SPOnG: Can you talk us through some of the stuff that differentiates it from other first-person shooters?
Ken Levine: I understand why youíre going: 'What is it? Is it a first-person shooter?' I hope weíre looked at (with BioShock) in the same way as games like Gran Turismo. Before Gran Turismo came along, racing games didnít have car tuning – youíd just race around a track. But once you had car tuning, you expected that from racing games. Half-Life introduced narrative elements; Grand Theft Auto introduced an open world. And with BioShock, what we want to say is that itís not a linear corridor with monsters waiting to jump out at you - itís a world that breathes a little bit. You can walk around it and everything in the world is a weapon – everything can be turned to your advantage. Every enemy can be turned into a friend; every friend can be turned into an enemy. Itís about improvisation, and thatís something which has been woefully missing from shooters.
What Irrational has done, is apply that model to the A.I. in the first person shooter, BioShock. Though the scripting in Half-Life 2, or Halo 2, or Halo 3, is very sophisticated, it is still scripting - the A.I. follows paths or patterns albeit sufficiently complex to be difficult to predict (with maybe even some object-oriented properties appended). In BioShock, much of the scripting has been done away with. Irrational basically created three classes: gatherers (the Little Sisters), protectors (the Big Daddies), and hunters (the Splicers). Each of these classes have very specific properties defining their behavior. The Little Sisters are always looking for corpses to plunder. So, in effect, the Little Sister Objects are continuously shouting out "I need a dead body that still has Adam". Corpses will be shouting out "I am dead and have Adam". So, when a Little Sister comes across a corpse, wherever it is, she will stop and plunder it. Similarly, the Big Daddy is constantly asking the Little Sister "Are you O.K.?" and the Little Sister is saying "I am safe". When she changes her tune, or when someone attacks the Big Daddy outright, the Big Daddy rushes to protect her. Of course, it is much more complex than that, but that is the basics of it.