Development of BioShock Infinite

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Ken Levine, the creative lead for BioShock Infinite

The development of BioShock Infinite began after BioShock '​s release in August 2007. 2K Games published BioShock Infinite on 26 March 2013 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360[a] as the third game in the BioShock series. The five-year development, led by studio Irrational Games, began under the moniker "Project Icarus". Irrational's creative lead, Ken Levine was inspired by events at the turn of the 20th Century and the expansion of the concept of American Exceptionalism set by the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. His story took these events to create a tale set in 1912 where the player, as former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt, is challenged to rescue the young woman Elizabeth that has been kept aboard the floating city of Columbia in the middle of a civil war between its founder Father Zachary Comstock and the Vox Populi, the underclass revolting against him.

Though development initially started in Rapture, the underwater city of the first two BioShock games, the team found this to be too limiting and created the open-aired city of Columbia that allowed for expanded opportunities for combat. The Irrational team referenced much of the media from the turn of the century, as well as more recent events such as the various "Occupy" protests, to shape the game's story and world. Central to the game was the character of Elizabeth, who Levine wants to be more of a companion akin to Half-Life 2 '​s Alyx Vance rather than an escort mission. Levine took a novel approach for his story by bringing the voice actors for Booker and Elizabeth, Troy Baker and Courtnee Draper, respectively, into the studio to develop the characters and help refine the story.

Irrational and 2K Games used a number of different marketing approaches to promote the game. They worked with various gaming magazines to create promotional artwork reflecting the turn of the 20th Century, and developed tie-in video clips teasing the game's mythology in the style of In Search Of.... A standalone browser game, BioShock Infinite: Industrial Revolution, was developed by Lazy 8 Studios under Irrational's direction to promote the main game and provide the player with in-game rewards. Additional promotional media included an art book, figurines of various characters in the game, a prequel novella, a board game, and a contest to have the winner have their name used within the game.

Development[edit]

Irrational worked in secrecy on BioShock Infinite for two-and-a-half years since completing the original BioShock prior to its announcement;[1] with the game announced as going gold on February 19, 2013, about five years of development had been put into the game, with about 200 people involved in the process.[2][3] 2K Games gave them the freedom to develop their sequel at will.[4][5] Though The New York Times claimed that the game cost an estimated $100 million to develop with up to an additional $100 million for marketing,[2] Levine countered this assertion though the true cost of development has not been affirmed.[6]

Though BioShock Infinite shares the same name with the other two games, Levine has stated that this is a new direction, and was coy to answer if they shared the same universe.[7] Levine referred to the term BioShock not as a specific location or setting, but a concept conjoined by two ideas: the exploration of a fantastical setting, and the use of a large number of tools and abilities in creative manners to survive.[8] Along with the System Shock games, which Levine and other Irrational developers had worked on, the titles share the same idea of a "component of learning about a new place" and shocking the player into discovering more of the setting, according to Levine.[9] Levine affirmed that with the similarities between the games, "It would be dishonest to say this is not BioShock".[10] Similarly, Timothy Gerritsen, director of product development, stated they wanted to keep the feel of the BioShock experience but still consider Infinite to be a new intellectual property; as a means to sever the implied connection to the previous games, the teaser purposely shows a Big Daddy figurine being crushed at the onset.[4] This was furthered by the selection of the word Infinite as part of the title, to reflect the "many possibilities" they wanted to explore with the BioShock concept.[4] The game does not completely eschew BioShock, as certain elements like the sound effects representing the player's health or for gaining new quests from BioShock are reused without modification in Infinite; Levine stated that they had worked these common elements as former BioShock players would already understand their impact, and that they had spent a great detail of time during BioShock to get these elements right and felt no need to reinvent the sounds again.[11] Further, the introduction of Infinite purposely mimics several elements from BioShock '​s opening: one example given by writer Drew Holmes is the act of walking through a candle-lined water trough in a Columbia church to be baptized, which visually is similar to swimming through the flaming wreckage of the plane to reach the bathysphere terminus for Rapture.[12]

Story and setting[edit]

The 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, considered to have flourished the idea of American Exceptionalism, is a major influence on Infinite '​s story and the design of Columbia.

