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The Deeper Shooter is the third of the collectible Golden Film Reels, featuring director's commentary with Ken Levine and Shawn Robertson, hosted by Geoff Keighley. The Golden Film Reels are exclusive to the remastered version of BioShock, part of BioShock: The Collection.

Location[]

Incinerate! required. Under the ice in the Ice Princess freezer to the right of the Power to the People machine in Fontaine Fisheries in Neptune's Bounty.

Transcript[]

Finding the film reel in-game gives the following warning: SPOILER WARNING: The commentary contains in-depth discussion of plot details, including the ending. First-time players may wish to complete the game before viewing.

The host is Geoff Keighley.

Ken Levine's given credits are: Creative Director: System Shock 2, BioShock, BioShock, BioShock Infinite.

Shawn Robertson's given credits are: Animation Lead / Director: BioShock, BioShock Infinite.

Spoilers


[SCENE OVERLAY: Player follows Little Sister and Bouncer to the Eternal Flame Crematorium in the Medical Pavilion; player grabs a gas cylinder with Telekinesis and throws it at a Splicer on the stairs to the Dental Services Area; player uses Electro Bolt to shock a Splicer and fires the Crossbow in Olympus Heights next to the bulkhead for Apollo Square; player submits a photograph for Cohen's Quadtych in Fort Frolic; player uses a Power to the People machine to upgrade the Crossbow in the Office of Supervisor Kyburz in the Workshops in Hephaestus; player watches the Incinerate! instructional Plasmid film while next to the crashed Gatherer's Garden on the upper floor of the Eternal Flame Crematorium in the Medical Pavilion; player picks up the Shotgun from the Splicer trap in the Dental Services Area]

KEIGHLEY: One of the biggest challenges Irrational faced when developing BioShock was figuring out a way to retain the feeling of a deep RPG while making the game accessible to a broader console audience. Ultimately, the team succeeded in creating an intricate system of weapon and character upgrades that gave the player choice and customization while keeping the gameplay fast, lean, and engaging.

[TITLE SCREEN: IMAGINING BIOSHOCK - THE DEEPER SHOOTER - HOSTED BY GEOFF KEIGHLEY]

KEIGHLEY: One of the hallmarks of BioShock to me at least was that it, it really blended RPG and ac-sort of first person action game together in a way that, you know, is-is sort of standard today, but a decade ago was, was really pretty revolutionary. And I know for the team I think at some point it became clear that you wanted this to work on consoles not on PC right?

LEVINE: Well both, yeah.

KEIGHLEY: Yeah. Um, but so the idea of you know doing a console game and a PC, PC game and doing something that sort of felt like a shooter but had much more depth and I know in-in some of the early design docs you talked about sort of creating an FPS-plus versus an RPG-lite. What was the difference in your mind between those two?

LEVINE: I think for us it's the game of, the big difference between System Shock and BioShock ended up being that System Shock was more about your character growth and BioShock was more about the environment. 'Cause with System Shock we really didn't have, System Shock 2, we didn't really have the, either the art team to make enough assets or the visual power to sort of make a comp-, a really convincing environment.

[SCENE OVERLAY: Player looks around Rapture Metro station in Hephaestus; player climbs up the stairs leading to the "Smuggler" corpse display in the Rapture Metro station in Neptune's Bounty; player enters through the door to Eve's Garden in Fort Frolic to see the ADAM ghost of Jasmine Jolene performing on the stage]

LEVINE: But as we started working on BioShock the art team was so strong that the ability to tell a story within the environment became the most important thing about the game. That was sort of not something we thought right at the beginning. That was not really a concept we had, but as we started building things we could realize that the visual world was the star of this thing. That Rapture was really the star of this thing. And telling the story outside of cutscenes, telling it in the world so the gamer could d-discover the story rather than us telling him the story, telling him or her the story. It was still very much for the t-time, for the time quite different from what you had seen in terms of there wasn't a lot of growth in shooters.

KEIGHLEY: Right.

LEVINE: So it was still, I think for the time very, very revolutionary, but I think System Shock 2 was even more ahead of its time in terms of, of that growth thing because, um, we defocused a little but primarily part of it was just figuring out how to do that all in a console controller was, was very tricky.

