wonder and concealed malevolence. Serving as a symbol of righteousness, the prophet Comstock's vision of religious purity and American ideology conceived a metropolis more picturesque than nature, seamless perfection in stark contrast to the Sodom below. Before humanity's palace of excellence was stained in the blood of Dewitt's increasing body count, it was pristine, tangibly unspoiled despite the ethereal philosophies of overt racism, sexism, and classism.Derived from the essence of its predecessors, BioShock Infinite embodied many of the series' thematic aspirations: questions of self-determination, pursuit of sovereignty, persistence of greed, and the nature of choice, all while deviating from the atmospheric spirit personified by the underwater city of Rapture. Despite the many differences between the newcomer and the previous installments, the three shared quite a few similarities during the infancy of the project from ambiance and landscape design, to enemy types and other conceptual elements.Before the sky-city of Columbia was born, developers explored the sensibilities of brainstormed elements inside a vacuum. Unhindered by receptivity of a narrative outline, many ideas would surface, but only a select few would color the final product. As expressed by visual depictions and accompanied footnotes within the art book, multiple environmental concepts emerged as plausible settings for Infinite. From an Art Nouveau world inspired by the unruly aspects of the natural world, to a derelict utopia far past its prime, the main aspect of the game, the hovering aesthetic of Columbia, was surprisingly absent during the early stages of conceptualization.From a collection of disconnected ideas to the final product, the most dramatic divergence in the evolution of BioShock Infinite undoubtedly resides with the enemy design. Capitalizing on the essence of dimensional rifts, early renderings showcase a slew of bad guys that harshly contrast the normalcy of the opponent types in the completed game. Man-eating brutes who morph into more monstrous forms after feasting on human flesh, a little girl with a face caged behind torn bloody bars, and numerous other gory, creepy, and lurid imagery tint the pages of  the illustrative collection. Borrowing from Andrew Ryan's aquatic landscape, Vigor junkies also make an appearance in the art compilation, bearing the drastic physical effects of vigor addiction similar to the splicers of previous games.One notable example is an adversary fused together by quantum rifts. These grotesque monstrosities reflect different instances of a person together in one body, the merging of realities in the faces of enemies. Drawings depict a man with features of both an infant and an elderly gentleman sprawled haphazardly across a nightmarish face. If you thought the splicers from the original where menacing or plain ugly, they're nothing compared to the eerie visuals left on Infinite's editing room floor. Besides being a pretty cool book, The Art of BioShock Infinite showcases the creative process of the game's development in a hands-on, artistic medium. Blending the boundaries between old and new, borrowing from early elements in the franchise while crafting something unique, BioShock Infinite truly epitomizes a hodge podge of symbols, aesthetics, and atmospheric clout that has evolved drastically from beginning to end. While the book can only represent a microscopic fragment of the overall design process, viewing step by step as the Songbird transformed from an off-putting Big Daddy with wings into a hulking yet emotionally-compelling beast is an experience that necessitates respect for the characters, the story, and the world of Infinite. If you're curious about the visuals of BioShock Infinite and all of its intricacies, definitely check out the art book at your leisure. If you are looking for more of a detailed background you might be a bit disappointed by the few contextual annotations present, however. Image Source: [1]
BioShock Infinite Art photo
Art book shows a new perspective of Columbia
Almost a month after its release, BioShock Infinite is still on my mind, but not for the reasons you might suspect. If you grow tired of seeing the game plastered on just about every gaming website, magazine, and TV comm...

