Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What if Bioshock Infinite Wasn't an FPS?

I've been thinking a lot about Bioshock Infinite lately. I also recently watched a pretty brutal criticism of it done with a guy with a brogue of some kind--if you know what it is, let me know because I'd like to find it again. Anyway, this guy took a hammer to Bioshock Infinite like it slept with his girlfriend and also he was his girlfriend's pimp. That's too harsh on him, maybe, but the point is that he really went all-in denigrating the game with the interest being that he would illustrate that Bioshock Infinite wasn't deserving of the plaudits it received back in March.

Anyway, he had a lot to say and as soon as I can find the video I'll let him say it, but there was a small sliver of information that got me thinking: a first person shooter is not something that served Bioshock Infinite's story. That makes sense: a story about a man seeking redemption from a life of violence and brutality isn't well-served by a scene where he chainsaws a man and hurls his corpse into a crowd of screaming civilians. Elizabeth even responds to moments like this with fear, but she's remarkably on-board for Booker's pretty goddamn crazy murder spree, especially since he's already gained the ability to shoot crows out of his hands by the time she meets him.

The original Bioshock was a survival horror game. Everything about the game lent themselves to that central conceit; everything served to remind you that this was a game about feeling scared and isolated in a place that was full of insane junkies hungering for your blood. Considering the big twist at the end of the second act is a moment where you realize that you weren't in control and technically you haven't been all along. Plus, the people who are trying to kill you are superpowered mutants who've lost touch with reality and want to make a you-skin belt.

However, the major thing in Bioshock Infinite is Elizabeth: interacting and bonding with her, learning about her powers, and using her to explore the world. The villains are mostly regular people. Regular people representing a racist society, but they're never racist at us, and there's a surprisingly small amount of actual interracial violence, for a game that originally seemed premised on it. It seems to me that there are mechanics that would work better with that story, and that would allow us to take better advantage of the powers we're told Elizabeth has. My immediate response: first person puzzle game! Now, all three Bioshock games (we'll count 2 because we're nice) have featured a "puzzle" that really just sends you to get the nearest free plasmid. "The wall is frozen, we need fire to melt it. You'll never see ice again, for the rest of the game. Seriously." "These doors can only be opened with electricity. Also, there'll never be another one of these doors ever again. Seriously." It's somewhat frustrating. However, from a narrative standpoint it's nice to have an objective aside from "Open door" with a solution more complicated than "Murder everyone and touch everything until the door opens."

Having goals aside from "murder everyone" and the tools to do it would be such a revelation in game design. For example, in addition to all the other crap heaped on them, Big Daddies are essentially magic janitors: one of their jobs is maintaining Rapture. The first ranged weapon you get in Bioshock 2 is a rivet gun. An objective where you are tasked with repairing damaged pipes with your rivet gun literally writes itself. Ideas like this for Bioshock Infinite's many, many cool mechanics should be easy.

Let me know what you've got. I'll come up with some too. It'll be fun!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Playing With Voices

In addition to drawing silly pictures and writing silly ideas, I also do silly voices! This first video is me, rocking a thinning hairline and a series of impressions of orc, troll, goblin, and ogre voices from Warcraft 2. The trolls are my favorite, but I think I might do a whole line of Orc voices once my throat has recovered. If you have a funny thing you want me to say with a funny voice, leave it all up in the comments section and I'll do my best to mangle your pristine funny with my noisemaker.

An aside to actual voice talent: if you know what you're doing, I'd love to hear your take on my technique. I learned mostly by watching Billy West give interviews. Tell me what I'm doing wrong, I love improving.
  And here's an improvised monologue I did with my King Candy impression. Don't ask me where it came from, I was just sitting in my living room and it kind of struck me. But I have a lot of fun doing these!