Note: Bioshock 2 boxart // Star full // Star full
2K Boston and Irrational Games produced BioShock to critical and commercial acclaim. Several ex-BioShock developers moved to 2K Marin, a new Bay Area studio parent company Take-Two Interactive formed in late 2007. 2K Marin started on BioShock 2 with a core team of eight in November 2007, adding 78 additional personnel at peak development.
Jordan Thomas, BioShock 2's creative director, said that the first concern with a sequel to BioShock was "where do you go with this? How do you bring people back to an experience and terrify them and shock them in a way that they’re not expecting, but also fulfill the many expectations they’re projecting onto it?" Early on, Thomas decided that it couldn't be a BioShock game without the city of Rapture, and that there were many unseen locations and untold stories that could remained with the setting. The developers wanted to bring some of the mystery back to the location of Rapture, and maintain a balance of surprising old players while introducing the setting to newcomers. Thomas and environmental artist Hogarth De La Plante agreed that the setting of Rapture was fertile ground for new ideas, and that as they were both veterans of the original game, they were excited to add never-before-seen parts of the city and push the artistic style they had developed. "Any idea was out on the table at that point, and I think nobody has played BioShock more than the developers that made it, so I feel like in one respect we are a pretty good litmus test for whether it’s still an interesting place or not," La Plante recalled. "And if that doesn’t bore us and we’re the people that played it for thousands upon thousands of hours, then I think we have a pretty good perspective on how interesting that location really is."
Each game level was devised by a team comprised on an environmental artist and level designer working collaboratively, as opposed to a workflow where the level was designed and then handed over to art teams to be detailed. Level designer Steve Gaynor recalled that by involving the level designer, they could make sure that gameplay spaces still felt like functional, real spaces, making sure that the Rapture of BioShock 2 still felt like a living, breathing world.
Among the goals of BioShock 2's developers was to capitalize or improve aspects of the first game that were received less positively. One such element was the Pipe Mania-inspired hacking minigame. Thomas said that even players who enjoyed the minigames became "numb" to it after repetition; the replacement of the mini game with hacking that didn't allow you to pause the game added more urgency to the gameplay. Another aspect was the choice to harvest or save Little Sisters; by allowing players to adopt the Little Sisters before deciding their fate, Thomas hoped it would help players form a bond with the characters and think about their choice. Among the other goals the developers had for the sequel was adding more unspliced characters and give players a greater chance to make decisions that impacted the course of the game. "You make decisions about their fate as well, all of which play into the way the story ends," Thomas said. "There's definitely more granularity and dynamism in the narrative of BioShock 2." The game uses Unreal Engine 2.5.
Assisting 2K Marin were artists from 2K Australia, 2K China, Digital Extremes, and Arkane Studios. Character modeler Brendan George recalled that the modelers would have to think about how the concept art would be animated, not directly copying from the concept art to avoid animation issues and the uncanny valley. Character concept artist Colin Fix recalled that while the teams researched the time period for era-appropriate influences, costumes would need regular adjustment. "[The artists] had an earlier version of Stanley with a swanky Hawaiian shirt that was in the time period, but felt out of place in Rapture. It felt really modern even though it wasn't."
Fix described the splicers as originally perfect J. C. Leyendecker and Norman Rockwell figures, but "totally distorted." Starting with the recognizably human silhouettes of the splicers established in BioShock, the artists decided to push into more varied forms. Early concepts had parasite-covered splicers or air sacs, along with translucent, bioluminescent skin, but finding that these "human blobs" did not instill a sense of sadness in the player, the artists moved back to more conventional forms.
To create the multiplayer characters of pre-fall Rapture, Digital Extremes developed more than 26 character concepts, which were then narrowed down to a few archetypes that would represent a cross-section of the Rapture population.
The Big Sister was, according to animation supervisor Jeff Weir, the first thing Jordan Thomas talked about to the animators when they arrived at 2K Marin. The character challenged the team to convey her backstory and personality through the design. Fix started with descriptive words on a page, moving to thumbnails and silhouette concepts. Early inspiration for the character's design included racing dogs, and the idea of a character that carries itself in a restrained way until it explodes in action. "[We thought] of her as graceful and yet awkward at the same time, and that’s really the hard challenge that we had with her. Actually in terms of design, there were lots of fun things, like at one point she had a sort of 'Fallen Angel' feel to her, like broken wings," Weir recalled. Motion capture sessions were used for inspiration for the alternatingly awkward and fluid motion of the character, though none of it was used in the final product. In developing her visual design, the team tried to balance the design influence of the Big Daddies with a unique look. Soft design elements influenced by the story, like Little Sisters that would ride around in the Big Sister's cage and draw on her armor, were added to complement the harsh metal of the rest of the character.
