That’s the new logo for Fox News’ “Defending the Homeland” segment in their long-running Fox & Friends show. Does it look familiar? It should. Ken Levine, creator of Bioshock Infinite certainly recognized it. Ripping off artwork and re-purposing it for other things is nothing new, but there’s some great irony in Fox News using the logo from a violent first-person shooter about bigoted religious zealots living in a city in the clouds.
The relationship between coin-tossing sidekick Elizabeth and gun-happy protagonist Booker DeWitt in BioShock Infinite is one that has spurred players to wax poetic. She’s either one of the greatest supporting characters to grace a shooter, or another example of women being objectified in an industry that hasn’t matured beyond being a boy’s club. Much has also been written of the sultry, obviously more mature version of Elizabeth in Burial at Sea. Her role as the noire femme fatale of the DLC is sometimes an uncomfortable one thanks to the player’s knowledge of who she is in the base game. Heaven forbid Elizabeth be sexy! She’s a singing dancing Disney princess!
Maybe you’re not familiar with the hundreds of thousands of words already written by enthusiastic fans depicting Elizabeth and Booker (yuck!) in various not-safe-for-work couplings? They vary from the hopelessly romantic to the outright pornographic. (Note: Do not Google Image search for these pictures lest you lose your grip on sanity!) Now, infamous Flash porn game creator “Zone-sama” has brought Rule 34 to gamers itching to see Elizabeth in a more sexually active and interactive mode. Paste Magazine‘s Maddy Myers played the porn-parody and despite the icky premise, says it’s “surprisingly well-executed” for what it is. It’s not all badly lip-synced Poser models and anime sexuality. Elizabeth takes charge for much of the experience and voices are provided by repurposing the original sound files from the real game.
Additionally, the creator of the adults-only game offers a real-life lesson by way of example to gamers interested in working in the industry.
Zone’s porn parodies of the Skullgirls franchise were so good that they led to an actual job on the Skullgirls development team.
That’s some portfolio!
If you haven’t played BioShock Infinite’s Burial at Sea: Episode One DLC, you probably shouldn’t watch the preview video above. It starts with a spoiler. Heck, even if you did play the first DLC, you may want to hold off on watching the clip because the spoiler is pretty major. All you need to know is that the adventure continues in the underwater utopia of Rapture just before the events of BioShock.
No release date has been given by Irrational Games.
Bioshock Infinite’s floating city of Columbia will be coming to Disney Infinity. Five pieces of user-generated content picked by developer Avalanche Software will be released as free DLC for the game’s toy box mode. The add-ons include the floating islands of Columbia, a Tron trench run, and a level based on Disneyland’s jungle cruise.
The crossover makes perfect sense despite the wholesome all-ages nature of Disney Infinity and the violent conflict in Columbia. Disneyland and Bioshock Infinite were both influenced by the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, otherwise known as The World’s Columbian Exposition.
The $20 three-part season’s pass you bought for Bioshock Infinite before knowing what DLC it included begins today with a horde mode called Clash in the Clouds. I like a good horde mode as much as the next guy. Heck, probably more than the next guy! But the disappointingly vanilla gunplay, aptly portrayed on the horrible “Booker Dewitt and his trusty shotgun” box art, is one of the last reasons I’d want to go back to Columbia. Frankly, I’d just as soon go back into the Protector Trials for Bioshock 2.
Fortunately, the rest of the season’s pass consists of single-player story stuff, which is probably why you were into Bioshock Infinite. Parts one and two of Burial at Sea will be available at dates yet to be determined. Each part is its own installment in the three-part season’s pass you bought before knowing what it included. It’s hard to believe this is from the same publisher whose Borderlands 2 season’s pass was such a great deal.
By the way, I’m selling a pair of 1988 Jeep Wranglers on Craig’s list. It’s a package deal. You get two cars for one price: the front half of a 1988 Jeep Wrangler and the back half of a 1988 Jeep Wrangler. Email me if interested.
