From the Vault – The BioShock Pitch

by IG.Admin on May 20 2010

57 comments

Ladies and gentlemen, it is our pleasure to present to you the pitch document for the original BioShock. This is the masterful fusion of design and marketing that Irrational initially presented to publishers, selling them on the idea of supporting our little odyssey beneath the waves.

In the next few installments of From the Vault, we will divulge the myriad departures BioShock took from its original vision, but also show our readers just how much the game’s heart and soul stayed constant.   You will be made privy to our very first design concepts and original drafts of back-story.  You will read about game modes and features that fell by the wayside during the many years of production.  And you will stand in awe of visual interface mockups crafted by Mr. Ken Levine himself!

Read on, and enjoy this insider’s look at the way we sold the core concepts of the award-winning BioShock.


Avatar Image Posted this May 20 2010 05:58 pm, under From the Vault,
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  • Rye0077r | May 20, 2010 6:10 pm

    Whoa!!!! Thanks for posting!

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  • sawfish22 | May 20, 2010 6:15 pm

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    Wow, this is awesome. I’ve never seen an actual game pitch before. Thanks!

    After reading it, it sounds like one of the most ambitious games EVER. I’m not at all surprised that half of this stuff didn’t make it into the game. It would take so long to actually implement this stuff. But I do think that Bioshock still succeeded on its’ main objectives (as stated in this pitch).

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  • drewjamicks | May 20, 2010 6:15 pm

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    didn’t have a chance to fully read through this yet but just skimming through I noticed quite a few huge differences between this and what Bioshock evolved into. I love the game as it is but I gotta tell you I’m interested in this incarnation too!

    oh and “story-driven multiplayer”…..this is featured in B2, guess you guys had some input on that one.

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  • neuroman42 | May 20, 2010 6:17 pm

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    I love reading and hearing about all this stuff. I wish more of the great studios would share more of this information.

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  • NomarDll769 | May 20, 2010 6:27 pm

    You guys obviously had worked on this game for 5 years at least. Seeing that the copyright on it is 2002. Makes me wonder, are you guys putting the same amount of time into the next title you’re working on?

    Anyways, thanks for sharing! Cheers to the IG team!!!

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  • Salvor | May 20, 2010 6:35 pm

    Really interesting read, thanks for letting us see it :)

    The idea of BioShock ever been set on island instead of in Rapture is just… well, that’s really the weirdest huge change for me, anyway! I find it hard to imagine the game set anywhere else, and was surprisead to find that that setting wasn’t there from the start.

    Looking forward to reading the rest when it comes…

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  • Vengeful | May 20, 2010 10:25 pm

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    O.M.G the holy grail of all things bioshock, all must bow down in it’s presence. I can’t wait for the rest. I love thins kind of stuff, please keep them coming!

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  • goomba478 | May 20, 2010 10:38 pm

    Wow, this is absolutely fascinating. Thank you so much for sharing! As an aspiring game designer and artist, this sort of thing is truly the bread and butter that keeps me inspired. Bioshock was an instant classic and a true atmospheric gem, but it’s really incredible reading what it was originally planned to be. Keep up the good work and I wish you guys all the best with future projects!

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  • adesilva | May 21, 2010 12:35 am

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    Thanks for posting this it was an awesome read! It is always interesting to see projects in their infancy and see how they change over time.

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  • highwindxix | May 21, 2010 1:46 am

    Absolutely fascinating!! I would love to see some of that environmental manipulation make it into a game sometime. Can’t wait to read the rest . . .

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  • smacky_wolf | May 21, 2010 4:22 am

    It makes me so happy to remember that the team who made SS2 were the people who also worked on Bioshock. I’m so happy Irrational exist again.

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  • number47 | May 21, 2010 4:35 am

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    Carlos Cuello :-) Really???? That is one of the most daft computer hero names I have heard.

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  • nabeel | May 21, 2010 6:35 am

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    I love BioShock, but wow, this could have been an incredible game.

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  • muskellounger | May 21, 2010 9:21 am

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    Coolest thing I ever read! Now I know more about the jelly-man!

