Tuesday, October 26th, 2021

2K wanted BioShock over the phone, this is how one development team did it

In the mid-to-late 2000s, there was a particularly common tendency to extend the reach of the game by porting to as many platforms as possible, regardless of whether the platform was appropriate. Games such as Need for Speed: Most Wanted, 007: Quantum of Solace, and Cars 2 were released on consoles and PCs, as expected, but downgrades or significantly different versions of handhelds such as the PSP and Nintendo DS hit. Did. , And even mobile phones.

This trend has hit many major console and PC games of the era. Perhaps most surprisingly, the acclaimed first-person adventure BioShock BioShock 3D.. There is a tendency to shake off handheld or mobile versions of console games like BioShock, but their mobile development is a fascinating example of working into such an adaptation.according to Tridev, developer BioShock3D, which told IGN about its creation, has technical, creative, and bureaucratic challenges that show the difficulty of running triple-A games on phones that can barely play brickbreakers. Many were included.

No, this is neither a mobile port of BioShock nor a notorious one Bioshock game announced exclusively for PS Vita At Sony’s 2011 E3 press conference Will not be officially canceled (But it was absolutely canceled). This was a remake of the first Bioshock game designed to run on Javascript-enabled foldable phones, and its developers weren’t originally intended to be one of the game’s most beloved stories. It gave us a glimpse of what it would bring to the platform.

Expectations and reality

The first challenge faced by then-Tridev studio manager Vijay Venkatramani was deciding whether to compare the actual scope of BioShock 3D with the original game.

“This was difficult given all the restrictions we had to tackle at the time,” he said. “In the end, we decided to split the game into two parts so that people wouldn’t procrastinate due to longer download times. Download speed [at the time] late. The second reason was production time.During development [began] I was told that it would take six months to bring something to market. A terrifying deadline for such a big project.Will spend a lot of time diversion of tools from [Predator: The Duel 3D, the game that proved the team’s technical expertise and landed them the BioShock 3D project] Then adapt them to Bioshock’s gameplay. So there was no way to make the whole game happen. [as one product].. “

Tridev had a wealth of mobile experiences from trying such feats on such a short timeline, but nevertheless built BioShock 3D from scratch and to the great expectations that come from receiving the original beloved. I had to deal with it.

“One of the challenges was to scale the game to fit the clumsy phones of the time,” recalls BioShock 3D producer Arjun Nair. “2K Games has assigned external producers to work with us to ensure that the final game meets the expectations of BioShock games. They are from the console background and the reality of working on mobile phones. Coming and initially led to a lot of friction. They wanted a literal port of the game, but if they wanted to publish the game over the phone, they reduced not only art, but also some elements of the game. We knew we needed to.

It is important to note that we did not get any code or technical design documentation from. [2K] -We had to design and write everything technical from scratch. The initial expectation from management was to implement a “quick” mobile port within six months. The actual game took a year to complete and ship. Doing all this in a year is frankly amazing and a testament to the skills and motivation of everyone on the team (design, art, code). [and] QA. “

Learn how to kill a 2K loved one

Designing and rebuilding such a beloved game from scratch for less powerful machines is not a small task in itself. However, according to the Tridev developers, Tridev continued to struggle with 2K over scope issues even after deciding to split it into two parts. One of the biggest points of controversy was how to reduce some levels that the team considered not essential to the mobile version, such as Arcadia and Return to Arcadia.

BioShock3D Lead Designer Poornima Seetharaman said: “Initially, the 2K team didn’t support it. I insisted on chatting with them and explaining the reason behind it-it worked and we reduced some levels. I was able to do it. “

BioShock 3D screenshot

The phones at the time (some of the most popular were the iPhone 4 and HTC Desire) didn’t have the memory or graphics processing power to provide a direct port for BioShock, so the team used clever tricks to do it. Did. It goes without saying that everything goes smoothly.

“Large maps were literally rendered as semi-voxel maps,” explained Venkatramani. “If you were looking at a big floor, it was [actually] Only one polygon asset tiled to create the entire floor. The only perceived variations were clever tiling and UV mapping. Most of that poly / texture budget was occupied by all characters, so we couldn’t use very large assets for the level. We had to constantly fight to boost the resource budget for each part of each level. ”

“”[It took] Some math to make it all happen, “Nair added.

Tridev eventually received the original game design document from 2K, but couldn’t use the high poly model because the phone doesn’t have a GPU.

