IG Fun explains how it brought the crumbling opulence of BioShock to mobile

BioShock dev on atmosphere, mature ratings and 3D versions

IG Fun explains how it brought the crumbling opulence of BioShock to mobile
| BioShock (2D)

As big fans of the graphically extravagant PC and console action-adventure game BioShock, we’re amazed at how faithful to the source material the 2D mobile version has turned out to be.

Developer IG Fun has used all of its knowhow to cram the dingy corridors, gripping diary entries and open-ended action into the palm of your hand - albeit in a streamlined form.

We decided to quiz Executive Producer Hrishi Oberoi on how the conversion process went, what compromises had to be reached and what hope we can have of seeing the impressive-looking 3D version on high-end handsets.

Pocket Gamer: The console version of BioShock remains a benchmark game in terms of graphics and art style. What was the thought process behind bringing it to the technically limited mobile platform?

Hrishi Oberoi: Initially it was a huge task for us to think about this from a mobile perspective. One of our biggest challenges was the visualisation of the BioShock world in a two dimensional perspective. This seemed to be an unimaginable task, but we believe we have gotten it right.

We got our heads together and started thinking about what made the art of BioShock special and we tried to replicate that as much as possible on the technically limited mobile phone.

What we realised was that the art style of BioShock was special because of the artistic choices that the original game developers made and not always for technical reasons.

We tried to stick to the 1950s and 60s, art deco style as much as possible, keeping the little curves and lines that define that style in place so that it doesn’t get lost to the player.

Also, we didn’t want the player to forget that this city is built underwater and to showcase this we’ve created some selective scenes which highlight just that by actually showing the underwater city all around the player’s character.

Along with this we’ve also tried to make as much use of water as we can by providing leaks and cracks which formed puddles of water all over the place. Finally, the sense that the city of ‘Rapture’ is crumbling is also made very evident with the layout of the props and the destruction that is evident all throughout the gameworld.

The original game presents an incredibly atmospheric and cohesive world. How did you tackle the challenge of replicating that atmosphere for the mobile version?

The atmosphere was very important to give the look and feel of BioShock. We wanted the art to convey a sense of dread, like it did in the original game. It was important for us to create dark and light areas to give this feeling of creepiness through the game.

To do this we had to make sure we used shadows effectively in the world and we played around a lot with various combinations of sharper and softer shadows. In certain situations we have tried to replicate the dynamic lighting as well to build up on the atmosphere.

We were also trying to give the player the general feeling of being trapped in this underwater city at all times, so we gave a claustrophobic kind of feeling by creating stark black areas to represent the outside world closing in on the city along with little leaks and cracks in the walls from where the water would leak into the city.

Also an important factor in creating the atmosphere was the use of sound and we wanted to make sure that we used the sound effects effectively by placing them in all the strategic points of the game.

The quality and variety of sounds that we have used in this game has far exceeded anything that we have worked on before.

Another thing BioShock is renowned for is its strong storyline. How have you managed to bring that across?

Obviously we had to cut the storyline down from the original game but we tried to maintain as much of it as we could. We worked very closely with 2K and the original producers to make sure we did complete justice not only to the original storyline but also to the narrative.

A lot of original Audio Diaries were kept in the mobile version and so were a lot of the original Radio Messages. The timing of the emergence of the Radio Messages and the strategic placements of the Audio Diaries were key in both the story as well as in the storytelling.

Both of these media help in conveying the story to the player very well and the player can also re-visit these if he has missed out any key bits of information.

Of course, even after the edits, we still could not get the complete storyline into one single mobile game so we split it into three parts, telling the story of BioShock in three separate chapters.

How much of a challenge was it bringing a mature, 18+ game across to a wider audience? Is it still possible to harvest Adam from the little sisters, for example?

It’s always a challenge to act as a mature censor, especially if you are so heavily invested in the project like we were. Nevertheless, the cuts had to be done in order to bring the mature content to the wider mobile gaming audience.

The cuts do vary from territory to territory because of the type of content that is allowed in different regions, but overall we’ve tried to maintain as much of the original content as possible so yes, you can harvest Adam from little sisters and this is very pivotal to the gameplay in general.

The areas where we did have to improvise was the gore content in the art, which we did bring down a notch from the original game; and the language, which was altered in certain places so that it could meet approval standards.

Luckily this did not involve any rewrites, since the writing of the original game is so brilliant as it is.

Were you able to replicate that open ended approach to situations that the original had, that sense of experimentation with a toolset?

Oh yes! This was also another very important factor to retain in the mobile game. The toolset that is available to the player on the mobile phone eventually does grow quite extensively, so the ability to experiment is very much there.

In fact, I can tell you now that this just keeps getting better and better as you go from Chapter 1 to Chapters 2 and 3.

Just like in the console version, there are various methods of fighting the splicers and the Big Daddies and it is a lot of fun trying new ways to fight them.

This game actually does give you the opportunity to go back and try something different in your method of fighting and the result will also feel different.

Are there plans to bring the 3D version to any high-end mobile platforms, such as N-Gage or Symbian?

Yes, we will definitely be looking to get the 3D version on as many platforms as we can and the surge of smart phones in the last couple of years will help us to penetrate this larger audience as well.

Details are emerging of the console sequel – any plans for BioShock 2 on mobile?

It’s too early to say as of now.

Oh well - worth a try. Thanks to Hrishi Oberoi for taking the time to talk to us.
Jon Mundy
Jon Mundy
Jon is a consummate expert in adventure, action, and sports games. Which is just as well, as in real life he's timid, lazy, and unfit. It's amazing how these things even themselves out.