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  • Barney | May 21, 2010 2:46 pm

    Hey Irrational, do me a favour, and stop making dumbed down games for consoles.

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    • thelifegiver | May 25, 2010 5:42 am

      I Think your impression of and ideas for console’s are too high Tho I respect your opinon but to be blunt console’s have limitaitons and somtimes thing have to be cut in order to keep them within the harware guidelines.

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  • beanalby | May 21, 2010 2:51 pm

    Thanks for publishing, I LOVE seeing stuff like this, especially seeing the difference between how a game’s pitched and how it ends up. Might have to finally go pick up Bioshock 2…

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  • andrewmarathas | May 21, 2010 6:06 pm

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    Hugely inspiring and pretty darn informative. I love seeing the pitchwork for projects. Very inspiring!

    -Andrew Marathas

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  • bk2fut | May 21, 2010 6:39 pm

    Any chance of a downloadable PDF of the pitch doc.?

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    • IG.Admin | May 21, 2010 7:31 pm

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      It is possible we may release the entire pitch as a PDF when all the pages have been posted. Stay tuned.

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  • kelzow20 | May 21, 2010 6:48 pm

    We all know the game had major changes over the development time. But the final product was shockingly the best.

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  • doctorowl | May 21, 2010 10:44 pm

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    I’m sure glad you didn’t end up making that game, it sounded crap. Luckily Bioshock turned out really good.

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  • lordyupa | May 22, 2010 12:56 am

    I was never quite so saddened as I was when I discovered that Bioshock wasn’t actually going to involve all of the DIY weapons, complex plasmid interaction, autonomous ecology, and environmental control that the pre-Rapture iteration was supposed to have.

    In the end, the story and the setting were brilliant, and the gameplay was a bit better than average, but nowhere near as good or as innovative as it should have been. The final product was so massively dumbed down from the initial concept, it’s really a shame.

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  • theend69 | May 22, 2010 10:53 pm

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    Very admirable and ambitious! really cool and innovative ideas. im amazed at how much was droppd and changed. regardless an amazing game.

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  • rika | May 23, 2010 2:46 am

    In a way, I’m relieved that we did get the Bioshock we know.. and in a way, I’m sad that we didn’t get the game described here. I’d love to read more on how it came to be, and what lead certain ideas to be abandoned for others. Awesome post.

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  • drstrangelove | May 24, 2010 2:13 am

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    I joined the site because of this post. The world needs more studios willing to share their creative labors and the ups and downs of the design process as a game concept evolves.The industry needs it..

    Thank you and keep it up!

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  • brendensavi | May 24, 2010 4:11 am

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    It’s amazing to see how much BioShock changed throughout its creation. The BioShock from the pitch seems like it could be an entirely new and amazing game itself, to be honest.

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  • blue_didgeridoo | May 24, 2010 1:17 pm

    I guess it goes without saying that these things usually morph a great deal along their journey from conception to completion, but it’s nonetheless fascinating to see where they began.

    Bioshock is a phenomenal game, and I’m thankful for the insight into how it came to be.

    Keep up the great work!

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  • dakotareese | May 24, 2010 2:05 pm

    Just want to echo that it would be amazing if a PDF of the entire document were made available.

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  • flowdango | May 24, 2010 5:24 pm

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    Thank you for posting this for people to see, as the Bioshock series being my favorite games, it is nice to get the background on what makes this cult classic so amazing!

    I love the original idea that you had, it did seem rather ambitious, and what it turned out to be IMHO is a lot better than what I am reading so far in this “bible” of sorts. Not that the concept in here isn’t great, its just that what was done with it in the end is what made the game a legend! I am so excited for more posts in this series of reveals! Thanks! Keep up the great work!

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  • jakkar | May 24, 2010 10:02 pm

    Ah.. From sandbox horror, natural-RPG with mutations instead of stats, you fell to an enjoyable but utterly controlled, repetitive experience, which quickly fell into a deathmatch and a cheesy end-boss.

    Bioshock was so much weaker and smaller a game than System Shock 2.

    I was so excited, until you took to Rapture.. Generic ‘ethical moment attack!’ little sisters do not make up for no humidity alteration.

