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BioShock Postmortem

The BioShock Postmortem on Gamasutra hears from project lead Alyssa Finley about what went right and wrong during development of 2K Boston/2K Australia's first-person shooter. She discusses the various points the BioShock design was refined based on demonstrations and tests involving outsiders and how the team was assembled and worked together are among the highlights, while low points include the late shift in focus to make more of a first-person shooter, how much of the narrative content had to be rushed into the game. The article seems to be a very frank discussion of the topic, focusing far more on the mistakes made along the way than their successes.

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48. No subject Sep 5, 2008, 18:03 Verno
 
Lack of depth aside, I still had a pretty enjoyable experience with Bioshock and consider it a great PC game. Well worth the money. Is it System Shock 3? Sadly no. It was however a different but still fantastic experience all unto itself.

I do however think that the game's "fourth act" was handled sloppily.

 
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47. Re: Looking Glass Sep 4, 2008, 00:42 Wowbagger_TIP
 
I still fail to see how wanting meaningful choice and replayability constitutes unreasonable expectations for an FPS game. I haven't seen Dagok give any explanation for his apparent belief that it does.

 
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46. Re: Looking Glass Sep 3, 2008, 22:51 Jerykk
 
Dagok, you say we shouldn't compare games to other games. Unfortunately, that's not something we have control over. Standards are established by experience. When you first played Doom, it was truly awesome. If you play it after having played shooters for the past ten years... less awesome.

When I played Bioshock, I knew a few things about it:

1) It was developed by Irrational, creators of SS2.
2) The developers had, at various points, called it an RPG/shooter hybrid and compared it to SS2.
3) EA holds the rights to the System Shock franchise, so Irrational obviously couldn't use that name. However, using BioSHOCK seemed like a pretty clear nod to System Shock.

Anybody who knows about Irrational, has played System Shock 2 and kept up with gaming news would have had these same thoughts in mind. It isn't unreasonable at all for a player to expect Bioshock to be System Shock 3 in an art deco, underwater city. It also isn't unreasonable to expect that, given the 10 year gap between SS2 and Bioshock, Bioshock would be a significantly better game. Such was not the case.

Now before you go saying that I'm wearing rose-tinted glasses and that I'm letting nostalgia take over, you should know that I've been playing a lot of old games over the past few months. The Fallouts, Planescape: Torment, Arcanum... and yes, System Shock 2. These games are very fresh in my memory and have been judged by my current standards. I'm well aware of their shortcomings as well their accomplishments. Simply put, despite its greatly superior presentation, Bioshock is still inferior to SS2 because it lacks its depth. Again, ten years later, is it unreasonable to expect games to be better where it really counts: gameplay?

 
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45. beginningless Sep 3, 2008, 22:11 space captain
 
dont look at it as a loss, it was a forgone conclusion before you began

at least you have something to lull you to sleep
 
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44. Re: Looking Glass Sep 3, 2008, 20:38 Krovven
 
...where they said that they would be making a game that wasn't as good as SS2

Sigh, not even going to bother responding to crap like that.

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43. No subject Sep 3, 2008, 20:16 space captain
 
insulted your position, not you. And acting the innocent when you're the one who decided to start being snarky is quite tacky.

well, when someone identifies with their perspective - its inevitable they will be offended and defend it as if their life depended on it

its the same reason they misinterpret their own opinion as some sort of objective fact

"bioshock was an excellent game. PERIOD! no more discussion!!"

indeed - there is no discussion to be had with such people, only entertainment value


This comment was edited on Sep 3, 20:16.
 
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42. Re: Looking Glass Sep 3, 2008, 19:22 Bhruic
 
So your ("wrongly") high expectation was still prevalent even though you were informed beforehand that you shouldn't expect it to be that way. You intentionally ignored them and now are placing blame on them for that.

Are you so clueless as to not understand what the phrase "high expectations" actually means? If what you are trying to say is "unrealistic expectations, say it. Having high expectations for a game should never be a bad thing.

With that being said, please point me to where they said that they would be making a game that wasn't as good as SS2, and I'll be happy to admit they "informed" me about it.

 
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41. Re: Looking Glass Sep 3, 2008, 18:53 Jerykk
 
Her take seems to be it was for the better of the game.

She also seems to consider depth a bad thing.

 
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40. Re: Looking Glass Sep 3, 2008, 18:17 Krovven
 
Oh, and I love how quickly you backed off the whole "they made it clear it was a FPS" thing, very amusing.

I didn't back off anything. I chose not to continue this debate as it's obvious there is no middle ground with you or Wowbagger.

This comment of yours sums it up your position.

The expectation, rightly or wrongly, was that Bioshock would continue the trend.

So your ("wrongly") high expectation was still prevalent even though you were informed beforehand that you shouldn't expect it to be that way. You intentionally ignored them and now are placing blame on them for that.

is that they did, in fact, have a better game,

We don't know if they had a better game or not. Keeping those features does not automatically make a good game. Plenty of RPGs have those kinds of features, not all of them are good, or fun.

See her comment...

In terms of design, we created a depth and density of game systems that fit into a game about character building and choice, but would not have been competitive as an FPS. Around the time that the game went into alpha, we took a hard look at that gameplay and realized that, although there were many choices, they weren't very compelling.

Cutting game features happens with EVERY game. Sometimes for the better of the game, sometimes not. What was the case for Bioshock? Her take seems to be it was for the better of the game.


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This comment was edited on Sep 3, 18:20.
 
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39. Re: Looking Glass Sep 3, 2008, 17:23 Bhruic
 
I obviously don't have the misconception as I was able to enjoy Bioshock without constantly comparing it to a ten year old game that had a completely different dev team (aside from a few people).

What difference does it make who made it? The relevant issue is that it compares badly to a game that's 10 years old. If you're making a "spiritual successor" to a game, and you can't even make your game as good as the original, then something is wrong with your game.

Even more relevant, since we're talking about the postmortem, is that they did, in fact, have a better game, but intentionally decided to dumb it down.

Oh, and I love how quickly you backed off the whole "they made it clear it was a FPS" thing, very amusing.

This comment was edited on Sep 3, 17:24.
 
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38. Re: Looking Glass Sep 3, 2008, 17:06 Wowbagger_TIP
 
How about not placing expectations on a game you haven't played, when you do play it don't constantly judge it by comparing it to something else, and judge it simply based on it's own merits. Sure make some comparisons, its inevitable, but good lord some of you hold SS2 up like it's the holy grail...which is exactly why those expectations were to high, even when we were told it's not going to be like SS2.
My expectations were hardly unreasonable. I'd like some meaningful choices in the game. For instance, it really hardly mattered at all what plasmids you used throughout the game. They should have made it change things somehow depending on what you choose. Second, I want some replayability. There's basically two ways to play through Bioshock, and no real difference between them as far as gameplay goes. So, that leaves us with a shooter that gives you a choice of weapons and has very little replay value since there are no meaningful choices in the game. How was I expecting too much from it? I shouldn't expect an FPS to have any depth at all?

This comment was edited on Sep 3, 17:07.
 
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37. Re: Looking Glass Sep 3, 2008, 16:13 Krovven
 
So we should lower our expectations to meet the quality of the game, and then we'll never be disappointed. Dagok you're a genius!!

Why do some of you need to have things spelled out for you?

How about not placing expectations on a game you haven't played, when you do play it don't constantly judge it by comparing it to something else, and judge it simply based on it's own merits. Sure make some comparisons, its inevitable, but good lord some of you hold SS2 up like it's the holy grail...which is exactly why those expectations were to high, even when we were told it's not going to be like SS2.

The entire argument here seems to be that Bioshock wasn't like SS2. Guess what....it's not SS2, it's Bioshock.

Bioshock was just an average shooter with above average art direction and story.

I agree with that, however I'd say Bioshock was an above average shooter as well. Overall it was a great game. Perfect? No.

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This comment was edited on Sep 3, 16:17.
 
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36. Re: Looking Glass Sep 3, 2008, 15:59 Wowbagger_TIP
 
If you constantly place your expectations far above reality (like Jerykk), you will continuously be disappointed and never enjoy anything, let alone something that is supposed to entertain you.
So we should lower our expectations to meet the quality of the game, and then we'll never be disappointed. Dagok you're a genius!!

They said "spiritual successor", they also made very clear it was an FPS, not an RPG, but did have some RPG elements. So anyone that placed higher expectations on game design has only themselves to blame.
An FPS can still have depth to it. They just stripped out any deep gameplay mechanics to make it more "accessible".

The result was a very atmospheric shooter with very little gameplay depth. Anything that could have been done to increase the amount of meaningful choice or replayability seems to have been eliminated at some point in the design. That left me with choices like whether to kill that guy over there with bullets, fire or lightning. Wow. That's deep.

Edit: Oh, and before I get accused of comparing Bioshock to some nostalgic memory of SS2, I should say that I haven't played SS2 in years. I don't think I was making any real comparisons between the two. Bioshock was just an average shooter with above average art direction and story.


This comment was edited on Sep 3, 16:03.
 
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"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell (I think...)
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35. Re: maybe.. Sep 3, 2008, 15:35 Ecthelion
 
So let me ask a side question.
I was totally NOT expecting the twist in KOTOR (and loved it), but would my experience of playing KOTOR 2 been better had I not already played the first game, that was much better then the second?
I'm in the same boat as you when it comes to KOTOR and KOTOR2. I don't know anyone who played KOTOR2 but not the first, but I imagine the game would seem better. I remember liking certain elements of the second game better than the first, but on the whole I would agree that the first one was better. That didn't stop me from enjoying the second one though, possibly because I wasn't expecting much.

