2k’s new studio, Cloud Chamber, is staffing up for the return of Bioshock. They are the newly formed developer tasked with delivering the next entry in the legendary franchise. They still have several job listings for key roles indicating they are not far along in development, but the listings do provide hints at the lofty goals the game designers are aiming for. Here are a few ideas of what to expect when the series returns.
Experience with Unreal Engine 4 is specifically requested indicating it is being developed for it or the newer Unreal Engine 5. The original titles in the series were landmark cases that showcased the advanced technological power of Unreal Engine 3 and it will be interesting to see if the latest title will live up to the trend established by the early entries to be another showcase for the Unreal Engine. Roles available include senior cinematic artist, requiring incredible talent and precision the developer’s benchmark of artistry referenced is Wes Anderson.
The director is known to have striking cinematography emphasizing his films’ beautiful art style. Bioshock famously began with a bathysphere tour ride across the city of Rapture showing the player a gorgeous view of the city. The latest project will seemingly maintain that pillar of beautiful cinematography if they fill the position with someone capable of showing their world with Wes Anderson’s level of talent. What world this team will be bringing to life is unclear and most likely will not be one previously seen from the franchise. The Cloud Chamber Website asks for help in bringing “ a new and fantastical world to life” indicating another setting shift from Rapture or Colombia.
What is more interesting about this position is the mention of creating and implementing systemic cinematic sequences. The original Bioshock had different endings depending on whether the player spared the little sisters they encountered or devoured them to extract the most amount of valuable currency from them. With the original game having meaningful consequences depending of the player’s actions it makes sense that this project has the potential to expand on the original’s ideas with difficult decisions, testing the player’s morality. Another job listing for principal combat designer emphasized being able to accommodate various playstyles that go beyond direct conflict.
The description continued to detail how encounters should be open ended and solved with player creativity. These descriptions are incredible news as to the direction of the series. Bioshock had always been heavily inspired by immersive sims but remained mostly as a shooter. When that sentiment was doubled down on in Bioshock: Infinite, the fan reception was palpable, leaving many fans dissatisfied with it’s gameplay structure. With this title the wording on descriptions of key positions leaves many hints at another huge shift for the series and leaves potential for the first immersive sim in the Bioshock universe. An emphasis on accommodating different play styles as well as systemic feedback to player’s actions through a breathing and reacting world could set the stage for one of the greatest immersive sims and Bioshock games ever.
The principal staple of Bioshock was the interactivity players had when given superpowers and a whole, gorgeous underwater metropolis filled with challenges to overcome and mysteries to unravel. Creativity in Bioshock was effortless because of all the ways the world could react to your powers. Frozen- over doorways could be unjammed by setting them on fire, grenades could be thrown back at enemies with telekinesis, and powerful mini bosses could be persuaded to fight for you.
The interactivity plasmids offered players opened Rapture up with the potential that no two people would have the same experience or tackle obstacles identically. I’m relieved to see the new project is maintaining an emphasis on encounters overcome by players’ ingenuity. With the groundwork for the plasmids laid in the first three games, it will be interesting to see how far playstyles are supported and which new plasmids will enhance them. Imagine the potential of a non- lethal stealth playthrough and the ramifications of that. Taking the principles that worked from the original three games and focusing on refining those elements may prove to produce one of the most fascinating titles of the next generation.
The wording of every sentence on the website reaffirms this developer is incredibly passionate about bringing the aspects of the original trilogy that resonated with people into a new generation, so seeing another take of a civilization built in spite of society from these developers may be as profound as the titles that inspired them.