My Friday ended with a real treat, and I'm going to share a taste of it with you readers right now. Yesterday, 2K Games and Irrational Games announced a unique feature for the highly anticipated 2012 release, BioShock Infinite. The game's so-called '1999 Mode' ramps up the challenge, but it's less a difficulty setting and more a system designed to hold player's hands less, forcing them to react and adapt to a more permanent set of in-game decisions.
Earlier today, I hopped on the phone with Irrational design director Bill Gardner to chat about how 1999 Mode works and why it will be appearing in Infinite. You'll read all about it on Monday when the full interview publishes, but Gardner revealed one fact about the mode that's so cool, so self-referential to all of the things we love about video games, that it really just couldn't wait.
It all started when I asked Gardner if we'd be able to play 1999 Mode from the second the game loads up, or if it would be the sort of thing that would have to wait until after a full game completion. His reply came quickly.
"We've debated this a bunch internally. We're not interested in making this the kind of thing that unlocks when you finish the game or whatever. We want people to be able to play the game as they choose, and that's what this mode is all about."
"But at the same time we're being cautious about making sure a shooter guy who plays maybe two shooters a year doesn't stumble into it and say, 'Oh, what's 1999 Mode?' And the first time they boot up the game, they go into it and they don't necessarily understand it because they don't have that legacy. Then they get their ass kicked because they don't understand the importance of [the choices they're making], and they say 'I give up, this game's stupid.'"
Now pay attention carefully. Here's where things take an interesting turn. Gardner said: "We're talking about unlocking it from the main menu in a very old school way, if you will." Emphasis on the old school was his. "It'll be available right from the start but you might have to enter a code."
Jaded reporter and opiner on Game Things that I am, I immediately overlooked the very obvious hint and started to worry. I asked him, this isn't a pre-order code sort of thing, is it?
Gardner chuckled, thought for a moment, and replied more definitively, even though I already knew the answer before he said it.
"I'll just say it: we're talking about doing the Konami Code. Up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start."
To be clear: he did say that they're just "talking about" this plan right now, so things could certainly change before BioShock Infinite's release. It seems clear based on what Gardner said, however, that 1999 Mode is something you'll be able to play from the word Go. Actually unlocking it with the Konami Code though? How cool would that be?!