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Bill Gardner is a lucky man, as the Irrational Games’ user experience specialist, he gets to help steer the direction of one of video games’ beloved franchises.  BioShock Infinite is layered with concepts and intricate background that more than ever threatens to implode under its own weight.  It is after all a first person shooter, Gardner sat down with us to discuss the balance of story and setting with the simple game-play objective of blowing off virtual heads.


Bill Gardner has been working with Ken Levine, creative director, co-founder of Irrational Games and figure head for the BioShock series for 11 years now, and has gotten to know him well; “We finish each other’s sentences,” says Gardner

“But we have different perspectives.” He continues. “Instead of design, I overlook the entire game and basically try to play the role of the ‘gamer’, keep as fresh as eyes as possible, provide feedback, reports and presentations to Ken and Rod [Fergusson, product director] and the team, suggestions on how to improve things.  So if people are getting lost, or the narrative isn’t quite making sense then we look at getting things changed.”

BioShock Infinite may appeal to a larger audience than normal for a FPS.  The team is aiming to make something successful but with a lot of art, story, setting and background contained within.

“Every part of BioShock Infinite, and really working at Irrational, we wear many different hats, with different perspectives.” explains Gardner “We make very deep rich games, but like you said, they do have different perspectives, with different ways to approach problems and solutions.  You look at the way you can customise your character with the gear that we have and the upgrades, and broad tool set that you have, there are so many ways to play, so I need to do a lot of role playing.”
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“The reason I am able to do that, I mean nobody is perfect at it, but I’ve been playing games all my life, as I am sure most of us have.  But I also sold a lot of games, I came from the land of Game Stop, so talking to a lot of customers, talking to gamers, actively participating in as much of the gaming community as I can, just trying to tap into as many different perspectives as possible. “

“I’m always observing, watching how people play and understanding what is appealing and what is not.”

There are layers of storytelling and a lot of subtlety in this game.  Players that just want to shoot people’s heads off could miss many of the details in their rush to get into the action.

“I think that is what is interesting though, out approach to narrative,” explains Gardner “our approach to storytelling is a little different from most games where they will lock you into a cut scene and say ‘hey!  Watch this, watch this,’ and so we’re much more inclined to let people discover the answers themselves, poke around corners and search the nooks and crannies to discover information.  But!  There’s also a balancing act, not everyone is going to want to do that, so the guy that is all about blowing heads off and all that thing, he is not going to absorb that stuff, so.  One of the trickiest parts of my job, and also at Irrational, is knowing what the core information is, and Ken is amazing at being able to sift through all of the vast amounts of data, information and history of the world that we have, and be able to say this is priority one, this is priority two, what’s the best way to get this across?, is it a voxaphone, is it a Kinetoscope, dialogue happening between characters in the street, is it Comstock coming in on his barge and declaring his latest decree.

With Infinite this time we have so many more narrative tools.  The two biggest deviations from Bioshock one and two is Booker and Elizabeth, conversations and watching them grow as characters and watching how they react to what is going on in the world.  It really is a different experience in that regard.”

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Mike Bantick

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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for iTWire.com, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.

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