Research: Video Game Worlds – Bioshock

One of the great benefits the team have is that everyone has an area of expertise and interest that enhances the development of the world. As a long time video game fan, I find video games to be a fascinating interaction art form through environmental storytelling.

The idea of being about to wonder a world and pick up little details that tell a story about how things were or how they ended up with their current stage is something I find deeply exciting. The Bioshock series (the first game and spiritual successor Infinite) and built on the idea of parallel universes (without spoiling everything).

bioshock-rapture           games-breathtaking-bioshock-rapture-backgrounds-rapture


The world uses heavy stylised versions of 1960s Manhattan buildings, signs, posters and advertising to give it a vintage aesthetic. It’s use of subtle exaggeration adds a colourful energy to the world which makes it feel more alive.

The original game was set in an underwater ‘utopia’ known as Rapture, which went from being man’s destine dream of living in a world were everyone could be the person they wanted to be. Ken Levine (the creative director) was influenced by the notions of Karl Marx who established the belief that the bourgeoisie (ruling class) were exploiting the proletariat (working class) from profit.

Just a quick note: a world can be an encapsulation of civilisation on another surface, which despite Rapture being a ‘city’ can also be defined as a world in itself considering it’s separated from the mainland.

Rapture is a play on the idea of Communism being a utopia. Unfortunately, power leads to influence, influence leads to greed and greed leads to destruction (or to put it another way). Our team is interested in creating a world with an interesting story based around it’s existence and having an internal conflict or disagreement existing in the world may help in establishing a basis for power and status.

Status could play a key role in how the world is divided in the same way Rapture was once a city for the rich, but became their ultimate downfall. It’s certainly a lot of consider, but if our team want to be different then we would best be avoiding the idea of a red coloured uprising. Maybe there is a moral ambiguity to it?

This image says it all:


I even decided to begin reading one of the novels that explores how Rapture came to be. Maybe this may spark a few ideas as to how our team’s world could come together.

Instead of providing a few images, I’ll add a link to the introduction of the world in-game (4:10 mins in for intro to world).

Infinite plays on a similar theme of utopia but I instead focused on the actual environments for stories. One of the ideas our team have been focusing on was the notion of ‘clouds’ and how they can be an influence on our world but also be a world within itself.

Bioshock Infinite takes place in a floating city above the sky called Columbia, which indeed is more of a ‘world’ than Rapture but separating itself into regions and colonies. I’ve brought a concept art book for Infinite into the studio for the team to have a look through for inspiration. The book highlights how concepts for different areas of the world were created and what kind of people inhibit them. It uses a steampunk aesthetic but continuing the theme of man controlling the world ungratefully.

We looked at the use of resources and how they play an impact into the world in addition to looking at how mood and atmosphere can be influenced by lighting, framing and even the roughness of concept sketches.

We’ll continue to look through the book throughout our development to see if it spark further ideas to investigate.


Centre framing represents order, structure and control – a sense of pride and honour is also established with the composition.


The low angle influences the scale we see the architecture – the feeling of being small is established while showing the richness of grand designs. The colours are soothing and almost dreamlike to represent the fantasy of the setting.


Red’s symbolise the revolution while the image of fire shows the distraction it as caused and WHAT caused it. This again highlights the themes of revolution causing downfall.


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