BioShock 2 devs under pressure to make a compelling story

BioShock Splicers

We’ve been chatting with 2K Marin creative director Jordan Thomas ahead of BioShock 2‘s release, finding out what’s left to find out about the game before it releases this Tuesday. We asked Thomas about the balance between gameplay and story, and what element the studio focused its efforts on.

“We had a very solid mechanical bedrock in the form of the first game,” he tells us. “The heavier pressure that I felt we were under was to deliver a compelling new story, so I exhibited a very strong narrative bias as a rookie creative director, sometimes in a way that was frustrating to my colleagues.

“Having taken on the script-writing directly was also a huge demand on my time, which exaggerated that bias further. I was very fortunate to have found Zak McClendon, our Lead Designer, early enough in the project to hand him the reins of the game design. He’s the consummate systems design mind in my opinion, and has done a staggeringly good job in making sure that the game is actually a much deeper, more competitive shooter than what we started with — shepherding major improvements to AI environment awareness and tactical variety, diversity of player tools, and so on.

“I think humans naturally organize their experiences into narrative form, and are beginning to demand a greater fidelity and thematic subtlety than the industry began with,” Thomas continues. “That said, a heavily authored linear story is more of a dev choice. A fascinating player anecdote, generated from almost entirely systemic experience with The Sims, say, is just as valid to me as the dramatic climax of the original BioShock. It’s just a very different approach to meaning.

BioShock sort of splits the difference, going with a narrative backbone (branching, though, in BioShock 2) supported by lots of localized, emergent vignettes entirely owned by the player.”

BioShock 2 launches this Tuesday and our review is scheduled to hit the front page on Monday morning. Make sure you check it out!

Jim Sterling