She’s become the iconic face of Irrational Games’ upcoming BioShock Infinite, but the Elizabeth character was almost cut out of the game on more than one occasion.
"Do you know how many times people wanted to just cut her? Over and over again,” lead developer Ken Levine told Polygon. Because we didn’t know what to do with her at first."
But why should such a character become problematic? Two reasons. Firstly, she simply began to get in the way, drawing too much focus away from other elements of the title.
"I would be in reviews and ask ‘Where is Elizabeth?’ and they would say, ‘Oh, she’s in a closet’," Levine added. "The same with (BioShock’s) Big Daddy. I actually had to insist that there were three Big Daddies in every level."
The second issue was that the presence of such an unusual character – as defined by typical game design tropes – presented challenges that some of the team struggled to cope with.
It also served to challenge some of the presumptions that most shooting games take for granted. Violence, for instance, ceased to be incidental and suddenly garnered an unexpected gravitas that led to genuine and real consequences.Challenging, perhaps, but this certainly took the game in fascinating directions.
**THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS**
"There’s a scene in the game where Elizabeth sees you being violent for the first time and she has a very strong reaction to it," Levine explained. "We were in this weird spot because any human being that you’re going to believe is going to have a reaction.
Anyone who’s been locked up her whole life, who’s never seen violence, is going to have an obviously very strong reaction to that kind of violence. And she does.
So Booker sort of explains the rules of the world to her, that somebody wanted her locked up like that. She was kidding herself when she thought they were just going to walk out. It is a weird moment because generally you don’t beg the question in a game, right? Just people start shooting people and it’s fine."
Violence is an issue addressed in another recent game, Tomb Raider, where players see Lara being forced to kill for the first time and subsequently struggling to come to terms with the morality of her acts.
It’s a welcome development for games and one that speaks of its growing maturity.
"Nathan Drake [of Sony’s Uncharted series] is a charming, lovable rogue, but he’s also a psychopathic mass murder,” Levine explains. So’s Booker DeWitt, though DeWitt’s not really meant to be charming. So we had this conversation (between Elizabeth and DeWitt) to address that."
"We have all of these systems that after you are in combat and you ask her to, like pick a lock or something she wouldn’t be like, ‘OK, Booker’. She actually cools. Her emotions cool down over time because you have a lot of dissonant moments.
"It’s all about begging the question. The further you go, the more you have to do. If she was a robot you’d never have to worry about that."
BioShock infinite is released on March 26th.