The story received major changes over the course of development, with two of the most important relating to the player's character and the Big Sister. Initially there was only going to be one Big Sister who would continually hunt the player down throughout the course of the game and then retreat once she was defeated. This Big Sister was written as a Little Sister who, as she grew up on the surface, could not leave the memory of Rapture behind and eventually returned. The reason for the change, as explained by Zak McClendon, lead designer for 2K Marin, is "If you have a single character that the player knows they can't kill because they're so important to the story you're completely removing the triumph of overcoming that encounter with them." Jordan Thomas, the game's director, explains however, "The soul of the original Big Sister character still exists, but in the form of somebody you get to know over the course of the game." The other major change was that the player's character, Subject Delta, is no longer the first Big Daddy, but rather the fourth prototype. He is, however, the first to be successfully 'pair-bonded' to a single Little Sister.
Initially, media reports suggested that the subtitle, Sea Of Dreams, would accompany the second entry in the series. However, this subtitle was supposedly dropped, before 2K withdrew the statement, stating that the "Sea Of Dreams" subtitle would still be part of the full title. However, a later statement from 2K spokesman Charlie Sinhaseni clarified that the Sea Of Dreams title was for the trailer, and not for the game itself. The first appearance for BioShock 2 came in the form of a teaser trailer that was available in the PlayStation 3 version of the first game. The first major details on the gameplay and plot of the game were revealed in the April 2009 issue of Game Informer magazine, around the same time that the "viral" site "There's Something in the Sea" was revealed. This site documents a man named Mark Meltzer's investigation into the disappearances of girls from coastline areas around the Atlantic, along with a mysterious red light that accompanies each kidnapping. On April 9, 2009, on the Spike TV show GameTrailers TV with Geoff Keighley the first BioShock 2 gameplay video was shown featuring the Big Sister. This demo showed many features including the ability to walk under water.
Digital Extremes produced the multiplayer component of the game. In the multiplayer portion, players are put in a separate story where civil war has broken out in Rapture prior to the events of the first game. In the multiplayer mode, the player acts as a plasmid test subject for a company called Sinclair Solutions. As the player progresses through the multiplayer maps like Mercury Suites and Kashmir Restaurant they will either have the ability to hack turrets and vending machines or search for the Big Daddy suit.
Michael Kamper served as BioShock 2's Audio Lead; he joined 2K Marin to work on BioShock 2 after the closure of Electronic Arts Chicago. Only a single sound designer had worked on the previous BioShock's lauded sound, which Kamper called "intimidating"; "we were all basically coming into the project as fans of the first game." While Kamper collaborated with the leads for other facets of the game, he was given wide latitude to develop the sonic style of the game. Kamper, in turn, gave his team freedom to use whatever software they wanted to create and manipulate sounds, not wanting to limit their creativity.
"Certainly, the fact that the game was going to be set ten years after the first BioShock established the atmosphere of BioShock 2," he recalled. "I really wanted the ambience to sell the fact that Rapture was constantly falling apart around the player." In addition to lots of creaking and groaning sounds to accentuate the setting's disrepair, Kamper and the audio team added non-diegetic sounds that grow in frequency the closer the player gets to the end of the game to convey the mounting insanity of the Splicers. The Big Sister's sound effects were created by layering sounds from birds, hyenas, and Kamper's wife doing impressions of a dolphin. The audio team spent a great deal of time on immersing the player in their role of a Big Daddy through the audio—everything from the sound of the footsteps to the sounds for impacts and water drips on the player's armor was used to sell the player on who their character was. Audio programmer Guy Somberg created a background sound system that allowed the team to layer stereo sounds together depending on the player's location, combined with mono sound effects for certain areas. "This allowed us to quickly iterate on our ambiences and implement them into the levels with ease, and helped create the randomness I was looking for in the background effects," Kamper recalled. Multiplayer sounds were handled by Digital Extremes, who along with Kamper's team had to make sure their sounds cohered not only with each other's work, but with the sounds of the first game.
Garry Schyman reprised his role as BioShock's composer to create the score for BioShock 2. He wrote that "scoring a sequel to a major hit game is always a challenge," and the praise his BioShock score received made things even more difficult. He decided to retain some elements and motifs from the first game—use of the solo violin, and compositional techniques common in the mid-20th century setting—while creating "something uniquely different". "BioShock 2 was easier in the sense that the style had been established and I didn't have to reinvent the wheel," Schyman noted. "So it was just delightful work creating that score. Which in some respects surpasses my original in my opinion." Among the elements the developers tried to improve on from the first game was adding more pieces of music for the combat sequences in each level.
