Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint, about rewiring things and punching people, and now I'm working on a new one called Heat Signature, about sneaking aboard randomly generated spaceships. Here's some more info on all the games I've worked on, here's the podcast I do, here are the videos I make on YouTube, here are some of the articles I wrote for PC Gamer, and here are two short stories I wrote for the Machine of Death collections.
Jepp: 1) Please keep critiquing games by building new ones :)...
Chris Kilgariff: Hey, This game needs to be a mobile phone...
Andrew: Just linked the book club to you, boosting your...
I wrote this post – a rant I’ve bored many friends with about how BioShock should have ended – on the 10th of October 2008, but never got round to taking shots for it. Then on February 10th, I got to see what 2K Marin are doing for BioShock 2. And annoyingly, some of it overlaps with what I suggest here.
That meant a) I couldn’t post this, since this would look like me leaking the details I was under a non-disclosure agreement to keep secret, and b) by the time I could post this, those details would have been announced and it would seem woefully unoriginal. I’m posting it anyway.
It’s my plan, in ten steps, for what should happen after your encounter with Andrew Ryan in his office.
1) As in the game, Fontaine forces you to hand control of Rapture over to him using Ryan’s key. You can’t help but obey.
I’m also going to add a few comments on these steps as I go along, there’s no need to read these if you just want the gist. This one’s a note about voice acting. Atlas has a very exaggerated, slightly comic Irish accent. I wish that when he turned out to be Fontaine, his true voice was very plain, deadpan and serious: I think the contrast could have felt really menacing. Instead he turns into just a different kind of sing-song histrionic moustache-twirler, and that’s a shame.
2) Tenenbaum manages to reach you on the radio for the first time since you entered Ryan’s office. Having heard about your command phrase, she asks if you would kindly DROP THE GODDAMN RADIO then meet her at her nearby hideout.
Seriously dude, once you’ve found out someone who can violate your mind is on the other end of it, you lose the wireless. If the Would You Kindly command to pick it up in the first place prevents that, TURN IT OFF. Either way, since Tenenbaum knows about your conditioning, she could order you to do it.
3) At the Little Sister sanctuary, Tenenbaum impresses on you that Fontaine is nearly unstoppable now that his genetic key is tied to Rapture, since Vita Chambers now work for him rather than you.
This factor never came up in the game, but to me it seems like the most important part of the handover of control to Fontaine: it would make him invincible, and you vulnerable. Double strange since 2K evidently wanted you vulnerable for the final fight, but didn’t seem able to think of a reason why you would be. So instead we get a lame text box popping up to tell us that we can’t respawn anymore just before we ascend to fight Fontaine.
4) She explains that the only way to stop someone who’s invincible within Rapture is to flood the whole city. You have to breach a wall in the central ventilation system, but the only thing that could drill through glass that thick – and survive the ensuing flood – is a Big Daddy.
The whole mood of the game is about the menacing inevitability of the sheer force of the sea. Enormous work went into making every room and every corridor of the whole city scream “THIS PLACE IS GOING TO FREAKING FLOOD!” To make a game about this place which ends without oceanic incident is pretty absurd.
5) You have to become a Big Daddy. Tenenbaum tells you how, and says to meet her at the bathysphere station you came in on once you’ve breached Central Ventilation. Near the Little Sister orphanage, there’s an iron-maiden-like steampunk machine that stitches you agonisingly into the suit.
People say BioShock should have ended in Ryan’s office, but some of the most fascinating places and moving scenes are in that final section. The places where Little Sisters and Big Daddies are indoctrinated are two I’d want to keep in here.
6) Once Big Daddied, you’re virtually impervious to the Splicers between you and Central Ventilation – you can drill them in the face or charge them with right mouse to knock them flying. When you reach it, there’s an obvious crack in the glass there to drill.
It’s tough to model what happens to a live human when you put a conical drill into them, so let’s just have them die when you hit them. There’d be no pacing reason to make this section challenging – it’s the reward for the terrible thing you’ve just done to yourself. Vita-Chambers no longer work for you, so challenge runs a higher risk of frustration anyway.
7) When the wall is breached, the force of the ocean smashes you into the opposite wall. But once recovered, you can stomp out of the wrecked room and out onto the sea bed. All around you can see water surging through Rapture’s walkways and buildings, spreading out from Central Ventilation.
I was slightly sad that after that enchanting vista on the way in, you never got an impressive overview of Rapture’s scale again. This would be that, but with a twist of drama.
8) There’s an airlock that gets you into a room adjacent to the flooding bathysphere station, but the door between the two slams shut just as you arrive. Through the glass, you see Fontaine wade over to the bathysphere where Tenenbaum is helping Little Sisters inside. He cocks a shotgun and blows her away. Her body bobs in the water, Little Sisters scream blue murder.
There’s only one way out. Tenenbaum wants it for the sisters, Fontaine wants it for himself, and whatever your plans, you need it.
9) There’s a conspicuous crack in the glass between the two rooms which you can drill through to break in. Some Little Sisters are already inside the Bathysphere, the rest are huddled on a windowsill by the door – the water is thigh-high on Fontaine in here, so it’s already too deep for them to cross.
A watery end – both to the game and to whoever dies in this scene – seems appropriate.
10) Fontaine attacks you immediately, and his weapon is vicious enough to significantly hurt you. He’s an unspliced human, however, so a single ram or stab of your drill kills him gruesomely. Only for him to respawn ten seconds later, from the nearby Vita Chamber.
The idea, of course, is that your final fight with Fontaine should be a reversal of all those Big Daddy battles you’ve had. They were big and tough, but you could respawn again and again. It always seemed like the hardest decision to make in BioShock was not what to do with the Little Sisters, but whether to attack the Big Daddies in the first place. Getting to feel what it’s like from their perspective could be a fun play on that.
At this point, you’ve got two options:
A) If you don’t care about the Little Sisters, you’ll have to physically drag the ones already inside the bathysphere out before there’s room for you to get in. You can leave them splashing in the water anywhere. Once you’re in, closing the door behind you activates the bathysphere. Before it rises, Fontaine appears at the window, screaming something you can’t quite hear through the glass. You ascend, and the end scene rolls.
B) If you want to save them, you can pick one of the huddling ones up from the windowsill in your enormous hand and carry her over to the bathysphere. If you’re shot from the front by Fontaine, the blast will kill the Little Sister you’re carrying and she’ll fall limp into the water. You can keep your back to him to protect her, but he’s powerful enough to kill you before you get all the Little Sisters across. Killing him gives you enough respite to carry one Little Sister across safely before he respawns. At any time, you can close the bathysphere door from the outside, at which point a control panel by it lights up, and you can use that to send it to the surface and save whoever’s inside. Once it’s gone, the end scene rolls.
End scene: You, as a Big Daddy, standing motionless as the water rises time-lapse fast, everything zipping in motion-blur streaks around you. As soon as our view is underwater, everything goes silent and slow. The body of a little sister drifts slowly past behind you, its back to us.
When all is still, Fontaine suddenly scrambles into view, thrashing spasmically, screaming bubbles, clutching his throat, red in the face. After some violent jerks, he lies completely still.
A few seconds pass, then a light flicks on in the background. We cut to a close-up of it: the Vita Chamber doors slide open and Fontaine bursts out again, screaming bubbles louder and louder as he thrashes towards us, and his terrified face almost fills the frame before we cut to black.
Obviously this needs to be re-rendered a few different ways:
Chris: Well, that basically solves all of my narrative problems with the game right there.
David: Oh MAN, that would have been an awesome way to end it. The final fight with Fontaine being a reversal of Big Daddy fights, as well as his constant drowning when the place floods. I like it a lot.
Roadrunner: Away from the pedanticism, it's still one of my favourite games I've played ever, and I only completed it recently.
The ending was a bit of a letdown though, as there was only the two different extremes...
Patrick: Is there an ending where you and only one or two Little Sisters share the most awkward bathysphere ride ever?
Damn good ending though, I think it could use a Metroid-esque countdown clock as the water level rises.
Smee: Goodness me, Fontaine's comeuppance is incredible. I have chills.
Smee: Oh, I also love the painfull Big Daddy transformation. I was expecting something akin to Quake 4's Strogg transformation sequence (with more brass), not spraying some stupid perfume on.
Yup: Then you couldn't have the sequels that Take2 wanted to have.
Rei Onryou: Much better than the originals, but my only real gripes were the Big Daddy "transformation" and the boss fight. At least Tom's poetic justice serves, and gives us a beautiful vista for the end credits. Bravo!
Ragepyro: Indeed, then the only problem with this ending would be that the possiblity for sequels is pretty much nil. However, I would rather have prequels than not have this ending, it solves all the problems of the actual endings.
Redhawk: ...so Tom. Why hasn't someone hired you to write/design games yet?
ZomBuster: The flooding part is indeed a lot like the part in Bioshock 2 (It's in the recently released gameplay video)
Some cool ideas, ending fight seems really interesting.
And is that tv tropes link? *gets sucked into tv trope time vortex* aaaaaaaaaahh
Redhawk: @Ragepyro and Yup: Why do things needs to have sequels? If there's one huge grip I have with the movie/game/book industries I have these days, its unnecessary sequels. What happened to stories that were all neatly wrapped in one little package, rather than being sprawled across several games and years?
