There's a war being fought in Columbia, and BioShock Infinite's lead designer Ken Levine says that the inspiration for the conflict was taken from the tumultuous twentieth century.
It's no secret that a hefty slice of the first BioShock was inspired by Ayn Rand's objectivist philosophy, which gave the game a depth that most lack. Irrational wants to add similar depth to its spiritual successor, BioShock Infinite, and has drawn on political movements and ideologies to create the game's rival factions.
The floating city of Columbia is being ravaged by civil war, as the two factions vie for control. Currently holding the reins of power is an ultranationalist group that promotes the good of the city ahead of all other concerns, while rejecting outside influence. The group will protect Columbia at all costs, including taking up arms against anyone who would try to change things. According to Levine, this ruling class is based on various nationalist movements that have sprung up over the years, as the feelings that inspire them wax and wane over time.
While the faction isn't solely based on current events, Levine admitted that the kind of feelings espoused by the ultranationalists weren't unknown in modern day America. "There's definitely a component in America today that nationalism is extremely important to certain people - a sense that America is a separate case," he said. "It's something I've always found fascinating. It's an interesting element to divide over - where you're born. It's kind of an accident, right? ... It's interesting to me how important those [divides] become to people and I wanted to explore that."
Opposing the nationalists is a group calling themselves the "Vox Populi" - which means voice of the people in Latin - which believes that all people should be treated equally in Columbia, regardless of their race or beliefs. Levine called the group "passionate," and compared it to grass-roots student campaigns that become more militant as they become more organized, like the Red Army Faction, which violently opposed what it saw as fascist elements in West German government in the 1970's.
"This group starts out as a confederation of like-minded people," Levine said. "As it becomes more serious and more organized, there becomes a need to enforce an ideology, an order, and a hierarchy... it also becomes more brutal. There becomes a line to toe. Different leaders emerge and some leaders aren't as successful as other leaders, and you can imagine what happens to them. They get pushed aside and a unified ideology comes into place."
What's going to be interesting about BioShock Infinite is that neither of these factions can really be called the "good guys." It seems that Infinite will be more morally ambiguous than previous BioShock games, with players constantly having to choose the lesser of two evils. Unfortunately, BioShock Infinite isn't out until 2012, so we've got a long time to wait before we'll get to make that choice.
Source: Game Informer