Some people may be aware that I am currently working, alongside a reasonable number of impressively talented individuals, on a single-player Half-Life 2 mod called Neptune.
Let's get the plugging out of the way first: www.neptunemod.com
Since we went public with it in... when was it? September or something? Well, since then, we've been fortunate enough to get a lot of very nice press and kind words from followers. We've been regularly in the top ten most viewed mods on ModDB (usually around the time of a new media release, but still) and have a sizeable number of people "watching" our development over there. But in amongst all this has developed an interesting trend for responses along the lines of:
"So it's like BioShock, then?"
Which in a way is to be expected. It's listed publically among our influences (alongside a number of more reasonable coparisons, though), there's a few similarities in the period art design (mainly because, well, it's set around the time Rapture was being built and that's just what stuff looked like) and the narrative delivery is certainly comparable. So we can see where it's all coming from. But there seems to be an assumption that, because of these vague links, we're just trying to rip that game off.
That game. Instead of any of the other games we're far more blatantly plagiarising. Fucking hell, in essence it's one enormous pastiche on the original Half-Life, almost completely stealing its narrative and gameplay structures. Only with Penumbra's chilly level design. And Shock 2's omnipresent mocking. Those games, yeah, I'll hold my hand up and say we're nicking the fuck out of them. But BioShock? Really?
I've stopped responding to these sorts of comments, because my replies were degenerating into "oh for fuck's sake" answers each time, which isn't exactly the best PR. But in the run-up to GDC, where our scriptwriter Nick DiMucci was heading to plug the arse off the thing (I still have no idea why he was there. We clearly didn't have an official stand or keynote. I think he was just running around thrusting the web address at people and trying to recruit character animators), our sound designer and webmaster Jesse Harlin took the opportunity to revamp the website. In doing so, he drafted up a rather lovely FAQ section which responds to the BioShock accusations in a far more measured, reasonable and sensible way than I ever could, while simultaneously saying exactly what I would say if I weren't such an angry man.
What started as a puzzling (and silly to us) yet recurring question we are now taking seriously. For some reason, most readers see a boat and survival gameplay and instantly associate the game with BioShock.
The question has come up enough that we felt it merits a formal responce. To put it simply, no.
Now to put it not-so-simply:
Like any game, we are standing on the shoulders of giants. BioShock owes much if not all of its gameplay to System Shock 2, which owes its gameplay to System Shock. Thief, Deus Ex, Fallout 3, Obilivion and a host of other games also share similar elements. Furthermore, virtually every action shooter owes its roots to the Doom franchise, and inheritably to Wolfenstein 3D.
For some reason, some elements of modern gaming are so ubititous that we take it for granted. Did Painkiller rip off Serious Sam that ripped off of Doom that ripped off of Wolfenstein that ripped off of Commander Keen that ripped off Pong?? Well... in some sense, yes. But really? No.
With no leveling system, no "magic system" (read: gene splicing) and a completely different story, cast, weapons and feel, the only thing that Neptune shares with BioShock is the fact that the ocean is involved at some point (marginally) and there is some era music from the thirties and forties. Thats really it.
Technically, the game has much more in common with Half-Life, if anything, but for all practical purposes its signifigantly different from any of the above.
In other words, shut it, or else I'll force you to stare at our BioShockiest screenshot: