Bioshock : Interview with Paul Hellquist
Lead Designer at Irrational Games -
(Xbox Community Network), with which Xbox Gazette is affiliated, has been able
to ask some questions to Paul Hellquist from Irrational Games, about their game
XCN : Could
you give us some background on how long Bioshock has been in the works and how
much the original idea has evolved over time?
Paul Hellquist : We did
a prototype way back in 2002. At the time, the game didn't get picked up by a
publisher so we put it on the back burner and did SWAT 4. We started up in earnest
again after SWAT in late 2004. The game changed dramatically from that first prototype.
At that time Rapture was a long forgotten WWII base where the Germans had done
secret biological experiments on people. All of the enemies were part human part
undersea creature, the most notorious around the office being "Eel-Man".
: Do you see Bioshock as the spiritual successor to System Shock, and if so
what have you been able to add to the System Shock formula?
: The main things we added to the formula were accessibility and a greater
focus on action than on niggly interface interactions. BioShock still is a horror
game with a fully realized world to explore, it still is incredibly deep, with
a ton of gameplay systems for players to interact with, and has a great story.
All of these things make it a spiritual successor to System Shock 2 in my mind.
: Did you take any inspiration from other games before or during Bioshock's
Paul Hellquist : We always look at a lot of other games
while working on a project. Mostly we look at people who have solved the same
kinds of problems that we were facing while making this game. Some that I recall
looking at in particular include Condemned
: Criminal Origins, Half-Life 2, and others.
: The moral choices that Bioshock offers (ie harvest or rescue Little Sister)
have caused a lot of discussion. Have you had to pull back on your initial plans
to lessen the controversy surrounding this?
Paul Hellquist : We are
the first game that really makes this type of decision a key part of the game
and we think that having it in the game is a big step forward for the industry.
Hopefully more tough moral choices can be explored by future titles throughout
the industry. Ultimately, we want BioShock to be remembered for the excellent
art direction, story and the systemic, emergent experiences and not for a controversy.
What you see in the game reflects that goal.
: It's still a pretty visceral and violent-looking game. Are you positioning
Bioshock as a distinctly adult gaming experience, and what do you see in the future
for adult games of this type?
Paul Hellquist : We strongly believe
that BioShock is a game for adults, that is why it is rated M in the US and received
similar age ratings worldwide. We wanted to explore themes and choices for a mature
audience including exploiting the innocent for personal gain, the dangers of playing
God, and how extremism of any belief system can lead to evil.
I think as the
medium matures and gains more recognition in the public as a viable outlet for
communicating ideas that games that explore more mature themes will gain in popularity.
This trend is also natural as the average age of gamers continues to climb as
the "children of the 80's" who grew up with games reach their 30s now.
XCN : How would you describe the genre
of Bioshock? Is it an FPS? An RPG? Or something totally new?
: We believe BioShock is the deepest FPS ever made. It is an FPS through and
through, but offers more choices for the gamer to interact with the world and
their enemies than any other FPS before it.
: How open is the game world, and what kind of rewards will players get for
exploring areas or digging into the backstory of Rapture?
: The game world is separated into large subsections that you progress through
as you finish the goals of each area. While completing those goals players can
explore that area however they choose and can even return to every other area
they have been to in the past. Some of the rewards you find for exploration include
Gene Tonics which give the players new abilities, rare ammo types and weapon upgrade
machines, as well as more diaries that uncover the mysteries of what happened
XCN : How does the
Plasmid levelling system work, and is it possible for players to create the ultimate,
Paul Hellquist : The character growth system
in BioShock requires a resource called ADAM, which the scientists of Rapture developed
to manipulate genes at will. The player needs to get ADAM from the Little Sisters
and to do that they need to tangle with the Big Daddies. Once you have ADAM you
can spend it on a variety of power-ups at the Gatherer's Garden machine. Here
you can buy upgrades to your Health Bar or your EVE bar, which powers plasmids.
You can also buy additional "slots" in the various categories of plasmids
and gene tonics so that you are able to use more and more abilities at one time.
are able to create some potent and effective characters in BioShock, but you can
never get enough ADAM to max out everything so you need to make careful choices
about what you value the most.
: How do the Big Daddies and Little Sisters intermingle with the other denizens
Paul Hellquist : Big Daddies and Little Sisters roam Rapture
doing what they were genetically engineered to do, harvest ADAM. The Little Sister
seeks out corpses and consumes their fluids to convert it to ADAM in their digestive
system. The Big Daddies follow them around and protect them from the crazed citizens
of Rapture who would love to get the ADAM but are generally afraid to confront
the Big Daddy. The splicers attempt to back away from an upset Big Daddy, who
assumes any close proximity to the Little Sister is a threat. Sometimes the splicer
gets cornered and will attack the Big Daddy as a last ditch attempt to escape.
This case usually ends badly for the splicer.
: We hear there are multiple endings in Bioshock - how do the player's actions
affect the trajectory of the game?
Paul Hellquist : It's all about
choice. Will you exploit the innocent to survive, or will you sacrifice your own
safety to be their saviour. These types of choice will influence the ending of
the game and several key game systems as well!
XCN : Bioshock has a very distinct aesthetic
style. What were your influences and how do you think gamers will react to the
world of Rapture?
Paul Hellquist : Our main influence was the time
period we wanted the game to take place in and what we felt our antagonist and
creator of Rapture Andrew Ryan would think was the pinnacle of style. You can
never predict what the public is going to like or dislike, so we generally don't
try to. We hope that people will find the visual style to be a breath of fresh
air in the washed out grey aesthetic that we are seeing in so many shooters these
days. Ultimately, only time will tell what people think of it.
: Do you have plans for any Bioshock DLC or spin-offs? We've heard rumours
that some Gene Tonics and Plasmids are locked out at the moment...
Hellquist : I can't talk about Downloadable content at this time, but everyone
at Irrational loves that downloadable content has become a feature that is not
only for PC gamers.
XCN : Bioshock
has received numerous awards and accolades even before it is released - do you
feel there is a great deal of pressure for the game to live up to pre-release
Paul Hellquist : Winning numerous Best of Shows at the
last two E3s rocked. And now, we're focused on living up to high expectations
than to ship a game that no one has ever heard of and doesn't care about.
: Can you tell us about the Achievements in Bioshock and how you decided on
what they would be?
Paul Hellquist : We had so many ideas for Achievements
in BioShock that we were sad that we were only allowed to have 50. When push came
to shove, we decided to focus our Achievements on rewarding players for exploring
all of the interesting game systems that are not in most other FPS games, but
there are a few surprises in the list as well. I can also tell you that you cannot
collect all of the achievements on a single play-through.
: Is there a future for the Bioshock series? Or do you want to move onto new
Paul Hellquist : Man, we're just trying to finish the first
XCN : Many thanks for
Related links :
- Other Xbox
Gazette, September 6th 2007
Thanks to : Paul Hellquist,