BioShock Infinite: ‘photorealism isn’t our goal’, says Irrational Games

Monday, 4th March 2013 15:38 GMT By Dave Cook

BioShock: Infinite developer Irrational Games has shed light on the game’s distinct art style and why it leaned away from the photorealism many developers strive for today.

Speaking with CVG, BioShock: Infinite’s director of design Bill Gardner suggested that there is perhaps a misconception among the development community that all gamers want photorealism from their experience.

Gardner continued, “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.

“You look at Elizabeth, and she’s by no means super ultra photorealistic. That’s not our goal, it’s about making her relatable and 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 as an industry it’s the misconception [that gamers want realism] mixed with taking the easy road.

“It’s by no means easy trying to create photorealistic graphics, but if you’re trying to strive for that goal and to also mix in a crazy aesthetic that may be the exact juxtaposition to photorealistic? Yeah, I can see how that would be a hurdle for you. Certainly it’s an interesting quest to try to get photorealism, but it’s just not something that we’re interested in.”

Are you fond of BioShock: Infinite’s art style? Would you prefer it to be more realistic? Let us know what you think below.



  1. Pytox

    It should be like Crysis 3

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Razor

    Good decision.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. SameeR_Fisher

    Thank You.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. Arkorvo

    I would have thought that was pretty obvious.

    More stylistic artstyles are always welcome in my books, we see realistic everyday and it’s pretty uninteresting.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Phoenixblight

    I have always enjoyed stylized more than photorealistic and I like the art style of Bioshock Infinite because of this. photorealism can stay with brands like Crysis because that is all they have is eye candy because the last two games especially the last one was lacking on gameplay.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. YoungZer0

    Yeah, no need to say that, it’s pretty clear if you look at Elizabeth huge puppy dog eyes.

    I’m not too fond of Bioshock Infinite’s Disney gone bad style. I still think some of the design look just downright dumb, but I still prefer this to your run-of-the-mill FPS.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. ItsMe

    As long as this isn’t an excuse for a lack of detail in the graphics, because that’s sometimes what happens when a developer doesn’t want to focus on the graphics. I want sharp textures and good detail.

    #7 2 years ago
  8. Winged Nazgul

    Photorealism can look dated in a few years but great style is timeless.

    #8 2 years ago
  9. roadkill

    Good decision! This is complete new fiction and the art style that you have chosen fits perfect. Of course there’ll be all kind of people who know so much about game design and will complain about this but what can you do.. Ignore them! :)

    #9 2 years ago
  10. YoungZer0

    “Ignore them”

    How does that help anyone?

    #10 2 years ago
  11. Talkar

    “leaned away from the photorealism many developers strive for today”
    Ah yes, like so many of the most played games currently, such as Minecraft, WoW, StarCraft, Dota 2 etc. :P

    #11 2 years ago
  12. Phoenixblight


    There are far more games for photorealism than there is otherwise.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. DrDamn

    Really – any proof of that? Depends on what you terms “games” but I’d guess otherwise. Most games avoid it as it allows for a bit more artistic direction.

    #13 2 years ago
  14. Phoenixblight


    I am not going to make an excel sheet grab the releases for 2012 look at the titles and you will see there are far more triple A games going for photorealism than stylized.

    Even look at this year releases so far: Dead Space 3, Metal Gear:R, Hitman, Crysis 3 then we have Assassins Creed 4,Watch Dogs,Last of US coming out this year.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. karma

    Depends on the game. Back in the day, I felt that System Shock 2 leaned more in the direction of realism, and for that particular game it fit the universe well. I also enjoyed the original BioShock art style, which struck a compromise between realism and style. What I don’t like is when games try to force stylistic aesthetic into games that don’t need it. Gears of War for example, I really dislike the art style in that franchise. Would have been much more approachable for me had it looked more realistic. I love the photo realism in the STALKER games, I don’t think I would have been half as immersed into the world had the visuals been more stylized. On the other hand I also enjoy Borderlands graphic novel art style, and thought it looked seriously bland when it had the earlier photo-realism. So again, it depends on what fits the game most. I don’t think any game should start out with a set style in mind. I think the games style comes into place as the game itself evolves through iteration.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. manamana

    Art style is great for what it is. But it’s something else that bothers me: everytime they talk about the game, it’s about Elizabeth. Now what I have seen of her is great but couldn’t they focus a little more on the player and it’s background or did ai miss something?

    #16 2 years ago
  17. Phoenixblight


    You don’t see the player only his hands and this article is about the art style which again don’t see the player and since everyone knows who Elizabeth is it makes it much easier to put the point across.

    #17 2 years ago

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