BioShock 2 Director On Vita-Chamber, Backtracking Prohibition

Our recent previews about BioShock 2 have raised some questions among fans and sceptics of the series. How has the series' resurrection system been tweaked? And why can't players backtrack to earlier levels in the new game? We got answers.

BioShock 2 creative director walked me through how the Vita-Chambers will work in the new game. These devices would resurrect players when they died in the first game. But many players discovered that, upon resurrection, the damage they inflicted on enemies remained, making it easy to die, resurrect repeatedly to win a hard fight. Downloadable content for the first game enabled players to shut the Chambers off.

The system was further modified for the sequel.

"You can turn them off if you wish," Thomas said, "making the game much more traditional. Within that, you can adjust your difficulty to make it more or less of a challenge to get through an encounter. [For example] , you could turn off the vita-chambers and still play it on easy ... But the main criticism that we derived from the first game was the Vita-thrashing exploit which was, because there were ammo-less weapons in the game and because there were consensual boss fights in the game, the idea of just using an ammo-less weapon and playing Lemmings over and over again until the cliff just disappears was degenerate in many many ways... It was fun for no one. So now the Little Sisters will heal the Big Daddys a percentage of their health if you don't take them out. So you do have to invest in their demise."

The other design decision Thomas detailed for Kotaku was the recent discovery - in the preview build I reported on yesterday - that players won't be able to backtrack and visit any of the game's large levels once they leave them. While I suspected a narrative reason for this, Thomas said the decision was more of a technical one.

"A lot of people don't know this, but the amount of backtracking most players physically did in BioShock was minimal. The amount of effort that went into supporting it was immense. We came down to having to choose between supporting backtracking and much more interesting, readable features ... and decided to invest in things we thought people would actually notice. We also got some knock-on benefits like shorter loading times because of the way the memory was structured once backtracking was no longer an issue."

Thomas said that the game will adapt to make the prohibition on backtracking not as punitive to players as they might think. While the player might miss out on some collectibles in the levels they leave behind, they won't miss out on accessing any Little Sisters and the character-enhancing Adam that they provide access to.

As with the first game, Bioshock 2's levels contain Big Daddy - Little Sister tandems that the player can interact with, killing the Big Daddy and then either rescuing or harvesting the Little Sister for energy. If you don't get to all the Little Sisters in a given level in this sequel, you won't miss out. "When you leave an area, your number of available Little Sisters travels with you," Thomas said. The game will just put more Little Sisters in subsequent levels, and while this could lead to a case of there being lots of them in a late level - should the player not go after many of them early in the game - he doesn't think most people will play the game that way.

With less than a month from its February 9 release, BioShock 2 is coming soon. Coming even sooner on Kotaku will be more from Thomas about the ideas and ambitions behind this major sequel.


    OMG I cant waaaaaiiiiiiiiittttttttt...

    I wanted to go on with my rant about how Bioshock was the hugest disappointment since New Coke, but I won't (even though it was).

    Instead, I'm going to ask professional journalists who are paid for their writing to proof read their stuff.

    Than. Than. Than. Yes, I know it's a tiny little thing, but come on, you wouldn't get away with it in high school, so why can you now?

      I'm interested to hear this rant now. What is it about Bioshock that made it a disappointment?
      Was it the:

      -Emergent gameplay
      -Compelling storyline
      -Beautiful artsyle
      -Believable world

      Actually, I guarantee you would have said that it was just system shock 2 'dumbed down for consoles', with a 'crappy hacking minigame' and 'weak rpg features'.

        Because it pretty much is System Shock 2 dumbed down. Just because it is said by people who can't articulate why it was a sub par semi-sequel to System Shock 2, doesn't make it untrue.

        The RPG system wasn't an RPG system at all. there was no meaningful choice whatsoever. Every decision made in building your character could be reversed at any time and completely rebuilt with absolutely no penalty.

        There was no impetus to improve your skill or work with mastering your character build for both the reason above and the fact that you could constantly fail every single objective with zero penalty.

        The morality system was not only hamfisted, but made absolutely no difference to the game, save for the final 25 seconds of the game, which was a non-interactive cutscene that rounded off a boring and completely tacked on boss. Wait, I take that back. The system supposedly forced you to choose between killing the girls to become very powerful or saving them to your own detriment, ie. a moral conundrum. However, they constantly rewarded you for saving them, removing both the moral aspect and the impact of your choices.

        The lack of inventory system robbed another RPG element from a supposed RPG game and meant that choosing the way you play the game item-wise was extremely limited... robbing you of choice.

        There were very few enemeies and they were constantly recycled.

        The player was constantly swamped with weapons, ammunition, health and mana items and magic powers, meaning that even failing dysmally countless times for no penalty didn't happen very often because you outgunned pretty much every enemy, all the time and it made weapon choice pointless because you could always pick up enough to have full ammunition/health/mana.

        The item collection and creation system once again swamped the player with items, making choice pointless, as you could pretty much make anything you wanted anytime.

        The camera system further overpowered the player character making it even easier to breeze through as an unstoppable, invisible, magical tank with a pocket armoury.

        The storyline peaked 2/3 through the game and left absolutely zero tension or drama to carry the several hours of gameplay after the climax.

        That's off the top of my head. I could put all of my reasons into logical order, build off each one, arrange a central theme and write a nice, long essay on it, but that would be even worse than the time I just wasted on this.

        Don't get me wrong. Bioshock was reasonably enjoyable, very pretty, well paced (up until the would you kindly) and one of the better games of that year, but that is more an indictment of the quality of the games being turned out than an accolade for Bioshock.

        Did System Shock 2 have several of the same problems? Absolutely. Was it ugly as hell? You know it was. But did it have meaningful choices, a reasonable difficulty curve, an engaging storyline right through to the conclusion (no matter how disappointing the last level)and incentives to make the player think about how they played and develop strategies?

        Almost everything that Bioshock got right, SS2 did better. I didn't say I hated Bioshock, but after finding out that one of the best games ever made was being unofficially sequelled by almost the exact same team and following it for years, it was a crushing disappointment. It was like hearing that the people who made Godfather 2 were continuing in the same vein, but without the IP and calling it The Don or something, but still ending up with Godfather 3.

        In a sentence, it was System Shock 2, dumbed down.

          I think I love you El Phantasmogoro.

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