For the first six months of development, the team prototyped several possible ideas to brainstorm on what concepts would be effective for the next game.[13] The team had originally considered reusing Rapture from the first two BioShock games, aware that Rapture would be synonymous with the BioShock name, and that players had reacted positively to exploring the underwater city, learning of its history, and having "the sense of the world, and being in that place".[14] As they worked to determine the story and types of quests the player would undertake, they found themselves bored and struggling to come up with new ideas and feared that players would react the same. This prompted the team to consider an alternate setting despite this being a "terrifying" prospect in terms of project scope.[14] Irrational had also considered placing events during the Renaissance, but upon the announcement of Assassin's Creed II in 2009 which took place during the same historical period, they dropped this idea.[15] The idea of the air-city came early in the development. The open-air environment gave them an opportunity to use color schemes that sharply contrasted with the darker palettes that were a staple of their earlier games.[7] Even then, their initial designs of the flying city were darker and closer to Art Nouveau, making the game world too claustrophobic and appearing similar to the city of Rapture. The period of American exceptionalism allowed them to create a brighter, expansive system.[16]

According to Irrational's Ken Levine, the name "Columbia", in reference to the female figure that personifies the United States, and the idea of American exceptionalism did not come about until six to eight months before the game's reveal.[17] An early concept was to depict a group of technology geeks against a band of luddites, but Levine found that such conflict exists "only in shades of reality" and wasn't compelling enough.[18] Instead, the Irrational team recentered on the idea of American exceptionalism, a tangible concept that continues to be repeated throughout history.[18] The idea came to Levine after watching a PBS documentary, America 1900, about the late 19th century, which quickly caught on with the rest of the team.[7][19] In particular, Levine pointed to one quote of U.S. President William McKinley on the eve of the Philippine–American War, which spoke to the need of America to "uplift and civilize and Christianize" the natives of the Philippines.[20] Though the accuracy of the quote is disputed, Irrational's lead artist Shawn Robinson noted that BioShock Infinite '​s goal is "not to teach any history", but felt such historical aspects helped to ground the work's fiction.[20] Levine stated that in the same manner that BioShock was not built specifically around Objectivism, Infinite is not built around jingoism, but only uses the concepts to help set the stage to tell the story of individuals caught up in the conflicts.[21] Another work that Levine took inspiration from was Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City about Dr. H. H. Holmes, the first recorded serial killer at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago; Levine considered how the work gave "a great optimism and excitement for the future and one of this ominous feeling at the same time".[19] Levine noted that in contrast to the character of Andrew Ryan from the first BioShock, where history had influenced some of his decisions, Booker and other characters have been directly involved with some of the aforementioned history, reflected in how these characters react to certain scenarios.[11]

If you think about the founding principles of the United States, if you think about the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, what's interesting to me is how two different people can look at the same set of documents by a single group of writers and come away with entirely different opinions about what those writings mean-so different that they're willing to kill each other over them.

Ken Levine, Irrational Games[22]

Levine considered how the founding documents of the United States can be interpreted in several ways, leading to conflict between those that hold various interpretations of those ideals, leading to Infinite '​s different factions.[22] Figureheads of the powers-that-be like Saltonstall are based on both historical and present-day nationalistic personalities, seeking to put the needs of America before others.[23] One example given by Levine is President Theodore Roosevelt, whose ideals were highly influential during America's transformation in the early 20th century; Levine considered how Roosevelt willingly gave up office to fight during the Spanish–American War.[24] On the other hand, the Vox Populi were based on historical factions that often splintered into small, independent groups that undertook violent actions, such as the Red Army Faction from the 1970s and the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front of present day.[23] During the course of the game's development period, the series of "Occupy" protests occurred across several cities; Levine, comparing these protests to other historical ones already incorporated into Columbia's history, used the real-time events to refine the game's story. Specifically, due to the nature of the various decentralized groups involved with the "Occupy" protests, Levine was able to define how the Vox Populi group would grow from its haphazard beginnings.[25] Levine reflected that despite the game's earlier setting, many of the modern day political turmoil calls back to similar tactics and behavior used in the early days of America's democracy, and thus provided a means to flesh out these aspects within the game.[26]

Daddy in the great war.jpg Bioshock-infinite-propaganda.jpg
Propaganda such as the British poster for World War I recruitment (left), inspired much of Columbia '​s propaganda (right) developed by Irrational.[1]

Irrational Games brought another 2K Games' subsidiary, 2K Marin, aboard to help build out the architecture and details of Columbia.[27] Irrational's director of design Bill Gardner stated that the scope of Columbia was much more expansive than Rapture in terms of virtual space, using an example of the whole of one BioShock level, the "Medical Pavilion", able to easily fit into a beach on Columbia, a fraction of the overall level there, and thus necessitating the additional help.[27] The Irrational team reviewed much of the American culture and propaganda at the turn of the 20th century, using the artwork to create some of the in-game posters.[21][28] Levine commented that at the time, such imagery was "really subtle", and considered that their re-envisioning of these posters within Columbia was "a great way to communicate ideas visually".[1] Other sources of inspiration for the game's art included photographs from before and after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and from Sears-Roebuck catalogs from the turn of the century.[29] Another source of inspiration for the art style was developed by considering Infinite to represent "The Fourth of July, 1912", just as BioShock resonated with the theme of "New Years Eve 1959". By selecting this hypothetical date, the team quickly identified films to draw imagery from, like The Music Man, Meet Me in St. Louis, and Hello, Dolly which exhibited ideal views of Americana at the turn of the 20th century.[30] The bright, open-air environments of Columbia presented a challenge to the team to keep aspects of the horror genre within the game; Levine stated they took some inspiration from Stanley Kubrick's The Shining and David Lynch's Blue Velvet, transforming an "antiseptic environment" into the "scariest ******* place [one's] ever seen".[31][22]