Oh, right. Money.
(Sorry for the double post)
Fever: Oh, this is so epic! Work of a genius! Seriously, this fits much better than the actual generic ending of BioShock.
The_B: Very, very good. I still look forward to B2, but as has been said, would probably preferred to be some sort of prequel.
Could be interesting to remove the Big Daddies altogether and have some sort of different, invincible and more ominous threat - I'm not sure if the series should be focusing so much on one type of character, no matter how iconic and recognisable it may be for them. I mean, System Shock is known mostly about SHODAN, but Bio has become about a character that is only one of many (thus not special) and that really doesn't have a great deal of interesting stuff behind them. (Although I suppose 2 is going down that route.) Maybe I just like character driven stories a lot.
Sam: Why the hell aren't you making games?
The fight and fontaine's brutal end sound amazing.
Gyshall: This is the best idea I have ever read.
Smurfy: I should finish BioShock.
Also, Francis Developments Inc. plz.
Finalfrog: Please please please be hired by developers. For all gamers' sakes. We need people to actually write endings like this that make sense and become memorable like this one.
FunkyLlama: This post made me genuinely sad for what Bioshock's ending could have been D:
JohnArr: 'O course the real skill is coming up with a quality end like this without the benefit of hindsight and a pre-made world. And operating within time, pressure and resource constraints.
Still brilliant though.
PleasingFungus: Does sound like it could have been interesting! It all comes down to the details, in the end - the flooding would have required a great deal of production time, giving the player the proper guidance without the wireless might've been tricky, and poor implementation could still have ruined it. But I like the idea.
Faust: Wow, that would have definitely been a better ending.
Very nice and would bring everything to an end very cleanly.
Andrew: Awesome ideas, absolutely. I'd not have minded the Vita chambers being removed from the game tbh, but in any case, twisting them like that is really cool. Much better then fighting "Mr. Macho" after doing some rubbish escort mission (the suit thing was neat though, just a little "huh"?).
The radio thing - yeah, utterly sucky - but considering Fontaine would take the key, I must say if he didn't use the same loudspeakers Ryan did, he's doing something wacky. Fridge logic to a degree though, certainly (actually even more so since you see the "Would you kindly" before even getting to Ryan right?).
I love the idea of ploughing through splicers though, and some actual reasons behind the actions!
Maxwell: Simply brilliant. If you don't get hired to write this kind of thing, heads will roll. Hats off to you, sir.
Kiddo: It still feels like a System Shock 2 reimagination (for consoles).
Octaeder: Point #2 really started annoying me when Fontaine gives the command to stop your heart.
I couldn't help but think the character deserved to bloody die for still keeping comms open with him.
Pwnzerfaust: Personally, I would try incorporte the fate of the survivor(s) into some sort of postlude, if only to tie up that loose end and finish on a slightly less horrifying note.
Max: This is an amazing ending. I always thought that Bioshock was full of unrealized potential and this proves it. The normal ending was so lame.
Josh: That is fantastically written.
Time to overthrow Ken Levine as the king on rapture.
Jazmeister: You do a lot of fixing things on this blog, sir.
Jimmy!: I dig the ending ending.
Boxer: Although it's already been said 50 times, I also want to register my amazement and absolute agreement that this would have been a superior ending. Great narrativing.
The thing that annoyed me most about the best game I've ever played is how limitted the 'choices' in the game ended up being. I expected more moral dillemas than whether or not to kill/save the little sisters. Your ending provides that, so again kudos.
Fontaine's endless commupance is some kind of beutiful prometheus reversed.
DiscountNinja: Jesus, Mr. Francis - if I was in charge of game development, a lot of people would have a brand new boss right now :D
That is the most beautiful thing I've heard in a long time - Poetic, gruesome and it sounds so fun to take part in :D
Also, I'm loving the whole "Save the little sisters and you stay in the ruined rapture" thing - everything the good ending should be (i.e. fucks you up personally, but damn heroic and awesome at the same time) :D
DiscountNinja: Also (and sorry for the double post) - Tennenbaum's bit was amazing :D
phuzz: My first thought after 'That bit' with Ryan was that I wanted to destroy the whole damned city, in such a way that Fontaine and all the other freaks would perish.
This ending would pretty much cover those feelings of rage I had after watching myself kill Ryan.
Makes you wonder, how did they mess it up so badly?
John O'Brien: Yeah, that would be a better ending and narrative flow. Good ideas.
lumpi: That is genius.
Gamedesigners of the world, read that and learn.
AK: Excellent blog. I always wondered why he didn't just ditch the radio. This has inspired me to do my own 'how XXX should have ended' piece...
Vnend: Much better storytelling. Not 100% certain it makes for a better game. Good work, even if it is hypothetical.
Agent 48: There could even be a fourth, Left 4 Dead inspired ending. Maybe. You throw the last little sister into the bathysphere, Fontaine's bullets pinging off your back. You cop one in the neck and fall to the ground. The little sisters make towards you to try and pull you in. However, with your final breath, you slam the bathysphere door shut and pull the lever. The bathysphere descends and escapes a watery end. Cue what Tom said, but with you drowning along with Fontaine. Your team wins!
Fluid Vitis: The implication of Fountaine actually drowning unremittingly until the juice charging the vita chambers is cut… is probably the most brilliant thing we never got to see in BioShock.
Cor blimey, I get chills just by thinking of it.
Tom, you maginficent bastard. Get yourself hired now so that these wonderful speculations can flourish into reality.
Jazmeister: More games should end with you dying, actually. Would remove constrictions from sequel-whoring, at least giving breathing room to tired old IPs.
Tom Francis: Thanks so much for all your thoughts, guys. Checking back here and reading them in between dealing with cops and asshole insurance companies all day has improved my mood enormously.
Bret: You know, the Fontaine bit even helps for eventual sequel work. I mean, the big bad still being alive is always the way these things work. Might as well do it in a way both thematically appropriate and ghoulish.
LaZodiac: I like it, though I also like the actuall ending.
And to the people wondering why he kept the Radio, despite being unable to cut communication with Fountaine, and despite the risk that he might have other code phrases, is because he still needed to contact Tenenbaume at that point. Without her, he'd be more or less lost, and the game would result in just random stumbling around.
Also, I don't like the final boss fight idea. Not the "he can respawn" thing, thats fine. I mean how the "get the sisters into the sphere" thing seems...horribly unfun. Because they are no longer invinsible ADAM manufacturing plants, they are human girls, which means that they would have to give them life bars. And to the person that suggested a time limit...die, please.
Also, I don't know what any of you are talking about. Big Daddies weren't that devestating to fight at all. Two bloody sticky grenades destroyed Elite Bouncer's HP to a level even the revolver could take out.
SenatorPalpatine: Chris Livingston says this is a great article, so I'll just have to play Bioshock and then read it.
TooNu: If all games were great, life as a gamer would be great but think on these things first.
a. It is said somewhere by someone wise that we would not be happy in a perfect world.
b. Tom Francis would be out of work as a game journo, he might be crap at everything else so this website wouldn't exist and you would never have met Tom Francis (online).
c. Maybe just maybe the plot holes and the way that Bioshock is, is the way that the guys wanted it to be made and are happy with it? Sure they want it to sell but I would bet that alot of these developers actually like what they have made. Maybe you (whoever reads this) should make ONLY perfect games that you want to play.
As it stands I think Tom has some nice ideas here, in an ideal world his idea or future ideas might become reality, but not today.
Dan: I don't know why but it leaves a sour taste in my mouth that so many people are saying you should be a developer or should have been working on Bioshock due to your good ideas (and they are good ideas.) I think this takes away somewhat from the developers themselves in the fashion that it seems people are going "pffft, it would have been that easy to create a great ending for your game...why didn't you do it?"
"Easy" is the keyword. People don't link a great idea to the work that will have to go into it. They see no process from thought to screen.
I'm sure like most creative mediums the guys working on Bioshock did discuss different endings to their game, and chose the best ending they could based on the constraints of their development. Things like time constraints - having to finish the game to a deadline - or budget constraints - having to finish the game to a certain budget.
Due to these constraints we all ended up with the game that was far from perfect, and that's the same with all games (and mediums). You do the best you can do with what you've got and you have to make sacrifices.
What I really mean to say is: a great idea is easy to come up with, but turning a great idea into a reality takes a lot of hard work, money, and time. So people shouldn't put down the game due to what isn't in there just because someone can come up with a better version in their head!
(I probably sound like a dick...sorry.)
abigbat: Love it. Your concept would have been a truly rewarding, suitably gruesome way to polish off the exceptional, yet somewhat flawed game. Good thinking old chap.
Justice: No Gods or kings, only Tom Francis.
Jason L: Dan: I consider myself a fan and I don't think you sound like a dick given that I've said the same thing before. In the end, there are lots of glib people in the world. What can ya do.
Drowning Forever gave me chills too, but I never thought of that hypothetical sequel tie-in, Bret. Nice catch! Man, you thought SHODAN was a bit miffed...
Jazmeister: The drowning forever is a lot like the eternal waking curse in Sandman. So ten Neil Gaimann points! I think it's a very writerly ending (only writers should get to write endings, Tim Kring), whereas the current uberhulk ending was very formulaic... I zoned out for it and just got down to business.
