It could also be Rockstar are using these as a technology proof of concept, so that they can then develop and/or port future titles?
Xantiriad's forum posts
" I would disagree, I would say I was moved more emotionally by Silent Hill than any of Bioshocks strong points"
I can see your point on Silent Hill. I'm not a big fan of that series, or the genre, but I am looking forward to Silient Hill: Shattered Memories - which isn't out in the UK until March.
Some interesting debate and good alternatives. :)
Maybe we are all wrong. Maybe Wii Fit is the pivotal game?
The current (7th) generation of video games is considered to have started in late 2005, so yeah it just misses out. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_video_game_consoles_(seventh_generation). Always tricky with PC games to classify them into "generations".
" @Xantiriad said:" I'd put System Shock and Half Life 2 firmly in the last generation, "Now...I can agree with System Shock..But Half-Life 2 came out Mid-2004, do you really consider the 3-year gap between it and Bioshock to be between 2 different Generations? "
" Yeah, I'm gunna put Mass Effect as being closer to this than Bioshock. Although I suppose the lesson to be learned from all the people recommending different games as being closer to fitting the bill is just proof that games have evolved as a whole, perhaps? well, not a whole, but more in general. "I think you can now put quite a few games forward now as examples of interactive story telling (rather than just cinematic narrative). Mass Effect 2 has definitely raised the bar for RPGs that want to have a strong character driven narrative. Uncharted 2 also did some really cool things with incidental dialogue and character development.
I'd put System Shock and Half Life 2 firmly in the last generation, although I agree they pioneered many of the concepts and techniques used in Bioshock. Playing Bioshock 2 has really brought home what an achievement the predecessor was. It is interesting that if you read the mainstream media, such as British newspapers like the Guardian, they very much recognise Bioshock as the game that changed mainstream perceptions of interactive art.
I am not talking about how “fun” Bioshock was (although it was a lot of fun), but how significant and important you think it will be in years to come? Let me explain why.
For many years, video games have been seen as a childish pursuit, something the the “mainstream” looks down on as being immature and unworthy. It all feeds into the debate about whether a video game can be judged as an art form. This point of view upsets me and degrades our hobby. We are constantly tarnished with accusations that all games involve killing and violence. Alright, so does Bioshock, but it is balanced with emotion and alternative play mechanics. We all know this perception that we are all immature and blood thirsty morons is wrong. I’m pleased, in some small way, that consoles like the Wii & DS are starting to dispel this myth.
Every few years a game comes along that revolutionises the game design: Mario Brothers established platform gaming rules, Tomb Raider did the same for adventure gaming; Mario 64 shocked the gaming world with a virtual three dimensional world; Metal Gear Solid 2 pioneered cinematic story telling; and Grand Theft Auto III released the shackles of linear game design, creating a new sense of “exploration and fun”. To this epic list, you should now add Bioshock.
When people look back in a few years time, it will be Bioshock that defines the key landmark in the current generation of video games. Not because of its gameplay, or how fun it is, but because it is the first game to establish video games as the fourth storytelling art form, after books, comics and film. The first video game that can be considered art. Until now, video games have used cinematic techniques to tell stories: through cut scenes, dialog, or flash backs. Metal Gear Solid 2 was the first game to establish many of the techniques we see used today in hit games like Uncharted, COD4, Halo 3 etc. All of these techniques, while original for video games, are borrowed from the cinema. The trend has been to make games more like movies in order to tell a dramatic story.
Bioshock completely re-writes the rule book. Rather than follow the established convention it has actually defined a new form of “interactive story telling” which no movie, game, book or comic has previously achieved. Bioshock has a genuine claim to present video games as a new art form.
Let me give you a definition of art: “Generally art is a (product of) human activity, made with the intention of stimulating the human senses as well as the human mind; by transmitting emotions and/or ideas.”
If you have played through this game, you would be hard pressed to say that it did not stir an emotional reaction when you decided the fate of a little sister, or when you discover the reasons for you linear actions. At no time during the game are you spoon fed what to think (other than the “motivation” to move forward). In fact, the games power is in turning an established norm in video game design into a key part of the plot and narrative. The story itself is not “watched” like a movie, or “read” like comic but interactively discovered and revealed through interaction and exploration. The audio diaries are cleverly distributed so that they reveal character stories and plot in reverse, or out of sync, so that you constantly question the motivations and wrestle with your own ideas. Anyone who has seen the film Memento will know what a powerful and unsettling experience that can be.
Finally, the subject matter itself: Ryan’s objectivist-dystopian city of Rapture; is an ingenious comment on the conventions established in modern video games. Once again, you are left to decide for yourself: Is Rapture was a flawed and evil concept? Or the unlucky result of a failed genius’ big idea. The developers leave hints to their opinions through the audio diaries, but ultimately the player makes up their own mind.
"A nation of Shopkeepers" ("L'Angleterre est une nation de boutiquiers") is how Napoleon once famously described our fair isle (although it was probably first coined by Adam Smith). There are two topics of conversation that all British people are obsessed with: the weather, and “the price of fish”. Well, not just fish, anything and everything!
We have a culture that is always skewed towards cheapness over quality: from badly placed government IT contracts and infrastructure projects, to supermarket produce and hooky DVDs down the pub. This obsession also skews our retailers and high-streets.
Walk into any shop and 60-80% of the stock is “on-sale”, “on offer”, or “buy one get one free”. It’s like no one will buy anything unless they think they are getting a deal. But of course, the retailer has to make money, so products now must routinely carry a higher recommended retail price to make margin so that it can then be artificially discounted.