The idea of using tears in the fabric of space-time was influenced by a similar story decision in BioShock. With Rapture set in the 1960, the Irrational team had looked to the scientific progress of James D. Watson and Francis Crick towards understanding DNA in 1953, and built the idea of ADAM and gene modification. For Infinite, the same concept was used with the development of quantum theory by Albert Einstein, Max Planck, and Werner Heisenberg that would later bore out in the Many Worlds Theory.[32] Incorporating the use of tears was a challenge from the story standpoint but one that Levine enjoyed, noting that this leads to the impression of Booker being an unreliable narrator for the events of the game.[32] One of the game demonstrations showed Elizabeth accidentally opening a tear into a 1980's setting after trying to revive a fallen horse. This setting was in contrast to their initial idea, a woodland glade, which Levine felt wasn't "striking or different enough" than the rest of Columbia. Instead, they borrowed assets from a previous project that, according to lead artist Shawn Robertson, Irrational was "literally about to throw away", finding the contrast and abrupt differences from the Columbia setting helped to emphasize the use of tears in the game.[18] In regards to the ending, Levine has stated that the ending of Infinite is "like nothing you've experienced in a video game before"; the story purposely avoids a problem that arose from the original BioShock in which, after the death of Andrew Ryan before the last third of the game, "the story loses some of its steam".[33]

Character development[edit]

Veteran voice actor Troy Baker plays Booker DeWitt in BioShock Infinite.

Booker is voiced by veteran voice actor Troy Baker, while Elizabeth is voiced by actress Courtnee Draper.[34] Baker and Draper's participation in the development process was atypical for most video games; instead of just coming in to record their lines, Levine considered them as collaborators on the story development process.[35] The three spent a significant amount of time in the recording studio, improvising scenes and working on repeated recordings to try to find the right tone to present scripted dialog; such changes were then reflected appropriately in the game's story and dialog. Levine favorably contrasted Baker and Draper as "the genius and the novice" respectively; Baker had several previous roles in video game voice-overs, while Draper had none; the different levels of experience between the two helped to tighten the performances, the combination a "potent mix" according to Levine.[35] Levine explained one case where Draper was struggling to give a convincing tearful performance when Elizabeth is having difficulty using her powers. Both Draper and Levine believed it would be helpful to have Baker provide Booker's loud, berating dialog alongside Draper to help Draper find the right emotional response to deliver for the scene.[35][36] Levine considered the input of both actors of critical importance to be able to deliver a lot of information, both in words and emotion, in only a few lines of dialog.[35] Levine also worked with the actors directly to script out specific scenes once they had gotten to know their characters before recording their voices.[36] Despite working closely with Baker and Draper on characterization and creating dialog on the fly, Levine did not provide the actors with full knowledge of their characters' backstory or the overarching plot of the game prior to recording; according to Levine, this helped the actors to create the in-game connection between Booker and Elizabeth in a much more natural manner than reading with full knowledge of the script.[36] Similarly, Levine has not told the developers on his team the whole story of BioShock Infinite, using the reveals to gauge their reactions and adjust the story as needed; this had created some strife in the team, as they would prefer working with full knowledge of the script, but Levine noted "that's not the way we present stuff to the gamer".[37]

In the early development of Infinite, Elizabeth was designed to be more of a useful companion than a partner within the game; she would be able to perform tasks like picking locks that the player could not, but otherwise lacked a significant emotional bond. However, after showcasing the game at the 2011 E3 Convention, the Irrational team saw players react favorably to Elizabeth, and started to make her the player's partner for the game, expanding her abilities to accommodate this.[38] This approach to Elizabeth was inspired by the character of Alyx Vance from Half-Life 2, a central element and an "emotional driver" to the game's story.[9] Irrational wanted to expand on that concept, demonstrating how such a character would interact with talkative player-character, compared to the silent Gordon Freeman, and creating further emotional ties between the two characters.[11] Levine also considered the characterization of the player-character Monkey and his non-playable companion Trip in the game, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, as inspiration towards the story of Booker and Elizabeth.[39] The plot revolves around changes that Elizabeth, Booker, and their relationship undergo as the player explores deeper into Columbia. Further, they wanted to avoid giving Elizabeth any of the same abilities that the player has; they rejected letting her use a gun, for example, as this would take away from the player's role in defeating the enemy.[11] They gave Elizabeth additional abilities, such as being able to scrounge and toss supplies of ammunition and Salts to Booker, or to decode ciphers hidden around Columbia with codes found by Booker, that helped to connect her more emotionally to the player.[11]

