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The Implications of Bioshock Infinite
April 4, 2013 9:14 PM   Subscribe

Bioshock Infinite (previously) has been hailed as brilliant by many but others, even while enjoying it, have questioned the way the game deploys violence and whether this limits the audience that may otherwise have enjoyed the fascinating narrative put forth by the game. While not directly implicating the game's violence others have suggested that Bioshock Infinite might be the last of a dying breed (the Triple A, big budget, narrative game) due to the lack luster returns of such fare in the face of cheap, accessible indie and mobile games.
posted by sendai sleep master (249 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Bioshock Infinite is not, in fact, the last of a dying breed. And calling the returns lackluster seems like a dubious proposition and an assertion of facts not in evidence.

Personally, I don't really care if the gameplay limits the audience. That's a separate question from whether the game deploys violence appropriately. But that it limits the audience is not the best possible argument against shooters. Broadening the audience is not necessarily the goal for which games should be aiming. Witness Dragon Age 2.
posted by Justinian at 9:21 PM on April 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


Holy shit, those animated GIFs. It's kind of weird that the argument in favor of the game seems to be "it's a shooter, that's what shooters do", because if the stuff in those animated GIFs is anything to go by, it's far gorier than most shooters I've played, with the exception of maybe survival horror stuff.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:21 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't forget all the clunky & gratuitous racism!
posted by ShawnStruck at 9:23 PM on April 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, the FPS parts of the game were boring and frustrating for the most part, and really hurts whatever else the game did (and everything else was spectacular and beautiful). I honestly think that this game, Far Cry 3 and Spec Ops: The Line have put me off playing FPS's forever. I don't think I'll ever buy another one.

Be more creative, games industry. Please.
posted by empath at 9:24 PM on April 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Holy shit, those animated GIFs. It's kind of weird that the argument in favor of the game seems to be "it's a shooter, that's what shooters do", because if the stuff in those animated GIFs is anything to go by, it's far gorier than most shooters I've played, with the exception of maybe survival horror stuff.

I started playing it last night - I don't feel it's any gorier than the other Bioshock games. It's just easier to see the blood because there's daylight, not dripping gloom.

Also, all those dead guys are super racist. I feel totally justified in smashing their heads open and burning them alive. But I'm petty like that.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:25 PM on April 4, 2013 [20 favorites]


You know you won't be able to stay away, empath. Half-Life 3 will be there on shelves, its siren song luring you back in.
posted by Justinian at 9:26 PM on April 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would just like to say, that as someone with a longstanding professional and personal attachment to video games, that Bioshock Infinite is really, really good, and plays off the AAA FPS tropes in powerful ways. I don't find the violence or early 20th century racism gratuitous, it seems part of the story that Ken Levine is telling. There is a lot of juxtapositions of beauty and cruelty. It feels like a conscious choice, at least to me.

Also, the game is really, really good. Really.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:26 PM on April 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


For more creativity, see the indie games space. No, not XBLA. Places like TIGsource and /r/gamedev
posted by slater at 9:27 PM on April 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know you won't be able to stay away, empath. Half-Life 3 will be there on shelves, its siren song luring you back in.

I don't think it will ever come out, and if it does, it won't be primarily an FPS, even if it has some shooty parts. Look at Portal for an example of what you can do with the FPS control scheme that doesn't involve mass murder.
posted by empath at 9:28 PM on April 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or play Bioshock Infinite, which is superb.

Some people won't like it. Empath, for example, is clearly tired of the whole genre. But you don't get one of the top 5 metacritic scores of all time by being terrible.
posted by Justinian at 9:29 PM on April 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


plays off the AAA FPS tropes in powerful ways.

Does it? How? I remember Elizabeth expressing disgust at me killing a bunch of people the first time it happened, and then she started throwing me ammo.
posted by empath at 9:29 PM on April 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


empath, have you tried Deus Ex: Human Revolution? By far my favorite first person game of the last couple years and it's definitely different.
posted by barc0001 at 9:30 PM on April 4, 2013


I'm just happy for anything that isn't space marines fighting zombies.
posted by The Whelk at 9:31 PM on April 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


it's far gorier than most shooters I've played

Dunno, it's not even one of the top 3 goriest games of the last month. Gears of War: Judgment, Tomb Raider, and DS3 would all beat it out.
posted by Justinian at 9:32 PM on April 4, 2013


For my part I loved it. I think, as Justinian suggested, that the more interesting question is whether it was deployed appropriately.

Without getting too spoilery I will say that Booker (the player character) is supposed to be brutal in his violence. The problem I think is not HOW violent the game is but how OFTEN it is that violent. Deployed more sparingly I think the game could have strengthened the characterization of Booker and how he relates to the rest of the plot.

The interesting question, the uncertainty of which is hinted at in one of the in-article quotes from the game's creator, Ken Levine, is how a game like Infinite gets made outside of usual genre confines.

EDIT: Just as an example, would it be possible to make the core of the game one of exploration (like the game's intro section) with less complex shooting sections to drive home Booker's character and the player's complicity in his actions?
posted by sendai sleep master at 9:32 PM on April 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


empath, have you tried Deus Ex: Human Revolution? By far my favorite first person game of the last couple years and it's definitely different.

I did. It definitely had fewer problems with narrative incongruity than Bioshock did. I'd have been much less frustrated with Bioshock had I not be railroaded into killing every single living thing in nearly every section of the game. At one point I'm just gunning down black revolutionaries from the underclass, for no clear reason that I could understand. I found it obnoxious at best and repulsive at worst.
posted by empath at 9:34 PM on April 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Bioshock Infinite is a near-total failure in all the ways Bioshock was a success. I'm pretty resigned to being in a small minority of people who think so, but I do think so. And I loved Bioshock, even its ending. I expected to love Infinite at least as much.

There were at least three different games in there. They should've done a good job making one of them; instead, they did a poor job of doing all of them. The story is nearly incoherent and has almost nothing to do with the setting, relegating the latter to mere window dressing. It trots out the vicious racism of America's past and then does nothing with it. It's unapologetically manipulative, to no particularly interesting end. It's shockingly naive in some ways and reflexively, unthinkingly cynical in others.

And yes, apropos of the "man, there sure was a lot of violent death in that game" conversation, by the end of the game I had murder fatigue.
posted by Sokka shot first at 9:35 PM on April 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah I'm really torn, the game is beautiful and Columbia is an awesome setting but the gameplay is a solid step backwards even from Bioshock (itself somewhat dumbed down).

Don't get me started on the false equivalency that happens around Daisy and the Vox midway through, basically just to provide new waves of enemies (this time shoot the red ones!)
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:35 PM on April 4, 2013


They could have played up the gruesome violence a lot more. It would fit the narrative, I think.

I found the gunplay kind of clean. Nobody breaks a limb or drops a gun, they just keep moving until they run out of HP. That worked for splicers but not so much for regular humans.
posted by squinty at 9:36 PM on April 4, 2013


Don't forget all the clunky & gratuitous racism!

Clunky? Maybe. Gratuitous? No, the racism is the key to one of the things the game is actually about.

I honestly think that this game, Far Cry 3 and Spec Ops: The Line have put me off playing FPS's forever. I don't think I'll ever buy another one.

I find this kind of this surprising: those are probably the three games that have most deconstructed and critiqued the FPS as a genre. I mean, I guess if you don't like them, yeah, you should probably just wash your hands of the whole thing. But I would more expect to be triggered more by the next annual Call of Duty installment or whatever.

Does it? How? I remember Elizabeth expressing disgust at me killing a bunch of people the first time it happened, and then she started throwing me ammo.

Did you beat it? Because ... stuff.
posted by Amanojaku at 9:37 PM on April 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Bioshock Infinite confuses me. I'm not talking about its plot, mind you.

I don't really play video games. I can't remember the last game I beat. So maybe I haven't been exposed to how awful games are today, but okay.

I played this game. I took my time on normal difficulty. It took me about 13 hours to finish it. I was emotionally attached to the story and characters. But once it was over... it was more or less over. There were some themes about racism and nationalism, but I felt that they sort of died out. I felt the story and narrative structure wasn't developed, wasn't that deep, and so on.

I enjoyed the game, thought it was really well made. But like... it's not something that at the end made me excited or felt like I had experienced something I had never experienced before.

I don't know. I have just been looking to put these rambling thoughts out there.
posted by SollosQ at 9:38 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm maybe 2/3rds of the way through it, but I will note three things before bowing out for now:

- I never played the first two BioShocks and have had no trouble with the game, so don't let that stop you.

- The intro cinematic reveal of Columbia is one of the most breathtaking visual experiences I've had in a long, long time

- The anachronistic barbershop quartet was a very nice touch.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:39 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, the racism is the key to one of the things the game is actually about.

Is it? It was a thematic sideshow to the main storyline about Booker, Comstock and Elizabeth. Typically a story is about characters. The political stuff was thematic icing, and I think it was stupid and cynical to broach the topic of racism as a sideshow to a quasi-mystical meditation on choice and quantum mechanics.
posted by empath at 9:40 PM on April 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


. I like challenge. I like having a skill component of it. And so what is that skill component?

Some of the best games I've played, the skill was decision-making. Some of the best games I've played just had text on a screen, and you had to make good decisions, with little, bad or no information.

Of course, I love Hotline Miami, so I'm not averse to gore. Haven't played Infinte yet.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:42 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I find this kind of this surprising: those are probably the three games that have most deconstructed and critiqued the FPS as a genre. I mean, I guess if you don't like them, yeah, you should probably just wash your hands of the whole thing. But I would more expect to be triggered more by the next annual Call of Duty installment or whatever.

I realize that. Which is why I feel that I don't need to play another one.

Did you beat it? Because ... stuff.

Yes. You tell me. In what way does it at all deconstruct FPS as a game mechanic or a genre?
posted by empath at 9:42 PM on April 4, 2013


I've always been fascinated with the idea of storytelling of the Bioshock series, even though I've rarely played the games. I have Playstation Plus, so when I saw the 1 hour demo, I downloaded it. Was fine with the game until that scene with the baseball and the interracial couple and the violence coming from that scene was so over the top and shockingly violent, I had trouble finishing it. I really have trouble understanding how violence at that level is considered "entertaining". When you see something of that magnitude, you should be disturbed. I'm worried by those of you who are so calloused by that sight that aren't.
posted by Chocomog at 9:44 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I often use the reactions of my husband while I play a narrative RPG-y game to gauge how good a game is cause the last game he played was Tetris a million years ago before going off to be a esoteric scientist/academic. It's a nice fresh prospective cause I've been playing them since I could hold a controller and a bit blind/accepting of conventions and tropes, etc.

So far he's been floored by Infinite and willingly forgoing movie-time for more gaming so I think that's a good sign.
posted by The Whelk at 9:47 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm worried by those of you who are so calloused by that sight that aren't.

Don't be, we're just fine.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:49 PM on April 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


An acquaintance of mine wrote a nice piece on the ineffective deployment of racism in the game: Columbia: Problematic Racism Theme Park.
posted by Sokka shot first at 9:51 PM on April 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


This was fun enough but nothing special, interesting, important, or particularly well-made.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 9:56 PM on April 4, 2013


I think Heavy Rain put me off violent video games, which is funny in that violence in video games never really bothered me much beforehand. I'm not sure if I'll buy GTA V, but Bioshock is definitely off the table.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:59 PM on April 4, 2013


Someone here mentioned that Ken Levine's real gift is world building and I think this game bears that theory out.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:00 PM on April 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Bioshock is definitely off the table.

It might be worth watching the edited, no-combat version. There's a lot he did here that was fascinating and worth experiencing. The main storyline was actually spectacularly well done, and there is an almost Watchmen-level amount of detail and thought that goes into the storytelling, for that particular storyline.

It's just unfortunate that's wrapped around such an uninspired gameplay mechanic and that the race subplot was mishandled so badly.
posted by empath at 10:04 PM on April 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


The complaints about "limiting the audience" seem so absurd to me. Having the widest possible audience is the goal of a commercial blockbuster, not a work of art. The plot elisions of 2001 limit its audience. The verbal gymnastics of Ulysses limit its audience. The treble-heavy guitars of Crass limit their audience. The over-the-top violence of Bioshock Infinite limits its audience. So what?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:07 PM on April 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Having the widest possible audience is the goal of a commercial blockbuster, not a work of art.

Infinite's budget was probably roughly equivalent to a hollywood blockbuster movie - somewhere near the 100 million dollar range. It IS a commercial blockbuster.
posted by empath at 10:14 PM on April 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


The verbal gymnastics of Ulysses limit its audience. The treble-heavy guitars of Crass limit their audience. The over-the-top violence of Bioshock Infinite limits its audience. So what?

If you take away Joyce's language, you have nothing left. If you take out Bioshock Inifinite's ultragore, you still have an interesting story in a fascinating setting.
posted by Garm at 10:21 PM on April 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


The over-the-top violence of Bioshock Infinite limits its audience. So what?

I can't speak for others, but in my view the criticism comes because the violence limits its audience (and more importantly, hobbles its own narrative pacing) to no particular end—the game is not better or more powerful as a work of fiction because of the inclusion of large amounts of gratuitous violence. It seems to be totally pro forma, included because the game is an FPS with crazy powers and a motorized melee weapon, with no sense that the decisions to make an FPS with crazy powers and a motorized melee weapon arose from a discussion of how they would strengthen the work's effectiveness as a narrative and a piece of interactive art.

The aspects of all the works you listed limit their audiences in service of an artistic end. Bioshock Infinite's violence can make no such claim. It could have been far less extravagantly bloody and still had Elizabeth being appropriately horrified at Booker's actions. He could've shot like, one dude, and her horror would still have been totally justified and credible. As it is, given the things she watches him do, we're left wondering how she has the mental energy to engage in cutesy lockpick banter, to say nothing of how relatively easily he talks her down the couple of times she does try to get away. It beggars belief. It is an enormous and pervasive distraction.

The combat and violence would be a fatal flaw, but for the other two or three worse, more fatal flaws in the game that supersede it.

I will concede that the first ten minutes or so are some of the most compelling I've ever experienced in any game, ever.
posted by Sokka shot first at 10:25 PM on April 4, 2013 [12 favorites]


When you see something of that magnitude, you should be disturbed.

There have been games that I've really enjoyed playing, but had to switch to something else when things in life weren't going my way and I just the emotional energy to get back on the mental and emotional roller coaster right then. I don't think that's a bad thing.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:25 PM on April 4, 2013


I am enjoying this game wholeheartedly. I find it deeply thrilling to see an intricate narrative interwoven with exciting, innovative first person combat.

I won't really know how it stacks up to bioshock or other favorites until I finish it, but right now it is looking like the best game experience I've had this year.

The violence is intense, and you should avoid this game if that will ruin your experience. The same goes for racism on the part of bad guys and occasionally telegraphing the plot twists. Gender dynamics in the game so far aren't hideous, but they aren't completely awesome, either.

Otherwise, this is coming in at about $2 an hour for some very entertaining and thought provoking hours. (yeah, I'm not actually *good* at first person combat)
posted by poe at 10:25 PM on April 4, 2013


The over-the-top violence of Bioshock Infinite limits its audience. So what?

Because, Bioshock is largely alone in the middle of the venn diagram where depth/thematics and scope/budget meet. In any given year one can expect a couple of films that attempt the scope and depth of 2001 a Space Odyssey. In the last 365 days we have at least had a new Terrence Malick movie and The Wachowski's Cloud Atlas.

Even if you don't think those flicks measure up to Kubrick, you can at least expect a couple more movies attempting to measure up him each year.

There is no such guarantee in the video game industry. The risk adverseness of the big game studios make Hollywood look like it's entirely composed of producers dying to bankroll art-house films.