I think you're right about the saving multiple drowning little sisters bit, LaZodiac - I'd prefer something more cerebral and drawn out. If you think of the final fights in Max Payne 2 and Half Life 2, where instead of piling bullets into an absurdly healthy man you're harming the environment, that fits in with point 4) in the main post. The drilling through walls part is natural, so doing damage to sections of some kind of.... water... reactor....
Well, a pump, or maybe using the rotary action of your drill to open some mega-bastard-gate, Metroid Prime: Corruption style, combined with generally wrecking everything, while fighting off the respawning and increasingly wily and furious Fontaine, his remaining splicers... it'd be like a huge environmental puzzle that could incorporate some physical choice to be made that obviously affects the little sisters.
It'd be a great way to alter the "go do this" dynamic by letting your actions speak for you as the various players plead, threaten, praise, and damn you for your choices.
This is fast replacing the blog post I'd planned about this, so what the hell? I think having Fontaine remain unspliced fits perfectly with his drug-dealer angle. He knows what it is, what it does, and it's just a racket for him that he knows better than to get sucked in by.
Also, the Vita-chamber only reconstructs genetic material, so it wouldn't be able to build any air (I'm assuming that would take far tinier work than a bit of pushing molecules about). So he'd immediately begin drowning and brain-dying and... man, there'd be a lot of Fontaine bodies.
phuzz: Interesting that you say that. I found that Bioshock wasn't the sort of game that made my brain think "what do I want to do now?" because it was so linear. It was all "how" and "where", and really I spent the whole game bumbling. Even HL2 avoided that issue; I think it was the really excellent quest-pointer thing. It totally strips you of any need to explore or for the levels to suggest where to go (they seemed to lean more towards the "real functional place" end of that see-saw).
Jazmeister: @Bret: Ah, ye big dorty shoite, ye, oi've been drownin' for twenty feckin years, blarny!
Hey, did Bioshock Dude grow old and die very very quickly?
LaZodiac: @Jazmeister: Jack, our "Bioshock Dude" as you mentioned, seemed to live out a normal life in hospital, because all his little sisters grew up to finish collage, get married, and atlest one had a child.
Also, the Vita Chamber doesn't just reconstruct you, because other wise you'd see Jack bodies all over the place. All it does is warp your body towards it, and then patchs you up. Essentialy, your getting Cure Critical Wounds at -9 hp. This explains why you still have all your stuff after dieing.
THE.MAC.GOD: The idea of the Antagonist getting what he deserves over and over again, forever... That's my favorite idea. Especially, since it's such a horrific, crushing death.
Danielle: I haven't even played BioShock (and I know very little about it in general) and I think this ending is brilliant. Very exciting, the stakes are obvious, and it's kinda creepy! Amaaaazing.
EGTF: Bonus Cutscene - The antagonist drifts underwater upside down past your vision serenly engrossed in reading a laminated copy of Atlas Shrugged, managing a paragraph at a time.
Theoban: This is officially A Bit Good.
It doesn't mean you can't have sequels in Rapture, because who says the whole city needs to be flooded? Just target the bit with Fontaine in. They're skyscrapers (but underwater) so they're all seperate.
Having said that, I'm not really a fan of having a sequel in Rapture at all. We've been there. Let's have Bioshock 2 in an overground setting. Let's have a 60's or 70's setting with Big Daddies attacking the real world.
Theoban: Or let's have the remnants of Rapture trying to build a new utopia, but on the ground. Or on a mountain. Or on a Captain Scarlet style flying fortress
Jazmeister: Or on Phobos, where only one marine can stop them! Who was that developer who said they wanted to do something like Bioshock "but in space"?
Psycho-Monkey: I like this ending so much better. I felt like the whole becoming a Big Daddy part was pointless, just a veeery mundane task to get to the next stage. I liked the other tasks you had to do because there was a sense of need to fulfill it. You had to save Atlas's family, stop the poison. I admit the Steinman part seemed a little slow, but it was to ease the player in. Becoming a Big Daddy, while pretty awesome, in the end made me think, "What was the point of that?" Oh, to protect a Little Sister so she can lead me to the next area? I couldn't have fought my way like how I did for the whole game? The fight with Fontaine was also unappetizing as well as the ending that followed it. You mean to tell me, the whole point of me going through Rapture was to save the Little Sisters? I crashed, I met someone named Atlas who said he could help me leave if I saved his family, I learned who I really was, I went on a path for revenger, and in the end it turns out I was really just saving the Little Sisters? The Little Sisters were an excellent source of moral, but they weren't really the main focus of the STORY, killing or saving them was more of a side-quest, but in the end what they did was define who the character was - I admit. However, the way Tennebaum talks about the Little Sisters in the end made me feel that the whole adventure was just to save them. That's why I like the bad ending a little better.
This ending has more closure, it focuses less on the Little Sisters and more on the Protagonist and the Antagonist. The Protagonist got his revenge, and the Antagonist got the ending he deserved. I love the game - I really do and I loved the story, but the one gripe I had was how the story suddenly switched and the unsatisfying ending.
LaZodiac: @Psycho-Mantis:I figured it was something like the sidequests in Fallout1/2, if you did them you got extra cutscenes depending on what you did. Bad path only focuses on the small effects of what happen to the sisters (killed by crazy Jack) while the Good Path shows us the major effects.
It also fits the personality of the paths. Evil Jack doesn't care about sisters, they are tools, so they get small focus. Good Jack cares more about the Sisters, so we get to see what happen to them more.
On that note, I fail to see why Tennenbaum has to die in your new ending.
Jazmeister: Why does she have to live?
Ledundead: So, does the Protagonist die?
Snooglebum: Aaargh, damn you for linking to tvtropes. There goes my entire day.
Bret: Seems like the protagonist survives as a big daddy, but is kinda stuck. I mean, all that diving gear is there for a reason.
Spy: Why not just have you getting to the surface as a Big Daddy followed by the good ending from the actual storyline, then a cliche moment as Fontaine gets out of the Vita Chamber, thrashes towards the camera and fills the frame?
Spy: Hey, that's another thing that griefs me, the good ending from Bioshock, how on earth did the player get back to the mainland to actually live a normal life? Rapture is kind of in the middle of the sea and he's without any form of transport.
Tom Francis: Tenenbaum's purpose in that scene is to act as your guide one final time, unwittingly: you see her carry a Little Sister into the Bathysphere, which makes it clear what the 'good', or at least 'pro-Tenenbaum' thing to do is, and how to do it.
She dies because she would.
The mechanics of that final fight could be better: I think I'd rather Fontaine's attacks never stopped you or caused you to drop a Little Sister, but if he shot you from the front, he would kill the Little Sister you were carrying. So you could either set her down and deal with him, or try and keep your back to him and take the hit for her.
I don't think anyone here is under the impression developers can create whatever ending they want without thought to time or resources. The purpose of discussing an ideal ending is not to practically reassign the exact amount of time and manpower spent on the current one in a more productive way. It's to investigate how important an end scene could be to the overall game, which in development would inform the decision of how much time you could afford to spend on it. I haven't tried to optimise mine from a practical perspective much, because only people who've actually worked with a team of that size on a project of that type have an idea of what takes how much time.
Something I didn't clarify in the post because I naively thought most people reading it would be those who know me: I am a rabid BioShock fan. I gave it the highest review score I have ever given, and probably the highest I ever will give in my career. I didn't like the final boss, but as I say, much of the post-Ryan section was superb.
Jazmeister: Well, whatever the problems the B2 devs had with act three, they obviously liked the idea of becoming a Big Daddy. I was kinda waiting for my drill, though.
nine: is your bioshock review published anywhere online?
Brulleks: Hey - it made not have made it into the game, but it's not too late for the film! Anyone got Gore Verbinski's telephone number...?
Superb stuff. Fontaine's eternal demise is cathartic in the extreme - reminds me a little of Sisyphus' fate, with added schadenfreude.
LaZodiac: Well, I do agree with most of what you say, and that change makes me alittle nervous, but as long as your ending's Atlus is intelligent enough to not try and get infront of you if your walking away with a sister, it will be fine.
And I've got to admit..I'm sorry, but I don't see the point in Tenenbaum's senseless death. I think she should get her death only if she gets more characterization then "russian scientist who wants to atone for doing a Crime Againest Nature".
CrashT: Really liked that concept feels far more appropriate that the Ubermensch Fontaine we got.
An interesting addition might be to consider how the Little Sisters would react to you if you'd been Harvesting or Rescuing them previously. I'd have liked to have seen that feature into the final fight in some fashion, in this version it could have them struggling with you if you try to rescue them this time but have harvested them previously. Or blindly obeying you if you carry them out of the bathysphere if you'd been rescuing them. Of course in this version they wouldn't recognise you as Jack since you're now a Big Daddy, Hmm... I just like the idea of allowing the player to have had a change of heart and choose to rescue instead of harvesting or vice verse, and have the game recognise that.
@LaZodiac Tenenbaum's the personification of scientific advancement with little regard for the cost to human life. Suchong was a much more blatant example but he got his comeuppance. Tenenbaum has started to show some sense of guilt over her actions so really I think it makes sense for her character to die protecting the life of those her science abused. A explicit sacrificed would be better than just getting gunned down, maybe have her fight with Fountaine over the gun or die very pointedly protecting a Little Sister.