Elizabeth's character, particularly her relationship to her captor, the Songbird, is based on his experience with a former female companion that Levine had; she had told Levine that her previous relationship was abusive, but she would otherwise "make excuses for him [her former friend], all the time" and ultimately returned to him.[40] Levine had altered this in Infinite, that while creating the abusive relation between Elizabeth and Songbird, Elizabeth desired to escape that, even if death was the only option; at one point in the game's preview material, Elizabeth is shown wrapping Booker's hands around her neck and convincing him to kill her while Songbird attempts to break into the building that they have secured themselves into.[40] In response to discussions on Internet forums regarding the size and exposed nature of Elizabeth's breasts, Levine noted that part of their design for Elizabeth and her costume was to be able to recognize her from a distance given the open-space nature of the game and limited resolution. Levine stated that her costume is inspired by that of superheroes, using a simple color scheme that would help her to stand out in the colorful and complex landscapes.[41]

The programming of the artificial intelligence for Elizabeth was considered a major technical challenge for Irrational, as they desired to give her as much near-human behavior in contrast to most other games where such companions are either highly scripted or given relatively simplistic pragmas to follow, and had little previous examples from other games to build on;[42] Levine cited Half-Life 2 '​s Alyx as the last "great AI companion".[43] Irrational had previously developed AI routines for the Big Daddies and Little Sisters in BioShock that would allow them to roam and interact with the environment if otherwise left alone by the player; these routines were the basis of building out improved behavior for Elizabeth.[43] The developers had spent much time improving these routines to give Elizabeth her own tendencies to look and move around as a real actor instead of a robotic non-player character, as to re-enforce her central role to the player.[9] To this, Levine explained that they looked to the banter between the main characters in the Uncharted series by Naughty Dog. Levine praised the work that Naughty Dog had done, and felt he would be able to create the same with a more somber period piece.[36] Some of Elizabeth's responses will be driven by a player's action (such as the aforementioned horse recovery scene), but other times, Elizabeth's actions will be on her own in response to the environment. Much of Columbia was seeded "room by room" with elements that Elizabeth will be interested in, comment on, and react to.[43] However, as for the player not missing these elements, such actions would only be performed based on a number of factors, including whether the player was near and looking at Elizabeth, and the current tension of the game.[44] This apparent curiosity serendipitously worked with Elizabeth's story, who after having been locked up for twelve years would be eager to see new things.[43] Elizabeth's AI also monitors and tracks the player's behavior over time, such that the AI will attempt to predict when the player is moving and keep Elizabeth out of the line of fire.[43] Programming Elizabeth's AI was a significant challenge to the Irrational team, and at several points during development the suggestion of cutting her from the game was brought up. Levine countered these suggestions, insisting on keeping her in the game. To manage this, a multidisciplinary subgroup called the "Liz Squad" reviewed the levels designed by others to assure that the presence of Elizabeth was accounted for across the game and to avoid situations where the level would delegate the character to simply hiding in a closet.[43] On March 15, 2013, the full voice cast was announced by Irrational Games.[45]

Technical and gameplay development[edit]

According to Levine, the team had to revolutionize their previous work on the BioShock game in order to realize Columbia, including both indoor and outdoor settings that take place thousands of feet above the ground.[46] The original BioShock engine, a modified Unreal Engine 2.x, was inadequate for their vision, and so they chose to work with Unreal Engine 3, modifying it with their own lighting engine and means to simulate the movement and buoyancy of the buildings.[4] The development team found that the implementation of open spaces created new gameplay options for the player, such as deciding between long-ranged attacks or finding a means to move in for short-range or melee combat.[47] While Irrational had followed 2K Marin's work on BioShock 2, Infinite does not include any further improvements that 2K Marin had made on the original engine.[4] According to Levine, all assets of Infinite are created from scratch.[48]

One challenge facing Irrational was identified from BioShock, in which players, once equipped with specific plasmids and weapons, could complete the game without having to alter their weapons; Levine quotes the saying "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail" to describe how they found players were able to complete most of BioShock using the 'Electro Bolt' plasmid and a shotgun.[47] Irrational wanted instead to create situations through Infinite '​s weapons and powers that allowed the player to progress to some point with certain combinations but then would be forced to learn new possibilities that Irrational had designed within the game.[4] The vertical and open-air spaces of Columbia provide more opportunity to include various types of combat compared to the close-ranged limits of Rapture within the first BioShock.[49] The team developed a variety of enemies that would have certain strengths and weakness that would force the player to experiment and work with all their available tools given to them.[47] This was further enhanced by the inclusion of Elizabeth, who has powers that can be used in conjunction with Booker's to achieve more impressive results but that strain her powers and giving choice to the player as to how and when to use her abilities.[4] Another aspect that Irrational had considered from BioShock was the way players opted in choosing whether to save or harvest the Little Sisters; according to writer Drew Holmes, because this choice simply affected the reward that players would receive, they would not consider the moral consequences of their actions, particularly with subsequent playthroughs of the game. While Infinite will offer such choices to the player, these will be less obvious and with initially ambiguous results, an example being the choice of throwing a baseball at an interracial couple or the barker at the start of the game.[12]