If Bioshock Infinite fails to find an audience it could (to be melodramatic) mean that games don't get a chance to approach themes with subtlety that Infinite at least attempts bluntly. It could mean that far from being rare in a given year (like film) games of soul searching scope and ambition may be rare, period.

I don't think Infinite is perfect but I do think that, without the violence, it could bring its own ideas and the beauty that video games can produce to more people who, as Sokka said, could otherwise enjoy the game.
posted by sendai sleep master at 10:27 PM on April 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Levine has been outspoken about his ambition to please both the meathead and the brainiac since the release of the original BioShock. But what about my wife? "

This made me yell at the screen. "I don't know! Maybe SHE SHOULD PLAY A DIFFERENT GAME!"

Or I guess everything has to be for everybody. Yay pablum.
posted by lumpenprole at 10:27 PM on April 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


"I don't know! Maybe SHE SHOULD PLAY A DIFFERENT GAME!"

Yes, another game that offers the aesthetic beauty, scope, and thematics offere by Infinite's 200 million budget but outside of the violent first person shooter genre.

I too would like to take a crack at playing that game.
posted by sendai sleep master at 10:30 PM on April 4, 2013 [22 favorites]


Or I guess everything has to be for everybody. Yay pablum.

Are you seriously suggesting that hyperviolent FPS mechanics are too sophisticated and difficult for some people to handle? That removing them or de-emphasizing them would be 'dumbing down' the game? I find that almost impossible to fathom.
posted by empath at 10:33 PM on April 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


His thoughts were red thoughts: "Also, all those dead guys are super racist. I feel totally justified in smashing their heads open and burning them alive. But I'm petty like that."

Yup. I haven't gotten it yet, but I do plan on doing so soon. I loved the first one, but haven't played the second one. But when I saw the image on the blog like "Oh man, you totally are goring out that cops face" I'm like PFFFT DUDE'S A FUCKIN NAZI! (not literally, but game enough in my book).
posted by symbioid at 10:33 PM on April 4, 2013


Finsihed it last night. Not just bad, but incredibly over-rated.

As a shooter, it's broken. Here's how it goes: Walk into a room and kind of tip-toe a few feet inside, wait for one of the hopelessly generic enemies to see you, back-track a few feet and stand in a doorway, wait for hopelessly generic enemies to run into your bullets.

Oh, but it's not a shooter really you say? I need to put up with shitty shooter game mechanics in an Xbox title where most of the achievements are for things like "Murder 200 Hopelessly Generic Enemies With Your Machine Gun, then your Pistol, then your Shotgun, then your Gatlin gun, etc., etc.) because really, it's about the story?

And how about that story -- it makes no fucking sense and basically falls back on the crutch of shitty sci-fi writers everywhere -- time-travel. Kill me now.

Sorry, but the adulation for Infinite just reiterates Roger Ebert (RIP) on video games -- they're decades behind film when it comes to telling compelling stories. The fact that a pretentious, swiss-cheese plot passes for "greatness" in video games ca. 2013 just makes me want to play Call of Duty. Sorry, but at least that game accomplishes what it sets out to do without hand-waving away very serious story problems with "There are temporal doorways like, everywhere man!"

I did like the music. I did like Elizabeth. I liked Elizabeth so much that I wondered why I couldn't play as her and dump the charisma black-hole that is Booker.

But you know what sucks about Elizabeth? She keeps throwing shit I don't need to me. I'm trying to kill hopelessly generic baddy number 3,025,463 (Oh, what's that again? I'm supposed to ignore the fact that this is a shooter?) and she interrupts me to throw three bullets at me, and by the time I get to control my character again I'm missing the shot I had lined up.

Also, it's got the word Bioshock in the title. Gloomy, claustrophobic terror is what I expected. Maybe that's my own damn fault but was there any compelling reason that this had to be the same IP lineage?

Anyways, rant over. I'll be sitting over here, not getting laid ever again.
posted by bardic at 10:35 PM on April 4, 2013 [15 favorites]


But when I saw the image on the blog like "Oh man, you totally are goring out that cops face" I'm like PFFFT DUDE'S A FUCKIN NAZI! (not literally, but game enough in my book).

Wait until the halfway point of the game when you're gunning down a poor black person who had probably been starving to death in a ghetto in the previous chapter.
posted by empath at 10:35 PM on April 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oh, metafilter, don't you ever change.
posted by Justinian at 10:37 PM on April 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'm looking at some of these screens and wondering, "Did none of these people play Dishonored?" You can knock a man to the ground, hold him down, and then slit his throat. The entire time his eyes are filled with fear as he struggles against you. You can feed corpses to rats and shoot a man in the stomach with a crossbow and watch him bleed to death. Is this really that surprising?

Anyway, I just want to dump this bold, useless statement here:

Hotline Miami is far better than this game so suck on that fellow gamers!
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 10:37 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The dialogue around this has been interesting lately, with others also questioning the approach in Tomb Raider - the game goes for a while without much in the way of combat before switching into a more typical violence-fest:
A lot of games that build suspense around the first kill. But then five minutes later, you’re mowing down bad guys like a champ. I did notice that Lara remained unseated throughout the entire experience when I was playing Tomb Raider.

It’s about balancing the needs of gameplay with the needs of narrative. The needs of narrative don’t always trump the needs of gameplay. In fact, it’s usually the other way around. And so I’d say from a narrative perspective, we would have liked the ramp-up to be a bit slower. But, you know, there are other factors to be considered! When players get a gun, they generally want to use the gun. We were brave in going such a long time without giving players a gun in a game where you end up doing a lot of shooting. We tried to innovate a little bit, but narrative can’t always win. Ideally if you can find a sweet spot, that’s great. But sometimes combat, or gameplay or whatever, has to win out.
posted by lantius at 10:40 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Did none of these people play Dishonored?"

Strangely, when I played Dishonored and couldn't finish it because it's also terrible, I kept thinking that it was totally ripping off Bioshocks 1 and 2.
posted by bardic at 10:40 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was half-heartedly interested in Infinite until this thread. Bioshock was so bad and so preversely praised, but all those cool vistas and trailers for Infinite... well, I'd still like to play Infinite once I get a computer that can run it, but I don't hold out much hope for it.

> This made me yell at the screen. "I don't know! Maybe SHE SHOULD PLAY A DIFFERENT GAME!"

What I got from that complaint is that the game is ostensibly trying to do something grander than your standard shooter but that the moment by moment interaction with the game still ends up being gory FPS and that that's unfortunate not because the gore itself is irredeemable, but because it's disingenuous to dive head-first into the status quo and then point to some thematic window dressing and claim you're subverting it when all you're really doing is excusing the same tropes that turns a lot of potential players off.

Again, though, I haven't played the game yet.
posted by postcommunism at 10:42 PM on April 4, 2013


What games do you think are excellent, bardic?
posted by Justinian at 10:42 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Next thread: Why Planescape: Torment sucks. A retrospective.
posted by Justinian at 10:43 PM on April 4, 2013 [11 favorites]


A good thing is also bad because a bad thing is bad!
posted by Apocryphon at 10:45 PM on April 4, 2013


That's... not exactly what I was saying.
posted by Justinian at 10:46 PM on April 4, 2013


bardic: "they're decades behind film when it comes to telling compelling stories."

Huh - wonder why that would be.
posted by symbioid at 10:47 PM on April 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


I would not say that Bioshock: Infinite is 'bad'. It's too complex to put it on a pure 'good/bad' scale, for me. It does some things so spectacularly well that it really puts what it does badly into stark relief. A less ambitious game would have been less frustrating, but also less interesting to talk about.
posted by empath at 10:47 PM on April 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


"the game goes for a while without much in the way of combat before switching into a more typical violence-fest"

But Tomb Raider isn't trying to tell a VERY SERIOUS STORY like Infinite is. If it's not clear by now, I think authorial intention is worth considering.

"What games do you think are excellent, bardic?"

I really liked the first two Bioshocks, which kinda sorta did "politics" but were tight enough as FPS experiences. There were "big ideas" that were followed through on albeit imperfectly (Libertarianism and Authoritarian Socialism are bad, mkay?). The "Racism is bad, mkay?" in B:I just kind of gets dropped halfway through, and the "Hyper-Capitalism is bad, mkay?" doesn't disappear, but gets balanced with a laughable "both sides do it" in the form of the Vox.

I mean literally laughable, and in "B:I made me laugh for all the wrong reasons."

Honestly, I just downloaded the new stuff for Borderlands 2 DLC and I'm looking forward to co-operatively wrecking shit in Pandora for the next few weeks and collecting phat lewt.
posted by bardic at 10:49 PM on April 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really liked the first two Bioshocks, which kinda sorta did "politics" but were tight enough as FPS experiences.

It's strange how people experience games differently. I thought the first Bioshock was mostly superb but fell apart after the big reveal, and that the second Bioshock was tedious and barely playable.
posted by Justinian at 10:51 PM on April 4, 2013


"Next thread: Why Planescape: Torment sucks. A retrospective."

Because it's a novel masquerading as a video game.
posted by bardic at 10:52 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, I thought Inception had way too much typical Hollywood gunfights to be taken seriously as some sort of cerebral sci-fi worthy of the ages. (The Matrix, at least, made art out of its gun-fu) As a popcorn thriller, it was pretty good. Bioshock Infinite is pretty much the Inception of games. People just ascribe too much meaning and depth to its rehashed multiverse tropes and pretty graphics.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:54 PM on April 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Huh - wonder why that would be."

Well, then this -- in general the people who get paid to write video games are decades behind those who get paid to write for TV and movies, and the people who play and review video games are decades behind in their ability to appreciate solid, compelling narrative.

"Temporal doorways everywhere, man! Everywhere!"
posted by bardic at 10:56 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]



Or I guess everything has to be for everybody. Yay pablum.

Are you seriously suggesting that hyperviolent FPS mechanics are too sophisticated and difficult for some people to handle? That removing them or de-emphasizing them would be 'dumbing down' the game? I find that almost impossible to fathom.


That's not my takeaway from his/her comment. It's more like some people would be happier playing Pokemon than Red Dead Redemption, because of temperament etc. Insisting that all games appeal to all gamers would indeed lead to a pabluming of the industry.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 11:02 PM on April 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think it is probably true that movies are centuries behind literature as well.

There are places where movies excel beyond the likely grasp of literature, just as there are places video games exceed them both.

Any first person shooter would be a very very long, very boring movie.
posted by poe at 11:07 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Insisting that all games appeal to all gamers would indeed lead to a pabluming of the industry.

Well that's good, because I don't think anybody is suggesting that they should. To put it into movie terms, the complaint about bioshock: infinite is essentially that they took To Kill A Mockingbird, and edited in scenes from Saw because they thought a legal drama was too boring to carry a movie (or vice versa-- they thought that editing in bits from To Kill A Mockingbird into Saw might help the film be taken seriously)
posted by empath at 11:09 PM on April 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Any first person shooter would be a very very long, very boring movie.

Well, yeah, but that doesn't stop them from getting made.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:09 PM on April 4, 2013


Insisting that all games appeal to all gamers would indeed lead to a pabluming of the industry.

Well that's good, because I don't think anybody is suggesting that they should. To put it into movie terms, the complaint about bioshock: infinite is essentially that they took To Kill A Mockingbird, and edited in scenes from Saw because they thought a legal drama was too boring to carry a movie (or vice versa-- they thought that editing in bits from To Kill A Mockingbird into Saw might help the film be taken seriously)


Well, now I'm even more confused. I'm playing Bioshock Infinite and I'm of the opinion that at least some of the violence does add to the story, rather than just random sprinklings of gore that doesn't advance or enhance the experience. YMMV, as it appears we're on different wavelengths over this.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 11:16 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Empath: I don't think you can divorce the violence in BI from the thematic content. Booker has done terrible things and continues to do terrible things (even if possibly in a better cause.) Elizabeth becomes at first passively complicit and later actively. And part of the theme is how one deals with the things one has done. Can you really wash away your sins? I think the game clearly comes down on the side of "no." Comstock tried, but his sins followed him, festered, and drove him to even greater evil. Booker recognized that you just have to live with the things you've done, and that drove him towards redemption.

Could the graphical nature of the violence have been toned down? I guess. It didn't bother me in the least, though, and it was clearly and obviously part of the theme.
posted by Justinian at 11:16 PM on April 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


I haven't played BioShock Infinite (my PC isn't powerful enough), but I've watched the entire IGN walkthrough. (If I had more free time, I suspect I might buy an Xbox just to play it! The artwork and the level of detail is incredible, and the game does an amazing job of building up an emotional connection between the player and Elizabeth.)

Reading the linked articles, I find it hard to imagine the game without the violence. Superficially, Columbia initially appears to be a paradise. If you walked through the game and there was not much violence, merely oppression, you (the player) might come away thinking hey, Columbia might actually be an awesome place.

So I suspect the extreme and gratuitous nature of the violence is by design. In particular, the sheer amount of violence perpetrated by you throughout the game fits in with Booker's feelings of guilt. (And I suppose this might be considered a metaphor for violence in US history--the vicious Philippine-American War occurred around this time, for example.)

It's hard to imagine the themes of sin and redemption being as powerful without the pervasive violence.

I agree with empath that the shift to fighting the Vox didn't seem to be handled that well. Early on, you're fighting with the Vox against the Founders, but there isn't much of an emotional connection with your allies. The fact that you later end up killing your former allies doesn't have much emotional resonance. (Contrast with the back-story for the Handy-men.)
posted by russilwvong at 11:17 PM on April 4, 2013 [6 favorites]


Film is a terrible model for what video games are, or should become, because they're entirely passive, director-driven experiences. Video games are, or can be, a collaboration between the player and the designer.

Tom Bissell has a great example of this in his book Extra Lives. Playing Left 4 Dead against a very competent team of zombies, Tom’s team was nearly decimated– three of them were down, and Tom bolted for the saferoom. His teammates abused him for his cowardice, so he decided to try to save them. By now the zombies on the other team had respawned. He burst out of the saferoom and took down three of them in a few seconds. Managed to revive a teammate who killed the fourth. They revived one of the others and made it to the saferoom.

It's an epic tale, with terror, egotism, shame, redemption, and catharsis-- and it's not a story told by Valve. It emerged out of the gameplay and those eight particular players. No other medium can do this.

Not all games have to work this way, of course. But a lot of the most compelling game experiences have this player-led quality.

I can understand the complaint of "too much shooting" in Bioshock Infinite, but I don't think the solution is "remove everything the player is doing and let the developer tell a story"-- unless the developer just wants to make a movie. The solution should be more varied or more involving gameplay mechanics.

(I think we get so much shooting because that's a solved gameplay problem... it's something designers and players know how to handle. We can kind of do stealth too. It's still really hard to model human interaction.)
posted by zompist at 11:19 PM on April 4, 2013 [15 favorites]


I agree with empath that the shift to fighting the Vox didn't seem to be handled that well. Early on, you're fighting with the Vox against the Founders, but there isn't much of an emotional connection with your allies. The fact that you later end up killing your former allies doesn't have much emotional resonance. (Contrast with the back-story for the Handy-men.)

It could have been done better, but I still feel there was significance to the turn of the Vox. One of the central themes of the game, like Justinian says, is violence, righteousness, and guilt. Violence is not a thing that can be masked in righteousness. It doesn't work when Comstock orders murders in the name of his faith, and it doesn't work when Fitzroy leads an army in uprising. Columbia is rotten to the core, because everybody in the city is utterly and unshakably convinced that the justness of their causes excuses all actions taken to further them. And the lesson is that it never, ever does.
posted by kafziel at 11:30 PM on April 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


"I can understand the complaint of 'too much shooting' in Bioshock Infinite, but I don't think the solution is 'remove everything the player is doing and let the developer tell a story'-- unless the developer just wants to make a movie. The solution should be more varied or more involving gameplay mechanics."

