Bioshock Infinite featurette sympathizes with Songbird

Posted by CB Droege

Irrational Games has posted a design featurette showcasing the creative origins of some characters in the dystopian adventure.

Character development and design  in an interactive narrative is a delicate balance of exposition, revelation, and card-holding. It’s no wonder that this is the aspect of many video games which end up being the weakest, especially when they don’t have an experienced fiction author on their team.

Great character development is one of those hidden aspects of a game that can make audiences like or dislike the game without even knowing why. If you ask fans why they love Half-Life 2, for example, they will likely mention the neat weapon mechanics, the great graphics, the fun world-building, or even the great plot. Most won’t mention that the game is a paragon of great character design, or that the character development scenes in the opening chapter are a defining moment in the history of games as literature, but if it weren’t for those skillfully developed and written scenes, the game wouldn’t have become the classic it is now.

The first two Bioshock games certainly did not slouch in this department. The second game had a much more compelling protagonist than the first, however, who was left mostly empty, and was difficult to relate to. In the second game, most of the development was still left hollow, but the girls in the game served as good mirrors for the player’s own motivations, and so became more interesting in that way.

One concern I had for the third game in the series was that they would rely on that same crutch, allowing all the character development for the game to rest on the shoulders of the damsel in distress. It seems that they’ve learned a lot from the first two games, and have really focused on how these characters function for Bioshock Infinite.

In this new video, released via Gamespot, the game’s creative director, Ken Levine, and the animation director, Shawn Robertson, discuss the characters, and how the creative team made the decisions they did about their development. In addition to learning about Bioshock Infinite in particular, we get some interesting insights into the challenges of writing video game characters, and how the visual design of the characters can have an impact on this.

I may not entirely agree with how the game is being marketed, but I can’t help but get continually more excited about the game itself with each reveal. There is so much attention to detail, and such intense, world-building. It almost seems impossible that it will live up to the hype, but the reveals have been so transparent, that I can’t believe there is a lump of coal hiding behind the polish.

The game’s synopsis is thus:

The year is 1912 and Booker DeWitt is headed to the city of Columbia. A technological marvel amongst the clouds, Columbia holds a dark secret, and with it, a mysterious girl. Upon arrival, Booker discovers that rescuing the imprisoned girl will be more difficult than he could have imagined. 

Bioshock Infinite will be available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Windows on March 26, 2013. If you pre-order you get some bonus items, which also includes a copy of Mind in Revolt if you pre-order on Amazon specifically. It is also available for pre-order over on Steam.