Bioshock Infinite and “1999 Mode”

Having first developed the game System Shock 2 in 1999, the game developer Irrational Games is looking to “retro-fit” their newest  installment in the Bioshock franchise by implementing features of their first game.

The full article can be seen at this link.

The 1999 mode in Bioshock Infinite is intended to give more weight to player choices by emphasizing the permanence of which skills the player develops and which upgrades are chosen. Although this game play mechanic may not seem like such a big hurdle to overcome, the scarcity of resources such as ammo and money to buy upgrades forces players to choose a specific path; you cannot become a “jack-of-all-trades”.

Sacrificing the general readiness for a specific skill set, the 1999 mode forces players to conform to a method of play according to the choices they made early in the game. For example, if a player chooses to develop weapons use and upgrade the magnum specifically, it severely affects the ability to improve plasmid powers or even skill with another gun.

Due to the specific nature of the 1999 difficulty, players will often see a “game over” screen if they do not learn the proper way of playing the game that the developers intended for the player-specific path. On top of that? There’s no reverting the difficulty in this mode and the only way to go back is to restart the game under a different difficulty.

I get it. This mode was meant to be hard. But this also raises a couple questions. How can the player know which upgrades to choose that matches their future playing style without trial and error or even the luxury of failure? Have video games begun to coddle us too much? Bioshock Infinite looks like a promising buy if you’re looking for a game that’s willing to kick you while you’re down. And even if you’re not, it’ll be interesting to watch where this notion of “1999” takes us in future games.

BioShock Infinite – Taking us back to 1912 (when it’s released, that is)

A while ago, featured an article previewing the next BioShock game, which hits shelves sometime next year. I don’t think I have ever looked as forward to a game’s release as much as I am with Infinite. I loved the first BioShock; I couldn’t turn the game off for an entire week. I mean, the game is legit from head to toe: the sheer beauty of the graphics, the interactive environments, the morality system and how it functioned with the game play, the music, the propaganda playing over the radio, the incredible story of Rapture; of course, I appreciated all of these things in an instant.

But out of all these things, what captivated me the most, by far, was the setting of the game. I loved that it was set in a 1960s alternate universe and how well the era is captured in the city. Absolutely everything from the music to the decor of each room reflected the 1950s/1960s. At this point in the gaming industry, I love how well developers are able to recreate historical eras for the gamer to explore (Red Dead Redemption anyone?). Seeing a movie or reading a book that is set in the past is one thing. Exploring that past in a video game is quite another.

And this is why I am looking forward so much to playing Infinite. I can’t wait to see how the culture of the 1900s is going to be reflected in the floating city of Columbia. I absolutely can’t wait to see how the sentiment of the era is going to pervade the story and setting. The US is almost 100 years removed from 1912. It is so easy to get caught up with current events, forgetting about the things that once swept the nation. What was cool about the first game was its ideals and how it would introduce social and economic philosophy that represented the era. And it sounds like Infinite will be the same way, but it will be more about the period this time instead of a person. Ken Levine, one of the masterminds behind the series, sums up what the experience should be like:

We wouldn’t recognize America in 1880. America was an agricultural backwater. It was agrarian. It was not really a player in the world stage. We’d gone through the Civil War, where 620,000 Americans died. Think about that. That’s like today, if six million Americans were killed in a war. This was not a country interested in imperialism. But by 1900… we weren’t a small agrarian country anymore. We weren’t producing wheat and cattle — we were producing radios, motion pictures, cars. We were producing way more than we could consume. And you know what we needed? We needed markets. And we looked to the East, we looked to Asia, and we saw a great open path to all of Asia for us, and that was the Philippines. It had just thrown off the Spanish, and there was a lot of conflict about, ‘should we annex the Philippines?’ President McKinley… at first didn’t want to. He had been through the Civil War…He had seen what happens in war. And he thought about it a long time, and finally he made his decision… that decision is glossed over… ignored in most U.S. history books: We did annex the Philippines. This is the world Columbia enters into: The time when we took the Philippines. Where we killed [around] 1 million Filipinos…

I can’t wait to appreciate a past era of my country. And I am grateful I will be able to do so through a video game.