BioShock 2 Interview With Multiplayer Team Digital Extremes

by Annette Gonzalez on Oct 29, 2009 at 11:43 AM

In addition to the single-player game, BioShock 2 offers a multiplayer option with narrative that serves as a prequel to the original. The multiplayer campaign is set during the fall of Rapture where players are plasmid test subjects for Sinclair Solutions. The multiplayer game offers five modes plus two variations of two of the modes. Only Capture the Sister (be the first team to snatch Little Sister and put her in a vent), Civil War (team death match) and Survival of the Fittest (free for all) modes were revealed. All modes support 10 players at once.

Game Informer had the opportunity to chat with Digital Extremes about the multiplayer component of BioShock 2. We sat down with lead designer Mathieu Berube, senior designer Alan Goode and 2K Marin senior producer Melissa Miller to talk new modes, multiplayer-exclusive plasmids and weapons, strategies and more.

Will there be any multiplayer-specific weapons or plasmids not found in the single-player game?

Goode: Yeah, absolutely. There are two multiplayer-specific weapons, though we’re only allowed to talk about one — Nail Gun. It’s a new weapon that charges up if you hold a button down and then unleashes a random fire of nails. It’s pretty good.

There’s also four new plasmids, but only three we can talk about. The Houdini plasmid, Geyser Trap and Aero Dash. Geyser Trap is one that’s both offensive and defensive. You can use it on the ground to propel yourself up in the air like a personal jump pad. And you can even use it offensively. You can hit enemies directly with it shooting them up into the ceiling and they can get propelled into walls. You can also charge it up with electricity.

Miller: It’s also very tactical because when you are using it in a defensive situation, and realize you are in a low ceiling area it makes it much more effective versus some sort of open air courtyard. That will distract the enemy, but it’s much more deadly when you get it in a low ceiling area.

Berube: Every new plasmid that we came up with we wanted to make sure they served a lot of different purposes, both offensive and defensive. Aero Dash is another good example. You can use it to tackle your enemies, stun them, or you can use it to just disengage from the battle very quickly, or make a run with the Little Sister very quickly. Houdini is the same. You can use it defensively to sneak up behind somebody, get out of Houdini and shot gun them in the back. Or, if you’re low on health, you can just Houdini and try to make a run for it.

Goode: Just to explain what Aero Dash does it just propels you forward. Like a speed tackle.

Miller: I totally use it to disengage.

Goode: You can even use it to get into certain areas faster, like if you got the Little Sister you can use it to get to the vent really quickly. It’s a pretty tactical plasmid.

Can you tell us a little more about the ability to play as Big Daddy in multiplayer?

Berube: Pretty much in every mode it’s a pick-up in the world that spawns randomly so if you happen upon it, you can choose to be the Big Daddy.

Goode: In Capture the Sister the defending team gets the Big Daddy randomly selected out of the players on the defensive side, and once that Big Daddy’s dead he’s not coming back to life, so it’s a good strategy to try and take him out early.

Miller: It’s also a strategy to choose to be the Big Daddy in the other modes. The suit’s there. You can opt to be the Big Daddy or you can camp out and just take people out who are after the suit.

What has been done to make multiplayer accessible to players of all skill levels?

Goode: You only start out with a base level of plasmids and weapons so we try to smoothly introduce you to the new weapons and tonics that you can gain over time. There are also tips, adaptive training and hints that you’ll get as you go throughout the level. If you’re looking at a turret and you’re kind of staring at it, you’ll get a pop-up that says something like, “Do you know you can hack this turret? Press this button to hack.”

Miller: One of the things that we did really successfully in terms of making it accessible is when you go into these public matches where you aren’t experienced with Adam, you can start earning Adam from the match in so many different ways. Personally, I have the worst accuracy. I honestly suck, but I can go into a BioShock 2 multiplayer match and I can do a lot of things that will earn me Adam that don’t have to do with my placement, like hacking turrets. I get Adam points for doing that at the end. Taking research photos, I get points for that. There are these Adam vials all throughout the level to pick up. So that’s what I think is important is you can do things other than having the highest kill count to earn Adam and rank.
Miller: …and trials. Sinclair gives you very unique challenges to do during the battles and completing these challenges gives you a substantial amount of Adam. Even if you finish last, there’s a good chance you can accomplish a few trials and rank up at your own pace.

