At PAX East today, the makers of BioShock Infinite, the big 2012 sequel from Irrational Games, shared what they said would be their cutting-room-floor material. They showed what won't go into BioShock Infinite, but that will help shape the game. Of course, their cutting room floor material is fascinating. So stop looking at this already-released art and flip to the new stuff...
First up... This is sort of a joke concept sketch from Irrational that shows the difference between what they were building in the original BioShock game and in BioShock Infinite: a city below the waves vs a city above the clouds.
One of the key features of BioShock Infinite is its Skyline, a sort of zipline for getting around the game's floating city, Columbia. The sensation isn't supposed to feel like the arcadey rail-riding of a Ratchet and Clank game, Ken Levine, creative director at Irrational Games and lead man on Infinite, told a crowd at PAX East. The main sensation a player is supposed to feel using the Skyline is: "You're on a rollercoaster, but you're hanging in mid-air and you've got a fucking gun."
This was what BioShock Infinite's sky city of Columbia was going to look like. No good, the creators of the game said during their panel. A step forward, but not far enough from the bleakness of the first BioShock's failed underwater utopia of Rapture.
This early concept image showed the sense of playing at high altitude that Irrational wanted to convey, but the look of the BioShock Infinite city was still too art nouveau, "still too dark, foggy Paris night", in the words of the game's art director Nate Wells. BioShock's top creator, Ken Levine, really wanted people to feel like they were playing in a place set up in the sky, like this place could fall down. That sensation, regardless of art style, was crucial.
"This is the goal," BioShock Infinite's art director said of this photograph. He was describing the power of this image, of how this image, a photo from the early 20th century era in which the game is set, tells a story with its visuals. This is the kind of evocative scene Irrational wants gamers to see throughout the game.