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BioShock Postmortem

BioShock 'was a sequence of failures and errors' on Develop has 2K Boston's Chris Kline's interesting comments on missteps made during the development of the submerged shooter:

"Bioshock was basically a sequence of failures and errors," he said. "But every one of them was a good thing - it forced us to look at the game and reassess what we had, which worked in our favour."

Charting the development of the product back to 2002, Kline pinpointed almost a dozen points at which wrong decisions or wrong paths were taken, ranging from bad middleware decisions right at the start of the project to the team's original misguided decision to simply remake System Shock 2, a game that had failed commercially despite universal critical acclaim.

One of the original differential points for Bioshock was to be its self-sustained AI ecology, which Kline called "life around you, but also without you". While impressive results came from months of intensive focus on these interactions, it soon became apparent to the team that it was incredibly boring without any player involvement in this ecology. This forced the team to rethink not only the entire system but also the designs of the AI agents themselves to make them more interesting and empathic.

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16. Re: Mistake..? Jun 24, 2008, 19:29 Kxmode
 
I'm interested in The Witcher. I may have to check it out soon. Perhaps when the price hits around the $20 mark.

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15. Re: Mistake..? Jun 24, 2008, 19:11 Jerykk
 
With character creation determined by your answers to a series of ethical dilemmas, and a game where the goal is to become the Avatar of good by playing within the guidelines of Truth, Love, and Courage... it was very much a game where your choices mattered.

I don't like arbitrary notions of good and evil. Who are the designers to tell me what makes a character good or evil? That's one of the things I dislike about Bioware's games. The moral choices are so clearly divided between good and evil that you don't have to even think about them. Playing a good character? Choose the obviously good answer. Evil character? Choose the evil answer. Light side, Dark side, Open Palm, Closed Fist, Paragon, Renegade, blah blah blah. Where's the meaningful choice in that?

Games like The Witcher are great because there are no obviously good or evil choices. You have to actually stop and think about what you're doing and the potential ramifications it may have. That = meaningful moral choice.

Two of the greatest were Fallout and Planescape: Torment. In both games you could be as bad or as good as you liked... and the game played differently; it didn't judge you, but your choices had consequences, and could even change the ending of the game.

That's not entirely accurate. In Fallout, you have the Karma system which judges your actions as either good or evil.

This comment was edited on Jun 24, 19:13.
 
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14. Re: Mistake..? Jun 24, 2008, 15:48 The Raven
 
I enjoyed the game. It was beautiful and had an interesting story. AFAIK BioShock was also one of the first to truly test the morality of gamers. To this day I've not been able to harvest any little sisters. I just can't do it...
-- kxmode
BioShock was not first, by over twenty years. That honor goes to Ultima IV.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultima_IV

With character creation determined by your answers to a series of ethical dilemmas, and a game where the goal is to become the Avatar of good by playing within the guidelines of Truth, Love, and Courage... it was very much a game where your choices mattered.

Attacking fleeing enemies, or fleeing a battle yourself, was bad. Stealing was possible... but punished. There were many ways the game tracked your actions and judged you accordingly.

But even beyond the heavy-handed morality of Ultima IV, there have been many games that included moral choices in a more integrated fashion. Two of the greatest were Fallout and Planescape: Torment. In both games you could be as bad or as good as you liked... and the game played differently; it didn't judge you, but your choices had consequences, and could even change the ending of the game.

BioShock was a good game, but far from 'first' at judging moral choices, even within its genre.


This comment was edited on Jun 24, 15:50.
 
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Dreaming Demon, formerly Tikatt, formerly The Raven
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13. Re: Mistake..? Jun 24, 2008, 09:46 Fartacus
 
I enjoyed the game. It was beautiful and had an interesting story. AFAIK BioShock was also one of the first to truly test the morality of gamers. To this day I've not been able to harvest any little sisters. I just can't do it...

It's easy, when you kill a Big Daddy 2 options will come up. Select the option on the left (X button on the Xbox 360). No need to thank me.

 
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12. No subject Jun 24, 2008, 06:54 dryden555
 
i wish the article had been longer! I want to know why the human figures dont look all that great, especially the faces (splotchy textures all over). Was that really intended for artful effect or for some other technical reason?

