Bioshock in space, exploding cats, and other stories from Irrational Games

A look into the development of the original Bioshock.

by

In 2002, the first demo of what became Bioshock ran on the first Xbox using Unreal Engine 2 and was set in a space station overrun with genetic mutants, not in the underwater city of Rapture.

It’s just one of many interesting tidbits about Bioshock's development and life at Irrational Games told in Simon Parkin’s long feature on Eurogamer. Parkin talked to several former Irrational members, including co-founder Ken Levine, and uncovered both troubling and hilarious stories.

For example, programmer John Abercrombie said that at one point he replaced the grenades of the grenadier enemy with a 3D model of a cat that would explode on contact and called the mode “cat-astrophe.” When management found out, they made him promise not to secretly include it in the game. "I guess they were concerned about the ASPCA or someone getting wind of it and it causing all sorts of media troubles,” he said. “So I just made a video locally and then went on, fixing bugs."

Abercrombie did this to amuse himself during a brutal development crunch, with many late nights and seven-day workweeks that lasted for months.

"The pressure was on to create something that would impress, and our deadline was looming," one of Bioshock’s level designers Jean Paul LeBreton said. "In a level review, there was some discussion of how an AI should be presented in the short demo. Someone mentioned System Shock 2's evasive cyborg ninjas as a reference point. Ken threw his glasses down and yelled: 'I don't want to hear anything about any f***ing cyborg ninjas!'"

Apparently this was just one out of many such incidents that occurred at what was a high pressure environment, but the team comes off as unanimously grateful for their time with Irrational and Levine.

“Ken can be a tough guy to work for sometimes, but he is driven to make his games great and drives his team towards that same goal,” former level designer Paul Hellquist said. “I always aspire to that goal in my work and probably learned that from him."

The full piece, which you can find at Eurogamer, has a lot more interesting stories and offers great insight at the history of Irrational Games, which in February Levine confirmed was shutting down.

Emanuel Maiberg is a freelance writer. You can follow him on Twitter @emanuelmaiberg and Google+.

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Discussion

35 comments
vadagar1
vadagar1

cyborg mutant ninjas IN SPACE


the cliche would implode the universe :D

brxricano
brxricano

That mutant in the concept art looks like hed die of an infection before he even got to hurt you XD

Mudpooch
Mudpooch

"I don't want to hear anything about any f***ing cyborg ninjas!'" LOL...

MAD_AI
MAD_AI

So Bioshock 1 started as System Shock. Hope Ken revisits space and Cyberpunk in his next game (SS3 is in legal limbo, so never going to happen). I remember another proposed setting for Bioshock, a military research facility in Antarctica during the Cold War, which deals with genetic enhancement and engineering. 

jj2112
jj2112

Well the cyborg ninjas were one of the toughest enemies in SS2... Together with the psionic floating brains.

xXxIRyanxXx
xXxIRyanxXx

Its a shame Irrational closed, they were one of a few studios that tried new things

hippiesanta
hippiesanta

Make Bioshock in space with optional Third person shooter like skyrym

sortajan
sortajan

'I don't want to hear anything about any f***ing cyborg ninjas!'"


why does this quote make me laugh so hard

nyran125tk
nyran125tk

I was hoping for the next Bioshock to be in space or Mars or Saturn or something.

delta5931
delta5931

That would have been great, System Shock 3... Maybe some System Shock remakes?

teller76567
teller76567

Way off topic but i have an idea to help with a halo 2 remake...

luizferrarezzi
luizferrarezzi

so the idea was to make System Shock again and name it Bioshock.

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

Interesting to read these ideas. The first and final Bioshocks were true classics.

Some of the very best last gen had to offer. Sad to see Irrational go...

Salta06
Salta06

The original Eurogamer article is a great read, why don't we get these sort of in depth stories from the Gamespot staff? 

d-man
d-man

Should have kept it in space and dropped the pretentious Ayn Rand silliness. Bioshock 2 is the better game because it ditched all that stuff in favor of something more original.

Hurvl
Hurvl

"Ken threw his glasses down and yelled" Oooh, a thing to express frustration that only people wearing glasses, like myself, can achieve. When I'm seriously annoyed I'll remember that melodramatic action and perhaps try it, but carefully, since my glasses are quite expensive.

keviac
keviac

Lavine is a salesman, he knows how to manipulate and sell. It just so happens till infinite was released he also made good games.

Printul_Noptii
Printul_Noptii

They should make a scary System Shock 3, I think thats what everyone wants. I know they can do it and people have asking for years now.

PodXCOM
PodXCOM

Wow, Ken Levine was a bit of a jerk back then.

Still, I wish he was the one who made the FPS XCOM, not 2K Marin

ps3gamer1234
ps3gamer1234

Stupid Levine shutdown a great developer just a dumb a...

hystavito
hystavito

@Salta06  I guess you could say Gamespot is more of a quick fix kinda site?

Trev9421
Trev9421

I respect your opinion and politely disagree.

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

@d-man  More original? Truly? It was the only game of the three that was rote and NOT original....

maltnut
maltnut

@Hurvl You can get all huffy and make a show of angrily taking them off and throwing them down, but then catching yourself at the last moment and regaining your composure just in time to avoid slamming them on something?


grenadehh
grenadehh

@Hurvl  I employ it quite frequently working in IT. I just take them off and throw them up in the air, 200 dollars, pfft, idgaf. Those normals will never know the joy lol.

grenadehh
grenadehh

@Printul_Noptii  Never going to happen. And System Shock 2 would still scare you today if you hadn't played it and didn't know what sounds were or what was happening.

grenadehh
grenadehh

@PodXCOM  Wanting different ideas and to expand beyond SS2 doesn't make him a jerk, nor does saying fuck.

Salta06
Salta06

@hystavito @Salta06 yeah they're heavily invested in add marketing for sure. I get it, revenue is important.

I think the last Gamespot game development piece I read that was equally interesting was written by Carolyn, and this was last year from memory. Should be more of it.Love these sort of articles.

PodXCOM
PodXCOM

@grenadehh Well, what about screaming "Shut up!"' to the lead level designer? Does that make him, um.... less likeable? Also, I remember 2K Marin saying something about how hard it is to work with him.

smitherean
smitherean

@PodXCOM @grenadehhThere's been rumblings (including a direct quote in this article) that he is a very difficult man to work for. Shutting down Irrational rather than just stepping down as creative director doesn't look good either.

That, and the unedited and overblown feel of his recent work (not much of a knock on Bioshock and Infinite, they were still great games) seem to suggest he's a bit of an egomaniac.