Eli just: I love the Prometheus ending for Fontaine! It is so fitting with the game (i think there was even like a "point prometheus" in the game) and he's such an asshole I would love to think that he drowned for eternity. I really wish this is how it had ended.
Andrew Zalotocky: Interesting stuff. It demonstrates just how many problems those wretched Vita Chambers create.
Fontaine's voice is wrong for the character, but I thought it was flat and dull without any hint of moustache-twirling. The problem is that it's a generic mobster voice, and he speaks so slowly that it becomes annoying to sit there waiting for him to grind out the exposition. It also seems odd that a man who is so creative that he can invent a whole new persona and live it for months at a time turns out to be such a tedious dullard when he is speaking as himself.
I would have written him as more of a Professor Moriarty figure, who is as clever and educated as Ryan but with a completely different idea of selfishness. Ryan sees it as a virtue, arguing that the pursuit of self-interest brings freedom and prosperity. My version of Fontaine would see life as a Hobbesian war of all against all, in which total selfishness is simply the most rational survival strategy. He would see civilisation as an illusion, and Ryan's vision of a civilisation created by the pursuit of self-interest as a childish fantasy.
So as you progressed through Rapture you would get to see it from both perspectives, and the conflict between the two men would explicitly focus on the question of whether selfishness is fundamentally a virtue or a vice.
Jazmeister: Andrew Zalotocky wrote:
It also seems odd that a man who is so creative that he can invent a whole new persona and live it for months at a time turns out to be such a tedious dullard when he is speaking as himself.
I'll point to you Mike Myers.
Also, yes, I'd love to have seen the dichotomy and, let's be honest, if you follow Fontaine's advice to kill the Little Sisters, you should have the option of fighting MechaTenenbaum instead of The Incredible Fontaine.
Atalanta: I loved Bioshock and unlike the rest of the internet I didn't have any major problems with the ending.
On the other hand, this ending would be horrifyingly awesome, especially since I also was confused as to why the only scene where the sea becomes your enemy is when the plane comes bursting through a walkway at the very beginning of the game.
Charlie: Much better narrative, but sounds like a frustrating as hell end boss that I would quick save my way through. I love the idea of him eternally drowning to death though!
Ryan the Mastermind: This ending, in my humble opinion has no flaws in it. It perfectly ties up the game, while unearthing the true plot from the mountains of rubbish that inevitably entombed it. The original boss fight gave you a target, this one gives you an enemy. That alone make this better.
Waste_Manager: That, sir, would be a far better and certainly more fitting end. Fontaines infinite loop of drowning would certainly be something to remember - much more than the nonsense boss fight that I wish I could forget.
DiscountNinja: I think it says a lot that I had to think for nearly a minute "Just how did bioshock end?", and I can remember with with ease.
Havokroft: Just finished BioShock; I wanted to wait until I had done before reading this. It would certainly make a more compelling finale, if a rather depressing one. I'd prefer it if there was an option where both you and all the Little Sisters could survive, as in the real ending. I just can't see the Little Sisters being able to get anywhere in their lives once they get to the surface alone (although as people have mentioned, it's a tall order getting back to land from the middle of the ocean even with Jack's help). This 'best' ending would of course be the toughest to achieve, somehow.
Another bit of fridge logic I just picked up on is the voice alteration required to become a Big Daddy: Firstly, I don't recall any explanation of why it's necessary. Obviously in gameplay terms it's to make the Big Daddies sound imposing and provide an extra fetch quest, but there's no rationale for it in the plot. Secondly, by the looks of the voice alteration machine, Jack's larynx gets permanently mangled. Quite a hindrance to life back on the surface, only being able to communicate via low-pitched groans (although not an impossible situation, I guess). "And in the end what was your reward? You never said" says Tenenbaum in the final cutscene; I think we know why he never said, Bridgette.
And still on the subject of voices, I agree with Andrew Zalotocky on Fontaine; it's hard to believe that he's a Machiavellian genius when he talks like a stereotypical dimwitted mobster.
LaZodiac: @Havokroft: He had to get the voice changing because a Big Daddy that doesn't sound like a Big Daddy can't attract Little Sisters.
As for why he never said what his reward was is because he kinda was busy being dead. If your interested, its probably seeing the Little Sister's grow up before he died.
Sean Girard: How did you even conceive such a beautiful, ironic ending.
". A few seconds pass, then a light flicks on in the background. We cut to a close-up of it: after a beat, the Vita Chamber doors slide open and Fontaine bursts out again, screaming bubbles louder and louder as he thrashes towards us, and his terrified face almost fills the frame before we cut to black. Fin!"
Lucas: See, now I can never finish the game again because that is the ending I want etched in my mind. Dang.
Havokroft: @LaZodiac: I realise that, but why did ANY of the Big Daddies need their voices changed? The machine isn't there just for Jack's benefit.
mrsmiley: Fantastic. I just finished the game (I started playing it a year ago and it froze and deleted my saves. Bullocks.), and must agree that the ending was quite unsatisfactory. The one you describe would have been quite the opposite.
One factor that really annoyed me is the fact that if you kill ONE... just one little sister, you get the bad ending. To me, that game decision should have been made after you visit their living area. If you see those sweet girls, and THEN kill them, that's deserving of a bad ending! It was extremely disappointing to get an evil ending when I killed just one, cuz I was curious what would happen.
Tom Francis: "It was extremely disappointing to get an evil ending when I killed just one, cuz I was curious what would happen."
Heh. BioShock makes people say funny things.
I know the feeling, though. The problem is that the evil end scene in the game as it stands is just a total non-sequitor. It tries to tell you you're going to take charge of an army of Splicers and lead them against the world, a decision that really has nothing to do with whether you've ever killed a little girl.
Twinkie: Wow, you really got my creative juices going. Man, I am never going to enjoy Bioshock 2 because I have an idea I know I'm going to like more than anything they can create. Mostly because it involves Tom's ending.
Now to kick around an idea to segway that Bioshock ending into Bioshock 2.
OPENING CINEMATIC FOR BIOSHOCK 2:
We see the "good ending." The bathysphere full of Sisters surfaces, and meets a ship, maybe the nuclear sub or a Coast Guard ship. (That would be a nice addition to the your ending, IMO)
We cut to a BIG DADDY, studiously repairing the outside of a rapidly-filling Rapture. He looks up to the surface, as if he hears something. He slowly turns, then begins walking away from Rapture, and the camera pans out to show dozens of DADDIES walking along the ocean floor in the same direction!
We see a girl standing on a beach during sunset. Partially in the water stands a Big Daddy with a big cylindrical container on his back. They stare at each other for a few seconds, then a close up of the girl's hand. She extends it, and Daddy's hand comes into frame, softly taking and enveloping her fingers.
We're back on the ocean floor. Daddy is marching, and the camera rotates to reveal the girl in the container on his back, face framed in a circular glass window, full of wonder. The camera slowly pulls out while traveling in the direction the Daddy is walking, passing two more Daddies walking to the same goal. As we move through the murk, we see (wait for it) Rapture! The camera rapidly travels through Rapture, showing Daddies wielding, pumping water, and in general going about the business of repairing the city, and on the final leg of the journey, it pulls up to the top of what used to be Ryan Industries to show BIG SISTER watching down on it all.
BIOSHOCK 2 LOGO APPEARS, MENU POPS UP, GAME BEGINS
Look what you made me do! I very well might not go to sleep tonight thinking about this.
dw_funk: I neer played BioShock, but this is really clever scenario design and storytelling. On the other hand, I feel like this final battle is a little too simple, at least for the best ending. Would it make some sense for an alternate "best" ending, in which conditions are met (saving Tenenbaum while murdering no Little Sisters) that enables some hidden pump system to start working. At that point, a second, nastier boss-fight would occur; Fontaine is missing after the player character's blackout ends, and he reappears with an army of Big Daddies. Or something.
Really, it is hard to beat that. It's an appropriate and nasty little piece of writing. Reminds me a bit of "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream" Good job.
JonSolo: Nice one, Tom. I just came from the Brainy Gamer Link here and there's a discussion about the DLC vs. the Story/ending of Fallout 3 there which I couldn't help but think of when I was reading your post. As much as I loved Rapture and the setting in Bioshock, I could definitely see the sequels going elsewhere for the setting. Don't get me wrong, it was an extremely inventive setting, but I would like to see what other things they could come up with and Tom's ending kind of resonates with this. I mean, Bioshock owes a great deal to System Shock and we wouldn't have rapture if they had decided to set it in another space station.
Fraser JK: Great ideas, although I never had a problem with the ending! Still one of the best games I've ever played!
LaZodiac: @Havokroft: The reason why the other Daddy's need voice surgery is probably because it aloud for easier mind control on the Little Sisters. All the Daddy's sound the same, so a Little Sister doesn't need to be reconditioned every time its Daddy dies.
Interestingly enough, this is evident in Bioshock 2. Killing a Daddy and taking its Sister makes it say "Mr Bubbles, you came back!"
Kyle: Some interesting ideas here. I especially dig the ones which present a twist or throwback to a gameplay or plot point. And yet, I think there's still bigger gameplay issues that needed to be fixed before the ending: lack of consequence for dying, empty levels that felt unoccupied, superficial RPG elements, increasing the usefulness of plasmids etc etc. I'll be tentatively renting or borrowing a friends copy of Bioshock 2.
