WP: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank and occupation!
I'm Kent Hudson, and I'm a senior designer on the single-player team for BioShock 2.
WP: We just played a level in the single-player portion. Where exactly did the Ryan Amusements level fit in the game?
KH: Ryan Amusements is the hands-on portion. That's in the first third of the game. It's one of the earlier levels, so that's why you don't have as many abilities in that level as you would later in the game.
It's basically the remnants of an amusement park from the era of the original BioShock, where Andrew Ryan created — it's creepy. It's basically an amusement park to indoctrinate children to what Rapture is about. As you're going through, you're hearing his propaganda about what's wrong with governments on the surface and how every man is entitled to the sweat of his brow and all of these sorts of objectivist ideals that he presented in the first game. Now, of course, you're seeing it 10 years later in a state of decay, and there's an ironic feel to it because he's saying all these wonderful things about how powerful it is, and it's just in ruins. You also get to learn about the history of how Rapture was made through some of the displays in the amusement park.
WP: Let's talk about Rapture. This is 10 years later, and some of the diaries in the game refer back to the events of the original game as well as the 1959 New Year's Eve Revolution. How did Rapture survive these 10 years? Why didn't it just decay after you left at the end of the first game?
KH: Much of it has decayed, and you'll see, for example, in the driven demo that we did, you're deflooding an entire district of the city that has been underwater because Rapture is falling apart around you. The way that manifests in the gameplay is that it's a much harsher environment. It's a much meaner world. It's the kind of environment where you're a Big Daddy, and it's still challenging to survive. The protagonist from the first game wouldn't survive in BioShock 2. Even the Splicers you're seeing are much more powered-up, like that Brute Splicer. He's actually one of the original Splicers from the era of the first game. He's just been splicing and getting more ADAM and powering himself up through the course of the game, so he's just way fiercer than anything you saw in the first game.
WP: As a Big Daddy, you get the ability to use the plasmids and a weapon at the same time. Why did you power up the game? Are the enemies more difficult, so you wanted to power it up? Or is it more of a gameplay issue in that you wanted to evolve it from the original title?
KH: It's a combination of both. It's fun to use them together, but it's really ease of play and being able to create more opportunities for the player. For example, now that you can use them both at the same time, you can use telekinesis to pull a guy toward you if you have your drill and drill him while you're holding him, and you just couldn't do that in the first game. But a lot of it is just the fluidity of combat. When you have both of your abilities, both of your hands ready at all times, you can just much more quickly do the combinations that kind of make BioShock special, where you're combining different powers, you're combining your weapons and plasmids and doing crazy stuff. It just makes it easier to do that.
WP: Saving the Little Sisters was a big theme in the first game. You're saving Little Sisters again in the second game. Ten years later, wouldn't all of the Little Sisters have grown up? Where are all these Little Sisters coming from?
KH: That is an excellent question. The new Little Sisters were actually pulled from the surface. They're actually new to Rapture and something that's been present in our — I guess I don't want to call it "marketing" — alternate reality stuff that we've been doing on the Web site with all the Mark Meltzer things. He actually followed his daughter there. The Big Sisters in the game are actually Little Sisters who grew up, so that shows the ecology.
WP: You just said "Big Sisters," as in plural. We only saw one during our time with the game. Will we run into more than one?
KH: Yes, you will. They're like Big Daddies in that there are multiple ones in the world. They're fewer than Big Daddies, and they're fiercer opponents than a Big Daddy. They're a lot more like Sophia Lamb — she's our main villain — they're more like her personal assassin squad. They're the elite enemies in the game.
WP: What about the mysterious helper in this game, Sinclair? Does he tie into the first game at all? Is he totally new to this title? Is there some major twist, like you had at the beginning of the original BioShock?
KH: Well, I don't want to get into the twisty stuff because we don't want to spoil the story. Sinclair was around from the beginning of Rapture, and in fact, he plays a key part in the multiplayer component, which is a prequel to the first game. He's actually been here through the entire events that we've seen in BioShock, and he's one of your main sources of information, quest-giver and radio companion in BioShock 2. You'll see a lot more of him as you go through the game.
WP: Your character is referred to as an Alpha Big Daddy. Do you have abilities that the other Big Daddies don't have?
KH: You can do a lot that they can't do. Part of it is central to the mysteries of the story, but the other Big Daddies are basically slaves who are drones and are mindless and don't have free will. All they have to do is protect the Little Sisters, and they can't think beyond that. The fact that you are a Big Daddy who can think for himself and make decisions is one of the central mysteries of the game. We can't get into why that is, but it definitely is different, and you're sort of the biggest of the Big Daddies.
WP: What about revisiting locations? Since this is a sequel rather than a prequel, are we going to see any of the same locations that we saw in the first game? Or are you only visiting unseen parts of Rapture?
KH: We aren't really able to talk and give spoilers about stuff that we didn't see during these demos today, but I will say that the events and what took place in the first game are central to the mythology of the game. That stuff you'll see present in the game, and it's definitely not just discarded. It is very much rooted in the fabric of the city. I can't give specifics on levels, but ….
WP: OK, you said that we could talk about anything we saw today. When we were exploring, we saw an unknown item that looked like a bunch of fireflies in a jar. We couldn't pick it up, but it did highlight as "unknown item." What's up with the fireflies?
KH: Those are gifts that are left for you in the game. They're power-ups, and they were left by someone who we did not see today, so I won't comment on that, but it is central to the story. You will find a helper who's bringing you through the game.
WP: What about the characters of Big Daddy? This goes back to the original game, but how did the character design evolve and where did you guys get the inspiration? It's very much a cross between steampunk and a tank.
KH: I think a lot of it just comes from the period. When they were making the first Big Daddies, a lot of it was just harsh environmental conditions. You do see them out on the ocean floor. As a Big Daddy, you can venture on the ocean floor, as we've seen in some of the demos. A lot of that is just utility of being able to go underwater with those '50s-era diving suits. A lot of it was borne out of that practicality. Obviously things went terribly, terribly awry when they discovered ADAM and gave people these new powers. Some of it did just come from a series of experiments. They had a lot of failed experiments for Big Daddies, and they just kept evolving and adapting and trying new things, and this is what they landed on.
WP: For our readers, who weren't able to see the driven demo, can you talk a little about what you're trying to focus on in BioShock 2? In the first BioShock, it was the mystery. What is the core concept of BioShock 2?
KH: I'd say that the core concept is that you are a Big Daddy who's woken up, and you don't know how you have free will and these powers. All you know is that your original Little Sister, who you were bonded with back during the events of the first game, is across the city, and you are on a quest to find her. Getting into more specifics, which start veering into spoiler territory, but that's sort of the gist of it. "I'm crossing this city. I'm going through anything in front of me because I need to get to my Little Sister."
WP: Is there anything about the game that we haven't talked about that you wanted to add?
KH: It's going to be exciting for fans because we really tried to preserve what made BioShock special and not mess with it and just build on that. We go deeper in some of the game systems and really play to the strengths of the visual storytelling. We make each level have its own story so that you really feel like you're always accomplishing something in service to the greater good or the greater story of the game. You should feel that each time you go into a level, you've got unique characters, a unique story arc, and you always feel like you're doing something impactful.
WP: We got to play a level today, which felt like an extended demo. Are there any plans for a BioShock 2 demo before the game is released?
KH: I'm not aware of 2K's plans for that. Sorry!
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