Goode: One other thing I can mention about that as well is there’s also matchmaking in the game, so if you're a gamer who is not getting the most kills, or is just starting out it will match with players with similar rank and similar skill, so you’re never going to get blown out of the water. At the same time, as you improve it’ll dynamically adjust and will start matching you with harder opponents.

Miller: Back to the trial events, this is something we were really excited to add to BioShock 2. When you had BioShock 1 and you did all these crazy combinations you really get your own satisfaction, the game won’t reward you for it and that was something we definitely wanted to improve on in BioShock 2 was giving you recognition for doing greater things with the tool set, and trials are a perfect example of that.

I’ve noticed some of the environments in the multiplayer game are familiar environments from BioShock 1. Can you tell us a little more about that?

Miller: We wanted to choose iconic locations that people were familiar with and reinvent them for multiplayer.

Berube: We wanted to expand them and give them a facelift in the sense that they’re going to look a lot prettier and not as destroyed as when you first visited them in the first BioShock. Mercury Suites is a good example. When you went through the first game it was very dark, claustrophobic. Stairways were crumbled, doorways were smashed. Our version of Mercury Suites is brightly lit, very prestigious so they share the name and you're going to recognize a few pieces in there, but it’s our take on it.

Goode: It’s been designed from the ground up specific to multiplayer so in some cases may be widened, or areas good for gameplay had a focus point added there such as a turret or a dispenser.

Miller: That’s what’s really cool about the multiplayer is that it allows you to revisit those places that you’re familiar with.

Berube: Like Kashmir Restaurant, our version of it, has a lounge that you never saw in the first game. If you look out the window in our version of Kashmir Restaurant you see a part of Kashmir from the original BioShock, so there’s a lot of attention to detail here. Kashmir is where the first bomb exploded. If you go to the bathroom in our Kashmir you see some leftovers from the blast of dynomite, and there’s a big hole in the ceiling of the kitchen.

How do you plan to keep players coming back to the multiplayer campaign?
Goode: Certainly the progression is something that will keep people coming back. For one thing there is a lot of different combinations and a lot of different game modes to express them in. For example, if you’re the type of player who likes to tackle down turrets and hold the ground with those you can do that. If you want to go invisible and sneak up on guys you can do that. If you want to use the Nail Gun and run into people and blast away that’s available to you. There’s a lot of combinations. We’ve been playing a long time and still haven’t unlocked them all. They gradually unlock as you progress. It’s something you’re going to have to sink a lot of time into.

Berube: The more you play the more you expand your player tool set. Also, for the guys who are very akin to the BioShock story, you can unlock new diaries that give more insight on characters and their version on the civil war over time.

Miller: One of the things we were excited about in BioShock 2 was the change in perspective. This goes across single-player and multiplayer. Single-player you went from being a stranger who stumbled onto Rapture and was observing the end result to all these different ideas and all these actions, whereas in BioShock 2 you’re part of that culture, you’re part of the things that make Rapture what it is. That’s true as playing a Big Daddy, and that’s true as playing citizens who eventually become Splicers. You’re seeing the civil war from their perspective. That desperate fight for Adam.

Finally, how are you making the multiplayer element feel part of the BioShock world and not just an additional feature?

Miller: One of the most important things to us is to provide a narrative backbone for the multiplayer so that it was immersed in the fiction of Rapture and wasn’t just a place to shoot dudes. We wanted it to feel cohesive within the universe and so we gave it a loose narrative backbone, but at the same time we can’t go too far into forcing narrative down people’s throats. That’s the thing about BioShock. You choose how far you go into the game. You choose how much you experiment with the tool set. You choose how far you go. It’s up to you.

Game Informer Hands-On Multiplayer Impressions:

We got a chance to try out Capture the Sister, Digital Extremes' version of capture the flag. In this mode two teams, red and blue, go head-to-head to be first to snatch the Little Sister roaming around the level and drop her off at a vent. Just like in the single-player campaign, we had different weapon and plasmid sets to choose from, though there were only a limited amount for the demo. The level played like a genetically-mutated firefight that also required strategic use of the environment. For instance, the age-old Electro Bolt plus water technique works just as well in multiplayer against opponents. For additional damage against foes we could hack health machines and turrets so opponents received a pleasant surprise when scouring for resources. Then It is up to one player to successfully capture the Little Sister while teammates protect that player from incoming fire. First to successfully get Little Sister to the vent wins the match. With these options it is really up to you on how you participate in multiplayer. Though the gameplay is familiar enough for BioShock fans to adapt rather quickly, it will be interesting to see how player progression will play a role in retention.