But B:I gives us the worst of both worlds. It's not "too much shooting," it's "too much mechanically crappy shooting." And yet, B:I also railroads you through the "experience" parts.

I mean, the end cut-scene begins with you doing something terrible to another human being and you have no choice not to do so. It makes sense that you'd do so, but it also makes sense that after all the faces you've shredded with your lawnmower hand, all the moments where you've lamented all the blood you've spilled, all the heavy-handing references to Wounded Knee and Peking maybe, just maybe, you have decided to take a different path.

But no, you must murder an elderly man.

And ten minutes of pretentious psycho-blather later, you decideto solve your problems by murdering a baby.
posted by bardic at 11:36 PM on April 4, 2013


I can understand the complaint of "too much shooting" in Bioshock Infinite, but I don't think the solution is "remove everything the player is doing and let the developer tell a story"-- unless the developer just wants to make a movie. The solution should be more varied or more involving gameplay mechanics.

I agree with this.

When I was watching a friend play Journey, I was near tears at the end, and I was wondering why more narrative heavy games can't include sequences of sheer exploration and joy like Journey has. Why games can't include more ethical choices like the Walking Dead, and so on. If you're going to make a game about telling a story, why limit yourself to a single gameplay mechanic?

I'm actually bothered way less by games that just focus on a single mechanic and tack on a flimsy story as set dressing the way Borderlands does, than I am by games like Bioshock that try to tell a serious story interspersed with barely related gameplay interruptions.

And don't tell me the shooting (or certainly the amount of it) was essential to telling the story. A good storyteller could have had me killing a single person and had the character be wracked with guilt over it -- look at the way The Walking Dead handled ethical choices. My GF fell asleep while I was playing through b:i, and she wanted to find out what happened, so I showed her the last third of that edited video I linked above which skipped past 100% of the actual shooting gameplay, and she felt like she missed nothing. Her one criticism was wondering why Booker and Elizabeth never had a 'moment' after the big reveal about their relationship.
posted by empath at 11:40 PM on April 4, 2013


But no, you decide to murder a baby.

Wait, what?
posted by Justinian at 11:40 PM on April 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not cool with the editing.
posted by Justinian at 11:42 PM on April 4, 2013


Yes. You tell me. In what way does it at all deconstruct FPS as a game mechanic or a genre?

Goddamnit. I just wiped out a huge half-finished post. Sigh. To summarize: I don't think it deconstructs mechanically. I agree that the shooting mechanics are generally rote and not the game's strong suit. I think it deconstructs thematically. THIS WILL SPOILER THE FUCK OUT OF THE GAME FOR ANYONE WHO HASN'T BEATEN IT: in very simple terms, you play a character who is so eager for forgiveness (from a gambling debt, but not really), that he comes to Columbia and inadvertently re-commits the act he's so eager for forgiveness from. Massacres are literally in Booker's past, present, and future. No matter what side he's on: Comstock's, as Fitzroy's martyr to the cause, or just his own/the player's, Booker is responsible for killing massive amounts of people, and the game doesn't let him off the hook for that. Hell, he's doubly responsible for all the people he kills in his journey to Columbia. The ending is the game's "Would you kindly" moment. It makes the player complicit in doing terrible things, even if they didn't know they were terrible at the time. It's like a Michael Haneke video-game.

If anything, I think there's room for more violence in B:I, although I understand why they didn't go down that road. I mean, the guy who was shaped by Wounded Knee can (accidentally ... or not) shoot innocent bystanders, if they happen to be around when violence starts. Think about that.
posted by Amanojaku at 11:46 PM on April 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


kafziel: there's some backstory on the conflict in this interview with Levine, and 2011 gameplay demo. It's presented as a prolonged conflict, in which violence and extremism have become stronger over time. The final depiction of the conflict in the game doesn't really get that across.
posted by russilwvong at 11:46 PM on April 4, 2013


DeWitt decides to go back to when Comstock was born and smother him.

"It's the only way" Ken Levine Booker tells us.

Granted, it works out in a much different way than that but that's explicitly what you, the protagonist, decide to do.
posted by bardic at 11:46 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Gameological Society review of the game seemed to reflect some of the discussion here:
That’s still better than the political threads of the plot. Infinite becomes bored with those about halfway through. Levine sets up a conflict between American exceptionalism and rabble-rousing populism, but he punts by casting practically every prominent figure in Columbian politics as an irredeemable asshole. Comstock is an asshole because he’s a megalomaniacal eugenicist—something of an open-and-shut case right there—and the Vox leader is an asshole because she’s more concerned with the narrative of her triumph than the welfare of her citizens.
It goes on to say that the world building is excellent, but it feels like some gameplay elements were grafted onto it just so it could fit into Bioshock better, without thinking how it would impact the gameplay.
posted by FJT at 11:47 PM on April 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The worst part about the ending is how similar it is to a very popular film from 2012. A film that was also somewhat overrated, but that's beside the point.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:53 PM on April 4, 2013


"It's the only way" Ken Levine Booker tells us.

Granted, it works out in a much different way than that but that's explicitly what you, the protagonist, decide to do.


So ... the protagonist is Ken Levine, but the guy who created the world where the protagonists fleeting idea is shown to be immoral ... is not? I kind of feel like you're reaching for criticisms here.
posted by Amanojaku at 11:55 PM on April 4, 2013


No, I'm just saying that I'm so old-fashioned that I had to cringe at an ending where the character I'm playing murders an old dude in cold blood (who arguably had it coming but fuck you you don't get to have a choice in the matter) and then decides to go and murder a baby to solve his problems.

Fucking stupid and morally repugnant! Yay!
posted by bardic at 11:57 PM on April 4, 2013


You also have no choice to refrain from beating in Andrew Ryan's head with a golf club in the first BioShock. Your lack of choice in these scenes is no more arbitrary. You're supposed to cringe -- look at Elizabeth's reaction, for instance. And you're not supposed to be able to make a different choice -- because Booker wouldn't; without all the information, he can't. Not yet. But once he has it, he does make a different choice. (Or, technically, I guess, the same choice.) Until that moment, that understanding, he's the villain. He just didn't know it. It's neither stupid nor morally repugnant, but it is easy to miss if you're just dismissing everything except a few choice bits as "pretentious psycho-blather."
posted by Amanojaku at 12:23 AM on April 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


While the original Bioshock's conceit wasn't that original- post-hypnotic or conditioning code words, born and bred supersoldier or whatever, its lack of freedom actually tied in well with the setting, which was about an Objectivist utopia, all about freedom. What do the lack of choice in Bioshock Infinite have to talk about? Stuff about quantum mechanics, and the inability of fate, and so on. Which ties into a flying 1910s white supremacist dystopia how? Bioshock Infinite's ideas go much less together than the original game's did.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:31 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know why Bioshock Infinite has to suddenly be all things to all people just because it happened to have higher pretensions than most. From what I can tell, the game fulfills Ken Levine and the Irrational team's vision fairly well, and you are free to think it's amazing or flawed or definitely not for you.

But the rest of it makes me think of the hubbub about Juno a few years back, and how awful a movie it was because it depicted yet another young woman who wouldn't go through with the abortion, and for fuck's sake why can't it be a movie about a woman deciding to have an abortion. And YES, I hear you, I also think there should be more movies where someone makes the decision to abort, and maybe even movies where that decision isn't horrific or emotionally crippling or comes back to bite the person in the ass later or whatever. But you know what? Juno isn't going to be that movie and it never was going to be that movie.

I get that there are hegemonic forces that mean movies like Juno and games with a mandatory shooter component like Bioshock Infinite are going to be more popular overall than the hypothetical pro-abortion Juno or the hypothetical non-violent Bioshock Infinite. But christ, that's a criticism of the entire industry, and to me it's a criticism of balance—not that games like Bioshock Infinite shouldn't exist, but that there should be more options out there. Let Ken Levine have his vision, but let a thousand other visions bloom. Let Gone Home and Dear Esther and the other non-violent first-person games have their day in the sun, too.

I do think Bioshock Infinite had problems. I agree that there were parts where I was suddenly shooting people and I wasn't really sure why; similarly to bardic's response to one of the game's final moments, I found myself disconnected somewhat from the story and from what Booker was being "forced" to do by the game. There's a really great GDC 2013 talk about Spec Ops: The Line (warning: tons of Spec Ops spoilers!) from the writer's perspective. He touches on a lot of things; one thing in particular is how you can have the protagonist turn into a horrible person and still engage the player, who in theory is supposed to identify with the protagonist.

The disconnect between the protagonist's story arc and what I want to do as a player, to me, is a more subtle, and arguably much more difficult mechanical problem. Letting me talk my way out of a fight (I'm thinking of a specific, otherwise uninteresting fight about halfway through the game) or allowing bardic not to do what he didn't want to do would mean changing the story Levine and co. put together. The game is a slave to the specific narrative of the developers, full stop. You are not allowed to do anything that interferes with the narrative; it just so happens that this particular narrative relies on a substantial amount of bloodshed, which informs Booker's character for reasons other people have stated above. Allowing the narrative to change based on player actions is not only more costly—you have to write and produce all the branches, after all—it may actually affect the quality of the storyline. If bardic doesn't do what he's supposed to do at the end, the revelation that occurs afterward (mainly, that your job isn't anywhere near done) has no effect.

Could Bioshock Infinite have been designed better to accommodate player choice and non-violence? Sure. But arguably, it would be a very different game from what we got, and probably would be much harder to make to boot. I think that taken on its own merits, Bioshock Infinite is a great game—not one with the impact of the original Bioshock, necessarily, and one that shows the limitations of how most games are constructed more clearly than ever before, but still a great game. Compared to an idealized version of Bioshock Infinite, it obviously fails to make the grade, but that seems a rather unfair comparison to me.
posted by chrominance at 12:39 AM on April 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


The good is the enemy of the perfect.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:42 AM on April 5, 2013


It is also worth noting, though, that Bioshock Infinite does suffer from another, less discussed issue. Simply put: the trick Bioshock 1 pulled of highlighting the player's utter lack of agency where it mattered to make a story point is a trick you can only pull so often. Bioshock did it; Bioshock Infinite does it; other recent games have done it (I'll not name them because it's somewhat spoilery). But eventually, as a plot twist, it ceases to have power; eventually you're just telling the player what they already know, and what they wish they could change but can't. Eventually, games are going to have to find some other party trick. Whether that means using that lack of agency in a more meaningful way (arguably some games have tried this) or allowing the player that agency and figuring out how to work with that from a story standpoint is an open question.
posted by chrominance at 12:45 AM on April 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


What do the lack of choice in Bioshock Infinite have to talk about? Stuff about quantum mechanics, and the inability of fate, and so on. Which ties into a flying 1910s white supremacist dystopia how? Bioshock Infinite's ideas go much less together than the original game's did.

The lack of choice in Infinite is more than thematically justified by the quantum mechanics, I think, but it does also tie to the earlier parts of the game: when Booker passes through the gates at the fair and meets the Lutrecs, who have him flip a coin for them, we're introduced to the "two sides of the same coin" theme, which permeates the rest of the game, from the Lutrecs themselves, to Comstock/Booker, to both versions of the dystopia: the post-Reconstruction racist Comstock version, and the Vox Populi "Red Terror." By being the same coin, there's no real choice between the two, only the illusion of choice: whichever way you go, you get extremists running a dystopia.
posted by Amanojaku at 12:53 AM on April 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I feel about Bioshock: Infinite almost exactly the same way I feel about LOST: I dug the first 90% and then found the end utterly enraging.

In B:I it's mostly because they pull a narrative rope-a-dope. Despite the fact that Booker is the playable character, he is not the main character of the story. Elizabeth is. But after the lighthouse revelation, her character becomes nothing more than a guide toward getting Booker to realize something, leaving all of the questions about her character unresolved. It's so very unsatisfying. And the specific revelations make it seem like something Donald Kaufman might've written.
posted by davidjmcgee at 1:04 AM on April 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


By being the same coin, there's no real choice between the two, only the illusion of choice: whichever way you go, you get extremists running a dystopia.

Which I think gets to the cynical message of the game, which basically boils down to: "anything you do to change the status quo only makes things worse so don't bother". A somewhat bothersome message given the racial subplot.
posted by empath at 1:06 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which I think gets to the cynical message of the game, which basically boils down to: "anything you do to change the status quo only makes things worse so don't bother". A somewhat bothersome message given the racial subplot.

Well, if the message began and ended there, perhaps. But as we move deeper into the game, the infinite becomes more relevant. That there are only two choices is also an illusion, ultimately. But like the Achievement/Trophy title for beating the game references, you have to see the whole elephant, not just the trunk or the tail, which is what (quantum mechanically) Elizabeth can do, and what the game's real message (I think) suggests the player attempt in real life, spiritually and politically. But other people have different and interesting opinions.

I went looking and found some excellent analysis (some of which matches my thoughts and complaints, and some of which doesn't) at:

Neogaf -- for trivia like the detail that there are 122 strikes on the Lutrecs' chalkboard when you flip their coin; 122 is also the combination to the bells in the beginning. And a possible Songbird Easter egg ... in the first BioShock.

Wired -- some good thoughts from Chris Kohler.

And a really good blog post -- she gets one detail wrong, which affects her interpretation of an event, but it's otherwise very thought provoking.

I really recommend anyone interested in the game -- especially if you're skeptical or underwhelmed -- check out those links.
posted by Amanojaku at 1:45 AM on April 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


[Note: bardic -- and everyone, don't edit comments to add or delete content. The guidelines are here, and also on the edit page itself. It causes confusion when people are seeing different comments, and quoting original comments. Use edit to fix typos and small errors only.]
posted by taz at 1:59 AM on April 5, 2013


Was anyone else bothered by the film times for (french) Revenge of the Jedi not being in (french) 24 hour time? Of all the things, that really struck me as laziness on the part of the developers. Alternate realities or not.
posted by Yowser at 2:13 AM on April 5, 2013


I had an amazing, incredible time with B:I for about the first ten hours, but the story went in a really weird, and ultimately totally unsatisfying, direction after that.

Unfortunately, this story is one that's very easily spoiled, and I can't be specific about what I didn't like without wrecking much of the reason to play the game at all. Even saying that much is a more spoilery than I really like.

So, I'm a little torn on a recommendation. Mechanically, it's really just another shooter, nothing particularly special. But it's like playing a shooter in a world that looks like a Disney ride. The worldbuilding is, in many places, outright jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Bioshock's Columbia is probably the most beautiful place ever put into a computer game; the senses of exploration and discovery were outstanding. But then, the plot. Sigh.

I can't give it an unreserved recommendation, but I can say that nothing this ambitious has ever been put in a computer game box before, and it's probably worth buying just for that.

I would love to see them refocus this tech and quality of design into something more like an adventure game, but I doubt they'd ever get financial backing to try. It would be outstanding if the audience for adventure games was large enough to support a production of this quality, but I just don't see it happening.

So, if the price of admission to explore worlds like this is having to play a shooter, well, at least it beats Call of Duty.
posted by Malor at 2:44 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The only thing I can add to what's already been said is that I think an adventure game that takes place from the perspective of the Lucete twins would be amazing. With 100% less manshooting.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:53 AM on April 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I would love to see them refocus this tech and quality of design into something more like an adventure game, but I doubt they'd ever get financial backing to try. It would be outstanding if the audience for adventure games was large enough to support a production of this quality, but I just don't see it happening.

Telltale sold 8.5 million episodes of the walking dead, grossing $40 million.

I imagine they could have sold more with a bigger budget.
posted by empath at 3:14 AM on April 5, 2013


The only thing I can add to what's already been said is that I think an adventure game that takes place from the perspective of the Lucete twins would be amazing. With 100% less manshooting.

