BioShock 2 interview: Multiplayer

Following on from the first part of our exclusive interview with the BioShock 2 team last week, here are the game's creators' thoughts on the multiplayer experience of the highly-anticipated sequel, out today.

What kind of multiplayer modes have been developed for BioShock 2 and how has the feel of the single player campaign been captured?

Melissa Miller: There are seven modes, five base modes and two variations. We didn’t want to tack multiplayer on just so we could say we’ve ticked all the boxes, we wanted to make sure it made sense within the Rapture universe. We also wanted to create a compelling game play experience, there is a story arc that happens throughout multiplayer but if you just want to get online with your friends it totally supports that too. We’re never going to force our story on anybody, if you just want to play a cool shooter with interesting game play modes then you can do that.

We use play testing to help us understand the game, where we’re going right and wrong. There are times when things are going so well that we’ve had people come in who have never played the first BioShock and as they’re testing they’re saying “You know what? I think I’m going to go try that BioShock game.”

How much pressure do you feel to please fans of the solo experience? Was co-op play ever considered?

MM: Well co-op really seems to be one of the most popular ways to play these days, but BioShock’s theme is in many ways about the emotion of loneliness. In the first story for example you’re basically walking through this tragic city all by yourself. Similarly in the sequel where you play as a Big Daddy, it just wouldn’t make sense to us to have two Bid Daddies going through Rapture together. Players will have the opportunity to cooperate with each other during the team based multiplayer modes however.

Multiplayer has really given us the opportunity to explore splicer characters. Who are these people who came to Rapture and how did they become these crazy people you found in the first, and the second, game? What led to their Adam addiction? We’ve got a number of characters you can choose from for multiplayer, each with their own personalities for players to explore. For example, one is a housewife character, what would a house wife be like in Rapture? She didn’t get invited, she wasn’t one of the best and brightest, her husband was.

Was multiplayer ever considered for the original BioShock or is this a completely brand new concept for the sequel?

JT: For the first game the problems of just making a single player BioShock when there was no such thing as a BioShock were plenty. For the second game, one of the things we cited as ripe with potential was the combatorial mechanics. BioShock was a beast in that it awards you all these opportunities to express yourself: I will now make peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches or whatever you want to (laughs). That’s entirely up to you, but because it’s a kind of ‘have it your way game’ we don’t force you to use tool A, B or C. You can go through the game simply blasting everyone with the machine gun and we support that.

In multiplayer though, there’s this potential expression of mastery based on how aggressive the environment is. Against intelligent opponents you really need to climb that curve of understanding to harness your weapons and tools. For example, what we see in team games is one person taking the ice plasmid, and another taking arrow dash. The first guy will freeze an opponent into a block of ice, the other guy’s already in motion with the arrow dash and instantly shatters the target. That kind of mechanic is almost like survival of the fittest, it shows just how post-Darwin Rapture is.

It requires the survival pressures of multiplayer for players to truly get their heads around the tools on offer; that’s why multiplayer was born. The [splicer] civil war, the period of 1959-1960 before Jack arrives into Rapture in 1960, is best represented by multiplayer because it requires tonnes of very intelligent splicers, slowly going insane, fighting over Adam. Adam improves their odds of survival and that’s exactly what you’re doing in all multiplayer modes in one form or another; you’re earning Adam to go up through the ranking system, earn new tools and so forth.

You mentioned that there are multiple splicers to play as during multiplayer, how does that work within the game?

JT: The game stores a mechanical core of your profile and you can scan that into any of the splicer characters whenever you want; that variety is definitely important to replayability. As you earn new tiers in the ranking system you get access to these diaries which describe the story arc of each of the characters.

MM: The ranking system is necessary to give some background to the multiplayer modes. The civil war has broken out and you can’t even leave your front door without a fireball being launched at your head. The two factions (fighting for Ryan or Fontaine) are fighting in the city so what the splicers featured in multiplayer do is get involved in this consumer reward program. It basically uses these people, who are desperate for new defensive or offensive abilities, to test out plasmids and weapons that haven’t hit the market yet; they’re basically human lab rats for this company Sinclair Solutions. Sinclair himself features in the single player mode which is another way for us to expand the storyline.