Listen to many UK-based gaming podcasts and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the only thing that matters is the price. With the exception of often sound consumer advice on FrugalGaming, I have become increasingly annoyed at complaints about the price of video games, in particular those on Xbox Live and the iPhone.
I think a lot of gamers fail to appreciate just how much it costs to create a game, even a fairly small one. The average Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 game costs £5-15m to create. That is a considerable investment for any company to make. Only half of all games made actually break even. In the beginning of Xbox Live Arcade titles were small ports of PC games that were produced for less than £100k and came in under 50MB. Today, Xbox Live Arcade games can be anything up to 500MB and costs between £100k and £1m to make: for example Braid is reported to have cost $200k.
Given the dramatic increase in the quality, size, value and cost of an Xbox Live Arcade titles isn’t it inevitable that the retail cost must increase. Given the 200-1000% increase in production costs, it would not be unexpected to see a similar increase in the purchase price? However, most games are today are either 800 or 1200 Microsoft Points: that a miserly increase of 50%, or just £3.40. Are we really trying to say that we are not prepared to pay an extra £3 for games that have the quality and production values of Battlefield 1943 or Braid, or would we rather stick to playing cheap thrill ports like Wik?
Incidentally, £3.40 buys you:
A pint of beer and some peanuts
A fish pie ready meal
A copy of the TV Times
A Venti Skinny Latte
The iPhone has revolutionised handheld gaming, and has created a new wave of “bedroom” indie games developers. The App Store provides an opportunity for games developers to produce small, cheap games that can be enjoyed by the masses. Prices range from 59p to £5.99, with most games selling for between £1 and £3. Considering the more expensive studio games, such as Tiger Woods, it still seems incredible value when compared to the cost of the same game on a Nintendo DS or Sony PSP (£25+). Yet, I still hear complaints about the pricing!
So what is the underlying problem here? Is it because these games have no physical media, and so therefore our perceived value of the product is less, even if the game may be identical to a physical version of greater cost? Probably.
Maybe it is the method of pricing that is the issue? 1200 sounds like a lot of money compared to 800. But £10.20 doesn’t sound like a huge amount of money; after all it’s the price of the average movie DVD?
Activision recently announced that their premium titles would carry and premium price. Not totally unexpected. Modern Warfare 2 is likely to be the best selling game of the year, but also one of the most expensive games ever produced. The publisher’s margins will also have been squeezed by the dramatic increase in the popularity of game rentals and trading that become a feature of this generation.
Whilst the timing of this price increase seems opportunistic, I have felt for some time that the impact of game trading and rental, on the scale we are seeing today, can only ever result in forcing prices up. A similar thing occurred in the early 90s when rampant piracy on the Commodore Amiga saw the price of games increase twofold in a couple of years. Video Games cost a lot of money to make, and the main means of returning a profit is to sell disks. If the disk is being resold or rented then you aren’t making money on that.
The issue of retail price is further exaggerated in the UK by our obsession with “getting a deal”. I can’t remember the last time I actually paid RRP (recommended retail price) for a game, even on pre-order. There is almost an unwritten rule that all games bought online or on the high-street carry a 20% discount!
I have a feeling we are heading towards a very uncomfortable future. Retail copies of games are likely to continue to increase in price in an effort to claw back revenue lost to trading and rental. The publishers are keen to get their games distributed online, but that carries the burden of massive IT infrastructure; discrimination against those gamers who are not online; or who can only “trade purchase”; and the aforementioned perception that download games are overpriced or lower value.
Microsoft are due to launch their own On-Demand service soon. It is the future, but I can already hear the complaints from British podcasters; I might just have to take a 3 month holiday when it arrives!
The Big Daddy is the iconic image of the 2007 critical hit Bioshock. Whenever you think about your experiences of playing Bioshock, two images spring to mind: the creepy yet charming Little Sisters, and her ever present gargantuan guardian, the Big Daddy. Dressed in an armoured diving suite, with either a giant drill or grenade launcher grafted on to its body, the Big Daddy presents a formidable presence of size, strength and brutality.
The Big Daddy is, however, an unlikely “bad guy” because he isn’t all bad. His paternal nature means that he will completely ignore you -posing no threat- seemingly happy to lumber around escorting his Little Sister. Ultimately the Little Sisters are in the way of your goal in Rapture, and they carry the precious Adam that you must somehow obtain. Thus, reluctantly, you know you must take on and defeat the hulking brutes.
Regardless of the difficulty level played, the Big Daddy always offers a significant challenge. Each Big Daddy encounter is normally premised with fear and indecision. Taking down the armour plated guardian requires more than a little cunning to succeed. Big Daddy battles are often savage, violent and prolonged. Bioshock successfully makes you feel every punch, drill and thump from the Big Daddy – often sending you dramatically flying off your feet, or stunned on the spot. In defeat the Big Daddy continues to toy with your emotions. The morally good player is confronted with feelings of guilt and repentance; made worse by the cries of grief from the Little Sister for her now lost “Mr Bubbles”.
There have not been many games that have established such an iconic bad guy. Even fewer have established a character class so strong that, in itself, it is a metaphor for the game and world in which it is set. The Big Daddy is Bioshock. Plastered over the front of the game cover; shipped as an ornament in the special edition; and taking centre stage in the gruesome promotion video for Bioshock’s initial release. Bioshock 2 looks to be building its entire story with a Big Daddy as its central heroic character. I wait with bated breath to see if a promised Big Sister can match her paternal inspiration.
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