It can't be easy to follow in the footsteps of Ken Levine. That sharp, manly beard, for example. I would.
With that said, 2K Marin's Jordan Thomas makes a good fist of it, and we'll be eternally impressed by his decision to rock up to this month's BioShock 2 hands-on event wearing a jacket inspired by The Prisoner. "I had to look like a splicer, you know? To the extent that I could. I don't actually have a straw boater than I can wield as of yet, but I'm going to hook that up for the next time."
A good move, since he's the creative director on the game the splicers call home, and the man we have to thank for new bad-woman Dr Sophia Lamb, the Big Sisters, and plenty more you can read about in today's in-depth hands-on preview. When we weren't playing the game, we were talking to Thomas about it, and here's what was said.
Eurogamer: BioShock 1 was you in the midst of this battle between a staunch ideologue in Ryan and the opportunistic looter in Frank Fontaine, and you only really came to appreciate you were a component of that battle at a particular point. Is that the kind of dynamic you want to replicate in BioShock 2?
Jordan Thomas: Well, our new villain, Dr Sophia Lamb, is a clinical psychiatrist and a staunch altruist. She believes we all owe our every effort over our own interests, and she has allowed that philosophy to turn her into a sort of monstrous dictator - specifically, in her mind, in the promotion of the greater good.
The player is an individual, the ultimate individual; he is a free Big Daddy, one of these armoured bodyguards from the first game that has for some reason had his mind broken loose of the conditioning, and that makes him a very powerful threat to her. And so she really is kind of the player's opposite in many ways, and she finds him very frustrating in that regard.
Beyond that, the story character who guides you through much of the story, Augustus Sinclair, is - while not necessarily as brutal as Fontaine, he never intended to take the city - he is self-interest incarnate. He is the kind of guy who will play absolutely any side against the middle. So there is ideological tension between all the major parties in the story of BioShock 2.
Eurogamer: It sounds like Sophia's the sort of character who would have made Ayn Rand's blood boil, so--
Jordan Thomas: --Oh ho, absolutely. Look, both Andrew Ryan and Ayn Rand left Russia specifically to get away from the kind of ideas Sophia Lamb bubbled right up out of, and so Andrew Ryan would be sick on his thousand-dollar loafers to see what's been done with Rapture.
Eurogamer: One of the things about the first game was that although it was in some senses an indictment of objectivism, it portrayed Ryan sympathetically as well. Is that the kind of treatment you give Sophia, or are you kind of with Ryan on this one?
Jordan Thomas: I have to tell you, I find sympathetic villains far more interesting as a writer and as a player, and so Sophia Lamb... I hope the player sees her point half the time. I think, you know, Rapture is the place where good ideas go bad, and you're supposed to start going, "You know, she's kinda right," and by the end be like, "Ah, ah lady, aaaaah, you did that in the name of the greater good? Ouch." And so my hope is that the player kind of decides where they fall on that continuum.
We don't... BioShock is a game that doesn't judge. We put you in a place of new moral context and say, "What do you think?" And so over the course of the game I hope the player realises he or she's being handed the reins of authorship.
Eurogamer: The first game was still kind of in the... although the city was in chaos, Ryan was still there, so there was still the sense of no contact with the outside world and all the rest of it. I wondered about what's actually going on in the outside world. In Atlas Shrugged, obviously, everybody went on strike and went to Galt's Gulch, and the world fell apart. Is that what you imagine is happening outside Rapture?
Jordan Thomas: Weeell [grins], so I'm not going to spoil what's going on outside Rapture, because it's involved with the story of the game, but I will say both Sophia Lamb and Andrew Ryan strongly believe that the world is ending up there.
Lamb was a missionary working to provide medial relief at Hiroshima, and everybody that she knew, basically, for the last two years, turned into shadows on the wall, so she came out and miraculously survived - this is based on a real historical incident, which I've added an additional party to - and she said, "This world is doomed. That was not the greater good, what they just did. They didn't account for the role of time." And so down she came to Rapture hoping to escape the madness of the surface.
Eurogamer: Why do the people we've seen today deify the Little Sister, Eleanor, the one that you're seeking?
Jordan Thomas: Hehehe. That I absolutely will not spoil! Suffice to say, [she's] the player's only real personal connection in the world of Rapture - after the fall, after 10 years have passed, he is a man out of time, he comes from Rapture's history - and 10 years later he's wondering, "What have they done to the place, and where has she gone?"
And so he's crossing the city to find her, and he finds out that her story is layered very heavily with the story of Rapture. Beyond that, I don't want to spoil for you, because that's basically the game.
Eurogamer: Okay, but one more thing on Eleanor. She must be in her, I guess, early teens now, or something like that... But obviously Jack had the kind of acceleration growth thing going on...
Jordan Thomas: Indeed he did.
Eurogamer: Actually, I don't even want to ask you about that. How are the splicers still alive? I mean, don't they need to eat or something?
Jordan Thomas: The splicers are scavenging from all over the place. A lot of the collectables the player will find are non-perishable, which the splicers have collected. Also, Sinclair, opportunist that he is, was sitting on a pretty hefty stockpile, and before Sophia Lamb took power his stockpile was distributed into the vending machines, and the splicers have been killing each other for half a sardine ever since.