2K Lead Programmer: 'BioShock Should've Failed,' Marketing as a Shooter Key to Game's Success

During a presentation today at Paris GDC, 2K Boston lead programmer Chris Kline said that, after considering the project's many setbacks, his company's successful shooter BioShock (PC, 360) should not have been the hit that it was.

"The very first failure was that we wanted to base this whole thing on System Shock 2," said Kline, according to Gamasutra.

"Here was our idea: Let's just make System Shock 2. This was easy because we'd already made System Shock 2. We knew it was a critical success, and we thought we knew all the things that kept it from being financially successful."

Kline noted that the project would require far more work than a simple iteration of System Shock 2. After a two year halt in development, the team carried over several elements from Shock 2, but found that much of the BioShock's basic systems--including the important monster AI--needed fundamental changes.

In fact, even after the game's intriguing 2006 E3 demo, BioShock wasn't building much interest amongst gamers. It wasn't until the companybegan selling it as an exciting action game that the project really gained steam.

"What's interesting is that even though it was the same game, when we presented it as a shooter people started getting more excited about it. Even the team."

Once the team began focusing on the world of Rapture, and how that world would revolve around the player, the game began to fall into place. Of course, incorporating minor systems, balancing the gameplay, and smoothing out BioShock's ambitious story still presented plenty of problems for the team. "We were actually so focused on the big details that we actually forgot how important the little details are," he added.

Kline ended the presentation by reiterating a common theme of successful developers such as Valve and Blizzard: pushing back release dates can, and often does, translate to a successful project.

"Some people think that constantly messing up, and pushing dates isn't a good way to make a game, but as far as I'm concerned it's the only way to make a good game."

From The Chatty
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    June 23, 2008 8:06 PM

    I really wish that Bioshock would have incorporated more elements that made System Shock 2 so great. Instead, Bioshock will be remembered as a 'pretty good' game rather than a classic.

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      June 23, 2008 8:08 PM

      I dunno, I personally think it'll be a classic. Not as 'dark horse' classic as SS2 was, since Bioshock was undoubtedly marketed towards a much wider audience.

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      June 23, 2008 8:33 PM

      Bioshock is one of those games that when I played it I thought it was pretty good. Now looking back on it I seem to like it more. The combat spoiled it for me but I there were so many good moments from the game that are unforgettable. I don't remember the last time I was drawn into the game so quickly.

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        June 23, 2008 8:36 PM

        Funny, I feel the exact opposite. As I was playing through it I thought it was simply amazing. It wasn't until after I beat it that I began to think of all the things I didn't like and how much more they could have done with it.

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          June 23, 2008 8:42 PM

          Agreed. Especially seeing the huge amount of awesome monster concept art that never got used in favor of facing the same 4 enemies over and over and over and over.

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            June 23, 2008 9:57 PM

            To me, this is an asinine criticism.

            Within the context of the game, the number of types of enemies you fight makes total sense.

            "INCLUDES [#] UNIQUE ENEMIES" seems like a feature that reads from a videogame hearkening back to 1996.

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              June 23, 2008 10:23 PM


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              June 23, 2008 10:29 PM

              Except we really SHOULD be expecting more variety in newer games, not less. I don't think Bioshock is really any different in this. Maybe at the very least they could have done what Crysis did: make many different variations on the same enemy.....

              Though I don't think variety is what killed Bioshock for me, it was the quantity of enemies. I felt the best moments in the game were when they built up an encounter with one of the title characters or the Big Daddys. Those moments were lost in a sea of random encounters scattered everywhere throughout the game, making the once interesting and unique enemies seem dull and overused.

              Either they just didn't trust their work enough to focus on those epic moments more, or they felt the game would not have been a commercial success without keeping the legions of Ritalin-junkies engaged with constant action.

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              June 23, 2008 10:58 PM

              It makes sense yes, but is it more fun that way? I would say no.

              Granted, I wouldn't have cared as much had I not seen the concept art, but seeing it made me think "Wow, this game is going to have some fucking sick and twisted humans, each one more warped than the last", and instead we got the same few enemies for the whole game.

              I guess I was expecting the game to keep upping the creepy, eerie factor and to be more interesting as it went on...instead, the every aspect of gameplay, combat and exploration stayed virtually identical throughout, and past the first few areas felt very stale.

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              June 23, 2008 11:02 PM

              I disagree. The splicers, the Big Daddies. There had to be more types of Big Daddies than that for all sorts of functions throughout Rapture. Miners with their drills, construction workers with clamps or welding torches, more than just the normal security guard model. And splicers. You think that some of them would have gotten out of hand, like Fontaine does at the end and tried to keep splicing and splicing and splicing. And why did none of them have anywhere near as many abilities as you? They had access to all the plasmids you did.

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              June 24, 2008 5:20 AM

              Meh, there are ways to justify including more.

              Just based on the art book it looked as though the things you fight would become less and less human the deeper you got in the game. This could have easily been explained by where you were in Rapture, or how long you were there (kind of a Highlander-style thing where people were taking in more plasmids). There were plenty of things they could have done to keep you from fighting the same four humans throughout the entire game.

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            June 24, 2008 5:58 AM

            Oh man I remember seeing some of the early concept art, with those flying bug things. I'm really dissapointed that they scraped that idea because it looked really fucking scary, and instead we got a bunch of hyped up junkies and Mr. Potato head chasing after you.

            Bioshock wasn't scary 'at all'.

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          June 23, 2008 9:33 PM


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      June 23, 2008 9:44 PM

      same, the atmosphere was phenomenal in bioshock. it drew me in from the beginning, but the combat, was just lame, really really lame.

      Im glad they tried to make it interesting with all the bio-powers and the neat tricks, but I think something was missing when it became too much of a shooter from more of a story-driven RPG like system shock 2 was.

      Granted, I can barely remember ss2 anymore, but I remember alot more of just being scared, and sneaking around hoping to not get spotted. reading the interesting pdas and being like 'wow i really am alone"

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      June 23, 2008 10:38 PM

      No they really shouldn't have cause it could never have been anything but a bastardization. They might make some interesting mainstream FPSes now. SS2 is already a game, I've played it, if I want to play it again I'll go install it, I don't need people to remake it.

      let them make something genuinely interesting. Something that's more then some random nonsense + cover system. That's the real challenge in the area they're working in now.

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