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BioShock Conceptual Retrospective

An old "first look" now provides a glimpse of what changed in the game's development

Sometimes games emerge as solid visions from the first concept sketch to the final rendering. Most of the time, though, many changes occur between a game's conception and its release. We're not always privy to the embryonic forms of our favorite titles. A little digging around the internet, however, can unearth some pretty interesting facts.

Or an entire game description, as in the case of the Gamespot archive on BioShock. An exclusive first look at the game reveals a thorough imagining of what was then considered merely a spiritual sequel to the developer's System Shock 2. BioShock's become such an icon on its own that I honestly didn't even remember anything the developers had put out in a similar vein. It became so much its own game that "spiritually" succeeding anything was soon forgotten about. 

The 2004 first look includes some concept art that shows how the original aesthetic differed from the final product. The enemies back in their first concept sketches were pretty standard alien/zombie fare. The description suggests they might have been human once, but were mutated to the point of being unrecognizable due to some nasty experiments in a mysterious lab. While gruesome, they actually sound a little boring compared to what actually debuted in BioShock. The Splicers ended up being so creepy because they were essentially drug addicted zombies running around inside shells of their former selves. I found them scarier than the tougher Big Daddy bosses just for their eerie psychological depth. They were tortured souls, and fragments of their personalities shone through even as they attacked and were defeated by you. That's tougher to bear than hordes of empty mutants.

It does sound as though the original plan for the game included a lot more environment manipulation. The description mentions being able to alter the temperature and pressure of a given room, using your own plasmids to stay safe within extreme heat that would kill your enemies. Plasmids seemed to be a given from the beginning, but I would have enjoyed using a little clever tinkering with my surroundings as an offensive tactic. Or really, just having more than one offensive tactic to choose from would have been nice. BioShock's pretty, but really rather straightforward in terms of gameplay. It sounds like there were more options on the table to begin with that got taken off in favor of a more complex story and aesthetic. 

The twist in the game (which I won't spoil for the uninitiated) did seem to be in the plans from the beginning. The first look even name drops Fight Club as an example of a similar plot. Maybe the reveal was even more intense at first--I guess we'll never know. In any case, it's neat to see these archives preserved on gaming news sites. I'm sure there are pages on the beginning stages of other games as well. The internet's a nifty thing when it acts as a permanent public news archives, especially for us nerds who like to trace the lineage of our favorite gaming experiences.