[SCENE OVERLAY: Player walks through the beginning tunnels of Smuggler's Hideout as a picture of Jack's family flashes on-screen]

KEIGHLEY: Now I re- we were, even in the early demos people were like, you know, you'd see a Plasmid, you'd see like a upgraded weapon. It'd be like "Oh I'd never seen that before in a shooter." And that was, you know, when you were coming out of, the sort of, you know, the Quake, Doom, Half-Life, where it's like you have, you know, eight weapons on the keyboard and you sort of knew what they were and they weren't going to change.

LEVINE: Yeah.

KEIGHLEY: Shawn was that something that, you know, from a, sort of, creative standpoint was it always clear that that was something that you wanted to do or it evolved over time because you wanted to have more depth in the game?

ROBERTSON: I mean it's certainly evolved over time. And each, you know, upgrade path was slightly, it had its own unique challenges.

[SCENE OVERLAY: Player picks up Crossbow from Cohen's Quadtych in Fort Frolic; player uses a Power to the People machine to upgrade the Crossbow in the Office of Supervisor Kyburz in the Workshops in Hephaestus]

ROBERTSON: Like certainly upgrading the weapons you had to design a base weapon that didn't feel like crap, still felt like something that you wanted to use, but then the ability to add the upgrades to, to that and each of the upgrades could come in any order so you have to be aware that this, you know, parts A, B, and C could come in at any different time to upgrade the weapon. In a first-person shooter that's your star, that's the thing that you're seeing all the time. When it comes to other things, Plasmids, uh, things that are you know...

LEVINE: Tonics.

ROBERTSON: Tonics, yes, sorry it's been awhile.

LEVINE: Come on, Shawn!

KEIGHLEY: [laughs]

ROBERTSON: I know, it's 10 years. Those things were more off-loaded to machines that you would then have to interact with so you're not carrying the inventory around with you, but each, each of these decisions on, you know, how we're going to upgrade the player, yeah it wasn't like a mouse and keyboard. Okay, where you can just use the mouse and you have all these buttons at your disposal. You...

LEVINE: You could arbitrarily point at a part of the screen really easily...

ROBERTSON: Yeah.

LEVINE: ...which you could do in System Shock 2.

ROBERTSON: Yeah, so we certainly, you know, learned trial by fire when we were trying to adapt these things to the console at the time.

LEVINE: Yeah and like having, you know, different ammo types and stuff like that.

[SCENE OVERLAY: Early BioShock test footage: early prototype Bouncer with flat drills attached to hands grinds them against each other and walks around, player uses interface to change to Armor Piercing ammo]

LEVINE: Like we went through numerous, numerous iterations of the interface to make it. And I uh, we had the first times, you know, we sort of put the interface into play it was very obtuse and very tricky to get your head around and we just kept working on it and working on it and working on it because we want it to feel like second nature, but that was, we spent a lot of time on that.

[SCENE OVERLAY: Player has activated security alarm on the ground floor in the Eternal Flame Crematorium in the Medical Pavilion, player shoots at incoming Security Bot with the Pistol and Electro Bolt]

KEIGHLEY: What motivated the idea of having, uh, so much choice in the way you could sort of play through this game? What, was it to, you know, give the player a, a better sense of authorship over the experience? Or w-what was driving that?

LEVINE: I've always liked the idea of giving the player a lot agency in terms of their play style and experimenting with the play style and trying different things and seeing what works and didn't work in interacting with the environment. The notion that it's sort of a playground that you get to play around with and, and imprint your own desire on was great 'cause I think we were more skeptical about being able to do that with story at the time. Like so much to the point where it that become almost like a joke, you know, that becomes the meta joke of the game, how little agency you have in-in-in your story. But agency in terms of how you play the experience and how you load out your weapons and how you interact with the environment as compared to most shooters at the time were basically like you can shoot them with a shotgun or shoot them with the, you know, the pistol.

[SCENE OVERLAY: Player fires and reloads the Crossbow at a Nitro Splicer in Olympus Heights next to the bulkhead for Apollo Square, player uses Electro Bolt to shock the Splicer and kills it with a bolt; player uses Incinerate! to ignite a Rosie in the Farmer's Market, then continues attacking it with Napalm from the Chemical Thrower]

LEVINE: That was really important to us so we spent a lot of time trying to make the game, the world react in a way that you would expect it, hope it to react when you tried something.

