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The Rules of Rapture

Posted: February 11, 2013 by neumann2013 in Uncategorized

Bioshock is more than just your average shooter because it throws a lot at you in terms of combat gameplay options.  In addition to the standard selection of weapons that I have encountered in my two hours of play, a melee weapon, in this a case wrench, pistol, shotgun and machine gun, you are also equipped with plasmids.  Plasmids are genetic enhancements that give the player special abilities like electrobolt and incinerate.  All of these combat options are bound by a set of rules and it is essential for the player to learn these rules in order to complete the game.

Bioshock does not layout all of the rules for the player to study at the start of the game instead understanding them is a process that takes place during gameplay.  In the opening of the game, the ground rules are laid and explained outright to the player.  The ground rules are the controls.  Right trigger and bumper for firing and switching standard weapons and left trigger and bumper for plasmids.  With the ground rules laid now it is time to learn the intricacies and options available to player. Dandy_dental_psa

In some cases the game will provide hints.  For instance in the opening level a hint pops up when you are using electrobolt encouraging you to shoot the water if enemies are submerged in it because water conducts electricity which kills the enemies quicker.  It is easy to miss the quick hint, but even so, discovering this will almost always happen naturally during play, it is a leaky underwater city after all.  Bioshock also gives the player an opportunity to test plasmids and learn the parameters soon acquiring them.  For instance, while in the Medical Pavilion you receive the telekinesis power up at Dandy Dentals.  After continuing on to the surgery wing the first enemies you encounter are three slicers on a balcony about you.  They start raining grenades down on your head which is the perfect opportunity to use the telekinesis power to catch them in mid air and shot them back at the enemy.  Video games use this technique of giving the player a structured opportunity to test out powers and weapons while continuing the story.


Each standard weapon has three ammunition types with varying effects.  For instance killing the first big daddy to finish Medical Pavilion level is much easier if you equip electric buckshot for your shotgun.  This rule is never explicitly stated but can be picked up through trial and error.  What this all adds up to is that there are a myriad of combat rules that the player can learn to complete the game efficiently.  The most interesting ones are not explicitly stated, but involve combining combat options in unique ways to make attacks more powerful.  Ultimately these options increase the player’s level of uncertainty.  This is important because it keeps the game interesting, by continuing to offer new experiences and not bogging the player down in repetitiveness.


The Bioshock Game Experience

Posted: February 8, 2013 by neumann2013 in Uncategorized
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I decided to play Bioshock for my game journal because back when it was released in 2007 I never got a chance to sit down and play through the whole story, so I figured this would be a good time to do it.  Bioshock is a game that rewards the player who really immerses oneself in the story and underwater artistic utopia of Rapture.  It is a beautifully designed first person shooter that not only submerges the player into an eerie underwater metropolis, but also sends you back time to early stages of the cold war.  The reason it was so well received is can be related to Brian Sutton-Smith’s philological process by which games are experienced.  Bioshock is a game that hits all of the marks when it comes to the five elements of a game experience.


The world of Rapture is as creepy as it is visually stunning.  From the moment you crash land into the Atlanic and begin exploring Rapture, it is impossible to stop scanning the game world, because everywhere you turn there are interesting details and locations.  The combination of artificially light, and a world engulfed by water makes for a beautiful game that is a pleasure to play and explore.

One aspect that really stood out during my short play through was the audio component.  The games sound, does an excellent job of bringing the under water world to life.  Whether it is the sound of gushing water, echoes or the clanking of a big daddy, they all contribute to the sense that the player is in an underwater world full of evil creatures.

Although the game world is beautiful and fun to just explore the player actually has to fight the creepers dwelling in the deep.  Sutton-Smith’s third element is motor response.  The combat in Bioshock is intuitive.  There are two ways to kill an enemy.  Right trigger fires traditional weapons like a wrench, handgun or machine gun, while the left trigger is for plasmids.  Plasmids are genetic enhancements that give the player a wide range of special abilities that like lightening and fire.  These combat options give the player a variety of attacks and keep the combat interesting.

Concentration is the next important element of the game experience.  In the depths of rapture there is no telling what creature lurks in the deep.  As the visuals and audio suck the player in, it is easy to get lost in the world of Rapture.  Whether you’re concentrated on killing the big daddy in the next room or tracking down Andrew Ryan and discovering his secrets, it is difficult to not concentrate on the game.

The final component is Perceptual Patterns of Learning.  As the number of plasmids in your arsenal increases, so does your ability to interact with the game world and deal different death blows to enemies.  The player is simultaneously learning the structure of Rapture itself and how different combinations of attacks can eliminate the enemy quicker.