Remerai: Most of this is mind-blowingly good writing. Sir, you just made my day. Your end was a vast improvment over the original ending and it filled me with a wonderfull sence of dread that fits right in into the high quality of storytelling that is Bioshock. Fontaine drowning over and over again for years and years to come... simply amazing! I can only hope that Bioshock 2 will have ideas just as good as yours. Bravo!
I hope that the writers of Bioshock (both the game and the possibly upcoming movie) will read your article.
Armadous: I like your reimagining of events. You only loose me slightly with the 'evil' ending. Its very brief and misses out on what I think is your best idea in the 'good' ending with Fontaine's unending death.
Some one may have touched on this but there are just so many comments.
Tom Francis: You still see Fontaine drowning forever in the evil ending, you're just not down there with him. It's only if you die during the fight that he's not in it.
And now that you mention it, I think we should scrap that third end scene: if you die, Fontaine would still suffer his Prometheus fate.
nabeel: Great stuff. When and where will your BioShock 2 preview appear online? I don't live in the UK so I don't get PC Gamer; I expected CVG.com to put it up but it's someone else's.
EGTF: This has nothing to do with the thread (which has unaminously been agreed upon as brilliant I think) but I just love how polite everyone is here on James. People discuss their ideas and give reasons why they like or dislike what you've put, and any would-be flame wars don't really start as the atmosphere is so civil.
Anyway, back on point - Why are you only limiting it to three endings in your hypothetical envisioning though?
LaZodiac: @EGTF: I'm not the man himself, but if I had to guess...maybe he couldn't think of any?
at any rate, I'm going to bring up a question which recently came to mind.
Why is there a Little Sister entrance in Ryan's office?
Tom Francis: What others would you want to see, Ed?
Jazmeister: Also, why wasn't Bioshock 400 hours long?
Actually, who would cry at the prospect of a Bioshock MMO? Rapture Online? It seems like the ultimate expression of IP pimping these days.
If you've essentially secured an ending the moment you enter that fight, I can't help but think players will try to rank the endings. Like in Zelda: Link to the Past, it was one big victory ending that got padded out with elements if you'd completed various quests (I think), it's obvious to a certain gamer that the best players get as many as possible.
This perfectionist thing will make it difficult for the Tragedy to succeed the Comedy in a game with both as an ending, I think. For example: Othello, the game, where you play as Othello and have a chance to expose Iago's plotting and have him hung, and you and Dezzie live happily ever after. Nevermind that failing miserably paints a poigniant picture of a dude undone by a fatal flaw - gamers want to win.
Is there a way out, do you think? If you could either A) save yourself or B) save the sisters, you're making that same moral choice, although a slightly better one (killing little girls is never a dilemma, imho, but saving yourself could be).
Now, I was playing Call of Cthulhu with friends once, and our characters were retreating from A) a horde of Deep Ones, and B) a tide of water. This took place in cliffside caverns we'd discovered beneath a rural mansion. It became painfully apparent that we weren't going to make it. So I took a stand, and my character took all the dynamite and lit it and held them off for as long as possible, and then the day was won. Except I died. And if that happened in a vidja game, you'd almost certainly quickload out and see if you could do it better, and again, and again.
There has to be some incentive in a game for doing something imperfectly, but nevertheless brilliantly. Dwarf Fortress might have the right idea, where the dwarves carve your trials and triumphs into their crafts, so maybe seeing an epic death outtro or some form of dramatised retelling of what you've accomplished...
Hmm. I may have digressed.
EGTF: I was trying to think of way to introduce being able to catch a glimpse of yourself in a relfection after sending the bathysphere to saftey (if you didn't get on board) and be angered and disgusted but also saddened with the monster you turned yourself into. Smashing the reflection after reaching out to it in a sudden mood swing or some such ilk before pounding off into the dark depths of a flooded rapture.
However, I'm not the writing maestro here and couldn't think of a way to introduce that scene without ruining the cutting out at Fontaine's burbling, screaming face. It would change the tone also, and I think that gamers would talk more saying "That's so cool!" at Fontaine drowning than they would at a protagonist's earthly pondering of "But at what cost?". You can't wrap a shooting game up with too much thought, it's the twists and actions and sharp images that attract the audience and get them nattering.
The lesson I've learnt? I'm going to shut my mouth before saying something stupid that can't be achieved easily, as I didn't really think through my request.
(To remarket to a "broader" demographic)
Flip Fontaine the finger as he drowns. Then run and smash through what remains of the window which the water flooded in as the whale swims past. Drill it a new blowhole with which to latch on and ride it to adventures unknown. End with big daddy protagonist punching the air/water in classic "Fuck yeah!" pose whilst escaping on the back of the whale. Still Frame that moment. *ROCK MUSIC PLAYS AS CREDITS ROLL*.
Smurfy: Tom is dead.
Bret: Curse you zombie Nietzsche!
Tom Francis: EGTF - the 'what have I become?' mirror smash is a neat shorthand for something otherwise hard to communicate, but I fear it's been over-used to the point of comedy. The dismal Alone in the Dark reboot game opens with your character smashing his reflection because he has amnesia.
Smurfy - ironically, life is the cause of my apparent death here.
EGTF: Now all I'm thinking about is Futurama with "All My Circuits" where everyone suffers amnesia.
Thanks for listening and replying to an idiot Tom, sorry to hear about your death though. You should've planted more sunflowers on your lawn.
Nico: Seeing (although not necessarily smashing) your reflection and seeing you're actually splicer is something I always thought bioshock was about to do, right up until I put the big daddy hat on.
I'm not sure it would have made the story any better, although it would be kinda neat if they did it right; maybe with mirror in an out of the way area, so you felt more like something you have found then something the game is trying desperately to show you.
DoctorDisaster: I say make it so the bad protagonist doesn't get to see the infinite drowning. That's all the incentive the good guy needs.
Instead we follow the bathysphere up to the surface. The naval search & rescue ship investigating the plane crash (that perhaps saves the Sisters in the good ending -- although I like having the two endings fill in each other's gaps) is instead confronted with a Big Daddy. Maybe a little ominous turning of the big guns right before the credits roll?
Rebochan: Oh no no no. From a level design perspective, and from a storyline perspective for that matter, this ending has some serious flaws.
Let's just stick to the mechanics first. Suddenly cutting the player off from the Vita-Chambers for the entire end of the game is a serious breach of trust. You can't just strip a major feature from the player for the rest of the game. Yes, they're over-powered and yes, story wise, they probably shouldn't have worked. But gamewise, they need to. You'd see a lot of extremely frustrated players if you suddenly completely altered the structure of consequences for dying for the entire final portion of the game. The Vita-Chambers in the final fight not being active are not nearly as much of a punishment, since it's just one fight as opposed to several hours. I assume the reason storywise is that Jack isn't nearly close enough to one to respawn - Ryan needed only to turn off the one in his office to ensure he died permanently.
Second, storywise - Jack keeps the radio because Tennenbaum is on it. Yes, so is Fontaine, but he's a dead man if he can't stay in touch with Tennenbaum - he'll be stumbling in the dark otherwise, he has no idea where in Rapture he's going. This isn't fridge logic, it's the lesser of two evils. It's the same reason he had it even though Ryan could also listen in on him.
I'm not sure why Rapture *must* flood for climactic effect. It's flooding through the game - you have to run away from an airplane part doing just that. Filling the whole place with water isn't more dramatic.
Tennenbaum's death is insanely cheap. She gets no resolution in the game either, but blowing her away with a shotgun isn't any better. I'd cry foul.
Back to mechanics. The final "fight" definitely makes no sense. Trying to save the Little Sisters sounds insanely frustratingly and unsatisfying - Fontaine can one-shot them or you, and you are defenseless. Just beating the Little Sisters back and out of the bathysphere is simpler, but still needlessly complicated. From a level design perspective, I can imagine most people never bothering to finish because the game has changed the rules on you so dramatically that you can die far too easily and with little strategy to escape. I'm not saying the giant hulking monster from the end is the best end boss ever, but there was a delicious satisfaction in the Little Sisters getting their revenge on him that is missing from this one. It's also not much resolution for poor Jack, who's just screwed over either way. Why would he bother escaping to the surface as a Big Daddy, anyway?
Fontaine's deaths don't make sense either - the Vita-Chambers are not indestructible, they'd short out the second the water hit them. He'd just die once.
owen: Great ending would've loved to play it. Tho I didn't know we had a Vita-Chamber mechanic on hand to call out your obvious disregard for their weakness to water. Cause you never see standing water anywhere else in that game . . .
Rebochan: @owen: There's a world of difference between a small puddle of standing water in a non-critical area and a rushing flood. Not to mention the pressure at the bottom of the ocean - both the Vita-Chamber and Fontaine would be crushed.
Tom Francis: Rebo: all very valid criticism of the weird version of my ending you made up.
Doc: I didn't want to incentivise the good ending, I thought it was a harder decision if it's outright bad for the player himself.
Mr. Brit: I pictured Tenenbaum's death as horribley dramatic and emotional as she tries to make up for the terrible things she has done. I assumed she wasn't looking the other way when she got shot but made a concious effort to protect a little sister from Fontaine, or even to attack him herself. The little sister's reaction would heighten the drama of the piece and serve to make it very compelling.
