BioShock Postmortem

Gamasutra has begun publishing “notable Game Developer magazine postmortems” online, with the first one focusing on BioShock.

We had many drafts of the story over the course of development, but the final draft turned out to be an almost complete rewrite. To make matters worse, we failed to fully exercise the narrative production path in early versions, so once the final draft was complete and recorded, many implementation and pipeline problems appeared for the first time that should have been caught and resolved earlier.

The core issue was that a giant pile of content came online well past beta, and the team had to scramble to get that content correctly installed while also fixing bugs. Competing demands for time and resources meant that, unfortunately, some of the important narrative details of the game weren’t created until the final rewrite, and therefore required quite a bit of work to retrofit them into an existing game.

To add to our woes, the first focus test feedback on the narrator’s voice came back extremely negative. People found the character extremely off-putting, so we recast the part at the last possible moment. On the positive side, this allowed us to refine several areas of the game (including the intro sequence) to ensure that the player knew what to do at the right time. On the other hand, it was difficult to get all the content in, debugged, and polished in the remaining timeframe.

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