BioShock Infinite's problem is not violence

Apr 17 // Daniel Starkey
In the grand scheme of things, what is the point of art? Or media at all? The trashiest songs on the radio, the most beautiful opera you’ve ever heard -- they are experiences; experiences that over time help build up who we are. The Autobiography of Malcolm X might very well be my favorite book. It came, for me at least, at the right time in my life. It helped teach me the importance of perspective, about how the lives we live shape us and define how we’re seen and remembered. After reading it, I was so amazed that a few hundreds sheets of paper could contain so much wisdom, so much potential for discussion. I turned to the internet, scouring forums for others that were eager to talk.  That tends to be what I do with anything I play, watch, read, hear, or taste. When I find something new, something special, I am driven to find others who might like it. I'll share it and dissect it with them. Inevitably, they will notice things that I don’t; they’ll have a different interpretation. That dissection, that step-by-step scrutiny of something that someone else made is the fuel for a huge portion of every interaction we regularly have as people. Everything from chatting with coworkers, seeing movies or concerts with friends, or a real connection with someone you’re dating comes from a reflection upon and discussion of mutual experience. It’s so fundamental it’s odd that I haven’t seen it come up before. One of the things that’s been bothering me about games recently, and also one of the reasons I’ve come to love Journey so much, is that games can’t be shared in the same way as other media. Games, especially the more “core” games, have this notion that they should be arbitrarily hard, that they shouldn’t hold your hand -- and that the ensuing exclusivity is a good thing. That’s bullshit. Over time, we’ve come to isolate ourselves. We put ourselves in the strange position of locking away the secrets of gaming knowledge from those who aren’t physically capable of playing them. While it is true that a blind man will never be able to see a film in quite the same way that most can, or that a deaf woman will not ever be able to hear a song, those experiences aren’t locked away by choice. I’ve never seen a book printed with obnoxiously small font just to keep people from being able to read it at all. This is something completely unique to videogames, and even there it’s far from universal. As games begin including better dialogue, better stories, and more complex themes, we are rapidly approaching an era where they will be culturally relevant, where they will be scrutinized and analyzed by academics. We’re already seeing the explosion of relatively simple, easy-to-play games via mobile phones and Facebook. People largely incapable or unwilling to take the time to learn more complicated games are finding plenty of fun with simplicity and accessibility. Traditional games, however, haven’t seen the value in adaptation. I have plenty of friends and family whose opinions I deeply respect and value, but because videogames are inaccessible to those who haven’t been playing for a good chunk of their lives, or those who have a disability, I can’t share all of the great stories or experiences games have to offer.  More and more core gamers decry the fact that the casuals are playing simple games instead of the big beefy manly ones that they happen to think are intrinsically superior. At the same time core gamers howl at the idea of “easier” modes or options that remove combat entirely. Instead of encouraging broader options for new players, we’ve collectively continued to wall ourselves off and push potential fans away. A while back, I wrote a little piece about how my mom’s rheumatoid arthritis kept her from being able to ever play Mass Effect. I called her last week to talk about some of the games I’ve been playing -- Antichamber, Tomb Raider, BioShock Infinite. With each one I was as descriptive as possible because I knew she wouldn’t get the chance to experience these games for herself. No matter what, some narratives are locked away; forever lost to her. She’s not the only one either; especially when we start thinking about everyone in our lives that we care for. Friends, family, lovers -- they will never know the depth of our medium, unless we start opening it up. This isn’t about being taken seriously by the outsiders, this is about connecting with the other people in our lives. BioShock Infinite nags at me, tears at me because it’s one of the most fascinating games I’ve ever played -- despite its many faults. I feel compelled to share it with everyone I know, just so we can discuss it. For me, BioShock isn’t so much too violent as it is a game that falls into what the general public expects. Allistair’s mom, herself a gamer with a decent enough background, dismissed it as just another shooter. Even more than that, while violence is -- I would agree -- vital to the game, its combat is so often unnecessary and left without reasonable context. Throughout, there are powerful narrative arcs that are broken up by needless and excessive combat. For about week now, I’ve been itching to take another trip to Columbia, but it’s packed with so much filler that I’ve been avoiding the gratuitous time sink. I’m not so foolish or naïve to say that Infinite would be better as a movie. Quite the contrary, interactions with Elizabeth and the openness of the early stages as well as the claustrophobic design of some of the later ones, is absolutely essentially to mechanically communicating some of the game’s best messages. What I would have liked to see, however, is a mode that makes losing impossible and cuts back on gameplay that might be enjoyable for those of us more accustomed to the tropes of gaming. All of this does bring up a growing fear of mine, though. Sooner or later gaming will reach a point where we will need to begin giving greater consideration to how play interferes with narrative structure. If we want to take the next step, to move forward and mature as a medium, then we need to demand games that don’t sacrifice story for gameplay or gameplay for story. It's not a lot to ask.
More accessible BioShock photo
It's accessibilty
Last week, Jim and I were both on Destructoid’s new video series The Question. We took opposite positions of a question that seems to be tearing through a lot of the game world right now: “Is BioShock Infinite too...

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Game Debate to the Death! Favorite BioShock game?


"Would you kindly?"
Apr 16
// Tom Fronczak
In the previous debate we welcomed the new Tomb Raider installment with a debate against its predecessors in the series. Every single game in the series received at least one vote, so it was fulfilling to see it be a close ra...






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