I would buy that so hard.

I'm still working out how I feel about BioShock Infinite, but my first thought is that it's a lot more like Freedom Force versus the Third Reich than I expected...
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:57 AM on April 5, 2013


The increasing availability of free or inexpensive high-performance game engines means most of the financial difficulty in making a game like this is down to asset creation--2d and 3d art, sound design, music, voice. Then, too, you can fill some gaps with stock art, if it's available with a permissive license.
posted by LogicalDash at 4:00 AM on April 5, 2013


It's been very interesting reading this thread, and the linked articles. I don't play this sort of game - I never seem to have hardware around capable of it, and I've been missing out on it for years. The last time I was up to date with a FPS was UT2004. But I talk to people who play the sorts of games that have come out in recent years, these "narrative" games, and they all seem to have great things to say about them. I'm struggling to understand the genre, though. I cut my teeth on Doom, Quake - there was no story beyond shit there are aliens, kill them! Interrupting that for the purposes of telling a serious story? Why? How is that relevant to the shooting? Surely that severely limits the kinds of stories you are able to tell, and the means you have to tell them. Conversely, why interrupt a perfectly good story with random, repetitive violence? Imagine a novel where every second page involved walking into room and killing five people, before walking out again back into the story. There is a weird conflict going on there. I get the impression that all too often, story is added as a means of trying to differentiate just another shooting game - or is it that shooting is added as a means to attract typical gamers?

All this is said, of course, having not playing anything of the genre, so feel free to tear my assertions apart. I haven't played anything of the genre because it all seems to confused and unattractive.

Back to Minecraft.
posted by Jimbob at 4:30 AM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Slate chimes in.
It’s hard to think of another example where the ruling power and revolutionaries are as interchangeably evil as they are in Levine's work. There is an overabundance of revolutions where the struggle produces horrific acts of violence, from the Maoist attempts to overthrow the Nepalese monarchy to the ongoing civil war in Syria. Yet these instances also show the disproportionate pressure placed on the revolutionary cause that makes an individual moment of violent resistance a sin, while systemic violence of a ruling power is tolerable. It could be said the American colonists were being irrationally violent by refusing to pay taxes to the British and violently destroying property in protest, or that John Brown’s violent slave rebellions crossed a moral line. Both statements are true, but it ducks the more difficult question of whether violence is a necessary catalyst that cannot be done without. The question of when and how violence might be justifiable is not easy to answer, but it’s one that deserves better treatment than to throw up one’s hands and say that both sides are bad.
posted by empath at 4:40 AM on April 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


I cut my teeth on Doom [...] there was no story beyond shit there are aliens, kill them!

as good as you are at killing demons, it won't help you when they've rigged the teleporter to dump you into hell

(yes, I know there were more episodes)
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:54 AM on April 5, 2013


How is that relevant to the shooting? Surely that severely limits the kinds of stories you are able to tell, and the means you have to tell them. Conversely, why interrupt a perfectly good story with random, repetitive violence?

I think this is a lot of people's problem with B:I. Manshooters have been going in this direction for a long time, and it reminds me of what happened to JRPGs: the games became about the story, and the combat becomes an interference to the story. But, simultaneously, the stories are cheesy, at least partly because of the fact that your characters spend most of the time killing scores of people/monsters. B:I seems to want to tell a story about the cycle of violence, and how killing only begets more killing, but it only has two verbs: Kill and Listen to Exposition, so it forces the protagonist to be a person who feels bad about killing all those people he just killed, right before he kills a dozen more people. And Elizabeth has to be shocked that you just killed a dozen people, and then five minutes later, she asks "Should I summon a robot George Washington to murder all those people with a minigun?" But this has been a problem for a while, most starkly in GTA 4.

What is really immersion-breaking to me are the Vigors and the vending machines. In Bioshock, the ridiculous plot sort of justified both, but here, why is a woman giving samples of a drug that lets you possess any mechanical object in Columbia out for free at a fair? And why can you buy an upgrade for it that let's you possess people to murder everyone around them before offing themselves at any of a hundred vending machines? Why does a society with a marginalized underclass about to start a revolution have vending machines that sell weapon upgrades everywhere? Why would you sell a drug that lets people summon swarms of ravens to peck other people to death? Fink is making hundreds of bottles of the Vigors. Who is using them?
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:01 AM on April 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'll probably end up getting it when it goes down in price, but the reviews of Infinite have been frustrating, since they all seem to begin assuming the reader agrees that Bioshock was a triumph of game design and storytelling. I know I'm in the minority, and I'm ok with that, but I didn't think the story of Bioshock was all that, and think its "examination" of its Big Issues was sorely lacking. That's a point we could discuss and debate and I could be completely wrong on, but in the meantime I seem to only have examinations of this sequel that make that assumption and proceed from there. So if they say the material is on par with the original, I don't know if I'm interested, and if they say the material isn't on par, then I really don't know. I guess I'll have to eventually play it and find out, but I'd really like it if the reviewers would stretch their legs a bit and not just let the original game do the heavy lifting for them.
posted by Legomancer at 5:18 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


We're OK with spoilers?

Only, I think the Vox Populi is a real problem with the narrative, and there are various ways of approaching that problem.

I think at the moment my suspicion is that the way it plays out is the Time Travel Ruins Everything trope - although in this case it's dimension-hopping rather than time travel.

Elizabeth talks about how she is not sure how much of her powers find and how much create new realities. The answer is probably somewhere in the middle - the realities exist anyway, but her subconscious mind plays a part in selecting them.

(And bear in mind that Elizabeth has been stuck in a library the books for which were presumably selected by Comstock or agents of Comstock - which is a real problem with the narrative, but never mind. She's portrayed as being startled by the realities of Columbian racism, but she's probably been fed a fairly consistent line by the books and news sources she has access to.)

So, the reality which the second half of the game takes place in is broken, essentially. Primarily, it's broken not because the Vox Populi got the guns, but because they got Booker.

(Further spoilers!)

In the reality they move into, Comstock gets wind of Booker's arrival in time to move Elizabeth to the fortifications of Comstock House. Booker can't break into that alone, as he did with the Monument, so he has to recruit an army. He makes contact with the Vox, but also with Cornelius Slate. (As related in the voxophones in Finkton.)

We know from the original universe that Slate is basically insane - directing his inchoate rage against Comstock into self-destruction, and taking his men - who are themselves well-armed, well-trained and accustomed to committing atrocities against civilians in the Indian Wars and the Boxer Rebellion - with him. In the original universe, he has a loose alliance with Daisy Fitzroy and the Vox, but throws away his men and his life in a fight with Booker at the Hall of Heroes.

In the new universe, Booker doesn't kill Slate and his men while trying to get hold of Shock Jockey, because he doesn't need Shock Jockey, because he isn't trying to escape to the First Lady with Elizabeth. Instead, he brokers a closer alliance between Slate and the Vox, and himself turns back into a military leader - so, he goes back to being Booker DeWitt of the 7th Cavalry - massacres, slaughters of women and children and all.

So, you-Booker and Elizabeth arrive in a world where the Vox Populi have been reinforced, armed and radicalized by Cornelius Slate and other-Booker, who, like you-Booker, only understands that he has to get the girl, and that any means justifies that end.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:20 AM on April 5, 2013 [17 favorites]


The best games, for me, don't put me in someone else's shoes and make me live out their lives for a while -- those would be basically linear narratives, a medium I find well served by books and motion pictures.

No, the best games, for me, put the player in their own shoes -- they allow me to play as myself -- but in some other world, so that I can make my own way through a strange and new place, making the best of the things, places and people I meet, in order to come to some satisfactory conclusion.

If you gave me Columbia as a wide open world and the freedom to make my way through it as I see fit, to make my own decisions, then maybe I'd end up as Booker. Or maybe I'd end up as Comstock. Or maybe I'd end up as some poor schlub who gets his brain gored out.

But "Infinite" (an appallingly ironic choice of name) doesn't give me that choice. Which means I have to miss out on the world they built around the-player-as-Booker; I have to miss Columbia-the-world and Elizabeth-the-remarkable-AI and all the beautiful details, artwork, music and sounds they've created. Beautiful details that are, for all the millions dollars spent on them, no more than festooning.

I haven't played Infinite so I should probably stop there. But if all the game really does is show me a shitty guy responding to a shitty situation in shitty ways with its ultimate lesson being: "look at just how shitty people can be to each other when they're feeling tribal and frightened" then I'm okay with not playing it, because I already know how shitty people can be to each other.

It isn't news, and it isn't interesting, and I don't want to play it on TV.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:25 AM on April 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yay pablum.

Ladies and gentlemen -- and Loudmouths -- I give you... Morton Downey Jr.!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:35 AM on April 5, 2013


Since this thread is now all about spoilers, the Infinite is meant to make sense in the context of the power that Elizabeth gains at the end of the game. But the Lucete twins are the real power to the game. They are manipulating infinitely many Elizabeths and infinitely many Bookers across infinitely many universes to achieve their goals. This is why I want to play their game.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:36 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


What is really immersion-breaking to me are the Vigors and the vending machines

I think that the greater visual fidelity in video games is causing people to question video game conventions more than they used to. A lot of what you see and do in video games is meant to be iconic, rather than representative, and the gun vending machines seemed that way to me. Ultimately, the game is about pointing and clicking at things until they die, which kind of requires an absurd amount of ammo, which would be realistic whether you pulled it off the ground or out of your ass, so why not a vending machine?

See also the voxophones, which I don't think are really meant to exist in the world of the game, but are rather a storytelling convention that allows you as a player to reach into the point of view of NPCs.
posted by empath at 5:41 AM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's a really good point. All of these things were in System Shock 2, but they seem realistic there.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:44 AM on April 5, 2013


empath: Telltale sold 8.5 million episodes of the walking dead, grossing $40 million.

I imagine they could have sold more with a bigger budget.


Well, those sound like big numbers, but if they sold 8.5 million and made $40 million, that means they're only seeing revenue of about $4.70 per copy. (I know I got mine really cheap.) I suspect you can't really count number of copies as a measure of popularity in the same way, because most were sold for $10 or less.

I very strongly suspect that the low price and recognized name were the drivers in those sales, and that even if they'd sunk a ton more money into making it, sales probably wouldn't have gone up very much. Revenue probably would have gone up some, because more people would probably be willing to buy at a higher price for a bigger-budget game, but I doubt it would have really paid for itself.

Chances are pretty good that B:I cost at least $80 million to make, and then they've got that whacking huge ad budget to boot. They'll probably need to gross about $125 million just to break even, and I don't think the adventure community is going to cough up that much.

Hell, the "spiritual sequel" to Planescape:Torment, including having the original designer partway on staff, is probably just barely going to break $4mil on Kickstarter. (it closes in about 11 hours from now. ) That's great, in the sense that they'll be able to build a pretty large 2D game, but that's about as high-profile as you get. They've got many of the original devs, writing a sequel to one of the most interesting stories ever told on computer, and they can barely raise pocket change, from a big studio's perspective.

I just don't think there's the money to fund the development of an adventure game to the same standard as B:I. It's a damn shame, because that's the game type it really should have been, but finance guys try to deal in reality.
posted by Malor at 5:50 AM on April 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Didn't Myst make a hojillion dollars like twenty years ago?
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:10 AM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


This entire conversation could be going on in the LucasArts thread. LucasArts and Sierra before it were masters of a style of game that is prohibitively expensive to make with the visual fidelity that the video game market expects these days. It is an arms race of more and more realistic visuals that seems to be slowly destroying the AAA game market. And I know that people are excited for the PS4 and the next Xbox, but when the co-founder of id Software is going to work for the company that makes Diner Dash something is happening to the video game market that is going to affect what gets funded and what doesn't. Text adventures used to be big money, but now they are all free indie games. The point and click adventure game is now something you buy for your iPad for $10, and the side-scrolling platformer is almost entirely an excuse for pixelated nostalgia at this point. I can on imagine a future when the FPS and the third person cover based shooter are in the same boat.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:10 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I will say that I liked Bioshock Infinite a lot, played it through to the end, and really enjoyed the experience.

I will say though that:
a) The racism was pointless, unnecessary, extremely offensive, and didn't enhance the game.
b) The violence was over the top, unnecessary, and fairly disgusting.
c) The core game borrowed too much from Halo - the game felt like a very pretty Halo derivative.
d) The game pretty much set out to subvert religion and "America" and did so in the name of setting up a really dumb ending, story-wise.

I mean people have gotten pissed off at video games in the past for comparatively minor stuff ("Hot Coffee", Postal) - I feel like every aspect of this game was oriented towards pissing people off and I'm somewhat surprised that there hasn't been a huge backlash towards it because if you were going to get pissed off at games being casually racist, violent and having anti-american, anti-religious sentiments, this is the game to do it.
posted by Veritron at 6:15 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think at the moment my suspicion is that the way it plays out is the Time Travel Ruins Everything trope - although in this case it's dimension-hopping rather than time travel.

That's my take on Levine's team's intentions with the Vox, too - I think ultimately the payoff to their story is a victim of the huge amount of content cut from the game during development.

My best guess is that we were supposed to see a reasonable, sympathetic and fundamentally unsuccessful Vox initially, and that with every pulling-through of a reality where the only criterion was 'the Vox are more successful' by Elizabeth (shocked at the oppression in Finkton, fantasising about a revolution like in Les Mis and so on), Daisy and the movement became more morally compromised and willing to admit not just legitimately aggrieved members of the underclass, but every thug, criminal and white shopkeeper secretly longing to burn his neighbour's house down. Possibly morally compromised by Booker being one of their leaders, even, and by Daisy's horrific treatment having made her completely snap rather than turn hard and determined.

That made them able to rally enough fighters to really get somewhere against Columbia's military, ruthless enough to just march into Chen Lin's place, beat the owners to death and take what they needed rather than tasking random passersby with asking him nicely, and burdened with a membership largely distanced enough from their racial/class liberation origins that they continued to burn, murder and loot long after Finkton was taken.

The problem is, we never get to meet that initial Vox, violent when necessary but tempered by their morals and perhaps truer to their real life equivalents. I think we're just supposed to assume they're like that. We get the briefest look at pre-reality-alteration Fitzroy, and she certainly doesn't seem bugfuck nuts like her post-Scratch self, but it's nowhere near enough contact to build the impression that later on, it's Elizabeth seeking solely a more successful Vox without any consideration of the variables that would have to change in order for them to be more successful, rather than anything inherent to a racial liberation movement, that turns them into an indiscriminately murderous horde.

If you look closely at the surveillance photos scattered around the police stations in the Finkton section (definitely the impound building, probably elsewhere too) there are a bunch of sepia-tinted screenshots of various places, once of which is labelled something like 'Vox headquarters?' and (as far as I know) never actually appears in-game. My guess is, Booker and Elizabeth were originally supposed to go there sometime early in Finkton and get to know pre-alteration Daisy and her movement a little better so there's something for their tampered-with selves to contrast. Without that contrast the later-game Vox just look like the continuation of the little we saw earlier, and it comes across very much as if Levine and co are trying to say 'this is the logical consequence of the oppressed taking up arms' when I doubt that was their intention at all. Still, judging what's actually on the page, so to speak, the story-as-told has horribly fucked-up implications.

I never actually saw those gory melee executions because I accidentally skipped the screen where it tells you how to do them, and I was playing with as much screen furniture disabled as possible. So I guess my iteration of Booker was a little less bloodthirsty, although probably a bit more willing to shower America with frozen police corpses than some. Constants and variables!
posted by emmtee at 6:31 AM on April 5, 2013 [15 favorites]


The game needed to work a little harder to make it clear that the Fitzroy in the second half of the game is not the Fitzroy in the first half of the game. Otherwise it looks like it's drawing an equivalency between Fitzroy and Comstock's causes.