Jazmeister: I like Tenenbaum's death. I think she created a method for the enslavement, violation and exploitation of children. More people should die in stories, it happens in life all the fucking time. At least in stories it can be just.
Mr Brit: I like your idea. Fontaine and Tenenbaum could have a verbal confrontation while you're, I dunno, going through an airlock. She could be letting the sisters through and save a whole batch, then you can save another batch, or maybe they're all waiting on a lever-pull. I can see her squaring up to Fontaine and scowling at him. Yes!
Rebo: pwnd. Though, imagine a comedy Ryan scene where he forgets to shut it off. "Oh, drat it. Slave, would you kindly turn off this blasted machine?"
Anonymous: @Pentadact: If you'd like to point out where I was making up your ending, please feel free. I don't see anything I said that wasn't in your post. Completely reversing the game's mechanics on the player for a significant portion of the final game is bad design. There's a reason so many people hate the escort mission at the end of BioShock, and it's because it completely alters the rules of the game for no apparent reason. Obviously its not quite as extreme.
@Jazmeister: Yes, people do die all the time. In a story, pointless cheap deaths are not all that dramatic. Since this is fiction, an important character dying like a redshirt feels cheap.
Jason L: Or, alternatively, great design.
Or, alternatively, tragically and stirring respectively.
EGTF: @Rebo/Anonymous - Re-read Tom's post carefully. As it is, I think you've glossed over the fine detail. Everyone else feel free to tell me tl'dr or whatever the acronym is these days in response to this post.
By turning you into a big daddy for instance, though changing how you fight slightly he suggests it makes you nigh on impervious to splicers, who you can batter aside or drill gleefully. So, you're not the same old Jack as before who was running about relatively fragile. And it's as joyful as the game change mechanic at the end of Half-Life 2. Plus, you can save at any point you want remember.
Onto ye radio. Tom said she tells you where to meet her before asking you to throw it aside. Sure Jack might be left in the dark, but seeming as you're trying to apply real world logic to gaming logic I think Tom's way makes more sense. Either have free will but at the risk of being left clueless if things go pear shaped, or be a mindless slave who has to obey whenever the bad guy pipes up "would you kindly...". I think I know which I would pick. As Tom also says, you don't have to throw it away even but merely turn it off. So if you get stuck desperatley try to reach her by turning it on and using it in short bursts before switching that thing back off.
I can see where you might be valid with frustration at carrying the little sisters, but you're implying something different to what Tom wrote there once again. Where did he mention you could be one shotted? And it's only if you hold the little sister infront of a bullet do they get killed. Also remember this is a rough draft so of course isn't going to be perfect.
Personally I do find having to carry the sisters across, and not been allowed to drill the vita chamber a tad annoying an idea but is something which playtesting can tweak. Some ideas sound good on paper but may not stand up in development.
The whole "if you escape as a big daddy what happens?" is something some of us have been discussing. Do you pop out the bathysphere on the surface only to scare the submarine sailors, who will probably swing that machine gun around on the portcullis your way? Or leave it to speculation?
You're entitled to feel how you like about Dr.T's death (and I guess Tom's post in general, I'm just pointing out where you might've misunderstood some aspects :P). Look at the disparity of emotion between how Jason L feels and you do. To some it'll be cheap, for others it will be tragic.
As to why the place feels like it has to flood. As you said, as the old rhyme goes pretty much, there's water water everywhere throughout the game. With rapture been full of decrepity and leakiness, it felt like it could collapse at any moment. The fact it didn't left some of us feeling a little dissapointed.
If I missed anything or wrote too convoluted I apologise, I was just trying to address some areas I feel you got confused over. I agree with your scepticism over an endlessly respawning boss though. If anyone could make it feel worthwhile it'd be Tom, but it'll be all too easy to mess up.
Greg: WHY THE FUCK WAS THIS NOT THE ENDING, LOOKING GLASS OR 2K BOSTON OR WHATEVER YOU'RE CALLING YOURSELVES? THIS WOULD HAVE MADE UP FOR ALL THE GAME'S FLAWS.
Jazmeister: I feel that, like a super-powered tag team, Ed and Greg have formed an unstoppable force. I just have the feeling Rebo's opinions constitute a barely adjustable object.
Dunam: Tom Francis. The alternative you describe here would offer a narratively and gameplay wise superior ending to bioshock.
The deadpan voice acting and the reversal in the final boss fight would have been a tremendously satisfying and interesting gameplay experience.
I'm not sure all of your points are as well thought through however. The radio is an instrumental gameplay device and as much as it would make sense to drop it or turn it off it wouldn't improve the game. This is a game type where the voices provide much of the atmosphere (which is why the voice acting suggestion you made would have been a powerful difference). You want an excuse to keep to keep the radio.
Frankly, I don't see the need for the "would you kindly" motive to begin with. Being a random planecrash survivor is more interesting. Alas, let's not wade into those waters in this brief comment.
Well done and I hope you get to write for a game as big as this, because if ken levine would listen to you, he could make better games.
Tom Francis: Thanks, and congratulations! You just made James' 6,000th comment. That is kind of staggering to me.
Since the radio thing has come up more than once, I'll elaborate on my reasoning: this is a very, very short section of game. For much of it you're actually being spoken to by Tenenbaum in person, and from there all you do is get into a machine, walk in a straight line and break fragile stuff. It wouldn't be hard to shoehorn in something about Tenenbaum being able to communicate with your Big Daddy suit, but I'd rather just keep the player's tasks simple and obvious from there. Apart from anything, it's intentional that he should feel suddenly alone once he's undergone the permanent transformation into a monster.
DoctorDisaster: The reason people hate the BioShock escort mission is because it's an escort mission. You follow a helpless, oblivious AI around while it waddles into incredibly dangerous situations expecting you to cover its ass. Carrying Little Sisters to a bathysphere isn't the same situation -- you're in control, and can wait for a lull in the fighting to get them out from cover. I suspect that's why BioShock 2 has those handy sister-cages.
It's got nothing to do with changing the rules on you. Gamers love it when the rules change, so long as the new rules are just as fun as the old rules. See the ubercharged gravity gun others have pointed to, or the many gameplay twists in Portal, or era changes in Civilization games. Problems only arise when the new ruleset is constricting and not fun, as in escort missions or TF2 arena mode. Being more or less invincible is not what I'd consider "constricting."
Jazmeister: You know, couldn't it be like the hostages in Counterstrike? Maybe he's stalking around with a shotgun, with Tenenbaum dead, yelling mean things, and you're behind cover with a shit ton of Sisters who are screaming and crying, and you have to stomp out, kill him, and moan for a sister to make the run before he gets back. It should be possible to save them all in 3 attempts, but he could get progressively craftier and try grenades and other shit. Maybe ending with a Little Sister hostage situation? Maybe Ryan survives and surprises him to suffer the same Promethean fate? That way Ryan could be the sentinel spawning with Fontaine to struggle endlessley and prevent his escape; an eternal battle over rapture, just like they always wanted.
Jason L: Oh shiiiiii...
I like how with Tom's death we're all prepared to argue on his behalf. I am sick of seeing Ryan with his golf club every time I load the page up now though.
O H Bark: Blimey. This ending is simply awesome. Shame it wouldn't have been done though anyway - It was obviously left open for a sequel to fit in.
Booze Zombie: That's would've worked so much better than the shoehorned good/evil ending.
Jack: To be honest this endings as shit as the original, it just not exciting enough for all the crap you had to go through to get the that point of the game! Brilliant game, loved it and the whole idea set around it just not a good ending!
Freaky Mutant Man: I haven't played Bioshock myself, nor do I have a complete idea of what the real ending is like, but I can still tell that this would've been a fitting end to the game. However, I believe it could still use a few... improvements, shall we say?
1: Where's the stupidly-hard secret final boss in your ending plans? Nowhere, that's where. I therefore suggest that, throughout the whole game (but only after your first playthrough), there should be some seemingly random objects scattered about Rapture for Jack to collect, and collecting them all triggers this sequence of events after either saving the Little Sisters or yourself (but not if you're killed by Fontaine):
We fade in to see Jack, either in the bathysphere rising to the surface or standing on the sea bed. Suddenly, a bright light pours in from the window of the bathysphere/envelops Jack, and seconds later the bathysphere door is destroyed/Jack is down. As Jack is jerked out of the sphere/struggling to his feet, we see Fontaine, now not dying quite as much and glowing fiercely for unexplained reasons (mostly because, well, power glows). He laughs, and suddenly, a huge stone platform rises up from underneath the two, a glass dome forming around the platform. The water clears out of the dome as the platform begins shooting upward, and Fontaine begins to levitate, the objects you have been collecting rotating around him in a ring. Jack inexplicably turns back to normal, and we finally see what he looks like (it's different depending on your actions throughout the game, but it's always something really ridiculous or just plain bland). As we shift back to first-person, it is revealed the player has every weapon in the game available, with decent amounts of ammo for each. Mind-blowingly awesome music begins to play as the final battle commences...
