As far as secret sources go, this is about as mysterious as you can get, so break out your shaker of Morton’s. But upon consulting one of their very own “Deep Throats,” Destructoid learned of a rather interesting rumor: 2K Games may be developing an MMO set in the Bioshock universe.
Now, normally I wouldn’t report on something like this, because to anyone who has actually played Bioshock, the idea seems absolutely preposterous. In fact, though I align myself with those who enjoyed it, there are still plenty of fans out there who feel the sequel was unnecessary, let alone some crazy-sounding bollocks like this. But it got me thinking, wondering how could something of this sort actually work? Is there enough meat left on the bones of Rapture to create something of this scope and magnitude?
Let’s rap for a second. What’s in the game already? You’ve got your classes (varieties of Splicers, Big Daddies, possibly “normal” humans from the surface), you’ve got your selection of special abilities (Plasmids), talent trees (Gene Bank), professions (hacking), resurrection points (Vita Chambers), and so on. Of course, many of these elements are simply part and parcel of the action-adventure genre these days. What game doesn’t feature some latent RPG or character-building aspect to keep players hooked? And even if the parts are there, that doesn’t mean that they would necessarily fit into the same framework as a game like World of Warcraft.
I mean, Rapture’s a big city, and you could easily make the different districts into neatly-crafted zones, but it just reaches a point where that’s not enough. Most of the city is in complete disrepair and its been almost completely destroyed several times. To grow over time, an MMO needs space to breathe, and I don’t think there’s any left in this air-tight metropolis.
Of course, MMO doesn’t have to mean MMORPG.
It might be best to take a franchise like this in a completely different direction. I’m looking in your direction All Points Bulletin. A game that, on a basic level, puts cops against robbers in a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week (well, aside from maintenance time) battle for territory sets a good precedent for Bioshock‘s key theme of factional and ideological authority. Imagine playing as one of Andrew Ryan’s masters of industry, one of Fontaine’s surly, lower-class goons. A member of Lamb’s flock, or Tennenbaum’s stealthy Little Sisters?
The idea is tantalizing, but once again runs into the same problem: how do you give it any sort of context providing what has already happened to Rapture over the past two games?
One idea is to simply set it in a parallel universe, or one inspired by it. Rapture returns to its pre-Bioshock days like the events of those games never happened and with players actively working for different factions to create a new outcome. You get to deal with and influence the battlefield of conflicting ideals instead of simply wading through the remnants of it.
The other possibility would be more interesting, I think, though it would require 2K Games to take a bold step towards something new (and I don’t think they will, because it would mean stripping the series of its popular action elements and, thus, the stream of cash directly into in the company’s pocketbooks, which is the whole reason for this rumor in the first place).
We’ve always seen Rapture at its end, but what about its beginning? Instead of breaking down the Utopian society, why not have players participate in building it? Your character hears of, or is invited by, Andrew Ryan to become a part of his grand new experiment. Total freedom, without the parasites of the world holding you back. Prosperity, progress, peace. It can all be yours! There can still be some measure of fighting involved, but gameplay is facilitated through the economy, politics, and back-room deals. Something like E.V.E Online crossed with Civilization (or more appropriately, Alpha Centauri).
Clans are organizations, or companies, providing some service to the community at large. You have your own home in the residential district. There is lots and lots of customization. In other words, you’re living your life inside Rapture, and you can play the game without ever actually attacking another player (even if that’s an option). It’s like Second Life but more “gamey.”
Ah, but my experience observing the industry over the years tells me this is a pipe dream. 2K managed to skim the edge of fan tolerance with Bioshock 2, and only then perhaps because it was so well-made. When constructing an MMO, there’s a lot more room for something to go wrong. If the rumors turn out to be true, let’s hope it becomes something special. Otherwise, this cow’s udders are just about dry.