In the new universe, Booker doesn't kill Slate and his men while trying to get hold of Shock Jockey, because he doesn't need Shock Jockey, because he isn't trying to escape to the First Lady with Elizabeth. Instead, he brokers a closer alliance between Slate and the Vox, and himself turns back into a military leader - so, he goes back to being Booker DeWitt of the 7th Cavalry - massacres, slaughters of women and children and all.

This is exactly right. The moment when you enter the new universe is the moment when the game first makes one of its big themes clear: That by trying to meddle around with time and space to fix things - by Booker (or Booker using Elizabeth as a proxy) trying to change anything but himself - you will only ever make it worse. You don't just flip ahead a few days in this new universe to find that the old Daisy is now a bloodthirsty maniac - you enter a world where you were on her side, you turned her into the same coldblooded killer that you once were, and then you died, and now everything is even more out of control than it was before.

It's not an accident that that section of the game contains a whole lot of moving goalposts and objectives that repeatedly move away from you. You go to get the weapons cache but Chen Lin is dead so you need to go find him in a different universe. You go into that universe and he's not responsive and doesn't have his tools. You go find his tools but you can't transport them. You go into another universe where the tools have been moved and now his tools are at his place but he and his wife are dead.

Booker doesn't really change in his outlook as a character until near the game's end, and that's when he starts getting important work done.

Also a lot of people are saying the game abandons the themes of race halfway through, but I don't know - we're talking about a part where a privileged white dude walks into a situation he doesn't understand and thoroughly destabilizes the whole thing by meddling with it (twice, actually: first you boned it up as martyred Booker and then as the Booker you're playing as). That's a less blatant expression of the theme, but it's there. Again, I wish the game had driven home a little more clearly that the whole thing is your fault.

The problem is, we never get to meet that initial Vox, violent when necessary but tempered by their morals and perhaps truer to their real life equivalents. I think we're just supposed to assume they're like that. We get the briefest look at pre-reality-alteration Fitzroy, and she certainly doesn't seem bugfuck nuts like her post-Scratch self, but it's nowhere near enough contact to build the impression that later on, it's Elizabeth seeking solely a more successful Vox without any consideration of the variables that would have to change in order for them to be more successful, rather than anything inherent to a racial liberation movement, that turns them into an indiscriminately murderous horde.

Yeah, completely this.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 6:50 AM on April 5, 2013 [14 favorites]


empath: Telltale sold 8.5 million episodes of the walking dead, grossing $40 million.

Not exactly - the WSJ article that figure comes from has a strangely-constructed lead-in, and it's not clear where the $40 million revenue figure comes from, especially when it adds "not including any promotions". I imagine it was reached by adding up the purchase price of an episode on Steam, XBLM, PSN and the iTunes store and then dividing by 4.

And then the games press largely reproduces that figure without interrogating it at all, not wholly surprisingly.

Telltale's CEO says later in the interview:
Because of the episodic model, the price points are similar across all platform. Our average revenue per user is about $16. That’s consistent across all platforms. The episodic model has allowed us to create an economy that works on mobile. As far as size, at this point it’s probably about 25% of the revenue of the product and it is on the largest upswing of all platforms as well.
Assuming the $40 million figure is accurate for sales (which I don't think it is), and assuming he actually means ARPPU rather than ARPU (which I think he does) that means a pure number of 2.5 million buyers, which is actually going to spread to north of 3 million - a really impressive number, but nowhere near a target for a game like BioShock Infinite. For comparison, the "poor" sales of Hitman: Absolution, at about 3.6 million (excluding PC sales), were one of the contributing factors to Square Enix parting ways with their CEO.

Torment: Tides of Numenera is a really good example, there - Brian Fargo said that 200,000 sales (on top of 60,000 pre-sales through Kickstarter donations) would be a good number for them.
For us to sell 200,000 pieces would mean that we can carry on making games like this for five years.
PC game costing is also different, and digital distribution costing is different from retail costing, as Malor says.

In the case of BioShock Infinite, a lot of copies are going to be sold, still, by people picking cases off store shelves and bringing them to the counter. The retailer buys copies from the publisher (sell-in) and then sells those copies to their customers (sell-through). If the copies move too slowly, often the retailer will enact "price protection" - a deal with the publisher where they discount the sticker price ahead of schedule to shift inventory, but get compensation from the publisher for their lost margin. Those Hitman sales were achieved with price protection coming into play, which lowers the profit for the publisher.

The Walking Dead was not initially a retail release - in fact, it was only released to retail at the end of last year in the US, and is scheduled for a May release elsewhere, and it's going into retail at $29.99 - which they can do, because the cost of actually making the game has already been covered. They actually don't need to worry too much about price protection...
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:57 AM on April 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Bioshock Infinite might be the last of a dying breed (the Triple A, big budget, narrative game) due to the lack luster returns of such fare in the face of cheap, accessible indie and mobile games.

There's no doubt that the AAA publisher based industry is struggling (where Kickstarter projects are promising a delivery of games that gamers actually want) As far as being the last, Beyond: Two Souls is still happening later this year and looks amazing. We may be witnessing a paradigm shift on high-budget games rather than their demise entirely. There's still plenty of room for big budget narrative games, it's just they have to relate well to the audience in order to be successful. It's almost like saying the death of big budget films is near because so many indy films are so successful....no so. The difference is really weeding out the John Carters from the Avengers/Dark Knights. If a big budget game is released that doesn't do well in sales, it's not a sign of the industry itself as much as it's a sign of how in touch it is with its audience...and people crave high quality entertainment along with the simpler time wasters...they're not necessarily exclusive.

(personally I'm crossing my fingers that 2D "Interactive Fiction" a la Sierra/LucasArts makes a huge comeback someday...I am happy to see Kickstarter is gaining a lot of interest on the ones that are getting funded....Broken Sword, Dreamfall: Chronicles, Double Fine Adventure, etc. These used to be the big budget games of the 90's, but publishers let them die in favor of 3D which had more wow-factor at the time. Now that we're thoroughly used to 3D, interactive fiction/adventure has become unique again.)
posted by samsara at 7:33 AM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Half-Life 3 will be there on shelves, its siren song luring you back in.
posted by Justinian at 5:26 AM on April 5


DO NOT TORMENT ME SO.
posted by Decani at 7:44 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


What is really immersion-breaking to me are the Vigors and the vending machines. In Bioshock, the ridiculous plot sort of justified both, but here, why is a woman giving samples of a drug that lets you possess any mechanical object in Columbia out for free at a fair? And why can you buy an upgrade for it that let's you possess people to murder everyone around them before offing themselves at any of a hundred vending machines? Why does a society with a marginalized underclass about to start a revolution have vending machines that sell weapon upgrades everywhere? Why would you sell a drug that lets people summon swarms of ravens to peck other people to death? Fink is making hundreds of bottles of the Vigors. Who is using them?

I had similar issues with those elements, but I think I can answer the last one: the Fire-Men are using Devil's Kiss. The Knights of the Order of the Raven are using Murder of Crows. Slate, at least, is using Shock Jockey. And presumably the Vigors wear off eventually, which is why there's some source to buy more doses, as compared to the Plasmids in the first game, which modify you permanently.
posted by Amanojaku at 7:46 AM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm oddly reassured that the one true constant across all iterations is that Booker DeWitt is not only willing, or able, but universally mandated to eat an entire chocolate cake, including the stand and six candles, before his story can truly begin.

I like to imagine the Luteces standing behind the counter after he leaves.

"He ate the cake again."
"He always eats the cake."
"Do the implications not concern you?"
"I'm more concerned about the plumbing."

Also Comstock should have been polishing off a candle and bits of cake stand when Booker bursts in. "Oh god, you're me!"
posted by emmtee at 7:59 AM on April 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


Why does a society with a marginalized underclass about to start a revolution have vending machines that sell weapon upgrades everywhere?

That one's pretty easy. It's also a society that worships an idealized version of America, second amendment and all. It's not limited to the vending machines either. We see citizenry-as-militia mentioned in the kinetoscopes and other places. It may be that Columbia doesn't maintain a standing army, which is probably why Slate has so many disaffected veterans following him.
posted by figurant at 8:06 AM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


running order squabble fest, I'd have liked the game a lot more if your explanation is true. And I guess there is some evidence to support it (why would the Vox scalp Founders unless they learned it from Booker?)
posted by 2bucksplus at 8:45 AM on April 5, 2013


The scalping comes from Preston E. Downs, who only shows up in a few out-of-the-way voxophones and is easy to miss. He's hired by Comstock to hunt down Fitzroy, but in at least one of the universes has a crisis of conscience that leads to him joining the Vox. Scalping seems to be his signature.
posted by figurant at 8:50 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just finished Bastion, ended up spending the next two days talking about it with my partner, and realized that it said everything Bioware tried to with the infamous ME3 ending, without the distractions of a lot of talking-head dialogue beating dead horses.

AAA games frequently suffer from the same artistic flaws as big-budget science fiction cinema. The tail of flashy mechanics, action-sequences, and cinematics ends up wagging the dog of artistic narrative. (Or worse, a monstrous tail wriggling away in the dirt while the gameplay runs off in a completely different direction.)
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:53 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Amanojaku: "And a really good blog post -- she gets one detail wrong, which affects her interpretation of an event, but it's otherwise very thought provoking."

Admittedly, I skimmed this, as I've gone through a lot of spoiler-talk this morning. I liked her analysis, though.

I thought it was a great game, despite its faults.
posted by graventy at 9:10 AM on April 5, 2013


It's also a society that worships an idealized version of America, second amendment and all.

Right, but then why do so few of the people you fight have VigorPowers to match your own?
posted by davidjmcgee at 9:13 AM on April 5, 2013


Right, but then why do so few of the people you fight have VigorPowers to match your own?

Several people you fight do employ vigors (firemen, Zealots for the Ladies, Slate), but not everyone. When you're passing by a civilian, he says he's holding off on a vigor until Fink works the kinks out. Maybe it's like (legal) steroids in that worlds: some people just want the power, but others refrain for it being a health risk or not natural or pride or whatnot.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:18 AM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I find it interesting that there's a subconversation in here trying to justify the in-world existence of vigors/vending machines, which I never questioned. It made me think of the Kill Screen interview that Ken Levine gave recently, particularly this quote:

We have a convention that allows the heroine to sing her inner thoughts—with The Little Mermaid, she wants to be on land, with people; Belle wants to have adventures. I couldn’t have Elizabeth do that, right? Because that would be really weird. All of a sudden the gamer would say: “You know what, I accept flying cities, I accept all of this…but I do not accept that.”

It's interesting what breaks immersion for everybody. For me, it was the unrealistic speed and ease of Elizabeth's lockpicking animation...
posted by strangecargo at 9:28 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suppose. I just figure that when word got around that a dude was coming for you, which dude could possess you to make you kill your friends, freeze and levitate you, send crows to make you a modern-day post-punishment Prometheus, electrocute you, &c., and you could match him power-for-power by throwing some change in that there vending machine, that more people might have opted to do so.
posted by davidjmcgee at 9:28 AM on April 5, 2013


Slate is really the only enemy that uses Vigors as you do*. That would be an interesting statement, except salt and vigors are littered everywhere throughout the game.

*Firemen and Crow Cultists have other things going on. The Crow cultists don't actually use Murder of Crows weirdly. Firemen do use Devil's Kiss, but they're clearly augmented with body armor and for some reason explode. To me, they resemble Handymen-lite (due to their extreme body modifications) more than regular enemies + vigors.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:31 AM on April 5, 2013


The vending machines irritated me, I have to admit.

In System Shock 2, they worked. There was only one type but they could be hacked from civilian applications (snacks, expensive healing items) to give out more military-orientated gear (cybernetic upgrades, ammunition). The technology they represented were entirely in keeping with the world they were in.

In Bioshock: Infinite, the vending machines sell tools for killing people to anyone with the cash and stuff like bullets are CHEAP. There's no explanation how the gun and vigor upgrades work. From a gaming perspective, their purpose and nature is clear. From the perspective of the world they were in, they were insane.
posted by YAMWAK at 9:36 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


On that Vigor theme, that was one of my real disappointments in Bioshock 1. All through the game they're showing how splicing is really, really bad for you, but you become the superest super-splicer that ever spliced. And there were absolutely no consequences for doing so.

Here, at least, Vigors aren't painted as being dangerous, but almost nobody uses them, where in Bioshock, where it was apparently widely known that they were a bad idea, everyone used them.

They could have easily explained that with a Kinetoscope .... "Prophet Comstock says to keep your body pure!" But I didn't see anything like that.
posted by Malor at 9:37 AM on April 5, 2013


I felt like they wanted to evolve plasmids/vigors and do something to make you switch up your play style. I know in Bioshock I spent 80% of my time shocking people. There were all these interesting plasmids, but I just relied on the one that worked the best.

So I think that's why they put in this quasi-Pokemon thing where you have to counter the fire dudes with a non-fire vigor, the crows with a non-crow vigor, and so on. But 2bucksplus is right, I think; the purpose was not to have enemies using vigors the way that you do, but to have enemies that are thematically linked to certain vigors so that you have to use a different vigor to kill them.
posted by savetheclocktower at 9:41 AM on April 5, 2013


a) The racism was pointless, unnecessary, extremely offensive, and didn't enhance the game.

I realized something as I woke up today, and came here to post it. The racism of the people of Columbia is cartoonish and over-the-top, to be sure, and I hear a lot of complaints that it's pointless or unnecessary. But one complaint I haven't heard is that it is inaccurate. And I think that's an important thing to focus on - this is a city in 1912, founded on religious conservatism and American exceptionalism. This is a turn-of-the-century environment with a wealthy, white upper class and an industrial base supported by Fink's exploitation of black and irish workers.

So, three things about that.
1) The structure of Columbia is exactly how things were in this country. The era in which Columbia was afloat - 1893-1912 - is the era of The Jungle, of the Labor Movement, of all sorts of class pressure from the bottom up that was inextricably tied to racial pressure.
2) The racist casting of the struggle, on the part of the white upper class, is absolutely what went down.
3) That's the entire point. It's part of the ongoing "You can't wash away the past" narrative. The point of the imagery is not to remind us that racism is bad - if you don't know that already, you're not gonna learn that from a video game - but to revisit the past from a perspective of coming-to-terms. This happened, don't pretend it didn't, just deal with it.
posted by kafziel at 9:42 AM on April 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


The thing that troubled me about this game was that it wasn't able to deliver on many of its own promises.

Among the promises never kept was her going to Paris. All these plot setups never paid off. You might say, "but all the infinite things happen at the end" that's the same as me just saying, "uh, happily and unhappily everafter."

The reference to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead made me think, "oh goody, the dialogue will be brilliant!"
Didn't happen. Not that it didn't have some nice moments. The voice acting was totally top notch. So was the music. It just didn't come through with clear and interesting points. I felt like the story of holes in the dimensions were an analogy for holes in the story as well as gameplay.
Here, let me tell you a story about me going to the store, but what if it were the opposite of a store, and what if it were run by nazis, and what if it could be blue instead of red. That's not a story, it's a nervous breakdown.

A companion that finds you stuff as you play.
Oh great, now you're interrupting what little gameplay there is. Felt like a hamfisted way of trying to get me to like this thing that was following me around, or that I was following.

The skyhook system made me think, "Aw yeah, totally new type of game."
Not really.

The art was often creepy and unpolished.
Her giant head bobbing about on that pencil thin neck was just too much for me.

The animations were inconsistent.
Sorry, we forgot to animate the eyes so this manequin is going to stare into infinity.

The story didn't know when it was trying to make a point.
Are you racist? Well, there's something wrong about this girl in a cage. Now look at religion! All those violent people are all the same.
What the hell are you trying to say?

