Cyclone traps actually let you charge them up with any other plasmid for a variety of different effects.
JP: That's one of our goals. The other thing you probably saw was the dual wield. You can use your guns and plasmids simultaneously at the exact same time. You have more fluidity between those two and then more interactions wherever possible.
Beyond that, the Cyclone trap that you saw was actually the upgraded version. Cyclone traps actually let you charge them up with any other plasmid for a variety of different effects. All of the plasmids are like this. We tried to make it sort of that they all have three levels and at each level you get substantial new abilities that change the tactics that you use and sort of the just the different abilities you can use them for over the course of the game.
Hogarth: Oh yeah, the flame-thrower hand type effect was the highest level of the Incinerate plasmid. So that's kind of indicative of the way we've evolved the plasmids.
Are there more that interact like that, native to the sequel?
JP: More in the sense of the environment. You know how you can set a guy on fire and he would run to water, like splicers would run to water and you can electrocute the water. It's more if we were much more of an RPG, we might have this whole--
Hogarth: Once you try to go down the route of thinking everything interacts with everything, you do end up with things like frozen fire, that doesn't make a lot of sense. And beyond that there are always things we try to keep in BioShock just a sense of immediacy and tools that people can use anywhere in the environment that happen to be useful.
And so we don't want to get too deep on, "Hey if you do this, this, this, this and this, something cool happens". But where we can support those kinds of interactions in Cyclones and traps, that's a great way for a defensive player ... to give them a lot more options for how they want to defend their area. Obviously with that kind of game play being more important with adoption, that's a great place to invest in that.
Zak: The term we've been using is that it's been "marbled" throughout the game. The ocean excursions are a very controlled environment. You can't just walk for two hours to the middle of the trench.
JP: And there's no swimming as well. You're a big, heavy guy...
Zak: After we developed it for a while, ironically the ocean became this place where the player could breathe a little bit and that it's sort of a quiet time to absorb atmosphere and to absorb narrative. Listen to logs and you can find loot out there and stuff.
As far as combat goes, there is no combat in the ocean. So most of the time you go to the ocean it's navigational or quest reasons. Like the tunnel has collapsed and you've got to get around it and find a way inside or something like that.
JP: So much of BioShock inside Rapture is a living world. There are splicers everywhere and there is so much danger. You can't go off to the corner and just take a break, ever, because someone will shoot you with a gun. So having that intentional pacing that allows the player to slow down a little bit and soak up some of the wonder and beauty of what it would actually look like at the bottom of the ocean. This really, really fantastic environment is something that we really wanted to explore.
Zak: We had a lot of fans and focus groups that responded: "Yeah the frenetic combat but it would be nice to have some quiet, more spooky kind of introspective moments in the game" and the ocean is a perfect example of that.
JP: There obviously are some scripted encounters with her because she is very important to the game, but we're trying as much as possible trying to make her feel like a living piece of the ecology, sort of like the Little Sisters and the Big Daddies and the Big Sister's sitting at the top of that ecology, kind of watching over all of it.
The idea is she's paying very close attention to how you behave and wants to keep status quo in Rapture. So when you come in and start disrupting that, either by harvesting a Little Sister or by saving them, she eventually will take notice and come after you. We are definitely trying to make it feel like the boogeyman, that she can come after you wherever you are and it's a reversal of your own relationship to the Big Daddies, where you follow the chump around for a while to take him out and then she'll be hunting you down.
So there will be some moments where you do definitely have to face her for story reasons even throughout the game but from there we really try to step away from cramming in really cool animated sequences of her and let her really participate in the game as a gameplay character.
Zak: It's player-centric, which goes back to the Big Daddy thing. That was a proven game development that we're keeping near the center of all of the levels in BioShock 2. Yeah, so like the adoption thing you saw in the demo, that's sort of a layer on top so that the dynamic doesn't end when you kill the Big Daddy. Now you have some additional stuff that you can do that is going to impact your player growth because you're getting ADAM that you can spend on stuff.
Will the player have cues as to when the Big Sister's going to attack?
JP: There will be sort environmental cues. If you've got a Little Sister at the time, she will warn when the Big Sister is coming and so on. Or radio characters and they chime in. It's definitely something we want the player to be prepared for a little bit, and not just "she runs up and stabs you in the back of the head."
JP: Your Little Sister, like the Big Daddy's Little Sister, is invulnerable. So, you know, if you ever tried to shoot one in the head, they are completely invulnerable as a part of just being creepy little zombie girls. And so you're honestly in no danger while she's riding around.
just like the Big Daddies were sort of emergent, player-driven boss battles, [ADAM harvests] are like emergent player-driven siege encounters.
JP: We experimented in the first BioShock with "Hey, what if there are systemic characters who can get killed?" and all that stuff. But when we made them into actual little girls and Little Sisters, we were walking a pretty fine line between, you know, being exploitative and being systemic. We felt like just having a Little Sister out in the world that can be mowed down like any other character in a shooter where most of your verbs are shooting, the decision to shoot one isn't as meaningful as it is when you take it out into its own context.
Zak: There's still a risk and reward thing, in that, you know, when the splicers would run up to her and harass her and stuff, that would prevent her from gathering. So there's still consequences to it. And if you die while you're gathering, there's consequences to that as well.
JP: So that's another thing, just on the mechanics side, you know. We're trying to give death enough sting that it becomes interesting mechanically. So, yeah.
Touching on the death aspect, what about Vita-Chambers?
JP: Vita-Chambers ... Vita-Chambers are ...they're back. You'll be able to turn them off from the beginning of the game if you want to, so that's something that was patched in to BioShock 1. And we've also done a little bit of re-balancing to make some of the low level Vita-Chamber thrashing not as possible, at least on the lower level difficulty levels. Actually, the Little Sisters now have a behavior where they can heal their Big Daddies after combat. So if you are in combat with a Big Daddy, you go up and hit him twice in the face and then die immediately, she'll top him off a little bit. So it's a lot harder to just sort of cheat a Big Daddy over and over and over again. But it was really important for us to maintain the accessibility of the Vita-Chambers game, which is that you never lost progress in a BioShock 1 and that's something we keep about BioShock 2.