Thoughts from Beyond the Sea: BioShock 2

Thoughts from Beyond the Sea: BioShock 2


With BioShock 2’s release imminent, we sit down with Jordan Thomas, Zak McClendon, and Hogarth De La Plante. The devs discus the challenges of making a sequel to 2007’s most beloved game.

Destructive Altruism

Considering the central theme of a father-daughter bond, 2K Marin wanted to create an antagonist early on that would “subvert the traditional definition of family through a heavily altruistic filter for the common good above individual loyalty,” Jordan Thomas stated. 2K Marin created Dr. Sophia Lamb, borrowing influences from numerous altruistic philosophers both past and present, including John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, Richard Dawkins, and David Pearce.

Given Lamb’s contrasting philosophy when compared to Andrew Ryan, her influence on Rapture is much different. BioShock 2 explores “the perspective of the disenfranchised, the perspective of the altruist or the religious – [philosophies] that would have been banned by Andrew Ryan, but in the areas informed by Sophia, these things were kind of battle-flags. They were her attempts to control culture and assassinate Ryan’s character from the ground up.”

“[She] has a very different attitude and her splicers are deeply loyal and adopted the butterfly, the symbol of their faith. You see a lot of that motif with her,” said Thomas.

Rethinking Combat

Outside of the story, casting a Big Daddy as BioShock 2’s protagonist also offered 2K Marin new and evolved gameplay features. At the outset, the development team had to reevaluate the workings of weapons, the feel of the character, and the balance of combat. “It really was a good way for us to bring a fresh perspective to all the gameplay of BioShock,” said McClendon.

He also cited Subject Delta’s ability to dual wield weapons and plasmids as BioShock 2’s biggest improvement over its predecessor. Players don’t have to think, “I’m going to switch to my plasmids, use Electro Bolt, shock the guy, switch back to my weapons, equip the wrench, and hit the guy.” McClendon stated, “It’s all part of just one fluid action for players, and it really brings a whole lot more immediacy to the experience. It was one of the first things that we added when we were still working with the early BioShock toolset, and it just changed the way the game played substantially.”

Despite greatly increasing the protagonist’s prowess and durability, 2K Marin aimed to maintain the visceral and adrenaline-pumping combat of BioShock. Ten years after the events of the original game, Rapture is apparently a much more dangerous and hostile place – a place that Jack Ryan could never have survived. “The Big Daddies are still immensely challenging for you, and we have a new Big Daddy type, the Rumbler… You may get knocked down a few times and have to replan your strategy. It’s not meant to be an even battle most of the time.”

“The first time you went toe to toe with a Big Daddy in the medical pavilion in [BioShock] was just shocking and terrifying… We have a lot more of that when you fight the Big Sisters.”