Perhaps the most interesting presentation at PAX East was Irrational Games' look at BioShock Infinite and, more specifically, the development of Elizabeth — who is perhaps one of the most ambitious video game characters ever conceived in terms of her AI, her personality and her importance in the story of BioShock Infinite. It was a fascinating panel and one in which Ken Levine referred to Elizabeth as a 'machine', much to his chagrin. But she got off lightly — apparently the imagined player is a psychopath!
It was all part of defining precisely what Elizabeth would or could do in specific situations — which is a proverbial needle in the haystack, since all players are different and it's almost impossible to predict precisely what each player will do when playing through BioShock Infinite.
"Sometimes we don’t know what’s going to happen," explained Ken. "We’re writing a scene where the lead actor is like this psychopathic, alchoholic, because you don’t know what the player is going to do. They’re unpredictable! What the fuck are you guys going to do? Chill!
"But that’s the joy of it. there’s this improvisation and sometimes they get in synch. You can’t fight the player, you have to respect the player. It’s the gamer’s game and you don’t know what they’re going to do. I kind of embrace that lunacy. It’s not our game, it’s your game and it has to be your game."
Ken reluctantly described Elizabeth as a machine — odd since that's precisely what the team are trying to make you forget — but he's correct. Elizabeth is a machine, an extremely complicated machine with multiple different moving parts.
"I hate to say this, but she’s a giant machine," said Ken, "full of all this different content. All this writing all this acting, all this animation all this motion capture. All these things that can happen, but may or may not. She’s a machine with all this human content put in, trying to yield this person."
The latest trailer gives a great idea of the work that went into the creation of Elizabeth. Well worth watching for further insight, before BioShock Infinite hits shelves this coming week.