Once the game's tone and style was established, Schyman worked off specific requests from the audio director for individual pieces of music. Kamper recalled that "[Schyman] really, really did a wonderful job" with molding the music to fit Kamper and Thomas' intended mood and tones; the results, such as the music for the Pauper's Drop level, being different from anything else in the first game. To test how the music worked for each part of the game, Kamper would send Schyman video footage of the game, which would then be appraised with the new score to see how well it fit. Kamper split some of Schyman's tracks to use as leitmotivs; the opening track of Eleanor and Delta together was split in later renditions, using the deeper cello for Delta's and the violin for Eleanor. The score was recorded with a 60-piece ensemble of the Hollywood Studio Symphony at Capitol Studios.
In addition to the original music, BioShock 2 makes extensive use of licensed music from the time period. "Similar to the first game, we tried really hard to instill a sense of thematic cogency with our picks that the message that is coming through the licensed tracks," Thomas said, adding that blues and religious music were important to the sequel's themes, and that while the first game had used more commercial pop music, they wanted a broader range. Music from BioShock was used in the multiplayer portion of BioShock 2 to help connect it back to the time period of the first game.
BioShock 2 was released on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms on February 9, 2010. A Special Edition of the game was announced on November 19, 2009. This edition, which was limited to a single production run, contains the game along with three posters featuring fictional advertisements from Rapture that reveal hidden messages under a black light, the orchestral score from the game on CD, the orchestral score from the original BioShock on a vinyl 180g LP, and a hardbound, 164-page art book. It is packaged in a 13 by 13 in (33 by 33 cm) case with special art on both the slipcase and the box cover.
A smaller limited edition, titled BioShock 2 Rapture Edition, was officially announced on December 2, 2009. Its contents are the game and a smaller, 96-page art book, packaged together in a special slipcover. As with the Special Edition, the Rapture Edition was limited to a single production run. The BioShock 2 Rapture Edition is available in Europe, New Zealand and Australia, in addition to the BioShock 2 Special Edition.
In its first week of release, BioShock 2 was the best-selling Xbox 360 game in the UK and North America. In the U.S., NPD recorded it as the top selling game of February with 562,900 units sold on the Xbox 360, and 190,500 on the PS3. Gamasutra state a possible reason for the Xbox 360's greater sales was the original BioShock's 14-month exclusivity on the platform. It also managed to hold both the first and second positions on the Steam release charts. In its first month of release, BioShock 2 was number 1 in sales for the Xbox 360 and number 12 for the PlayStation 3.
By March 2010, BioShock 2 sold 3 million copies across all platforms, close to the original BioShock's 4 million lifetime sales at the time. In an earnings call, Take-Two's Chief Financial Officer noted that the game had "lower than expected" sales, adding "sales slowed down sooner than we expected." Prior to the game's release, the chairman of Take-Two, Strauss Zelnick stated that he expected the game to sell 5 million copies across all platforms.
BioShock 2 was supported post-launch with patches and technical fixes, as well as new downloadable content (DLC) for its single player and multiplayer modes. The first DLC, the Sinclair Solutions Test Pack, was released March 11, 2010, and added new player characters, cosmetics, and a level increase. This was followed on May 11 by the Rapture Metro Pack, which added six new maps and new achievements. Also released alongside the Rapture Metro Pack were additional characters and a new game mode.
With the closure of the Games for Windows – Live Marketplace, the PC version of BioShock 2 was patched in October 2013 to remove Games for Windows Live in favor of Steamworks support for matchmaking. In addition, Minerva's Den was released for free for players who owned BioShock 2 before the patch.
Released on August 3, "The Protector Trials Pack" is a single-player downloadable content which has the player defend Little Sisters against swarms of enemies in a variety of challenge rooms. The content contains six maps based on locations from the main game, alongside three difficulty levels, seven Achievements/Trophies, and new concept art and videos to unlock. This downloadable content was released for free on the PC on March 14, 2011.
Minerva's Den is a downloadable single-player campaign with a plot completely separate from that of the main campaign. The player assumes the role of Subject Sigma, another Alpha Series Big Daddy, as he travels through Minerva's Den, home to Rapture's Central Computing. The campaign adds three new levels (with around four hours of gameplay) and provides deeper insight into Rapture's inner workings. The add-on also features new weapons, a new plasmid as well as a new Big Daddy type. It was released August 31, 2010 for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Work on the PC version of this downloadable content was resumed on October 28, 2010. The DLC was released on PC on May 31, 2011.