Buried Underwater: The Developers Look Back At The Creation Of Bioshock 2 (Topic)

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Buried Underwater: The Developers Look Back At The Creation Of Bioshock 2


The recent release of Bioshock: The Collection made many developers and journalists think back to the original 2007 game. While we were delighted to have a look at the first game again, it's also worth remembering that its successor, Bioshock 2, also made a huge impact. Bioshock 2 was the forerunner of walking simulators such as Gone Home and Firewatch. A Gamasutra employee spoke to former 2K Marin developers Steve Gaynor, Karla Zimondzha, Jonnemann Nordhagen and Kent Hudson to share their memories of Bioshock 2 development, as well as the design tricks they learned during the game's development and are using them today.

Important Development Lessons

Zimonja and Gaynor [who joined Nordhagen after Bioshock 2 was finished to found Fullbright] say they brought one big lesson from Bioshock to their own work, namely how to use level design to tell story, using the player's ability to move around the house.


"The Gone Home is built like a classic level in BioShock 2," says Gaynor. "Its architecture guides you, but you never feel like it's linear.

Zimonja says Bioshock 2's audio diaries were a good guide to timing how long the audio narration moments in Gone Home should be in order to keep the player's attention.

Working with a strange engine

The first parts of Bioshock are known to run on a heavily modified version of the game engine that was first released in 1998. This helped give the game its inimitable design aesthetic, but also created a unique set of challenges.


Jonneman Nordhagen, now the founder of Dim Bulb Games, says that the game engine, while unique, caused many problems:

“The sequel used an engine that was frozen during the development of the original game. It was commonly described as "heavily modified Unreal 2.5". Working with him was a really interesting challenge. I was also an in-game user interface programmer, and it was developed using a strange Unreal Flash library that had been deprecated a few years earlier. ”

Later, Nordhagen gave a talk on the development of Gone Home "How to achieve success by being lazy", where he talked about the transition of development from an AAA project to indie ":

“While working on Bioshock 2, we had a lot of nuances. We had several programmers working on every aspect of the game, and we joked that we had a programmer for the left hand and another one for the right - one for weapons and one for plasmids. Moving from this level of specialization to being the only programmer on a project was a tremendous learning experience and did require many — say, “effective” practices in this area. ”

Shocking stories

And, of course, any story about the development of a game cannot be without jokes that designers have added to the game for fun. Gaynor says that since they were using Unreal 2.5, they found characters like Big Daddies and Little Sisters can be scaled infinitely because it's fun.


“I remember one day we made a few little dads for fun, which were actually just Big Daddies, but reduced to knee size. They just ran and beat you with their drill, "Gaynor says, chuckling at the memories." You will die anyway, but they were so adorable and cute.

“Or, for example, we increased the splicer to 20 feet in height. He ran and tried to hit you with a pipe, but the pipe didn't grow, so he was a giant trying to beat you with a toothpick. This is what you enjoy in the studio. ”

Gaynor also had a story about a set of leftover Little Sisters concepts that were never implemented in the first game. Apparently during the development of Bioshock, there was concern that the Little Sisters would need to be turned into robots in order to release the game in Germany, due to the country's tough laws when it comes to gaming.


This turned out to be unnecessary, but Gaynor says that when he found out about it, he was able to insert them into the DLC for the game, like a creepy Easter egg.

"This is one of those things when you work on a project long enough and you say," Oh, I heard about these creepy robotic sisters, do we have the ability to insert them? " It's cool when you can implement in the project things that were lying around somewhere near the garbage, and now they are actually part of the universe. ”

How difficult it is to find a team

Bioshock 2 Development Tutorials can certainly help other developers. That being said, all former 2K Marin employees said the team's organization also helped improve the game's making process.


“It was a small team, and we all learned to work together and create Bioshock games. People had the opportunity to stand up and say that he or she is ready to take on some part of the work and responsibility. We can see how different people on the team work together, ”says Gaynor.

Kent Hudson, who made an agile-focused game after Bioshock 2, The Novelist, says that one of the biggest lessons they could learn from Bioshock 2 was largely unnoticeable as it isn't reflected directly in gameplay. He argues that 2K Marin were able to perfectly organize the AI programming team, which directly affected their ability to implement quality artificial intelligence in the game.


“Rather than doing paperwork, we focused on creating an environment where everyone had a voice, regardless of job title or instruction. All the developers say it's best to focus on the results on the screen, but Bioshock 2 was the first time I got to a place where we had the opportunity - technological, organizational, talented - to create a cool project and we are all incredibly proud of the result. " Says Hudson.

The Topic of Article: Buried Underwater: The Developers Look Back At The Creation Of Bioshock 2.
Author: Jake Pinkman