That’s the trailer for the long-awaited first DLC for Bioshock Infinite called Clash in the Clouds. Remember when Irrational said their DLC was going to be substantial single player stuff?
This pack features 60 challenges in four brand-new maps. Complete Blue Ribbon Challenges and unlock concept art, Voxophones, Kinetoscopes, and more in The Columbian Archeological Society. Climb the Leaderboards and earn new achievements.
You get challenge maps. Congratulations. At least it’s cheap at $4.99 or 400 Microsoft points.
The next DLC looks a little better. Burial at Sea promises some actual story.
Tom Chick, Nick Diamon, and Jason “It’s a-me, Luigi!” McMaster discuss whether the marketing for Bioshock Infinite hurt some of the sense of discovery. If you’ve seen the trailers and read the previews, don’t worry about spoilers. And if you haven’t, Tom Chick From the Future shows up to tell you how to skip past spoilers. We also talk about the death of LucasArts, the potential death of id, the ongoing life of Castle Crashers developer Behemoth, the multiplayer delights of Luigi’s Mansion, the non-delights of a new game about depression, and something vaguely French called Sang-Froid: A Tale of Werewolves.
One of the reasons I love GDC is that it’s a forum for the most valuable voices and the least heard voices in the conversation about videogames: the developers who make them, who struggle with how to make them better, and who see first-hand the violence when ideas meet execution. For instance, this important observation about Bioshock Infinite’s opening comes from someone who makes videogames:
When I reach the second floor of the lighthouse, I am supposed to have a moment there. A moment of shock, I assume. A tortured man, apparently dead, is sitting in a chair. But my first thought is…
Because when you enter the room with the corpse, two big shiny coins are winking at you from the nearby table. The table right next to the corpse.
Adrian Chmielarz neatly dissects how Bioshock Infinite is a brilliant exercise in storytelling, but a disappointing world design, especially compared to its predecessors. And it’s particularly apt coming from Mr. Chmielarz, whose Painkiller is a brilliant exercise in good game design, and an absolute non-entity when it comes to world design. You can — and should — read his comments here.
“I beg you, game,” he asks, “please do not reward me for not doing the right thing and for doing the silly thing of playing the game instead of behaving like I am in a different world.” When this happens in God of War: Ascension — walk to places the camera doesn’t show to find treasure — it’s no great loss. But when this happens in a narrative powerhouse like Bioshock Infinite, or Deus Ex, or Mass Effect, the damage done is considerable. Eating cotton candy out of the trash is no big deal in a Mario game. Doing it in front of Elizabeth just feels weird.
I wish more people who made videogames also talked publicly and frankly about videogames other than the ones they’re making.
Bioshock Infinite is aptly named. It’s an ambitious and sometimes dazzling story far too big for the too familiar game that holds it. It contains multitudes and they’re all pinned under the boots of an unseen protagonist in a two-fisted first-person shooter, plasmid in one hand, rivet gun in the other. It is beautiful in the way that a snow globe is beautiful. Small, ruthlessly bounded, a little precious and silly, but its intricacy undeniably lovely in that diffuse light. I admire it more than I like it. I’m glad I played it, and although I’m pretty sure I’ll never play it again, I’ll be talking about it for a long time to come.
After the jump, let the talking — spoiler-free — commence Continue reading →
The Nintendo 3DS gets a couple of major releases this week. Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon is a nifty adventure/exploration game. I really enjoy the playful haunted house production values, the gradually unfurling gameplay mechanics, and the chaotic ghost wrassling. It helps immensely that I don’t find Luigi as annoying as Mario. I don’t know what my problem is with Mario. Maybe because Luigi is a ridiculous character played for comedy, yet Mario is a ridiculous character played as if he wasn’t ridiculous. Why does that guy annoy me so much? I’ll have to explore that further with my therapist. But since Mario isn’t part of Luigi’s Mansion, it’s that much easier to enjoy.