“If you were looking at a big floor, it was [actually] There is only one polygon asset that is tiled to create the entire floor. “


“We needed to intelligently reduce the level so that it fits in memory while preserving flavor and identity,” says Nair.

And despite all these technical hurdles, partial BioShock 3D playthrough on Youtube We’ll show you not only how different the mobile version looks, but also how faithfully it captures the essence of the original. That clear awe for the BioShock world came from the study of the console version, so intense Venkatramani said he was eventually fed up with it.

“We bought the Xbox 360, got the game, took over one of the conference rooms, and made it the game’s Ruhem, the lab,” he said. “Then I played every aspect of the game over and over again until I thanked every nuance. We were tired of it. Personally, I didn’t play the subsequent BioShock games.”

“I had to play BioShock many times, take notes, photos, videos and get a complete breakdown. I don’t think I had any time to sit down and enjoy the game,” Seetharaman said.

The sound of the sea

After the overall scope of BioShock 3D has been determined and the team knows the original BioShock from Arcadia to Point Prometheus and everywhere in between, it is necessary to tackle the challenge of extracting the mechanics and mood of console games to mobile phones. had. Critics and players alike welcomed BioShock for the deep immersion players they experienced while exploring the underwater city of Rupture. The sound of squeaking walls and the sound of water droplets were key factors, but most of the original BioShock audio files were too large for the limited memory and storage space available on older phones. The team worked to convey the kind of information that the original sound did without consuming huge amounts of valuable memory, so making a tough decision to adapt BioShock to mobile foam. did not.

“Console games had great spatial audio to help you find enemies in your level,” says Nair. “In contrast, our game had to be done with very little audio. We couldn’t find the enemy using audio, so we used a visual indicator to do it. I decided to tell the player where he came from. “

“I wish I could narrow down more sounds to immerse myself, but I had to make a tough call,” added Benkata Ramani.

Further sound-related cuts included converting BioShock’s beloved audio diary to a text-based version, and it wasn’t the only adjustment to key story elements.

“Some important rivals have been transformed into 2D cutscenes rather than interactive,” says Seetharaman. “We have worked extensively with our tech team to perform trigger-based entire levels and spawn enemies. [and] Doors open and close depending on the player’s position-not only because of the surprise element [performance] Similarly. “

Not only do you need to convert cutscenes into slideshows (such as converting iconic bathysphere descents into ruptures), but you can also adapt many of the original individual elements to the limited functionality of mobile phones of the time. I had to adjust. By limiting the amount of levels that can be displayed at one time, the team was able to bring the levels as close to the original level as possible.

“I wish I could narrow down more sounds to immerse myself, but I had to do a lot of work.”


“All the doors in the game were opaque, unlike the original doors,” says Seetharaman. [they] It didn’t exist originally, so I didn’t have to render the entire level. The implementation of the overall level of design was a great effort from art, technology, and design. “

It was not enough to improve the level so that the phone could handle it. Tridev needed to allow people to comfortably play levels on a variety of devices.

“The phones we were targeting at the time weren’t fragmented just by screen size, processing power, and memory specifications. [but also] We had to map different control schemes to different devices, “said Venkatramani. “At the time, all had buttons, and some of their configurations weren’t standard. Also, every device had its own memory management and rendering issues. It handles most of these considerations. To that end, we built our own in-house engine, ICE3D. “

“I enabled automatic aiming because it was difficult to move accurately and aim with various mobile controls. I couldn’t even reduce or remove the machine gun kickback. [helped]”Seetharaman said.

What 2K wanted from BioShock 3D wasn’t possible at the time. Everyone at Tridev knew it. Their mobile port was never an exact replica of the original, but the team made the smart and necessary cuts to bring the most authentic version of BioShock to their phones. Despite some creative and corporate conflicts, Seetharaman, Nair, Venkatramani, and other members of the Tridev team have succeeded in quickly developing BioShock 3D from scratch, delivering the games they have achieved. I’m proud.

“Looking back at what we had to do at the time, it’s hard to believe we stopped it,” Bencataramani said. “I’m glad it’s over, but I have memories of that time. At that time, I did some of the best game development work and made very good friends in the process.”

“This is one of the best in my career and will always be,” Seetharaman said. “The team worked hard on this, and it was hard, but it allowed us all to level up much faster in our career! We’re all about it Amazingly proud! I think we wanted to save it better and realize the innovations we made. At that time, it was just our job.

“At that time, I think we were at the best of our creativity and came up with a unique solution to address these limitations.

Issy van der Velde is a freelance writer for IGN.