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Talking About “BioShock Infinite,” Part 2

Talking About “BioShock Infinite,” Part 2 (photo)

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In the final part of my talk with Irrational Games’ Tim Gerritsen, the dev studio’s director of product development discusses building virtual cities, using history and the kind of player reactions the makers of “BioShock Infinite” want to elicit. (The first part of our interview is here.)

The themes in “BioShock” emerged very elliptically, almost like you glance at them and kept going, whereas in “BioShock Infinite,” you’re announcing straight out, here’s what we’re trying to getting at. Does that free you up or tie your hands more in terms of conceptualizing the game?

No, it definitely frees us up I feel because what you saw tonight is really the tiniest tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more that we can’t wait to show you guys and really reveal. And it was so condensed. You had 10 minutes to get all of these amazing beats. That was one of the concerns we had really. What do we show? How do we show it? We wanted to hit these beats and give you action and instant reaction to what’s going on. We feel just creating that setting and establishing it to the player we set expectations to you. But it’s a “BioShock” game. So nothing is as it seems.


What are the similarities between Rapture and Columbia? In terms of sheer size, how big is Columbia compared to Rapture?

That’s a difficult question. Rapture is a concept, there’s a mental aspect to Rapture. How big is it? I don’t think we as developers really knew. It was a real city — there’s places people live, places people eat, places people get entertainment, places people go to get away from it. There’s things we never showed you with Rapture. Same thing with Columbia. These are true cities. They’re both large. I couldn’t tell you though, even as a developer who worked on these, that one is bigger than the other. If we do our jobs right, that’s not something the player has to worry about. We want you to believe that this is a real city.

Are you worried about a possible chilling effect of setting this game so far back in time? Like, is this going to feel like homework? And how do you avoid that?

Absolutely, that is a concern. We had the same problem with “BioShock,” really. How many people understand 1959? For us, that’s our inspiration and it’s about the entertainment experience. We don’t want you to just boot the game up and get the screens that tell you, “In 1900, this is what the world was like,” and you go through page after page, and read it, or we give you the movie. That’s not what this is about. And that’s not who we are as Irrational. We create the immersion.

When you’re done, you feel like, “Man, I know what it was like to be in 1900” rather than “Oh, I know the actual history and data of 1900.” For us, that’s the difference. It’s about creating the entertainment experience where it feels authentic, and it feels real, and it feels cool. But yeah, for any minute you stop and go, “Oh, I’ve got to go boot up Wikipedia and figure out this s—,” that is not what this game is about.

It seems like there’s a little bit of Jules Verne in there too or am I just imaging that?

Well, certainly all of the grand ideas of that time are themes we’re exploring. There’s no one thing that we’re saying we’re basing it on. No game we ever work on is like that. We absorb all of these different elements and inspirations and put them in this stew and mix them up and come up with our own unique take.

Was there like a recommended reading list for the team to get all on the same page?

We definitely have that sort of thing internally, but it’s always changing and ever-growing. And we challenge each other. Every day, I kid you not, somebody is coming up with, “Oh, have you checked this out, I found this repository” — It could be advertisements, photographs. People have found actual films from that period, and not just entertainment films, [but] streets of the city during that time period. We are always challenging each other and immersing ourselves.


Comparing it to “Infinite” to “BioShock,” you had iconic characters in the Big Daddy and the Little Sister in those first two games. Rather than ask what they are, because I know you can’t answer that, do you think it will be fair to expect similarly iconic?

Absolutely, that’s what we strive for. At the end of the day, there’s going to be iconic aspects to this game. What are they? What you saw tonight, how does that relate? How does that affect things? When we started there were no sacred cows. We really believe that. So it was about shaking it up. It wasn’t about, “Okay, here’s the feature list from ‘BioShock,’ how do we recreate that in ‘BioShock Infinite’?” To us, this is almost a new IP. Because it’s almost shaking that tree and trying to come up with something completely different.

It seems like you guys are almost setting up a conceptual shift, where it’s not so much, will there be a sequel as what it will be. Do you think it’s fair to say that this game is kind of broadening the concept of “BioShock?”

Thinking about future games is a bit much at this point; we’re stressed thinking about this one. But certainly, what is the nature of “BioShock?” It’s definitely now about more just a location in a space at a time. We want to rethink the pieces that make up a “BioShock” game experience. Certainly, for us, the expression of “Infinite” in the title is that. That feeling of “Oh my God, there’s so much more to this than I originally thought.” So definitely, it’s a much more expansive thing than the first two games.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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