If you've been paying attention, you'll know there's been some hullabaloo
over the past day or so regarding Bioshock Infinite's box art. Now I don't often advertise this fact, but I did, in fact go to school for game design, and as such, I know some people who went on to some big name studios. One such contact is “Bill”, an Irrational concept artist who wishes to remain anonymous. He recently sent me an email with some rejected box art attached, and I've got to say, it's made me much more sympathetic to Irrational's decision on the packaging. Simply put; it was the best of a very bad lot. Read on for my thoughts on them individually.
I should clarify that not all of this box art was done recently. Some, like the cover above, were done before the style guide for the game was finalized. Initially, co-op was thrown around as a possibility, as was a modern time period. But ultimately, the premise of the Columbia resurfacing after over a century and black FBI agents crossdressing in whiteface was rejected. As Ken Levine allegedly put it, “It simply stretches the limits of plausibility too far. Now how's that magic robot-bird coming along? I'm Ken Levine!”
This minimalist designed shortly after one of the artists read Twilight. The artist in question argued that a simple image on a black background would stick with people. Ultimately the design was shelved after no one could decide what the tie was supposed to represent.
Another design from earlier in development. Enemies were initially designed to be more akin to Splicers from Bioshock; feral, wearing cobbled together clothing, and disturbingly inhuman. It was also during this time that FMV was proposed as a way to reduce cutscene costs. However, preliminary results with greenscreens were disappointing and ultimately, filming was discontinued. No definitive reason was ever given, but rumor has it that Ken Levine was sexually harassing the lead antagonist, shown here.
This one comes to us from the same artist as the gray tie, someone Bill referred to as That Dumbass. Not much to say about it that can't be said about That's previous work; it's memorable and certainly does stick in your head, but it's far too unrelated to the game to warrant gracing a cover.
This is by far the strangest of the lot. No one knows who created it, how
they created it, or even how they got into the building undetected. It was just found hanging from a noose one morning in the studio foyer, housed within a poorly sealed envelope dripping Monster Energy as well as some less pleasant fluids that Bill has repeatedly refused to describe. Also contained within the envelope were poorly-made sketches that caused some who looked upon them to vomit and/or faint. Furthermore, there was a list of requested plot changes written in alternating colors of crayon in smudged, childlike handwriting on a heavily stained piece of paper made out of Post-It notes woven together. Bill again refused to elaborate on what exactly the plot changes were, though he did say they were "sexual in nature, I think".
After the initial revulsion had finally worn off, the artists decided that the background and general layout of the box art were better than anything they had. After putting the greasy picture through the scanner (which, I'm told, had to attend therapy) and touching it up, Irrational arrived at the controversial final design.
Ultimately, I have more pity for Irrational than hatred. They just couldn't, for the life of them, arrive at a satisfactory cover and ended up relying on the second hand scrawlings of a deranged mind, only to have it be universally derided. Coincidentally, I understand that the Boston police still have no idea how the lunatic in question got in, or who keeps firing a crossbow into the break room. Still, the game looks pretty good, doesn't it?
If anyone else here has friends at Irrational, see if they can't leak you some box art, then post it in the comments below.