ROKKAN and 2K Games Dive Deep With BioShock®

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The Brief:

BioShock® for the PLAYSTATION®3 computer entertainment system needed a promotional site that did justice to its intense graphics and compelling storyline. The team of designers, motion/3D artists, and developers at ROKKAN, a bicoastal, full-service interactive agency, created an online experience as gripping and immersive as the critically acclaimed game itself.

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BioShock for the PLAYSTATION®3 System:

BioShock is a narrative-driven action experience that allows players to do the impossible as they journey through an amazing, immersive, and terrifying world. Caught between powerful forces, and hunted down by genetically mutated citizens, the player comes to grips with the mysterious and fascinating world of Rapture, a distinct Art Deco underwater utopia gone mad. BioShock not only challenges players' capacity to adapt and survive, it also brings into question their values and relationships with the inhabitants of Rapture. Smart and adaptive AI means no encounter ever plays out the same way twice, and numerous customization options provide gamers with an experience that adapts to their own playing style.

Developed by 2K Marin, 2K Boston, 2K Australia, and Digital Extremes, BioShock for the PLAYSTATION®3 system will be available at North American and international retailers on October 21 and October 24, respectively, and is rated M for Mature by the ESRB. Available now on Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft and Games for Windows®, BioShock was the recipient of more than 50 Game of the Year awards from prestigious outlets such as the Associated Press and Game Informer magazine.

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Primary Site Interactivity:

"We really wanted to bring out what it feels like to actually play," said ROKKAN Creative Director & CEO John Noe. "Walking through all of the decaying Art Deco environments with wrench in hand, killing Splicers while wading through pools of dripping water - this makes for an incredibly eerie and surreal experience. But probably the scariest aspect of the BioShock game is the silence. The quiet stillness of each new environment makes the game uncomfortably suspenseful. We wanted to bring that out in the site. As you move from room to room, you really get a sense for how deep, dark, mysterious and beautiful the game is."

The team didn't design the site to mimic the game; they wanted to express the game in a new way, while keeping the console in mind. "We really wanted to push the boundaries of what first-person game websites were doing, but we also needed to stay true to the BioShock experience," said ROKKAN Lead Designer John Gist.

So, after the user "awakens" inside the city and first glimpses the Little Sister, interactivity begins. The user is engaged in a follow-the-white-rabbit kind of chase, following visual and audio clues. The user can move from room to room quickly, using the arrow keys on the keyboard. The sounds of footsteps running, the voice of the Little Sister, and other audio cues come from the speakers, guiding the user through the space. Splicers flash abruptly onto the screen, then disappear. Light, moving objects, and other visual cues draw the user toward different rooms.

The transitions between rooms show animated video clips of movement through rooms and hallways, melded with in-game videos and scenes. Each room contains references to characters. The user picks up real game elements in context, such as audio logs, journals, and a complex arsenal of weapons while moving from room to room, searching for the Little Sister. Splicers startle the user, and in-game video and audio abruptly take over the screen, keeping the tension high.

Content Pages:

Even while exploring the city and searching for the Little Sister, users can access content pages via pop-over layers that appear above the interactivity. "We wanted everything in the site to feel tangible," Gist said. "Special attention was paid to the content areas. Visitors can play around with the Media, Press, and Information sections in a way that's true to their medium."

Project Highlights:

"The site is actually fairly deep and has quite a bit of content," Noe said. "It was probably trickiest to integrate in-game footage, new art created for the site, appropriate audio, and new footage into a seamless and highly interactive experience."

The team met the challenge using Flash, After Effects, 3D Studio Max, Photoshop, Illustrator, Maya and Modo - and they're pleased with the results.

"I really love the experience portion of the site, where visitors can explore the city of Rapture at their own pace," said Gist, who was also the lead designer and responsible for many of the video transitions and the sound design. "They really get a feel for the actual game play while learning a bit more about the history of Rapture and the characters in it."

Partnering with 2K Games:

"ROKKAN has worked successfully with 2K Games for the past three years," Noe said. "We created the original site for the Xbox 360/Games for Windows version of BioShock. For the PLAYSTATION®3 version, we both wanted a much more visual and experiential site. ROKKAN built in an abundance of in-game footage and 3D assets, giving a vivid sense of BioShock's incredible graphics and resolution. We had much more freedom to present the game this time, and we maximized it to give players a much richer experience. It really makes you want more."

The site not only introduces users to BioShock for the PLAYSTATION®3 system, it showcases some of the breadth of ROKKAN's capabilities: development, concepting, art direction, animation, 3D, and sound design.

Visit BioShock

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The Creds:

Client: 2K Games-BioShock
Agency: ROKKAN, New York

Creative Director: John Noe
Lead Designer: John Gist
Technical Lead: Russell Savage
Flash Development: Emma Assin, Phil Baudoin
3D Design/Animation: Matt Burniston
Producer: Jessica Altus
Account Manager: Charles Bae


With offices in New York and San Francisco, full-service interactive agency ROKKAN is a solutions-driven company with the right blend of creativity, energy, and innovation. ROKKAN works directly with clients and also partners with advertising agencies, delivering a wide range of strategic, creative, and technical solutions. From interactive, rich-media marketing campaigns to enterprise technical applications, ROKKAN is equipped for all client needs. ROKKAN's core expertise includes: Digital Business, Brand Activation, User Experience Design, Traffic Generation, and Technology. Recent campaigns and websites include projects for Virgin America, the NBA, Atlantic Records, Nintendo, Time Inc., Time Warner, Deutsche Bank, Coca-Cola, Target, and Bad Boy Entertainment.

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