But of all the things I found most annoying, the AI. It was an incredibly painful experience. The big battle on the airship where the AI single mindedly stood in place and attacked the focus was horrible. Just shoot stuf til dead...did u shoot it ded fast enuf...u wins.
posted by varion at 9:42 AM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I suppose. I just figure that when word got around that a dude was coming for you, which dude could possess you to make you kill your friends, freeze and levitate you, send crows to make you a modern-day post-punishment Prometheus, electrocute you, &c., and you could match him power-for-power by throwing some change in that there vending machine, that more people might have opted to do so.

Well - and bear in mind that this is just my attempt at a Marvel No-Prize, not so much a serious stab at finding an explanation within the work:

1. It's never established in the game who's paying the cops, other than The Founders. Most of the financial and technological backbone of The Founders comes from Fink, though, so it's not a huge stretch to think that the police work for Fink.
2. Fink has a number of unfair labor practices, and one of these is paying his employees not in money but in tokens which can be redeemed at the company store.
3. So it's not a huge leap to imagine that they would probably go buy vigors if they could, but the vending machines only take money, which they don't have.

As far as why civilians don't use them, I'd say it's maybe because the mood of Columbia is tranquil and idyllic (if you're white) and the Vigors are mostly combat-based so they mostly get used in amusement parks and the like. By the time they'd actually be useful, the upper class has been blindsided and wouldn't really be able to use the Vigors effectively anyway, having never seen conflict.

Or something. I only really think of it as a Good Enough explanation.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:43 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


On that Vigor theme, that was one of my real disappointments in Bioshock 1. All through the game they're showing how splicing is really, really bad for you, but you become the superest super-splicer that ever spliced. And there were absolutely no consequences for doing so.

Well, that's because Bioshock 1 was nonsense. The audio logs from Tenenbaum and such make it very clear that once you use ADAM, at all, even a little, you need a steady supply forever. And if that's ever cut off, you die horribly. And yet Jack shoots up random glowy goo all the time, and then in the good ending lives to a ripe old age outside Rapture.
posted by kafziel at 9:43 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


One tiny weighing-in on the vigors: what if they're really, really new at the point the game is set? The salesman at the fair in the beginning introduces them as if they're unfamiliar to the audience, there's a booth set up specifically to show how they work, there's that overheard conversation about waiting til the kinks are worked out, etc - possibly they've not been issued to the ordinary police/military yet, and the average civilian just isn't aware of what they could be shooting out of their hands?

It might even explain the enormous number of crates being shipped, if this is literally the first wave out of Fink Industries for stores to stock. Maybe Columbia was doomed to a Rapture-style descent into chaos, with every Joe and Jane Everyracist on the street able to fling hundred-ton weights and force other people into suicide, and the Luteces specifically picked a moment just before that happened so Booker could navigate a relatively stable Columbia (until Elizabeth made the Vox powerful enough to destabilize it all in a different way)?
posted by emmtee at 9:53 AM on April 5, 2013


It might even explain the enormous number of crates being shipped, if this is literally the first wave out of Fink Industries for stores to stock. Maybe Columbia was doomed to a Rapture-style descent into chaos, with every Joe and Jane Everyracist on the street able to fling hundred-ton weights and force other people into suicide, and the Luteces specifically picked a moment just before that happened so Booker could navigate a relatively stable Columbia (until Elizabeth made the Vox powerful enough to destabilize it all in a different way)?

This is another thing that came to mind while I was playing. In Bioshock, you're playing long after things in Rapture have gone completely to shit. In Infinite, you show up while things are still humming along nicely and the Golden Age of the place is in full swing. Then things start going to shit (in large part because of your arrival). It didn't really hit me for a while that you're seeing a stage in this city's existence which you never got to see in Rapture.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:57 AM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I will agree the music is great. The ringtone on my phone is now the calliope cover of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" from Battleship Bay. I'm pretty sure I would pay actual money for an album that consisted entirely of 80s songs played on the calliope. I can hear "Walking On Broken Glass" in my head!
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:08 AM on April 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


One tiny weighing-in on the vigors: what if they're really, really new at the point the game is set? The salesman at the fair in the beginning introduces them as if they're unfamiliar to the audience, there's a booth set up specifically to show how they work, there's that overheard conversation about waiting til the kinks are worked out, etc - possibly they've not been issued to the ordinary police/military yet, and the average civilian just isn't aware of what they could be shooting out of their hands?

There's also the fact that the vigors don't really work properly (both because they're new and because Fink is basically stealing technology from Rapture through reality tears and doesn't entirely understand what he's stealing, so he is creating wildly imperfect copies). Booker is basically the only person in the game who manages to use them without going insane (or so we think/assume). Everybody else? The Firemen are burning alive inside their suits because they use Devil's Kiss. The crow-men who turn into flocks of crows because they use the Murder of Crows vigor are clearly murderously insane. Slate, who uses Shock Jockey, is visibly riddled with tumours.

The vigors don't work as advertised. That's kind of the point.
posted by mightygodking at 10:14 AM on April 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Booker is basically the only person in the game who manages to use them without going insane (or so we think/assume).

Maybe Booker dies every five minutes from being shot or using the Vigors or falling, and then the Lucete twins are sarcastic at each other, and then they steal another Booker and stand him up over the corpse of the old one.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:25 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe Booker dies every five minutes from being shot or using the Vigors or falling, and then the Lucete twins are sarcastic at each other, and then they steal another Booker and stand him up over the corpse of the old one.

That's exactly what I thought was happening. Booker never lives long enough for the vigors to wear off or to have their side-effects. If you die when Elizabeth isn't around, the scene of you in your office isn't just a flashback -- it's a new Booker getting picked out of his reality and dropped right where dead Booker is. (Minus the whole tedious rigamarole of re-climbing the lighthouse, etc).
posted by Amanojaku at 11:18 AM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's how I read it - the Luteces are pulling a new Booker into Columbia, and he is generating memories to explain why he is where he is - which happen to tally to the memories the player has of the game so far...
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:37 AM on April 5, 2013


I'm still confused about the murdering a baby thing. Please to explain?
posted by Justinian at 12:04 PM on April 5, 2013


Booker says he will kill infant Comstock to save Elizabeth at the end of the game.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 12:06 PM on April 5, 2013


Presumably a reference to Booker resolving to go back in time and murder Comstock in his crib, if that's what it takes, before he discovers what that actually entails...
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:06 PM on April 5, 2013


Ah, well he doesn't in fact do that.
posted by Justinian at 12:07 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just watched my husband play through this game and I have to say, on the one hand, there was so much wrong with it. So many missed opportunities, so many plot threads left hanging, so many weird choices. But on the other hand, I've experienced a lot of video game worlds this way (i.e. as a spectator) and this is the first I've ever wanted to read more about, or write fanfiction about, or anything like that. I was disappointed by the game's issues because the initial worldbuild showed so much promise and there seemed to be so many amazing things they could do.

I came away wanting to write full-length novels about people who practice the religion shown in the first few minutes in Columbia. But instead, after that guy makes the snide remark about a guy being "strong in the sword but not so hot in the key or the scroll, if you catch my drift," that religion seemingly evaporated from the world they'd built. There was so much set in motion that was so interesting and it just pained me that what we got instead was, as Apocryphon says above, sort of an Inception-y bait and switch - tons of violence and handwaving at the end about how deep all this shit is.

The stroll around sky-Disneyland munching hot dogs and cotton candy on your way to the raffle followed by the WHAT THE FUCK moment when you realize what they're offering you as a prize was pretty unforgettable, in a Phantom-of-the-Opera-reveals-his-face sort of way. I can't think of another reveal in a game that's shocked me quite so thoroughly.

Ugh I just feel like this fantastic, flawed, beautiful, sickening world was squandered on the conceit, plot and gameplay and it kills me.
posted by town of cats at 12:28 PM on April 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


this is the first I've ever wanted to read more about, or write fanfiction about, or anything like that.

My favorite part of the game by far was the first ten minutes of world exploration, before the FPS got in the way.

My second favorite part was trying to figure out a backstory for why some of the mercenaries I killed were carrying around lockboxes containing nothing but a single banana.
posted by davidjmcgee at 1:41 PM on April 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


On a different note I'm quite glad I bought this for PC rather than the 360. The 360 version is by far the best selling version but everything I've read and all the screenshots I've seen indicates the PC version is superior. The graphics look muddy and old-gen on the consoles.
posted by Justinian at 1:47 PM on April 5, 2013


Also, when is the last time a video game spawned 2-3 different FPPs in the space of a month? A bland and uninteresting game would never do that. QED.
posted by Justinian at 1:51 PM on April 5, 2013


A bland and uninteresting game would never do that. QED.

No one said it was bland and uninteresting.
posted by empath at 2:19 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't confuse us with your "facts."
posted by Justinian at 2:43 PM on April 5, 2013


My second favorite part was trying to figure out a backstory for why some of the mercenaries I killed were carrying around lockboxes containing nothing but a single banana.

Yes! I laughed out loud when some burly dead Fireman was toting a pineapple and nothing else. So unlikely and so intriguing.
posted by town of cats at 2:46 PM on April 5, 2013


Booker says he will kill infant Comstock to save Elizabeth at the end of the game.

I find damning Booker for this statement is ... misguided at best, if that's really what bardic was referring to.

There are LOTS of reasons for Booker to be a damned person both before the game's events and during them. There's a shit load of blood on his hands, and his past is messy and terrible to say the least. But all he's doing when he says he's willing to murder Comstock in the crib is the equivalent of answering "Would you go back in time and kill Hitler before World War 2" with an emphatic, somewhat extreme yes.

And the only reason he phrases it that way at all is because at that point, unlike Elizabeth, he still doesn't understand what's actually going on and that Elizabeth is leading him to an emotional place where he does understand and is willing to sacrifice himself (which seems to happen to video game protagonists a lot, but I digress) to atone for either the horrible things he'll do as Comstock, or the equally horrible things he just did as himself to get to the point where he's at in that moment.
posted by sparkletone at 2:48 PM on April 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes! I laughed out loud when some burly dead Fireman was toting a pineapple and nothing else. So unlikely and so intriguing.

A relevant GIF.

(I didn't eat the toilet potatoes my first play through... Perhaps I will on the second?)
posted by sparkletone at 2:49 PM on April 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and related to that GIF: There was some interview or other with Levine or one of the other developers where they mentioned what percentage of players to date had been throwing the baseball at the interracial couple vs throwing it at the raffle host guy. The vast majority chose the latter of course.

I guarantee you they are keeping track of how many players eat the toilet potato and laughing their asses off.
posted by sparkletone at 2:50 PM on April 5, 2013


(I didn't eat the toilet potatoes my first play through... Perhaps I will on the second?)

This is exactly what I did!

(On my third go-round, I selected throwing the rock at the couple, but only because I was writing a review, and I felt I had to see if what I expected to happen was going to happen. I still felt terrible about it, though. Which is probably good.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:40 PM on April 5, 2013


There's actually a third option at the raffle: if you are a habitual RPG player and totally freak out about being presented with such a messed-up choice and spend way too much time deciding which way you should throw the ball (we were thinking maybe we could stay incognito a little longer if we acted racist), the announcer turns on you before you make a decision.
posted by town of cats at 4:31 PM on April 5, 2013


My favorite inappropriately-placed item was the box of chocolates with... a can of beans hidden inside.
posted by Sibrax at 4:49 PM on April 5, 2013


I liked the surprise pineapples. Find 'em in cash registers, in boxes of caramels, in purses, in wallets ... lots of spiky fruit in the Flying South.

That, or finding cups of coffee inside banks of drawers in the bank vault.
posted by kafziel at 5:11 PM on April 5, 2013


To be fair, they do essentially murder Comstock in his crib, as they go back to the right before the baptism that births him.
posted by graventy at 5:30 PM on April 5, 2013


Yeah, but that's not killing a baby, that's killing a 20-something year old man (Booker is 40ish in the game, so rewind to the divergence roughly based on Elizabeth's age).
posted by sparkletone at 5:42 PM on April 5, 2013


That, or finding cups of coffee inside banks of drawers in the bank vault.

I have a hope that the health/"mana" recovery system in the game was kind of a gag, like acknowledging the money spider inanity of the convention. Sure, you can replenish your health and vigours, but you have to use hot dogs and sody pop to do so.

As for the whole limited audience thing - I don't quite know where I stand then. I'm a 40-something wife/mother who - I don't know how to put this better - really likes shooting evil people in the face. And while I get bored if that seems to be the only thing going on in the game (like in Borderlands, for example), give me some beautiful scenery, a plot that someone put some thought into, likable characters, and some EAT FLAMING CROW DEATH YOU RACIST MOTHERFUCKERS!!!! moments, and I'm as happy as a clam. Best of all worlds, really. So I'm not sure I can envision Bioshock without the violence. As other people have pointed out, the violence is integral to the overall plot. And fuck it - it's kind of fun.

My main problem (really my only problem) with the game, though, is in the depiction of racism. While I appreciated the motivation to mow people down like cattle, I also recognized that I was able to approach the caricatures in the game from a position of privilege. That is, they made me uncomfortable, but they weren't personally hurtful, and I don't know if that would be the case if I were black, asian, or Native American. I feel like the gamemakers could use historical racism as casually as they did because they were (probably, mostly) white. I don't feel like they were being racist themselves, just . . . maybe throwing it around with more ease than they should have? I don't know. I can't quite articulate it yet.

Anyway, back to my third play-through. I'm going to beat that Siren bitch on Hard if it kills me.
posted by bibliowench at 6:23 PM on April 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ken Levine's pointed out that his own racial ancestry is one of the looked down upon groups though I don't know that that would absolve him from anything problematic.

That aside, I don't feel like the racism is included "casually" though. While it might be a cartoonish depiction of racial attitudes in the 1910s... I think they thought it through at least some. It's not just there as motivation to kill the bad guys.

For one thing, if the game didn't acknowledge the rampant racism of the time at all, it'd be just as guilty of white washing history as Disney's Main Street (which it seems to be purposely trying to evoke in the opening). Additionally, a big element in the game's plot and thematic underpinnings is white washing away past sins, and the nature of the stories we tell ourselves about our past. Not having any racism in there at all would be ... Weird, and honestly kinda wrong in my opinion.

That said, perhaps there could have been a better way of handling it? I don't know. Mad Men's shown some of how racist the 60s were in the couple seasons I've seen. Infinite's time period had to have been even worse. Obviously a shooter game is vastly different than that show on all kinds of levels, but I feel like both should at least be able to attempt to include these elements without it automatically becoming "cheap."
posted by sparkletone at 6:55 PM on April 5, 2013


Another angle of looking at the inclusion of racism... I'm on a mobile device and looking up specific links would be too big a hassle right now, but some years ago there was a really interesting series of posts on Penny Arcade where Gabe talked to his grandfather, who fought in WWII, about the rampant use of Nazis as the default bad guy in TOOOONS of games.

I forget the specific details of his grandfather's response at the moment unfortunately. My vague recollection is that it at least made him uncomfortable how casually these awful things that actually happened not THAT long ago were treated. Mostly that in multiplayer, he didnt understand how anyone could ever play on the Nazi team in COD or whatever. Obviously, I'm not immune to this as I've killed a LOT of Nazis in my time as a gamer, and I've played on the Nazi team in a few multiplayer WWII games... but it's worth reminding yourself of the basis of this stuff sometimes.

I don't get that kind of lazy usage of uncomfortable hsitory vibe from Infinite. They didn't just say "I know! We'll make it okay to kill them because they're awful oppressive racists!" It's tied into the game thematically, and also your killing of all those racists by the end of the game plays into making you, in your own way, as bad as Comstock.