The inclusion of Elizabeth also served to better extend Irrational's vision of storytelling first-person shooters and to avoid other tropes used in similar games that have become "long in the tooth" such as receiving information over a radio or from someone on the opposite side of a window; according to Levine, having Elizabeth as a person working aside the player-characters helps to make the game "feel more grounded in humanity".[1] In contrast to the silent Jack from BioShock, the player character Booker is also given a voice, a decision to avoid complacency with the "silent protagonist" motif as well to have face-to-face interactions with other non-player characters instead of being told what to do over a radio or separated by a barrier.[22]

The team wanted to capture the aspect of BioShock where not every non-player character would immediately be aggressive towards you; Levine discusses a situation in Infinite where the player character walks into a crowded bar and cannot immediately tell the disposition of the non-player characters towards the player.[48] Levine compared this to the introduction of the Big Daddy in BioShock, giving the player several opportunities to view but not engage the characters so they would understand that there are several possible outcomes depending on what approach they used when they did have the ability to engage one.[50] As Infinite contains numerous groups in internal conflict with each other, the player will be given the opportunity to learn how to utilize different non-player character agents to progress in the game.[50] Irrational wanted to make sure consequences of the player's actions were reflected in the game; part of this is through the strain on Elizabeth when using her powers, but through altering the suspended city, they are able to change the environment in response to the player's choice and force the player to consider different tactics.[48]

Earlier versions of the games had included Nostrums as gameplay elements, but these were replaced by equipable gear.[11] Nostrums would have made permanent changes to the character and cannot be removed once used. They would have been available in two types, stable and unstable varieties, the latter referred to as "potlucks". Stable nostrums would have been expensive, but the player would know exactly what effect applying the nostrum would gain them. Unstable nostrums would be cheaper or found lying around the environment, but upon use, would require the player to select one of four random effects to alter their character, an idea inspired by Heroes of Might and Magic according to Levine.[51] The Nostrum system was scrapped in favor of using gear as they found that the system was too similar to other ones that the player would have available in equipping their character, compared to the gear option.[11] Similarly, earlier demonstrations of the game did not use Salt to power vigors, but instead each vigor would have a limited number of uses before it was exhausted. While more can be found around the game's environment, the player would have only been able to carry a limited number of vigors into battle, with more powerful vigors containing fewer charges.[51]

The game's "1999 Mode" was a result of a conversation that Levine had with a college student after speaking at a college during the latter stages of Infinite '​s development; the student explained his disappointment with BioShock in that none of the choices the player makes in that game has long-lasting impact. Levine agreed with this statement and realized that giving permanence to the player's choices would make the game more interesting. Design director Bill Gardener also acknowledged that their approach within BioShock was part of the general trend in gaming over the last decade due to streamlining of games.[52] Irrational Games validated the inclusion using an informal survey from fans of the studio, with 57% responding positively towards the idea.[53][54] Levine compared the 1999 Mode similar to the idea of selecting a character class, and specializations would be a mutually exclusive choice; opting to be proficient in pistols would leave the character struggling to use any other weapon type.[53] Elements of resource management were also critical to Levine; while the player can revive Booker upon death within the game, this will cost resources, and potentially lead to a case where the player can no longer afford the revitalization, forcing the player to load a save game.[54] Levine wanted to also capture the flavor of games like Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six, where turning a corner carelessly could result in the character's death by a single bullet, creating a certain tension while traversing the level.[54] The addition of the mode was late in the development cycle, requiring the Irrational Team to re-balance parts of the game for it, having to recall the design of "hard-core" games like System Shock 2 where the failure of the player would often lead to the game being over prematurely.[54] The studio recognized that the average gamer would likely quit playing the game in such circumstances, and plan to hide access to the 1999 Mode in the game's menus, such as by using the Konami Code, as to prevent such gamers from accidentally stumbling upon it.[52][54] The game was ultimately released with a variation on the Konami Code as the means to unlock 1999 Mode from the start, though the mode also becomes available after the player completes the game the first time.[55]