Is there a point when 'personal hype' totally crushes any sort of enjoyment from a game?
Absolutely, and I think it's part of the reason many people here can't enjoy games like Bioshock. I actually had played SS2, but it had been so long that it wasn't fresh in my memory. I also made a conscious effort to view it as a separate game that drew a few ideas from SS2 (but nothing more). Perhaps games would be a lot better if people like me didn't settle for "average" games, but it's just as possible developers and publishers would stop trying to please increasingly unsatisfied gamers and switch to another market.

Another thing to consider is that dumbing down can't be blamed completely on today's dumber teens (if that is indeed accurate - teens have always been pretty dumb). Older gamers may have something to do with it as well. I don't know if I represent most gamers in my situation in life (i.e. ones that are in their late 20's and up, and who have families and other responsibilities), but I find that I don't have the stamina or attention span for gaming than I did 5 years ago. It's still my favorite hobby, but I don't have the time to devote to it that I once did. I find it a lot harder to get into games that require big time investments - e.g. starting up a RPG (which I used to love doing) now seems like something of a chore. I don't think I'll ever give up PC gaming, or even buy a console for that matter, but I certainly won't complain if games are simplified... within reason. I think that games like Oblivion are designed for people like me just as much as fickle teenagers. I still thought Oblivion was overly simplified, but I seem to be approaching the point where that kind of simplification will seem ideal.

This comment was edited on Sep 3, 16:04.
 
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34. Re: maybe.. Sep 3, 2008, 15:34 Jerykk
 
I was totally NOT expecting the twist in KOTOR (and loved it), but would my experience of playing KOTOR 2 been better had I not already played the first game, that was much better then the second?

No, KOTOR2 was blatantly incomplete regardless of whether you played the first game.

As for Bioshock, yes, it is very, very obviously meant to be the spiritual successor to SS2. If you really need me to explain why, you obviously haven't played both games. However, Bioshock took the SS2 formula and then dumbed it down. This postmortem says as much.

Don't get me wrong, Bioshock was an enjoyable game. However, it was not as good as SS2 and it could have been better than SS2 had it retained the "nerdy" elements.

 
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33. maybe.. Sep 3, 2008, 15:18 The Half Elf
 
I enjoyed Bioshock so much cause I didn't play System Shock 1 or 2?
But then again I find that the more I info whore a game before release the less enjoyment I get out of it when I do play it. Same goes for movies.

So let me ask a side question.
I was totally NOT expecting the twist in KOTOR (and loved it), but would my experience of playing KOTOR 2 been better had I not already played the first game, that was much better then the second?

Is there a point when 'personal hype' totally crushes any sort of enjoyment from a game?

 
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32. Re: Looking Glass Sep 3, 2008, 14:17 Krovven
 
assuming that you were well aware that SS2 was a FPS. If you're trying to claim it was an RPG, well, yes, it's relevant, but only because of your misconception.

I obviously don't have the misconception as I was able to enjoy Bioshock without constantly comparing it to a ten year old game that had a completely different dev team (aside from a few people).

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31. Re: Looking Glass Sep 3, 2008, 14:02 Bhruic
 
Hey thanks for starting the insults. I mean heaven forbid that you be able to have a conversation without resorting to it.

I insulted your position, not you. And acting the innocent when you're the one who decided to start being snarky is quite tacky.

It was a "spiritual successor". It had elements of game mechanics that were present in SS2.

Doom 3 had elements of game mechanics that were present in SS2. I doubt there are many people claiming that it was the "spiritual successor" to SS2.

I like how you ignore the mention that they also made it clear it was an FPS, not an RPG.

I ignored it because I assumed it was irrelevant - assuming that you were well aware that SS2 was a FPS. If you're trying to claim it was an RPG, well, yes, it's relevant, but only because of your misconception.

This comment was edited on Sep 3, 14:03.
 
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30. Re: Looking Glass Sep 3, 2008, 13:47 Krovven
 
Hey thanks for starting the insults. I mean heaven forbid that you be able to have a conversation without resorting to it.

It was a "spiritual successor". It had elements of game mechanics that were present in SS2. They made changes to the game to be more action oriented.

I like how you ignore the mention that they also made it clear it was an FPS, not an RPG. So yes, having "high expectations" of it to be like SS2, when they clearly said that it WOULD NOT be like SS2, is just plain stupid and ignorant.

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29. Re: Looking Glass Sep 3, 2008, 13:36 Bhruic
 
Thanks for making it clear you entirely missed the point. If you constantly place your expectations far above reality (like Jerykk), you will continuously be disappointed and never enjoy anything, let alone something that is supposed to entertain you.

And thanks for letting me know that your point was idiotic. Suggesting that having the expectation of getting a game as good as SS2 is "far above reality" is just plain stupid. There is absolutely nothing wrong with expecting a new game to be at least as good as an old game.

And when you dont have a game to analyze you feel the need to over analyze what everyone else has to say on the topic?

Discussing what the "project lead" of the game said about it is "overanalyzing" it?

Nobody ever said it was...see your high expectations. They said "spiritual successor"

And yet it wasn't a "spiritual successor" to SS2. Once again, expecting Bioshock to be at least as good as SS2 is not, and should not be considered having "high expectations".

 
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