Semi-related side note: An inversion that I didn't notice until after I'd finished the game and was watching video of someone else experiencing the ending that I dont feel is noted enough was that by the end of the game you're using the villain's tools (Comstock's airship and what not) to ... Fight and kill the Vox. And do your reasons for doing so (beyond self defense) even justify all that killing? I don't really think so. It's all part of why both player-booker and Comstock-Booker must be stopped for good.
posted by sparkletone at 7:11 PM on April 5, 2013


By the by, I do find the ultraviolence of the game to still be somewhat problematic even if it's accounted for at least somewhat by other things in the game. They were clearly cognizant of the fact that they were making a game with a death toll (just due to player shots) somewhere in the hundreds.... But that's still hundreds and hundreds of dudes and sometimes it's hard not to think of that scene in one of the Hot Shots movies that makes fun of Commando and Rambo and shit by having Topper gun down a whole base full of enemies while a body count meter runs in the corner, noting when the body count's passed, say, Predator et al.

But at the end of the day, problems and all, I really love the shit out of this game. I found the combat fun, but I find all the other stuff in/about the game incredibly cool, or at the very least interesting to think and talk about.
posted by sparkletone at 7:24 PM on April 5, 2013


A very interesting thematic analysis (via):
... the Booker who became Comstock was able to distance himself from his own actions. What Booker was seeking from the baptism was not a way to atone for his past actions, but rather a way to relieve himself of guilt. Free of remorse, the baptized Booker went on to look back at these events in his life not with pain and regret, but with solemn necessity or even glory. They were idealized in his mind, and rather than horrific atrocities they became exemplary feats to which he constructed monuments. It's for this reason that he would go on to found a city that would accentuate all the worst aspects of his own past....

The Booker that rejected the baptism recognized that such a symbolic gesture would do nothing to free him of guilt for his past actions. He views himself as completely irredeemable. He would go on to live the rest of his life dwelling on past mistakes....

Booker is transported to Columbia, a monument to his sins, and forced to relive them. Each area is a mirror into Booker’s past: Monument Island reflects his neglect of his daughter, the Hall of Heroes reflects his past of violence and racism, Finkton reflects the economic oppression that he took part in....

Booker and Comstock represent two different ways of looking at the American past. Comstock represents an America that has forgotten to regret the atrocities of its past. Booker represents an America who has clung to regret and allowed it to consume them. The fact that they inhabit two entirely different parallel universes is no mistake. They reflect the different schools of thought in American politics that are so separated in perspective that they appear to inhabit entirely different worlds.
posted by russilwvong at 9:18 PM on April 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Those two views can literally apply to any nation or group of people, ever.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:58 PM on April 5, 2013


I am only a couple of hours into the game and initially I was really into exploring the city and was disappointed when the violence started. The amazing opening didn't really put me into the mood for a fight. I would rather have explored more.
posted by zzazazz at 6:43 AM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's also the fact that the vigors don't really work properly (both because they're new and because Fink is basically stealing technology from Rapture through reality tears and doesn't entirely understand what he's stealing, so he is creating wildly imperfect copies). Booker is basically the only person in the game who manages to use them without going insane (or so we think/assume). Everybody else? The Firemen are burning alive inside their suits because they use Devil's Kiss. The crow-men who turn into flocks of crows because they use the Murder of Crows vigor are clearly murderously insane. Slate, who uses Shock Jockey, is visibly riddled with tumours.


And I think the other part of this is possibly shown in the flashforward. It's a guess, but my assumption is that the masked children are some Columbian variant of splicers, or the offspring of splicers. Future Elizabeth talks about the lunatics having taken over the asylum, and that she no longer has power over Columbia. I think that future is one in which, like Rapture, Columbia has descended into madness, but unlike Rapture, where that madness took the objectivist direction of everyone turning on each other, it has taken the American exceptionalist direction of isolationism, paranoia and ultimately hostility to "unAmerican" elements - which in this case means New York, and probably by extension the rest of America.

(Obviously there's a question around asset use, and the need to maintain the impression that Booker is only six months ahead, but the other thing about the Comstock House episode is that the kinetoscopes are still around, and the weapons are unchanged from 1912. At a guess, the idea is that Columbia stopped being a place of technological innovation - just as Rapture did - and has been basically a failed state, held together by religious and political mania, which is now launching an ultimately suicidal attack on the Sodom below, which Elizabeth can no longer hold them off from).
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:45 AM on April 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Another look at Infinite from RPS and Kieron Gillen: About A Girl.
I’d happily swap a lot of reality in games for much more of Infinite’s poetry.

It’s a fascinating game. The more you give to it, in terms of your thought and attention, the more it gives back. I’ve rarely been more happy simply watching and thinking in a game.
The article is pretty long and, I think, worthwhile.
posted by Justinian at 1:35 PM on April 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hell, the "spiritual sequel" to Planescape:Torment, including having the original designer partway on staff, is probably just barely going to break $4mil on Kickstarter.

Anti-Shock: Torment Now Most-Funded KS Game Ever
posted by homunculus at 5:10 PM on April 6, 2013


Just finished the game this afternoon. I have some casual observations, then a few questions:

A. I loved it. I also understand that I am easy to please and enjoy most things, but I really loved the experience.
B. I was SO HAPPY to have a FPS game with bright colors in it, not another "in the dark" game or a game with a palette of brown and grey (I love you, Fallout 3, but you wore me out)
C. The tears felt like one thing too many. Rapunzel-like girl imprisoned in a floating city in 1912 is interesting enough; adding all of these extra supernatural elements felt too much like season 2 of Twin Peaks. Too much, and too scattered.
D. Hated the Command Deck fight at the end. Even playing on easy, I lost five times in a row (yeah, I suck at games, I play them for the story) and had to quit and come back two days later. At that point, the flow of the story was kinda blown. More games should be like LA Noire, and give you the option to skip an action sequence after you fail at it X number of times. (I feel like Levine might have been overcompensating for having what was perceived to be a too-easy boss fight at the end of the first game. To which I say, pffft to boss fights in general, just tell your story.)
E. I wasn't bothered by the violence in the game, which seems to be consistent with other FPS games. But then again, I am concurrently playing through Spec Ops: The Line, which totally raises the bar on gore and death and the horrors of war.

Some questions:

1. The TV commercial for the game shows Elizabeth in a public square, on a horseback with a noose around her neck, about to be lynched by a mob. Did I miss something? Or is this totally apocryphal?
2. The passing-by reference to Rapture, complete with a Big Daddy and Little Sister in the background - was that just fan service, or was that a part of the bigger story that I missed?
3. A couple of people up-thread hinted that the music was something of a spoiler. Can you elaborate? Did the story actually take place much later than 1912? I have a vague vibe that it does.
4. The after-the-credits ending suggests to me that the whole thing is just a dream. Anybody think that's likely?
posted by jbickers at 5:16 PM on April 6, 2013


1. The TV commercial for the game shows Elizabeth in a public square, on a horseback with a noose around her neck, about to be lynched by a mob. Did I miss something? Or is this totally apocryphal?

Reddit thinks they're Booker's alternate-universe attempts to rescue Elizabeth.
posted by lilac girl at 5:28 PM on April 6, 2013


or a game with a palette of brown and grey

AKA the Quake palette. Using all the colors of the rainbow so long as they're brown.

Answers:
1) Yeah, that never happened. This is called a "bullshot."
2) Both. It was definitely fan service, but also consistent with the idea in BI that in every timeline there is "a man, a city, a lighthouse". In some timelines that is Comstock and Columbia. In some it is Ryan and Rapture (note the alliteration.) In other timelines it would be another man and another city.
3) The story mostly takes place in the early 20th century. The music is a spoiler because much of it is from much later than that period. The Beach Boys, Cyndi Lauper, Credence Clearwater Revival, etc.
4) No, game devs are too smart to do the "just a dream" thing. They know it would cause an explosion of rage.
posted by Justinian at 5:32 PM on April 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


2) also, a lot of colombias technology was stolen from rifts into rapture.
posted by empath at 6:37 PM on April 6, 2013


Yeah, exactly. The vigors were stolen plasmid technology for example.
posted by Justinian at 6:44 PM on April 6, 2013


Well, you're speaking as though that's something confirmed in-game. It's not. Vigors are and remain a mystery, but I'm inclined to think they're connected to the big canister of distilled Quantum Magic or whatever it was at the top of the Siphon.
posted by kafziel at 6:46 PM on April 6, 2013


We know from voxaphones that tech was stolen from Rapture. It seems like an obvious conclusion that plasmids were part of that tech given vigors are identical to plasmids?
posted by Justinian at 6:58 PM on April 6, 2013


We know from voxaphones that the inspiration for Songbird was stolen from what we assume to be Rapture. Was there more specificity than that?
posted by kafziel at 7:29 PM on April 6, 2013


There was a voxaphone which indicated Fink got the idea for the Handymen from seeing a Big Daddy through a tear at the least.
posted by Justinian at 8:30 PM on April 6, 2013


There's a voxophone in Albert Fink's house where Jeremiah Fink talks about how he is observing a "biologist", as Albert is observing pop singers. It seems like Albert was the first to monetize the tears, by hearing music coming out of the air, and Jeremiah, as is his wont, then stole the idea. The biologist is presumably Tenenbaum, in Rapture.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:24 AM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


SPOILERS

After getting up early to get through that last damnable Command Deck fight and finish the game before work, I'm way too tired to do any real speculation now, but I will note one intriguing thing that caught my eye: towards the end of the closing sequences, in the rowboat, when Booker is vowing to kill Comstock in his crib? Elizabeth is wearing a fetching songbird necklace... one conspicuously different from the cage necklace I chose back on Battleship Bay.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:07 AM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


A nice follow-up on "the cultural cringe" in reaction B:I.
"We should be celebrating Bioshock Infinite for telling an incredibly daring story and dealing with incredibly mature themes within our favourite form, and doing it honestly. Instead, some of us are cringing. “They’re telling this story in big-budget violent FPS form? Couldn’t they have done it in interactive fictiony arthouse form, where only a few of us might see it?” It’s a cringe. A wide-spread cringe. I recognise it because I’ve been there. Are we really going to get all “Ugh. It still acts like a videogame!” about it? "
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:23 AM on April 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


I mentioned the anachronistic Beach Boys song upthread -- turns out the game includes a lot more tunes pilfered from the future:

R.E.M. - Shiny Happy People

Tears for Fears - Everybody Wants to Rule the World

Soft Cell - Tainted Love

Cyndi Lauper - Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Creedence Clearwater Revival - Fortunate Son

This is fantastic -- and I've already sent unSane a suggestion to make "1912 covers the future" an upcoming MeFi Music Challenge!
posted by Rhaomi at 4:06 PM on April 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


I would buy an entire album of God Only Knows quality barbershop. That isn't just a barbershop cover, that's a song rewritten so that it feels thoroughly barbershop. I had to be told it was a cover, because I would never have guessed.
posted by kafziel at 4:36 PM on April 7, 2013


Booker DeWitt and the Case of the Young White Lady Feels: a Bioshock Infinite review
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:52 PM on April 7, 2013


It's a real shame that the 1912 covers aren't in the soundtrack album - because licensing them for an album is more expensive or complex than licensing them for a video game, maybe?
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:54 PM on April 7, 2013


Wow, haven't seen an article miss the point so enthusiastically and so repeatedly in a while.
posted by kafziel at 5:28 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


And of course, someone has already built Columbia in Minecraft...
posted by mothershock at 5:47 PM on April 7, 2013


1912 covers are available on the Deluxe soundtrack, which Is available via the usual methods.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 6:14 PM on April 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


In my opinion Courtney Stanton misses the point in the review linked a few comments before this one. The revolution on Columbia turns out the way it does because Booker and Elizabeth are selecting realities that fit their needs without regard to how it is affecting anyone else. Stanton says she would have been happy if it had turned out Elizabeth was, as she occasionally imagines, creating the realities out of whole cloth... but whether she is creating the reality or selecting it out of an infinite number of possibilities is irrelevant. In either case they end up (for example) in a reality where Booker is a hero of the revolution not because they particularly care whether the revolution succeeds but because that reality fulfills their own needs to get an airship.

If they hadn't been mucking about with reality things would have gone off in a different direction. Perhaps there would have been a non-violent revolution. Perhaps the revolution would still have been violent but Daisy would have been a more moderate sort. Or maybe the revolution would have been crushed. We simply don't know. But claiming it is racist that Booker had to be the hero of the revolution is simply failing to follow the plot of the story, no more no less.

It does surprise me how many people don't follow plots very well.
posted by Justinian at 10:37 PM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, where in the game does the 1912 version of Everybody Wants To Rule the World show up? I missed it apparently save for the short snippet of the actual version heard through the tear to Paris.
posted by Justinian at 10:38 PM on April 7, 2013


I think you hear it in Fink's brother's house, right before you get to Lady Comstock's memorial and the FUCKING FIGHT FROM HELL in the graveyard that follows.

Stupid 1999 mode.
posted by bibliowench at 10:57 PM on April 7, 2013


Really, everyone should read the links in Amanojaku's post. The timeline image, in particular, is, I think, a quite powerful indication of how deeply the plot is integrated into the games. The links have other revelations, including some of the discussion of the death scenes, and the fact that a key scene in Bioshock Infinite can be dimly perceived in Bioshock.

Honestly, I am more impressed by the game, despite its failings, the more I think about it. I think it requires playing to the end to have a sense of what works, and what you wish worked better. The discussion in the thread, btw, is ultimately of really high quality. Nice job, MeFi.
posted by blahblahblah at 11:12 PM on April 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


If they hadn't been mucking about with reality things would have gone off in a different direction. Perhaps there would have been a non-violent revolution. Perhaps the revolution would still have been violent but Daisy would have been a more moderate sort. Or maybe the revolution would have been crushed. We simply don't know. But claiming it is racist that Booker had to be the hero of the revolution is simply failing to follow the plot of the story, no more no less.

It's like someone said upthread (I think?): Universe C Daisy is only murderous because she cooperated with Booker DeWitt, and Booker only knows how to solve problems by killing his way out of them.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:22 AM on April 8, 2013


Actually, since it's been a few hours since someone talked about the Lucetes, the real reason that Universe C Daisy is murderous is that the Lucetes looked across probability space and realized the only way to get Elizabeth out was to have Booker sneak in to Columbia in one universe, or else she would get locked up on Comstock House. But, once he has Elizabeth, he needs to shoot his way out. So the Lucetes intentionally set up the universes of horrible war so that Elizabeth had someplace to get weapons from after Booker had freed her in Universe A. The Lucetes killed at least 121 Bookers (and countless other people) just so Booker 122 (or whichever one makes it to the end game) could successfully free Elizabeth and destroy the Siphon.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:28 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Re: Everybody Wants To Rule The World, you can also hear it when you first enter Elizabeth's tower and are making your way past the guts of the Siphon. If you listen closely, you can hear tantalizing little fragments being hummed, presumably by Elizabeth, which are so familiar but difficult to place the first time around. I must have stood there for two minutes trying to figure out what I was hearing.
posted by figurant at 9:10 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Okay, I realize the thread is mostly over, but I wanted to briefly return to the violence point above, where I mentioned that the violence in the game plays off FPS tropes, and is important in the story. Some folks disagreed. So, leaving aside plot/aesthetics, some reasons why the violence in the game plays off tropes:

There is a lot of really unusual things about the violence in the game. The first hour, as opposed to any other FPS game, there is no shooting, no violence, except for the carnival games you can play. Just blue skies, straw hats, and beautiful scenery. That is why the sudden reveal of both the base racism and the intense violence suddenly revealed at the end of this slow period are so effective.

And, even when the shooting becomes more standard FPS-like (except for the skyhooks, which are awesome), many of the enemies are unpleasant in ways that makes killing them less satisfying than in other games. The Handyman, for example, constantly tell you that they are in pain, the suicidal soldiers after you use your powers are not fun to watch, etc.

