A Big Sister
GamePro: Presumably, BioShock 2 is by far the biggest game you've worked on. Has the experience been any different to previous jobs?
Alex: Yes. Previously, I would have to look after everything in a level: how it looks and how it plays. At 2K Australia, I've been working with level architects, which frees me up to take care of the gameplay experience. So there's a lot more collaboration involved when it comes to level layouts, and so on.
GP: Are you gamers yourselves? What are some of your favourite titles?
Alex: Yes! I've spent way too many hours on Unreal Tournament. I used to be heavily involved in clan matches and competitive gaming. We still have massive sessions of Team Fortress 2 in the office every Tuesday night. I'm mostly an FPS fan, I guess you could say. Apart from Unreal Tournament and Team Fortress, I mainly stick to single-player games.
Anthony: I don't have a lot of free time these days, so I'd probably describe myself as a casual gamer. I enjoy action titles and recently played through Wet, which was a lot of fun. I also have a daughter, and we play Wii together. The Wii is a great console for parents, because it caters to both young kids and adults.
GP: What's the best thing about your job?
Alex: The best thing about the job is working with people who are as passionate as me about creating very interesting games. I didn't work on BioShock 1, but I played it. So I came on board this project as a fan. That's probably the best part of my job: I'm making a game I want to make.
Anthony: Working with really talented people makes my day. It's also great to have a hand in creating something that you can be proud of. Being able to work on BioShock 2 has been absolutely fantastic.
GP: And the worst?
Alex: Hmm, I can't think of anything I hate. We don't even have to work intensive hours, like at some places. I think the most I ever had to work was 16 hours, which was just before the content plug [the deadline after which nothing new can be added to a game].
Anthony: We like to send [our employees] home. We'd prefer it if they can come back to work the next day!
GP: Okay, let's talk about BioShock 2. Can you tell us how the level design will differ from the first game?
Alex: I think the main difference is the height variation in levels. We tried to add more of a vertical component to the level design. Because you can fight the Big Sister pretty much anywhere in a level, we also had to make sure that every area was suitable for combat. This also goes for all the other AI types. We've also tried to make the levels circular in nature in an attempt to avoid dead-ends. There has to be more than one way into every room — otherwise the player might get stuck fighting a Big Daddy in a small room.
Anthony: There are also far more combat choices in the game compared to BioShock 1, which obviously affects the level design.
Alex: Yes, and of course, you don't have to fight a Big Daddy if you don't want to. It's up to the player to choose the best terrain, which they can prepare with traps beforehand.
GP: In the new game, you play as a Big Daddy, who is presumably a lot bigger than the average video game protagonist. Has this had an effect on the level design?
Alex: Not too much. Scale has always been slightly askew in the BioShock universe. Like, in the first game, the Little Sisters were bigger than they would be in real-life so they could interact with the Big Daddies. BioShock 2 is quite similar in the way it addresses a sense of scale.