As soon as the fight begins, you must dodge a series of fireballs to avoid instant-death (surprise! The developers hate you now and want you to suffer). After that, Fontaine charges at you with a kick, which can kill you in two hits and must be stopped by dealing enough damage before he connects. If you succeed, he is stunned and can be damaged further for about 5 seconds, and failing makes you take the hit, knocking you down with barely any time to get ready for the next attack. Said attack involves him summoning lightning to strike you down, which you can only dodge if you're running non-stop for the entire duration of the attack. After that, he zooms in to grab you. This is what you want, as it allows to smack him some more. If you hit him when he grabs you, he staggers back, allowing you to beat him up a bit. If you don't, he headbutts you, which will kill you instantly. Next, he grabs the platform and propels it to the side, tilting it. You have to keep yourself moving along in the direction it's tilting, otherwise you fall through the glass and drown. After he finishes the attack, you can smack him around some more. He repeats these attacks in a random order until you get him down a fourth of his health. At that point, he starts to warp reality, forcing you to move around in all sorts of weird ways to keep yourself from being mangled horribly. Now, you have to shoot the sources of his power, the objects you were collecting (which were previously invulnerable), in order for him to become vulnerable. After you destroy the objects, he collapses to the ground, helpless, allowing you to finish him off.
After the fight, we see Fontaine elaborately explode into stuff. As the stone platform collapses, Jack flies to the surface, high fiving a whale along the way. Landing on a Coast Guard ship, he stands triumphantly. If you saved the Little Sisters, one appears at this point, and they high five as the scene fades out.
It would totally wreck all atmosphere built up before it, and ultimately make no sense in comparison to the rest of the game, but dang it, it would be awesome. Maybe.
2: There should be a dance party with all the characters in the game as the credits roll. Yup.
KoolKid: Great game you should produce a Bioshock3.Bravo,Hats off to you,look how many people commented you.
Anonymous: So what exactly are the little sisters going to do when they get to the surface of the lighthouse?
Pretty cool story, though.
Twitter Trackbacks for Ending BioShock, by Tom Francis [pentadact.com] on Topsy.com: [...] Ending BioShock, by Tom Francis http://www.pentadact... ...g-bioshock – view page – cached I wrote this post – a rant I’ve bored many friends with about how BioShock should have ended – on the 10th of October 2008, but never got round to taking shots for it. Then on February 10th, I got to see what 2K Marin are doing for BioShock 2. And annoyingly, some of it overlaps with what I suggest here. — From the page [...]
Baggie: Does anyone else think the Little Sister house scene would have been greatly improved by there being a drastic amount less Little Sisters if you had been killing them?
Also, bravo at Fontaine's death, that's suitably horrible.
SuperSparky: That ending is reminiscent of an Anime fanboy. Stories where the hero dies are typically Asian in nature. I, frankly, hate them with a passion.
The "good" ending actually is a good ending, in my opinion. Certainly having the villain die a thousand drownings sounds appealing, but nevertheless, the ending as it was, was certainly satisfying to me. Many girls without a parent, a hero that did everything to save them, and the fact he died happy and they lived happy is a true western style hero's story. It shows the good guys can win.
I am sick of the "everything has to be dark" trend games, books, and movies have made over the years. Sometimes it's nice to see heroes beat the bad guys and live to tell the tail.
This was one of the better video game stories, as it was originally told, not this stuff.
Great, he puts a bunch of girls into the bathysphere and dies. Now the girls can die together at the ocean surface from exposure and starvation.
Jazmeister: Hi, I'm Jaz, from the Troll Control Centre. Your blog has a troll. Now, we'll try and get this removed as quickly as possible, but just make sure not to feed it.
This isn't a big one, it looks like a class B - poor thing probably feels he's justifiedly defending his position in an argument, going by the colouring - but don't be fooled, these things get REAL nasty if you engage them. Try to remind yourself that everyone else can also see the gaping flaws in his argument, too, and that nobody needs to point them out and risk a messy confrontation. Just remain calm, and everything will be fine.
Jason L: Thanks but no thanks for your advisory, Jazmeister - after all, what is daily life but the feeding of a long series of trolls? Besides, I love to condense and juxtapose - and this particular specimen requires no more. Bliss!
Let's see if blockquotes work here, I forget.
Stories where the hero dies are typically Asian in nature. I, frankly, hate them with a passion....
[T]he ending as it was, was certainly satisfying to me. Many girls without a parent, a hero that did everything to save them, and the fact he died happy and they lived happy is a true western style hero's story....
Sometimes it's nice to see heroes beat the bad guys and live to tell the [tale].
Tom Francis: Sure, not everything has to be dark. But BioShock - BioShock has to be dark. The hero can live in my ending, he just can't save the Little Sisters and live.
It's true the Little Sister's chances are slim on the surface, but so are yours. So the decision is the same: you or them.
mike: Sorry but there is one major flaw with your theory. Fontain still has the code to make your heart stop. While your idea of getting rid of the radio seems good you forget the multiple intercoms that Ryan used and all he would have to do is say the code over the intercom. So the whole part where she has you find the cure for your mind control is still needed unless you want to completely cut that part out. Also i loved that part where all your plasmids kept changing.
Tom Francis: Earplugs.
Komaka: And have absolute silence for the rest of the game?
Jazmeister: You could just have more conditioning so that you perceive his accent to be so horribly bad that he can't use vocal conditioning on you.
Or you could just man up.
Urthman: I just posted this over at Rock Paper Shotgun:
Tom Francis wrote a proposal for how Bioshock should have ended that is so fantastic it basically re-wrote my memories, so now when I think of Bioshock, my first thought is "That great game with the incredibly great ending."
Read this to make your experience of Bioshock retroactively awesome.
(contains comprehensive spoilers for Bioshock)
Vincent: Fantastic ending. Just superb.
There is only the problem with the fact that a game can't have children dead or dying. It's why the little sisters were invulnerable and impervious to everything - because you can't kill children for the ESRB rating, or whatever other fucking moral clause you have to fulfill, in order to ship your game out.
But yeah. I can only wish the game ended like this.
Mech: Didn't Fontaine, at the beginning of the game, kindly ask you to pick up the radio? Wouldn't that negate you throwing it away?
(sorry for the digging up of the corpse topic)
Lomithiel: Well, he never kindly asked you to never ever put it down ever. You just had to pick it up, which you did. Alternatively, he never asked you kindly not to smash it to pieces, or just turn it off.
Tom Francis: As I say, "If the Would You Kindly command to pick it up in the first place prevents that, TURN IT OFF."
Melan: Absolute genius. If only...
John: Why cant you chose to save Tennenbum? Take the hit for her and she carries the little sisters across while you cover her. Saves you having the repetitive task of getting the sister and carrying it across. If she dies then you have to carry them.
Tom Francis: I'd like BioShock's resolution to be as dark as its themes: played right, only one halfway virtuous character dies in the game as it stands. It's far too happy-ending for me.
I'd also want the player to hate Fontaine. A side-effect of spending the whole game bigging up Ryan is that when the real villain shows his face, you haven't had much time to build a grudge. He's about to meet an incredibly nasty end, and that's not going to feel satisfying if you don't hate the guy.
Dan: I always thought the Fontaine reveal was a lot more comical than it was disturbing. It should have been terrifying but all I can recall is the cheery little Irish accent turning into his 1920s criminal drone and just going "Frank Fontaine..."
Some dude: wow. Great ending to an amazing game. Editor must currently be famous good or bad fame. I think after all that work most people put into a game, they want to see the main character, wether or not he be hero or villan, exit the storyline in one piece. Great work.
Jody: Some interesting ideas - particularly the vita chambers. I don't like your suggestion for the final game - carrying little sisters would be very dull and frustrating. Escourt missions always are. A boss fight was exactly the ending that was needed even though I didn't like the superhuman Fontaine much, it gave the gameplay kick that's required for a game's climax. Also, the game's endings were some of the most moving I've seen in a game, focusing on the fate of the little sisters and your own - exactly what the story is about. Not Fontaine's death, which is meaningless. Thanks for sharing though. Bioshock has a great story.
adonis muscles: Hey i did not know this game before. it looks amazing i wanna try it. It is so realistic i think. I read all the comments, but not sure where can i buy this game, never seen it in any shop.
moom241: I'd just like to say one thing, if you were fast enough, couldn't you just kill fontaine, save a girl, rush to the vita chamber, kill him with a drill, rinse repeat until you saved them all?
Other than that I love it.
Aziz: Why are you all complaining? Bioshock was great. If the ending was changed we would not have any possibility of a truly happy ending. All of Tom's endings seemed to be messed up in some way. I don't like how you can't save yourself and the little sisters. I do wish that when you got the big daddy suit you could use the drill though.
DoctorDisaster: Considering a major point of BioShock was pushing the boundaries of game narrative, 'OH NOES I HAZ A SAD' doesn't really fly. I daresay one of the most appealing aspects of Tom's rewrite is that it doesn't offer a corny Hollywood ending that completely clashes with the tone of the rest of the game.
There's a choice here, and that means it's kinda important that either way, you lose to some degree.
So, some sadness? Fair trade.
Messiah Complex Prt 2: Towards Mass Effect 3 | Rock, Paper, Shotgun: [...] about thinking about the something else. What it isn’t what Tom Francis did with Bioshock, rewriting its ending to be more satisfying. It’s more about trying to put a microscope on some philosophical bits of pieces which [...]