Irrational Games has considered options for a multiplayer element, though Levine has stated that there will be no multiplayer shipped with the game.[56] While the team has experimented with concepts for a multiplayer component, Levine has stated that they would only proceed forward if it had elements not otherwise found in multiplayer games like Halo.[57][58] At least two multiplayer modes were examined but later scrapped by Irrational. One mode was a co-operative mini-game similar to tower defense having the player characters miniaturized within an old-time arcade machine to defend against waves of enemies. This mode was cancelled early on to focus on a four player co-operative mode tentatively titled "Spec-Ops", similar to the mode of the same name from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The four players would have worked their way through levels from the single player game to complete missions under certain requirements. Further development on "Spec-ops" has since been dropped.[59] Additional material, such as locations, weapons, vigors, and other enemies, were also cut from the game as it neared publication and fine-tuned the experience; Irrational's Bill Gardner claims that enough material for five or six games were scrapped during this process.[15]

After the previous installations of BioShock were found to have some issues with Microsoft Windows computers, Levine stated that they have a "dedicated group" to make sure that Infinite "feels at home on [Windows computers]".[60] The retail Windows version will ship on three DVD discs to accommodate higher-resolution textures beyond the consoles versions, and will support video cards capable of running DirectX 11 in addition to DirectX 10, allowing for further graphical improvements to the game.[61] Levine further stated that the Windows version, enabled by Steamworks, will not use additional digital rights management software such as Games for Windows - Live or SecuRom.[60]

The original BioShock received some criticism from PlayStation 3 owners, who found the port from the native Windows and Xbox 360 developed by a separate studio, Digital Extremes, to be lackluster. To address this, Irrational Games has stated that the PlayStation 3 version of Infinite would not be a port, as that version is being developed in-house simultaneously with the Windows and Xbox 360 versions.[62] In addition, the PlayStation 3 version of the game will support stereoscopic 3D.[63] BioShock Infinite will support the PlayStation Move motion controller.[64] Though some reports believed that a new Move controller would be produced for the game based on information from Sony, 2K Games debunked these stories, stating that no new hardware is being developed for the game.[65] The North American PlayStation 3 version of the game will include a copy of the original BioShock.[66][67] Levine has expressed interest in a Wii U version of Infinite in light of what abilities the touchscreen controller can offer, but contends that the decision to develop for that platform is "really a discussion that the business people have and see if it makes sense for Nintendo, if it makes sense for Take Two".[11] Aspyr helped to port Infinite to the OS X platform and was released on August 29, 2013.[68]

In August 2012, several high-level developers from Irrational that had been working on Infinite announced their departure from the company; these included art director Nate Wells, who began working with Naughty Dog,[69] and director of product development Tim Gerritsen. At the same time, Irrational announced the addition of Rod Fergusson from Epic Games as their product director while Scott Sinclair, art director from the original Bioshock, replaced Wells. Levine stated that he still believes in the Infinite development team's capacity to complete the game as expected.[70] Two further high-level departures occurred in October 2012: Don Norbury and Clint Bundrick, who were producers for the game's artificial intelligence and combat design, respectively; Irrational did not comment on these departures but asserted that the game was still scheduled for its February 2013 release.[71]

Marketing[edit]

Announcement[edit]

Prior to its announcement on August 12, 2010, Irrational Games has used the moniker "Project Icarus" to describe their next game, creating a teaser site in late July 2010.[72] Over the weeks leading to the announcement, the animation on the teaser site slowly built up to an animated infinity symbol on the day prior to the announcement.[73] Initially, the game was announced for an October 2012 worldwide release in March 2012.[74] In May 2012, the game's release was pushed back to February 26, 2013 to give the developers more time to polish the title, and appearances of the game for the 2012 E3 and Gamescon conventions were put on hold.[75] Irrational announced a second delay in December 2012, pushing the title out an additional month to March 26, 2013; Levine stated this was a suggestion from Fergusson after coming onto the project, who believed the few extra weeks would help to assure the quality of the delivered game.[76]

Two special editions were released alongside the game, for each release platform – Windows, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. The Special Edition includes an art book, a propaganda poster, a mini-figurine of the Handyman, a keychain, and the game's soundtrack, along with in-game codes for special powers and, for consoles, additional themes. The Ultimate Songbird edition, in addition to the above, includes a 9.5" statue of the Songbird, designed by Irrational's Robb Waters.[77]

One of the three Saturday Evening Post-inspired covers of the October 2010 issue of Game Informer to highlight BioShock Infinite, in this one showing Elizabeth tending to Songbird, a giant bird-like robotic creature