I’m less fond of the latest Pokemon Mystery Dungeon game, subtitled Gates to Infinity. I’m still mired in the interminable Pokemon exposition, with squealing Pokemon imparting life lessons in colorful unskippable cutscenes. The ratio of squealing Pokemon to mystery dungeon is, at this point, about 3:1. I’m running out of steam. I can’t take it much longer. I know from playing the first Pokemon Mystery Dungeon that there’s going to be a deep and involved dungeon crawl deeper down in here. I just don’t know that I have the endurance to reach it, particularly since there are so many other alternatives for deep and involved dungeon crawls. The first Mystery Dungeon, for instance, which was entirely free of Pokemons.
The Nintendo 3DS release that I’m most enjoying is Harmoknight. I don’t know what to make of that name. It’s clunky at best, and misconstrued as a slur at worst. But this rhythm based game is friendly, colorful, enthusiastic, and carefully perched at the intersection of simple and challenging. I’ve also tried to play a bit of Gaijin Games’ Bit Trip Runner 2 recently, which is similar to Harmoknight, but often more frustrating. Harmoknight feels more cinematic, more catchy, like a bona fide musical crossed with a platformer. Runner 2 is just a straight up platformer that has no compunction about making me do stuff over and over again. Harmoknight is seeing Les Miserables. Bit Trip Runner 2 is reading the Victor Hugo novel.
Xbox Arcade gets a port of Terraria this week. I’ve sampled Terraria on the PC, and I can’t help but feel it would be right at home on the Xbox 360. Electronic Arts is releasing a new Tiger Woods game. I follow just enough sports to know it’s probably a dating sim. Electronic Arts is also releasing a new Army of Two game in case your army of two in the latest Dead Space isn’t enough.
Also Bioshock Infinite is out this week.
If you consider games journalism the process of writing about games that haven’t come out yet, I’m a terrible games journalist for caring instead about the games that are already out. And I’m an especially terrible games journalist in the case of a few specific games that I don’t want to know anything about. For instance, Bioshock Infinite. I know everything I need to know to want to play it, and any additional information I get I’d just as soon get from actually playing. As you can see, I can’t even bring myself to post a screenshot of it.
So E3 was going to be a real pain in the butt, because everyone and his dog was going to be talking about Bioshock Infinite. But no more! 2K just announced that not only has Bioshock Infinite been delayed until February 2013, but it furthermore won’t be showing at E3 next month. Phew.
One of the most valuable lessons for videogames to learn is that they aren’t movies. I love this Gamasutra interview with Ken Levine about working with actors for Bioshock Infinite, partly because it digs deep into a process that eludes too many videogames: how to effectively use actors to capture the human element. But I really like the following anecdote, which gets to the heart of the matter that videogames can’t just do things the way movies, comic books, or TV shows do them. Understanding the limitations of a videogame is a fundamental part of the design process.
You gotta work with the tools that you have. You also have to make sure you’re not trying to do things that you can’t support. I think one of the first lessons I learned in the game industry, in my first few weeks, I was working on a Star Trek Voyager game that never shipped, and I wrote an opening cutscene for the game. I was a writer on it.
The last part of the opening cutscene I wrote in the stage directions, “The camera pulls in on Janeway’s face, and we see her eyes widen in terror.” Now this is 1995. Janeway’s face was a bitmap that was approximately maybe 32 by 32 pixels.
And my lead programmer said to me, “Dude. You’re not pulling in on Janeway’s face, and her eyes are not widening on terror. She’s sitting there, 32 by 32 pixels, you know, doing nothing.” And I was like “Ohhhh. Okay. I need to figure out different ways to get these emotions across.” That was a very valuable lesson.
Too many videogames are still trying to “pull in on Janeway’s face” in some manner or another. As Levine puts it at the end of the interview, “Whenever you find yourself fighting against your toolset, you’re not going to win that fight”. And now I will resist the temptation to reel off a list of recent videogames that should have known better and still lost that particular fight.