Hermit: Just spotted this due to today's RPS link, and it's very much along the lines of what I thought when I'd finished it.
What always struck me about the final section is how utterly random it is. I mean, there's a great big museum, presumably for tourists and the intellectual elite, right next to an Orphanage for Little Sisters and a place where you outright turn humans into monsters. Even in pressed-for-space Rapture, you think you'd avoid putting rather disturbing places like that right next to popular attractions. No one's going to go look at your Blue Whale skeleton if there's a man screaming and having his voice box ripped out next door.
You can sort of see their drawing board with all these ideas on them - escorting a sister, becoming a Big Daddy, Defeating Fontaine - and then tried to cram it into too small a space.
Bioshock 2 basically took two of the weakest bits of the first game, namely the Sister Escort and the Big Daddy suit (No drill? Really? Always loved how the endings entirely ignored the whole transformation thing, too), and essentially proved they weren't bad ideas, just badly executed.
Roger W: Maybe I've missed this being discussed already, but why wouldnt Fontaine realise what you're doing, and enter the bathysphere himself, rather than wasting all his efforts in trying to kill you?
nonW00t: yer all nutz. lol
Tom Francis: Roger, good question. Originally my idea for that scene was that the Bathysphere required external activation, so you could either save the sisters or let them save you. I tried to simplify that by saying you physically wouldn't fit in the pod until you removed the sisters, but I didn't think about how that'd change Fontaine's options.
On reflection, I like my first idea better anyway. It makes it extra heartbreaking that the sisters are willing to sacrifice themselves to save you even as you abandon them, and it's just rather satisfying that the reason Fontaine has no hope of escape is that there's simply no-one left in Rapture who likes him enough to help.
Harold: I'm so very late to the party, but here goes :
thank you for your alternate ending, it's pretty fantastic. I still have some questions I'd like your thoughts on :
why would Fontaine want to leave Rapture in the first place? He fought so hard to get control of it. I get that the flooding you imagine woulld make rapture basically worthless, but I don't see very much value in Rapture anyway in the original game so I don't get Fontaine's motive (why would you want to get control of such a hollow place?).
Either he has control and eternal life through the VitaChambers, or he just want to escape and he should have escaped instead of sending you out as a baby in the capsule (maybe the whole plot is about breaking out of Rapture, I don't recall everything).
Also, don't you think Fontaine, with complete control over Rapture, could use the public announcement system with the same effect as the radio? Therefore, you could get rid of the radio, and it wouldn't change much.
RPS Think Tank: Let’s End This | Rock, Paper, Shotgun: [...] of us actually chose BioShock, probably because we were far too intimidated by Tom Francis’s excellent re-imagining of the game post-your encounter with Andrew [...]
tomeoftom: Oh, MAN. That is just so, so, SO perfect. Totally amazing work. Just. AHHH. Christ. YES.
Momo the Cow: Fucking golden, mate. Your article gave me the closure and satisfaction that the original utterly failed to deliver on (following it's considerable promise). If you don't end up writing games, try writing movies. I'll be first in line.
BestMountainBikes: an awesome way to end it. this articles help me to end the game nicely.. thanks a lot
Tom Francis: In a world where spam is left by robots and meaningful comments by humans, I think we've found our first cyborg.
Andrw: weren't the vita chambers linked directly to Ryan's (and through birth, yours) genetic code, thus woudln't it not work for Fontaine ever? all you did was give Fontaine a key, not make him your brother
Andrew**: although on that note, liked the rest of it alot
Ramunas Jakimavicius: That was a stellar ending sequence, and I really liked the creativity behind Fontaine's punishment and the splendor of the idea of watching Rapture flood. You also bring up a really good point regarding that radio and the command phrase.
Thanks for sharing!
Arthur pendragon_y2k: Wow, amazing stuff. Only spotted this from your review of stats and 1top ten list on the five thousandth (sic) post. As you mentioned, great comments too.
P.S. in only finding this now --- i know you'd had website breakages in the past - is this why in recent months the 'older posts' link has gone, and i can only read the 4-5 most recent ones? If i forget to keep up with your fine work for a month or two and you've been particularly busy i miss stuff.
Tom Francis: The problem is that the plugin thinks it's working for you. If it can't initialise, it shows the Older Posts link as usual. I can customise what it says while it thinks it's loading, but I just had a play around with that, and it can't include any links or PHP. That means there's no way to have it show you an 'Older posts' link while it loads, which would have solved the problem since I'm pretty sure it thinks it's loading.
It's kinda weird, the plugin seems otherwise well-made. It warns you can't use single-quotes in these variables, but in fact you can't even use double ones. And PHP just breaks the whole thing.
So all I've done is changed it to show "Loading older posts..." while it is, so anyone who didn't realise it was doing that will at least know what's *supposed* to happen. If it was getting stuck before, though, it'll probably still get stuck. Maybe I can put older posts links in the sidebar or something.
Tom Francis: Alright, fixed now. Workaround was to create an invisible dummy navigation panel for the plugin to scrape its links from, and a real navigation panel without the labels that tell the plugin to hide it when infinite scroll is working. So everyone should see the manual links now, and if the plugin works, they'll also automatically load the next page. There's no notification that it's doing that, but at this point I'm having a hard time caring.
The_Ruccus: I bought the game on Steam a while back, I think it was less than $9.99 US. Like most, I assume, I absolutely LOVED 90-99% until the end. Had I paid full retail I would probably be planning litigation and or violence right now. Your idea for the ending seems much better! Don't listen to the doubters, man!
Post 500, by Tom Francis: [...] Ending BioShock Imagine this post spluttered loudly and indecipherably by a drunk, and you know what I’m like [...]
Neurovore: Hello, I stumbled upon this Bioshock ending re-write by accident today.
I just have one final suggestion, though. When you are collecting the big daddy suit components, it would be a nice touch if you could pick either the Bouncer parts if you wanted to be a Bouncer big daddy or the Rosie suit parts if you wanted to be a Rosie big daddy. The different suit types would have their own advantages/disadvantages, such as the Bouncer trademark instant-kill drill and rapid charge. The Rosie suit would give you the powerful rivet gun and more damage resistance as the Rosies in Bioshock have more hitpoints than the Bouncer big daddies.
Perhaps as bonus or secret, you could find the "elite" versions of the Rosie and Bouncer big daddy suits hidden in the area which would grant you even more damage resistance and make your attacks more powerful.
LionsPhil: The problem with that is that, in this (excellent) proposed ending, having a drill is plot-essential.
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Elmojas: This kind of might not get a difficulty if perhaps most of these developer handbags will not be this high-priced, but we have been talking about bags which will charge as much as RM3, 000 with Malaysian Ringgits. That is certainly quite expensive and when you're an average one who are certainly involved on this model of expensive items then the idea undoubtedly would probably provide help to recognize the prices when you enter into the save.
Wicket: "On reflection, I like my first idea better anyway. It makes it extra heartbreaking that the sisters are willing to sacrifice themselves to save you even as you abandon them, and it's just rather satisfying that the reason Fontaine has no hope of escape is that there's simply no-one left in Rapture who likes him enough to help."
Fontaine: Would you kindly press that bathysphere lever?
RangerGxi: Your ending is 10x better than the games ending. Fontaine dying over and over again, the fight, etc.
Making it Better: Tokyo Jungle « Significant Bits: [...] you ever played a game that you really liked, but certain parts of it disappointed you (for the record, I totally dig Tom Francis’ proposed ending to [...]
Making it Better: Tokyo Jungle | Tokyo Local Me.me: [...] you ever played a game that you really liked, but certain parts of it disappointed you (for the record, I totally dig Tom Francis’ proposed ending to [...]
Skullsmash86: I love everything about this X3, but what many people probaly are wondering is if you save the little sisters, what happens to them? They be stuck in a submarine drifting the ocean ._.
A. Murray: Awesome alternative take! I particularly like the role-reversal element and Fontaine drowning for the rest of his days. That would have been such a satisfying ending.
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Anatomy Of An Intro To A BioShock Infinite Review, by Tom Francis: […] My alternate ending to BioShock 1. […]
What games can do – BioShock & Genre | JamPot: […] first-person genre that the game is so successful at telling its story (even if Tom Francis’ proposed revision to the ending is quite appealing). And of course, foregrounding game genre issues just one way of […]
What games can do – BioShock & Genre | James M. Potter: […] first-person genre that the game is so successful at telling its story (even if Tom Francis’ proposed revision to the ending is quite appealing). And of course, foregrounding game genre issues just one way of […]
Writing Things More Gud. | BONGOLUDO: […] also wrote what I thought was the best inadvertent game design CV cover letter I’ve ever seen: a suggested re-write of Bioshock’s ending. Notice how it only uses assets and gameplay mechanisms in the rest of the game. He also made the […]
Reuben Dunn: I really like your idea for the ending. It's got parts which are way, way better, and I'm sad that it can't actually be envisioned. However, I think that your end scene doesn't suit the mood of the game at all. With the frantic final fight, it would be nicer to have a calm view of Rapture as it slowly collapses, ultimately reunited with the ocean which is was separated from.
Mr. Gorland: But, surely after hours and hours of being surrounded in a dark, depressing, and hopeless dystopia, there must be some light awaiting you at the end of the tunnel, yes?