Another subversion is the boss fight at the end. You see the Songbird at the beginning of the game, and you think Boss Battle. But there is no Boss Battle (siren aside) - for example, you don't fight Daisy and you don't fight the Songbird. I kept waiting for it, and it never happened. The boss battle with Comstock, rather than being a totally bitchin' battle with an evil old man with robot legs and a powershield is instead a rather sickening and one-sided affair that involves a baptismal font. Ultimately, the final boss battle is in a river. Again, not FPS normal.

And, finally, there is the nature of the plot itself, and the role of agency in the game. There are constants and variables, as the lady says, and the sense that you are a violent man on a violent path, without the ability to change your role, is a critical part of the game. You go through the same thing 122+ times, after all. Ultimately, I found it a pretty interesting take on the nature of the game, especially given the importance of things like the "he DOESN'T row" dialogue. You are clearly a player in a game, you are playing a particular role, and the violence is part of that.
posted by blahblahblah at 11:55 AM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the Lucete twins are the only people in the whole game with any real agency, and I'm not even sure about that. And that is the consequence of an industrial accident/sabotage.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 1:19 PM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ultimately, the final boss battle is in a river.

And you're the final boss.

and the fact that a key scene in Bioshock Infinite can be dimly perceived in Bioshock

I don't buy it. People are great at pattern recognition. So good that they see and hear patterns where none even exist. Assuming we're talking about the claim that you can hear the Songbird's death throes in the first Bioshock.

For it to be the case we'd have to believe that the story for Bioshock 3, including the Songbird's death, were already written before the development of Bioshock.
posted by Justinian at 4:03 PM on April 8, 2013


Finished it today, wonderful. There's a spoiler below:

A thing I'm still wondering about is why did Comstock want to buy Anna in the first place?
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 4:55 PM on April 8, 2013


I think the idea is that Comstock sees via Rosalind's machine that he is sterile and will die before his work is done, and he needs an heir, so he decided to steal his actual flesh and blood instead of an actual bastard child.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:02 PM on April 8, 2013


For it to be the case we'd have to believe that the story for Bioshock 3, including the Songbird's death, were already written before the development of Bioshock.

Or that the sound designers for Infinite reused some old assets in order to make a neat retconning easter egg.
posted by hades at 6:14 PM on April 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


symbioid: "His thoughts were red thoughts: "Also, all those dead guys are super racist. I feel totally justified in smashing their heads open and burning them alive. But I'm petty like that."

Yup. I haven't gotten it yet, but I do plan on doing so soon. I loved the first one, but haven't played the second one. But when I saw the image on the blog like "Oh man, you totally are goring out that cops face" I'm like PFFFT DUDE'S A FUCKIN NAZI! (not literally, but game enough in my book).
"

If you play the second one, GET THE MINERVA'S DEN DLC! DO IT!

It is the only thing I have ever bought Microsoft points for.

Afuckingmazing.

(Trying to figure out what they are going to do for Infinite DLC that ISN'T another bloody combat arena.)
posted by Samizdata at 8:03 PM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


(Trying to figure out what they are going to do for Infinite DLC that ISN'T another bloody combat arena.)

"Kill Whitey: The Daisy Fitzroy Story."
posted by empath at 8:14 PM on April 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


They could always tell the story of the Booker that teams up with Slate and Fitzroy and dies in Universe C.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:09 AM on April 9, 2013


emmtee: "I'm oddly reassured that the one true constant across all iterations is that Booker DeWitt is not only willing, or able, but universally mandated to eat an entire chocolate cake, including the stand and six candles, before his story can truly begin.

I like to imagine the Luteces standing behind the counter after he leaves.

"He ate the cake again."
"He always eats the cake."
"Do the implications not concern you?"
"I'm more concerned about the plumbing."

Also Comstock should have been polishing off a candle and bits of cake stand when Booker bursts in. "Oh god, you're me!"
"

Cakes. Have caked. Will cake.
posted by Samizdata at 5:00 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


savetheclocktower: "I felt like they wanted to evolve plasmids/vigors and do something to make you switch up your play style. I know in Bioshock I spent 80% of my time shocking people. There were all these interesting plasmids, but I just relied on the one that worked the best.

So I think that's why they put in this quasi-Pokemon thing where you have to counter the fire dudes with a non-fire vigor, the crows with a non-crow vigor, and so on. But 2bucksplus is right, I think; the purpose was not to have enemies using vigors the way that you do, but to have enemies that are thematically linked to certain vigors so that you have to use a different vigor to kill them.
"

Me in Bioshock 1? Wrench + Wrench Jockey + Bloodlust if I remember correctly.

ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED - GAME BROKEN!

I mean, seriously, I stopped using guns after that. Big Daddy? Beat it to death? Anything? Beat it to death.

In B:I otoh, I found myself bouncing around between weapons and vigors a bit more, although I do so bear a serious crush on the hand cannon.
posted by Samizdata at 5:13 AM on April 9, 2013


I did find myself thinking "wait, this rotating, three-pronged salad spinner of death is noticeably less damaging than clocking someone with a wrench?". But that was the patented Fontaine Futuristics GOD WRENCH, forged alongside Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor, from the heart of a dead star.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:25 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


From a pure game player POV, my first playthrough was marred by the inability to leave a gear slot open. I hadn't redeemed my Industrial Revolution DLC yet, and I got an item of clothing that gave me 25% more damage when aimed/-25% damage unaimed and never found another item to fit that slot for the rest of the game. Boy howdy, that was a bloody pain in the ass.
posted by Samizdata at 5:33 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


And I am AMAZED no one mentioned this reference to modern day.

The tears can be pretty major.
posted by Samizdata at 9:03 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yahtzee weighs in on Infinite over at Zero Punctuation. Money quote:
If it isn't boring and gives you something to talk about then it can't be bad. And Infinite isn't bad, it's good, perhaps even great.
Yahtzee is the harshest (but fairest) game critic out there as most would admit. My rule of thumb is that if Yahtzee actually likes something and you find yourself hating it, the most likely scenario is that you are the odd one out.

The last game I recall he called "great" was Portal and the Orange Box. He's liked stuff since then (XCOM, etc) but I don't recall the word "great" being tossed about. Caveat: I don't give a shit about console games and so only watch those reviews for the funny.
posted by Justinian at 5:13 PM on April 10, 2013


I don't know who penned this, but it is one for the ages:

PLOT SUMMARY, BIOSHOCK INFINITE

A gruff male with the pleasantly old-timey name of Booker DeWitt travels by rocket chair to Columbia, a flying city where people make 20 second recordings of their deepest secrets and leave them lying around in cupboards. He has been sent to retrieve a woman named Elizabeth, who has the magical ability to summon a box full of first aid kits from an alternate dimension.

Booker wanders around in awe, observing the racist population as they throw machine gun ammunition in the trash and stare silently at nothing. But his sightseeing is cut short when a policeman tries to grab him and he’s forced to explode 1000 heads with a giant rotating hook in self-defence.

After exploding enough heads, Booker is taken to an alternate reality where the underclass of Columbia has risen up in rebellion. “These revolutionaries are as bad as their racist oppressors,” says the deadliest serial killer in the history of human civilization, “because they are violent.” Fortunately, the entire setting is erased from existence and nothing of consequence ever happens. Metacritic rating 95 (94 on Xbox).
posted by Apocryphon at 6:28 PM on April 10, 2013 [10 favorites]


I have just discovered that the summary was written by none other but Brendan Patrick Hennessy. [Previously]
posted by Apocryphon at 7:31 PM on April 10, 2013


Tycho was lukewarm about B:I! Him and Yahtzee can have a knife fight now, I guess.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:25 AM on April 11, 2013


empath: "It might be worth watching the edited, no-combat version. There's a lot he did here that was fascinating and worth experiencing. The main storyline was actually spectacularly well done, and there is an almost Watchmen-level amount of detail and thought that goes into the storytelling, for that particular storyline."

Late to the comments here, but I finally got done watching the movie. A few thoughts: Overall, a tropeful story stuffed into a stunningly spectacular world realization and experienced via an overused game mechanic. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't exceptional either (apart from the world itself and the visuals; goddamn I want more of those!). I don't think they got their $100,000,000's worth, and if this what a AAA blockbuster art game looks like, I think I'll stick with indies and other options.
posted by barnacles at 11:43 PM on April 12, 2013


So what you're saying it's kind of like Michael Bay produced a video game.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:41 AM on April 13, 2013


(some SPOILERS ahead, though I've tried to avoid saying anything blatant)

After taking the time to think and read about the game some more, some thoughts in no particular order: posted by Rhaomi at 11:16 AM on April 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


TVTROPESSSSSS

Fuuuuuck yoooooou.

just got back from tvtropes
posted by Elementary Penguin at 2:02 AM on April 15, 2013


I've finished it and I think it's brilliant.

The gameplay is wonky, but I'll take insane, over-ambitious, imaginative worldbuilding over more space marines shooting zombies. I just wanted to spend more time in it. Dear god, the wallpaper! the ads! It's so reference dense, and so very chock-a-block with Oz stuff.

If anything the game suffers from pushing headlong it's main storyline at the expense of stuff it already set up, it wants a full bottle and a drunk wife, on the other hand, oh god that insane asylum, the meta-game shit....ahhhhhhhh. I want to BUY THE SOUNDTRACK.
posted by The Whelk at 8:26 PM on April 19, 2013


Also, as someone used to Skyrim and the like having a character indicate LISTENING TO SOMETHING with some jerky movement, hand waving, and leaning , it was amazing to see Elizabeth indicate LISTENING TO SOMETHING by cocking her head slightly, furrowing her brow, pushing an errant hair away her face and turning her ear toward it. The moCap animation really helped make the mains look and feel like characters and not plot devices.
posted by The Whelk at 8:28 PM on April 19, 2013


I also think it's haphazard to have so much of the plot easily miss-able if you don't find the right voxes. You might end up thinking the Lucerene's are actually twins and not____
posted by The Whelk at 8:31 PM on April 19, 2013


(also I think being a fan of Fringe prepped me for the storyline better cause, yes Comstock pulls a Walter.)
posted by The Whelk at 8:31 PM on April 19, 2013


I'm also pretty good on the idea that the main thread for the game is self-hatred.
posted by The Whelk at 10:03 PM on April 19, 2013


So, where do people think the next Bioshock game will be set?

My prediction: the previous games have mirrored the aesthetic of World's Fairs: Columbia was explicitly modeled on Chicago '93, and Rapture borrows the Deco stylings of Chicago '33 and NYC '39. This makes sense: World's Fairs are demonstrations of achieving utopian societies through the industry, technology, and design of the time. The next game will take on the next most famous World's Fair, and will have an Expo 67 aesthetic, as hinted in these videos. Think geodesic domes, monorails, Epcot, and Brutalist architecture. The ideologue will be an urbanist central planner, modeled on Buckminster Fuller, Le Corbu, and Robert Moses. Big name "theorist" architects and city planners all have crazy visions about what a utopian city would look like, and I'd like to see one of these cities realized (and fall apart, of course). Buckminister Fuller wanted to put a dome over Manhattan; Le Corbu wanted to bulldoze all of Paris's landmarks and replace them with concrete public housing.

I don't know what sort of environment the city will be in, but it'll definitely have a big dome over it. Maybe it'd be a large-scale Arcosanti.
posted by painquale at 1:01 PM on April 20, 2013


Of course the main antagonist of Bioshock:Brutalist would be Jane Jacobs.
posted by The Whelk at 10:31 PM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually wait, all those big idea types where top down, " rational", secular, stripped of all traces of the past type deals.

That could totally actually work.
posted by The Whelk at 10:34 PM on April 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


A game starring Jane Jacobs? I would play that game so hard.
posted by zompist at 10:47 PM on April 20, 2013


I KNOW RIGHT. It's top-down theoretical rules planning vs. organic, human-scale and sized development fight for the future of ...RADIANT, the world's most perfectly planned planned community.
posted by The Whelk at 11:28 PM on April 20, 2013


There's always a lighthouse, a girl and a city...
posted by Elementary Penguin at 4:25 AM on April 21, 2013


The Tim Rogers review.
posted by empath at 4:40 AM on April 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Jane Jacobs could be the Tenenbaum/Lutece character: the sidekick who helps the man build the city but then decides he goes too far and turns against him.
posted by painquale at 5:49 AM on April 21, 2013


That Tim Rogers review is amazing. Thanks.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:50 AM on April 21, 2013


Well, they're out of finite numbers, so I guess the games from here on out will have to go transfinite. Will they append an integral expression to the title?
posted by LogicalDash at 6:59 AM on April 21, 2013


BioShock Infinity plus one no backsies?
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:02 AM on April 21, 2013


Just because they've used up an infinite number of finites, that doesn't mean they're out of finites. There could still be an infinite number left. Maybe Bioshock Infinite used up all the positive integers but left the negatives.
posted by painquale at 9:09 AM on April 21, 2013


It really says something that I read the Tim Rogers review all the way through despite style="color:#fff;background:#000" which in a righteous world be an immediate roadside suspension and server impounding offense on the Internet Superhighway. In fact my eyes HURT right now. Why would he do that?
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:24 AM on April 21, 2013


Bioshock ωωω
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:24 AM on April 21, 2013


seanmpuckett: "It really says something that I read the Tim Rogers review all the way through despite style="color:#fff;background:#000" which in a righteous world be an immediate roadside suspension and server impounding offense on the Internet Superhighway. In fact my eyes HURT right now. Why would he do that?"

Click the big orange button that looks like it's just part of the logo and you get the chance to give your eyes a much kinder experience. Mind you, I did the same thing as you and read all the way through before I figured that out. Owch blinded. The review is brilliant, though, and absolutely nails all the many, many, many problems with BI. Thanks, empath.
posted by barnacles at 8:15 PM on April 21, 2013


But also what's great about it. The takeaway I got is that BI's problems are that it's stuck dealing with tropes and mindsets about what makes a Bestseller Game and dealing with all the past history of how we expect these games to act, so medium as a whole is kind of stuck in place when it could be doing awesome things like all the awesome stuff off and around in the edges of the game but keeps having to go back to the old forms and ways because that's what expected.

Or, rather, the most enjoyable parts of the game are just wandering around Columbia and taking in the atmosphere but you couldn't sell investors on a hundred million game about walking around looking at things.
posted by The Whelk at 11:05 PM on April 21, 2013


You're absolutely right, and to be fair to the absolute beauty of the game I gotta cop to that! I still have zero desire to go on a 12 hour face shooting spree, but once the price drops significantly ($10? $5? So, in a few years!) I will probably buy it, turn on God Mode, and just wander around the whole game slowly taking in the scenery, because every screenshot I see, every video I see are full of nothing but amazing and carefully crafted visuals.
posted by barnacles at 12:37 AM on April 22, 2013


If you want to do it sooner, and you have a weekend off to try it, you could just get it at a Redbox for a few days, and only pay $6 or so.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:42 AM on April 22, 2013


Barton: 'Bioshock Infinite' Is Teaching Kids to Hate Conservatives and Christians
posted by homunculus at 1:32 PM on April 25, 2013


Barton: 'Bioshock Infinite' Is Teaching Kids to Hate Conservatives and Christians

Also America, don't forget that. And cops. And teleporting coffin-carrying crow people.

And ghosts. Oh, the fucking ghost.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:14 PM on April 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, for fucks sake, 'kids' are not playing Bioshock Infinite. They would be as bored as all hell.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:49 PM on April 25, 2013


I mean, the average age of (consoles and PC) gamers in the US is 37 years old.

[New methodology on that study includes handheld platforms and mobile games, dragging the average age down to 30].

Anyway, Bioshock is rated MA15+.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:26 PM on April 25, 2013


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