ROBERTSON: Right. And some of those system or decisions we made about systems fed back into the narrative like locking ADAM behind Big Daddy and the Little Sister like you can't get ADAM unless you deal with a Big Daddy which then becomes a roving boss fight which then becomes another system that I don't know if we planned that from the start or it was one of those happy like you know serendipity like oh this decision that we made about putting ADAM behind the Big Daddy totally works because now we have a different type of boss fight that you hadn't really seen. And other kinds...

LEVINE: Actually, actually it was the, it was back, it was the other way because what happened was originally there was no concept of ADAM and Big Daddies just had money and other treasure on them like every other Splicer. And they were so tough nobody would ever fight them because why on Earth would you go after that guy?

KEIGHLEY: Yeah. Why don't you go off a bunch of small Splicers and get the same amount, yeah.

LEVINE: So we had to come up with a-a currency that was exclusive to them because we knew that was where the fun was right, but we also knew people were terrified of them and didn't want to fight them. So game, video game development and system development is a lot like economics right? You know in economics you try to encourage certain behaviors through tax, usually through tax policy. You know well you want business growth so you lower taxes on, on certain segments of the business economy or you want to encourage you know people to move into this area so you make incentives to move in here. We had to make an incentive for players to fight the Big Daddy and ADAM became that incentive and then once you had this ADAM then you had a new piece of narrative which you then could incorporate that into the story.

ROBERTSON: Yeah.

[SCENE OVERLAY: Player encounters the first Little Sister opportunity on the way back from Surgery in the Medical Pavilion - Splicer: "And all the tasty Adam I can drink...", Little Sister screams, gunshots, Splicer: "Ah! No!", Tenenbaum: "Stay away from her or it is you who will be shot next...", Atlas: "Easy now, Doctor... He's just looking for a wee bit of Adam, just enough to get by...", Tenenbaum: "I'll not have him hurt my Little Ones..."]

KEIGHLEY: Talk a bit about the, the Plasmids and the vending machines and that sort of whole approach to I guess what is kind of a tech tree, but you know and coming from PC games, you know, used to strategy games one that was very complicated ways of how you would upgrade things. Thought you guys did a really interesting, you had a really interesting approach to how you made it very accessible to a console audience. How did that evolve? Was like, did you know the vending machines were going to be there from the get-go?

LEVINE: We had vending machines in System Shock 2 so we were sort of lifting that and I always thought that was a fun it was a fun, um it was a fun notion to, because it's a, it's a affordance that people are already understand, you know they see a m-machine, a vending machine, they know immed- oh that's where I buy stuff, right.

KEIGHLEY: Yup.

LEVINE: And you also didn't have to have a shopkeep. When we talked about wanting to make things, put limitations on ourselves so things felt fully believable.

KEIGHLEY: Yeah.

LEVINE: If we had a shopkeeper sitting there you can't shoot him, he sits there, he doesn't say anything and all of a sudden he feels fake. Where a vending machine, the Circus of Values machine could feel a hundred percent authentic. You know, despite the fact that it's selling like ammo and stuff like that you know which is, yeah...

ROBERTSON: But in a Objectivist society where you don't have rules or regulations...

KEIGHLEY: Right.

LEVINE: You have that.

KEIGHLEY: That's allowed.

ROBERTSON: ...[indistinct] it-it feeds back into the narrative.

LEVINE: But you don't then break the fiction at all by having these characters who sort of don't really bre- live and breathe in the world. So the vending machines became an important part of that, but we still wanted to give them character and hence the clo- you know and so that clown image came from a piece of, um, that image is actually from like a, a fruit container or something...

KEIGHLEY: Uh huh.

LEVINE: ...back in the 1940s...

KEIGHLEY: Okay.

LEVINE: ...and then so we had a book of like license- royalty-free images and I saw that image and I'm like "Let's call, let's put that clown on it and we'll call it Circus of Values." And then you know, we wrote a li-, some lines for it decided he'd be this sort of asshole clown and then, um, then we hired the best actor in the world to play that part. That was, that was me. Uh...