    And not being able to swim, that was just horrible.

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  • thelifegiver | May 25, 2010 5:39 am

    This had to have been one of the best reads in my gaming lifetime thus far.
    as a learning Indi dev I get great joy reading things like this. I can also see why a lot did not make the final cut but …… Man the things id give to see this as it was intented come to life if even for a small 4 level demo.

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  • aleksey_s | May 26, 2010 7:27 am

    Thanks a lot for this post, guys.
    Sharing documents like this you do not only help to get deeper the vision of the great games you do, but also help other developers to understand how to pitch your game right.

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  • axident | May 29, 2010 8:22 am

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    Some interesting goals and aims there, some ideas sounded great though others such as the multiplayer component I am glad were left out so that I’m assuming you could all focus on other more important things. =P

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  • lewis2112 | May 29, 2010 8:48 pm

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    This is amazing, thanks for sharing!

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  • crowbargazoolie | May 31, 2010 11:05 am

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    Now that’s neat.
    If that was pitched to me, that would so have been made. Immediatly xD
    Good thing it was!

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  • ruthven | May 31, 2010 11:53 am

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    Awesome read. thanks for posting.

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  • heyimwyatt | May 31, 2010 2:07 pm

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    It was really cool seeing all this. To be considered at the Guildhall you have to design a pitch for a video game and by seeing this you given me and I do not doubt you have given other aspiring game designers an idea of how it is done.

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  • perfectdarkling | June 3, 2010 4:26 pm

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    Wow, that is friggin awesome! It’s interesting to see how many of the cosmetic ideas were dropped, yet many of the conceptual ideas (like gene alterations) were kept.

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  • dlewisnash | June 8, 2010 5:05 am

    This is vastly different than what we were finally treated to. I miss the idea of the plasmids disfiguring the character, but I love the influence of Objectivism in the story of the final product.

    I never played No One Lives Forever 2 until recently, and it made me wonder: Were the Project:Omega bosses the influence for the big daddies? They look essentially the same, and the original Omega in that game had the mistaken fatherly bond with Cate Archer. It seems too explicit to be a coincidence.

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  • lowe22 | June 14, 2010 5:31 am

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    That’s some really cool stuff right there! Nice! Thanks :)

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  • chaz | June 22, 2010 6:55 pm

    seeing a games pitch like this is amazing. not something the typical gamer gets to see. thanks for sharing!

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  • blkcasanova247 | June 25, 2010 5:29 pm

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    Very…very cool! Thanks for posting this.

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  • plasmidpower | August 15, 2010 5:31 pm

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    the different gun and genotype mutations sound really awesome

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  • drperson | August 17, 2010 9:45 am

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    Very interesting, does anyone agree? <3

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  • rybow73 | August 18, 2010 8:42 pm

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    Wow. BioShock definitely changed a lot after the pitch. Thanks for sharing.

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  • opheliaxrolo | September 6, 2010 3:44 pm

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    I love this!!!! Thank you for posting this pitch up, it gives me another inccentive for studying interactive media!

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  • inso77 | September 13, 2010 12:33 am

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    Just found out about the new game and this website. Keep bringing the goodies!

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    • harlequ1n | September 22, 2010 10:07 am

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      Just like me! I can’t believe how awesome this whole community is and how excited Infinite has got us all.

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  • carlosspcywenr | October 6, 2010 9:51 pm

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    Okay (as I go backward through these vault posts) This is pretty awesome! I like the “Electric Eel”.

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  • jendon | October 10, 2010 3:56 pm

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    Very nice! It’s interesting to see how different it turned out being, and to see some things that were initially intended on being in the first that ended up being concepts in BioShock 2 and Infinite. On page 5, the quote at the top from Bernardo is almost Gil Alexander’s messages to Delta verbatim, the description of your mission under “You are in Control” on page 6 is just like DeWitt’s mission to save Elizabeth in Infinite. Very awesome stuff!!

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  • magicmaker | March 17, 2011 11:43 pm

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    Definitely interesting to see how things changed from original concept..

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  • cycrum | May 24, 2011 1:02 am

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    Nice, Love when things see the light of day

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