Three different covers for Game Informer '​s first preview of the game for its October 2010 issue were collaborations between Irrational and the magazine, envisioning what a video game magazine would be like in the early 20th century. Each cover, drawn by Irrational's Rob Waters, is inspired by the cover artwork from The Saturday Evening Post and includes fictional advertisements based on early 20th century variants, including one redrawn from a public domain ad.[78][79] Kevin Gifford of Gamasutra praised these covers, commented that such a diversion for a game magazine cover represents a paradigm change, in that "developers are beginning to appreciate what magazines can do for their media strategy that online can't", and that because Game Informer does need to vie for space at newsstands, is able to take more creative approaches with such covers as opposed to cover layers designed to gain maximum exposure.[80] Similarly, in its reveal of the first images of the player protagonist Booker, Electronic Games Monthly used a cover in homage to the Uncanny X-Men comic, Days of Future Past, another story dealing with alternate realities.[81]

Release trailers[edit]

The game's first trailer was released alongside the game's full announcement, showcasing Columbia, the propaganda around the city, and Elizabeth and her powers.[82] A second trailer for the game premiered at the 2011 Spike Video Game Awards held in December of that year; in it, new scenes from the game are played during the song "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?". This version of the song was sung by Elizabeth's voice actress, Courtnee Draper, while the backing guitar is played by Booker's actor, Troy Baker. While Levine had intended to use Draper for the vocals, Baker's role was happenstance; as Levine was working with Draper in the recording of the song, Baker offered up his abilities on the guitar, and the group spent several hours to exact the appropriate tone of the song.[9] A version of this song, sung by both actors, is part of the game's soundtrack.[83] Given the opportunity for a broadcast trailer, Levine wanted to create a mood piece, and centered the trailer around desolation of the workers in the factories of Columbia in the Finkton district, providing the basis for the creation of the Vox Populi.[9] The trailer had received some criticism from religious groups, believing that its producers had purposely removed the word "Lord" from the song, but Levine pointed out that the original hymn, written in 1908, did not include the word; it was added in the Carter Family recording of "Can the Circle Be Unbroken (By and By)" in 1935.[84]

A third trailer was released in October 2012, entitled "Beast of America". It initially shares similarities with the opening of BioShock, with Booker being taken to a lighthouse with instruction. From there, the trailer's first half shows in-game scenes of settings around Columbia representative of American Exceptionalism such as an amusement park, a public beach, and an ice-cream parlor, prior to demonstration many of the gameplay elements including the Skyhook and the Heavy Hitters. The trailer is set to Nico Vega's "Beast", which, as stated by Time '​s Matt Peckham notes, "excoriates American apathy, in so many words, '[planting] seeds for the Beast of America'".[85] A fourth trailer, "City in the Sky", was released, showcasing many of the game's elements, including Columbia, Booker, Elizabeth, Songbird, and Comstock.[86][87] The fifth trailer "The Lamb of Columbia", focuses more on Elizabeth, showing her importance to the war aboard Columbia, her potency of her powers, and how Booker comes to fear her.[88]

A separate set of teaser trailers was released started in January 2013, and presented the history of Columbia in the style of shows like In Search Of..., an approach used by the television show Lost to demonstrate the history of the fictional Dharma Initiative.[89] Within the trailers, presented as a film "Truth in Legend: Columbia – A Modern Day Icarus", the fictional host, Alistair Bloom, briefly narrates the mysteries of Columbia, such as its disappearance or the legend of Songbird.[90][91][92]

Other marketing[edit]

Russian cosplayer Anna Moleva (right) had recreated the character of Elizabeth (left) so accurately that Irrational hired her to be their live-action Elizabeth, and slightly redid her in-game model to resemble Moleva.

The official game cover was revealed by Irrational Games in early December 2012; the art featured DeWitt against a burning flag with some other elements of the game. Several journalists were critical of the art, with the lack of any major elements from the game including Elizabeth, and lacking any of the uniqueness that BioShock Infinite had set itself to be prior to this point, such as through the Game Informer Saturday Evening Post-inspired covers. Erik Kain of Forbes considered the art "generic",[93] while Owen Good of Kotaku considered it both "bland" and "cliché";[94] Gieson Cacho of the San Jose Mercury News noted that the cover was reminiscent of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, down to the pose of DeWitt matching that of Nathan Drake.[95] Levine responded to these complaints commenting that they had decided to make the cover art something to draw the attention of the more casual player, "the uninformed, the person who doesn't read IGN" that may never have heard of the game, knowing that those players that are already planning to purchase the game do not need to be swayed further.[96] A public poll was opened by Irrational to allow players to decide what the reversible cover art should be,[97] while alternate cover art will be provided as downloadable files that players can print and use.[96] Levine further showed the back cover art, which includes Elizabeth, an element further designed to draw interest in casual players.[96] Levine stated that for the cover and other parts of the game's promotion including live-action commercials, they had hired Anna "Ormeli" Moleva, a Russian cosplayer that had earlier attracted attention for her recreation of Elizabeth back in September 2011.[98][99][100]

Tie-in media[edit]