KEIGHLEY: [laughs]

LEVINE: What I cost, the, my biggest advantage that I didn't cost anything um...

KEIGHLEY: I didn't know you were, really that's your voice? Oh it's the clown.

LEVINE: ...I was the clown yeah. Um..

ROBERTSON: I hear it in my head every day...

LEVINE: My wife hates that voice. She hates that voice.

KEIGHLEY: Can you give us a little of it right here?

LEVINE: Welcome to the Circus of Values!! She does not allow me to do that so I have to do it outside of the house.

KEIGHLEY: Okay, okay.

LEVINE: But it, it allowed us to, it allowed us to have something that felt very rich and very real while being very limited at the same time.

[SCENE OVERLAY: Close-up of a Circus of Values machine in the Medical Pavilion as the jingle plays, "Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Fill your cravings at the Circus of Values!"]

KEIGHLEY: And also you know the Plasmids is sort of the motif of sort of the videos and how you explain sort of what a Plasmid was that was a really fun way I thought to sort of explain that. How, Shawn, how did you guys evolve that because it's a very ar-artistic approach.

ROBERTSON: Again, I think, I think those came on pretty late too because we, you know, we were developing all these systems and you make the assumptions because you're dealing with them everyday that the player who gets this game is going to understand what these systems are and, you know, we always joked that you can't ship a developer with a game or you can't expect somebody to, to have a readme file for all these things. Nobody's understanding what these Plasmids are or how to use them.

[SCENE OVERLAY: Player watches a Plasmid instructional video for Insect Swarm at a Gatherer's Garden]

ROBERTSON: How do we present these to the audience in, in such a way that they're going to understand what it is fictionally and what it is functionally? Think it was Rob Waters did a lot of the, the animations on those and we sit down and we, you know, write out like a little 30 second commercial of what this thing is and again because going back to the narrative this is what would happen in Rapture. People are trying to sell these things so they would come up with commercials to explain why you need this.

[SCENE OVERLAY: Player watches a Plasmid instructional video for Enrage at a Gatherer's Garden]

ROBERTSON: Using that as, as your framework you can then come up with all these, you know, little, little gags that people will remember that have a little personality to them but, think ultimately in the end weren't that expensive to create cause they were cheap..

LEVINE: No, I mi-, I think one of the most smart things about it is, we sent, we didn't want them to be long and we didn't have a lot of budget for the arts. We had like a couple frames of animation in them essentially...

ROBERTSON: Yes.

LEVINE: ...and so we had to figure out how do we message how this thing works in like [snaps] that. And that's what marketing is right? You know, it's how do you message wha- how something works?

[SCENE OVERLAY: Player watches a Plasmid instructional video for Incinerate! at a fallen Gatherer's Garden in the Eternal Flame Crematorium in the Medical Pavilion; player ignites the oil slick with Incinerate! next to the Gatherer's Garden and watches the fire spread to the attacking Splicers]

LEVINE: And marketing and tutorializing ki- are very similar things where you're trying to get a message across in a very brief period of time in a very snappy fashion and I think that one of the things that I-I always felt about games is that tutorials are sort of death and because they're usually like, you know, uh, you go into a scene and there's like a tra- a shooting range or something like that. And you...

KEIGHLEY: Narratively they never really make sense either.

LEVINE: And I know they're so boring and so w-we always try to put a big burden on ourselves sort of, of how do we train people while not letting them know they're being trained. And brevity is really important to that so we sort of, we had a bunch of art constraints in that which also led to a bunch of writing constraints and so those things were like I don't even know if they were 30 seconds.

ROBERTSON: Yeah sort of more like 15 seconds.

LEVINE: So really short. Yeah, 15 seconds long. We had to explain the whole Plasmid in that period of time and I think that was a good exercise because it also made the game, it forced us to be concise, to really explain what this thing was like that.

[SCENE OVERLAY: Player watches a Plasmid instructional video for Telekinesis at a Gatherer's Garden, jingle plays "Throw objects at foes. You can even catch grenades and throw them back!"; player catches a grenade thrown by a Nitro Splicer on the stairs of Emergency Access in the Medical Pavilion and finishes it off with the Machine Gun]

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