I would have happily enjoyed a re-make of system shock 2 over what we got -- a too-easy shooter with a cool story and a dreadfully lame end-boss. Not an A level game, not a terrible game.

 
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11. Re: Mistake..? Jun 24, 2008, 05:42 Kajetan
 
AFAIK BioShock was also one of the first to truly test the morality of gamers

In one of the earlier Ultimas, you have to fight your way through a group of sweet, innocent children. Only, because they were in the way and there was no way around them.

You could decide to NOT kill them. Then the game was over, because you had to leave the building to venture on.

Or you could simply kill the children ... and pretend, that nothing has happend in there!

 
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10. Re: GTA Jun 24, 2008, 04:22 Jerykk
 
But I will say I think Mass Effect had the best 'moral choices' of any game I have played to date.

Mass Effect had a few good moral choices but they were few and far between. The vast majority of choices were clear-cut, good v.s. evil choices with no real long-term repercussions aside from a slightly increased Paragon or Renegade rating.

The Witcher still takes the cake for moral ambiguity.

 
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9. Re: GTA Jun 24, 2008, 03:27 The Half Elf
 
I have to agree. I guess how I feel about 'moral choices' in a game is when I really give a damn about the outcome. But then again in GTA4, Secret Text here your really not given a moral choice, just a choice of who dies because of it, and then again you really don't find out the outcome of that till later
But I will say I think Mass Effect had the best 'moral choices' of any game I have played to date. Who do you save, and do you kill Wrex or not.

 
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8. GTA Jun 24, 2008, 03:09 Cyanotetyphas
 
Call me crazy but I think GTA did a better job of posing interesting choices in an amoral environment.

That said, it sounds like it was a near thing this game ever made it to finished product and I'm glad it did. I'm not sure how it would have faired had it been released now though, just a year later...

 
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7. Re: Mistake..? Jun 24, 2008, 01:45 Romanmir
 
AFAIK BioShock was also one of the first to truly test the morality of gamers.

Umm, yeah, cause every single Jedi Knight game doesn't count.

 
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6. Re: Mistake..? Jun 24, 2008, 01:43 Shadowcat
 
$20 says no one would have bought it again.
I'm convinced that if SS2 (a) had slightly better graphics (the infamous polygon budget discrepancy was a real shame regarding the character models), but more importantly (b) had a truly monumental marketing campaign (such as Bioshock enjoyed) then it would have sold like hot cakes.

SS2 did not having anything like that level of marketing and media coverage behind it.


 
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5. Re: Mistake..? Jun 23, 2008, 23:18 Jerykk
 
AFAIK BioShock was also one of the first to truly test the morality of gamers.

Really? It didn't really test my morality at all. As in every game, the obviously evil choice reaps more immediate benefits while the obviously good choice reaps the long-term benefits. In the end, you got the same amount of Eve with either choice.

The Witcher, on the other hand, required far more consideration as there was rarely a clearly good or evil choice and most choices had long-term repercussions.

 
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4. Re: Mistake..? Jun 23, 2008, 22:35 space captain
 
BioShock was also one of the first to truly test the morality of gamers. To this day I've not been able to harvest any little sisters. I just can't do it...

you are hereby awarded the nobel peace prize
 
Go forth, and kill!
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3. Re: Mistake..? Jun 23, 2008, 22:27 Kxmode
 
I enjoyed the game. It was beautiful and had an interesting story. AFAIK BioShock was also one of the first to truly test the morality of gamers. To this day I've not been able to harvest any little sisters. I just can't do it...

-----
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Game p/reviewer for http://www.gameindustry.com/
 
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2. Re: Mistake..? Jun 23, 2008, 21:42 Parallax Abstraction
 
$20 says no one would have bought it again.

And that would be a crying shame.
 
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1. Mistake..? Jun 23, 2008, 21:21 Jerykk
 
Kline pinpointed almost a dozen points at which wrong decisions or wrong paths were taken, ranging from bad middleware decisions right at the start of the project to the team's original misguided decision to simply remake System Shock 2, a game that had failed commercially despite universal critical acclaim.

Oh, if only they had remade SS2. For the PC only, of course.

 
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