Dark Horse Comics released an art book, The Art of BioShock Infinite.[101] NECA has produced miniatures of Elizabeth and a Boy of Silence, as well as a full-scale replica of a Skyhook.[102]

Plaid Hat Games is set to publish a board game based on Infinite, entitled BioShock Infinite: The Siege of Columbia, in which players take on the roles of the Founders or Vox Populi to battle each other for control of the city, while having to deal with the chaos created by Booker and Elizabeth. Irrational had approached Plaid Hat with the idea of the game, while Plaid Hat set out to create the game to avoid simply recreating the story from the video game but instead provide an alternative viewpoint of the events in the game and to allow players to develop their own stories as they play through it.[103]

A prequel novella, Bioshock Infinite: Mind in Revolt, authored by Levine and Joe Fielder, was made available as an e-book via Amazon.com in February 2013; the work is a reproduction of an in-universe research report entitled "The Psychology of Dissent: Interview with the Anarchist". The fictional report presents a series of interviews between its author, Dr. Francis Pinchot, and Daisy Fitzroy, the founder of the Vox Populi, during a period approximately seven years before the game's events where Fitzroy has been captured by the Founders. Dr. Pinchot, in conducting these interviews, seeks to understand the psychological nature of revolt from Fitzroy.[104] The intent of the novella is to provide additional backstory for the player without revealing any of the game's deeper story, and upon completion of the game, "certain implications of the game and Pinchot's research resonate more", according to Levine.[105]

Irrational ran a "Name in the Game" contest where the winning player would have their name included in the game in some manner, such as by a non-playable character, or the name of a shop or building.[106] The winner eventually went to one "Payton Lane Easter" whom the business "Payton Lane Easter & Son" Business was named after.[107]

BioShock Infinite: Industrial Revolution[edit]

In the browser-based Industrial Revolution, players assemble machines from gears and pulleys to perform specific actions.

Pre-orders of the game granted the purchaser with an accesscode to a browser-based puzzle game, BioShock Infinite: Industrial Revolution, developed in conjunction with Lazy 8 Studios.[108] Irrational had concerns developing a pre-release puzzle game to tie into the retail title. Several of the Irrational team had played and enjoyed Lazy 8's steampunk-like Independent Games Festival-winning title, Cogs, and considered using them to build this pre-release game.[109] Irrational believed the studio would be able to develop a game that would provide "challenging puzzles in a steampunk style", according to Lazy 8's founder, Rob Jagnow.[110] The game's mechanics are a simplified version of the Cogs puzzles, and involve creating devices from basic machines like gears and pulleys to achieve a specific action; the game contains 59 such puzzles culled from more than 70.[110] Lazy 8 focused on the gear puzzles as they were a fan-favorite from Cogs.[109] Jagnow found through happenstance that the game's mechanics led to a "dual-space system" that may be challenging to the player.[110] The game places the player as a mechanic aboard Columbia, who can align with either the Founders or the Vox Populi; decisions during the game's story on which side to support are permanent, even if the player attempts an earlier puzzle.[110] Jagnow, who worked on the story under Irrational's guidance, wanted to have the player "constantly second-guess their decisions" on which side to support.[110] Solving the steampunk-based puzzles grants the player unlockable items within the main BioShock Infinite game once it is released.[108]

Downloadable content[edit]

Following the release of BioShock Infinite, two major pieces of downloadable content have been released by Irrational. The first piece, titled Clash in the Clouds, was released on July 30, 2013. It is a non-story arena-based combat mode where the player is faced with increasingly difficult waves of enemies on various maps based on in-game settings. The player earns in-game money that they can use at a central hub to buy new vigors, upgrade weapons and vigors, and unlock character models, concept art, kinetoscopes, and music. Various challenges in the form of blue ribbons are given to the player, such as by killing foes with specific weapon and vigor combinations.[111]

The second piece of downloadable content, titled Burial at Sea, is a story-based expansion set in Rapture that links Infinite '​s story to that of the original BioShock game. It consists of two episodes: in the first episode, released on November 12, 2013, player assume control of Booker, who is a private investigator in a different reality;[112] in the second episode, released on March 25, 2014, players assume control of Elizabeth.[113] BioShock Infinite Complete Edition, bundling BioShock Infinite with Clash in the Clouds and Burial at Sea, is due for release later in 2014.[114]

Additionally, new weapons, gear, costumes, and vigors are also available as extra content; for example, part of the reward for completing the Industrial Revolution puzzle game included such weapons and gear. A season pass is available to purchase all downloadable content for a reduced price.[115] Columbia was featured as a stage in fighting game PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale and is seen in the background along with a blimp and a Songbird in another stage.[116] BioShock Infinite outfits for LittleBigPlanet games were released in March 2013.[117]

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ An OS X port was released on 29 August 2013 by Aspyr.
Footnotes
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