A few weeks back, Irrational Games unveiled the Columbia-fied collector's edition for BioShock Infinite, much to the delight of dystopian fiction lovers everywhere. The stunning collection includes a number of wonderfully detailed pieces, including the real eye/wallet catcher of the collection, the statue of what's quickly become Infinite's most recognizable characters, the Songbird.
We recently spoke with Irrational Games creative director Ken Levine and concept artist Robb Waters via email to find out more about how this collection came together and the Songbird's creation.
Of all the characters that have been revealed so far, the Songbird has consistently been a fan favorite. Did you have a sense when you were creating and designing him that, not unlike the Big Daddy, there was something inherently fascinating about him and that he had the potential to be such a popular character?
Robb Waters: I got a glimpse of the potential for Songbird when I sketched out a rough picture showing Elizabeth touching the monster’s bowing head. It was the unique express ability of the character that was apparent to me at that moment. Seeing beyond the gruesome exterior of the monster and getting a sense of the monster’s soul can make for a more interesting character. The abstracted, mysterious form of the character also allows the viewer to remain engaged, as it keeps them guessing as to what they are actually seeing.
When it came to designing the collector’s editions, was a Songbird statue always something you wanted to include? The Handyman seems like another great choice (nice to see him included in board-game model form). Were there ever plans to have multiple statues for other characters, or was it always just Songbird?
Ken Levine: We got such a strong reaction to our Songbird statue at E3. He’s really been a fan favorite. People are drawn to both his raw power and also his emotional connection to Elizabeth. I think some of the best characters have an emotional connection. The best monsters work that way. I had a conversation once with Guillermo Del Toro on our podcast, Irrational Interviews. And he said what makes a great monster is that you can imagine them in repose. And that’s what I wanted for Songbird, looked at him the way you would see him in the game normally. In terms of multiple figures, I’d rather just make a big decision and go for it rather than try to please everybody with a bunch of small things. So we were really excited about making this a really big statement.
As someone who knows nothing about how these sorts of figures are actually made, can you sort of outline that process from concept to creation? How did you decide on the pose? What materials went into making it?
RW: The figure was based on a basic sketch/gesture of the character. Once the pose was chosen for the figure, our in-game model was posed to roughly match the drawing. With the 360 degrees of reference photos provided by the sculptor, they began shaping the raw wax material into the Songbird. Once every last stitch and wrinkle was completed, the figure was cast in resin and ready for paint and production. The biggest challenge with getting this figure made was trying to help the sculptor understand just what the misshapen monster called Songbird was. He came to visit us in Boston and was able to understand our vision by spending some time with us on-site.
Are there any plans to make more figures down the line, either internally or through a third-party manufacturer (e.g., the Sky-Hook replica)?
KL: Yes, most definitely, we’re already working with NECA on a bunch of great action figures and replicas. One of the first ones coming out is the Sky-Hook, there is a great one of Elizabeth in the works, and an amazing Boys of Silence. Plaid Hat is making a board game that is miniature-related. Our own Irrational Games collectible items have been received really well in our own online store, like the Murder of Crows Vigor Bottle and the Andrew Ryan statue. We understand that a lot of our fans are collectors like we are, and so there’s a place where you can get really high-end stuff that’s really well-made by fellow collectors. So yes, there will be tons of BioShock Infinite toys.
I know you are a huge board-game fanatic, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that there’s going to be a BioShock Infinite board game coming out soon as well. How did that come about, and are there any details about the actual game that you can share at this time?
KL: I had known about Plaid Hat through their board games, Summoner Wars in particular. And my friend Julian Murdoch, over at Gamers with Jobs, is really tuned in to the board-game industry. And he asked if I knew Colby Dauch from Plaid Hat and I said no, so he introduced me to him. I immediately liked Colby; I could tell he has both the business and design together. Most important to me is that I love miniatures, and I saw the miniatures he created for his other games and I was really excited to work with him. He came by with a design and pitched it to me. Needless to say, I really liked it.
His team did a really great job and I’m excited for the game to come out. I made my own board games years ago, and I would have these little cardboard shit counters and actually draw the images on the counters, so I did board-game design before I did video game design. I’ve always had a soft spot for board games. And I got into gaming through board games. In terms of the number of figures, there are going to be a bunch. Handyman is one of them, but we wanted to give people a taste of the quality of Plaid Hat in the collector’s edition.