BioShock Infinite's Bread Boy proves game development is a fathomless mystery

BioShock Infinite bread boy
(Image credit: 2K)

The second part of BioShock Infinite's Burial At Sea DLC takes place in Paris, so in some ways it's no surprise that a boy can be found dancing endlessly around a noticeboard wielding an oversize baguette. Paris, you know. The French love big long sticks of bread. It's a fairly blunt stereotype, to say the least, and perhaps for that reason it fast became a meme. It has even been cosplayed.  

But, the Bread Boy became a Bread Boy for a fairly logical game development reason, and as we've come to learn, many aspects of game design players take for granted are actually the result of extremely unintuitive tricks. Gwen Frey worked as senior technical animator on BioShock Infinite, and in a thread on Twitter she finally revealed the (impeccable) logic behind why the boy is dancing with bread—and it's not because dancing bread boys capture the essence of Paris.

During development of the Burial at Sea DLC, Frey felt that the Paris section was too underpopulated, but with limited dev resources at hand, not to mention the need to avoid performance issues, she was forced to resort to "chumps." Chumps are, in Frey's words, "skeletal meshes of humans with no AI." Bread Boy is one such chump. 

Frey decided that having a human figure running around the noticeboard cylinder would help bring Paris to life. But this being DLC, the team had to draw upon animations from the base game, lacking the resources to create more. So, recycling animations from this scene, Frey initially decided to have two dancing kids moving around the noticeboard.

"However, the kids had different proportions than the adults," Frey tweeted, "So the kids' feet were clipping through the ground and their hands were going through each other." After a bit of fiddling, and after discovering that it was going to be impossible to have two children dancing seamlessly in that location, Frey changed tack.

"So I deleted the boy's dancing partner and attached a baguette to his hands. Bam! Boy dances with baguette! Ship it!"

She continued: "I figured if anyone asked I'd just say 'bread is great right?!' I didn't think anything of it at the time, but this boy is the most viral thing I've ever made."

Bread is indeed great. Less great are terrifying man babies, another memed BioShock Infinite NPC. Frey has an explanation for that too, and it's an amusing one. The terrifying man baby is actually a placeholder model, and was meant to be replaced with a new baby model. "But the main game shipped with a normal kid scaled down (placeholder!!!), and then I was told to use it again in the DLC and... I just... I pick my fights so…" 

Is there anything more dull than perfection? Long live man baby, and long live Bread Boy.

Shaun Prescott

Shaun Prescott is the Australian editor of PC Gamer. With over ten years experience covering the games industry, his work has appeared on GamesRadar+, TechRadar, The Guardian, PLAY Magazine, the Sydney Morning Herald, and more. Specific interests include indie games, obscure Metroidvanias, speedrunning, experimental games and FPSs. He thinks Lulu by Metallica and Lou Reed is an all-time classic that will receive its due critical reappraisal one day.