Irrational: ultra-photorealism in BioShock Infinite "isn't our goal"

Omri Petitte at

BioShock Infinite

One of the best ways to flex the graphical muscle of our machines is seeing how close we can bring virtual visuals to the real thing. It's not the absolute definition of fidelity, though, and some games—the BioShock family, for instance—dip into a heavily stylized look for a more fantastical approach to beauty. Speaking to CVG in an interview, Irrational Design Director Bill Gardner states clinging to realism isn't one of the studio's aims and shares his thoughts on the "misconception" of gamers solely desiring photo-like graphics.

"You look at Elizabeth, and she's by no means super ultra-photorealistic," he explains. "That's not our goal. It's about making her relatable, believable, and lovable. I think there's plenty here [in Infinite] that would make you want to crank up the graphics card all the way and crank up all the options, but I think there's a misconception in the industry [that gamers want realism] mixed with taking the easy road."

Gardner says Irrational's artists "aren't interested" in attempts to finagle realistic graphics from Infinite's unrealistic elements. I'd say it's hard keeping things grounded when you're running around a floating city, shooting crows out of your hands, and escorting a superhuman girl with dinner-plate-sized eyes.

Gardner also elaborates on how the industry perceives the drive to constantly innovate only realistic visuals in response to gamer needs, saying, "It's maybe because there's a misconception that that's what gamers want and that's all they want. And to some degree it's true: you get the latest drivers and the latest video cards and you really want to show what your beast can do. So what better way to do that than to say, 'Hey, this is New York City!' and to show the latest greatest game with all the settings cranked up? Realism sells that, I think."

Do you know what also sells? Setting a George Washington robot on fire with a pistol. Realism. At least, that's what we think in our preview, which you should check out as the days dwindle leading to BioShock Infinite's March 26 release.