So, it has happened. Six years after the clouds of BioShock Infinite wafted away into history, 2K has announced that the series is far from finished. A new studio, fittingly called Cloud Chamber, has been assembled to tackle such a tall order. The most obvious question, I suppose, is Why? Closely followed by When? and Where? This new BioShock game, whatever form it may take, has reportedly been in development for five years; during that time, developer Certain Affinity was attached to the project, whose concepts for the game have since been cut. Let’s muse on what they probably were.
The moon has been staring us in the face the entire time. What better place to explore the dark side of a utopia? Wolfenstein: The New Order had the wit to make the lunacy of the Nazis a literal proposition, by offering up a Nazi moonbase to explore and explode. Prey, too, was bitten by the lunar bug, serving up the Mooncrash DLC and giving us our best glimpse at what a moonbound BioShock game might look like. The villain is an unhinged, alternate-history President Kennedy, who gets obsessed with the idea of building a better America on the moon. It’s essentially BioShock Infinite’s Columbia again, but, instead of intervening with Earthly affairs, he wants nothing to do with it.
Alternate Dimension America
J. Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI, establishes an alternate America in a parallel dimension—which would, of course, occasionally bleed through into the real America. Hoover would banish the hippies and enforce mandatory high-and-tight haircuts. He moves the FBI headquarters from Washington D.C. to New York, and the city would appear, in his dimension—which would be called Hoovertopia—as a grim and grey metropolis. Hoover’s clandestine relationship with the Mafia would also continue in Hoovertopia, and your character would be a mob boss who catches a brief look at the real America and starts to plan an escape. Twist: your character is in fact a multiverse version of Frank Fontaine.
As a counterpoint to the Hoovertopian vision, the hippy movement establishes Woodstock—a floating city fuelled by “flower power,” which is actually a variant on the Lutece particles that powered Columbia. This groovy utopia is lead by a group called the Four Apostles, made up of Artie Kornfeld, Michael Lang, John P. Roberts, Joel Rosenman, the organisers of the original Woodstock concert. They ascended after Nixon came into office and decided to live amongst the clouds. You play as a hippy-hating cop, sent to Woodstock to investigate the sudden disappearance of massive shipments of bell-bottom jeans from the Earth below. The rest of America is annoyed that so many famous music legends also ascended to Woodstock, causing a slump in the music industry. Also, the citizens of Woodstock don’t have jobs.
Subterranean City (under Wales)
So, in response to Margaret Thatcher’s opposition to the 1984-85 miners’ strike, Arthur Scargill, head of the National Union of Mineworkers, establishes a secret underground city, using the mines as a source of power, and builds a union-operated utopia. You play as a private detective, sent to recover a kidnapped conservative MP; only, you may or may not decide to join Scargill and his followers, taking advantage of their ultra-futuristic, coal-powered technology and basking in what Scargill and his citizens consider to be the limitless possibilities of fossil fuels. (The game would deal heavily in irony.)
Lanzarote was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1993, but in the year 2023, it was declared a literal biosphere: an enormous glass bubble, drawing its energy from the region’s volcanoes and containing within it the natural beauty of the Canary Islands—along with a swathe of citizens pursuing a permanent holiday. Strangely, the utopian Lanzarote seems to be comprised mostly of British holidaymakers (flocking to the legendary Linker's Bar) meaning that the outside world isn’t actually concerned by the development at all. This might be one of the only BioShock settings to remain a utopia, with its citizens happy to work and live for the weekends and the airport terminals, back in the outside world, unclogged.
The ocean has been plumbed. The sky has been plundered. The only untapped elements are fire and ice. Short of building a city in a volcano—like the Bond villains of legend, with their collarless jackets—ice is the only way to go. Picture a frosted city of sparkling skyways and iglu-style domes, run by an environmentalist eccentric who has found an alternative energy source and simultaneously frozen the melting of the ice caps. You
play an agent sent by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to find out more about this alternate energy source, and to investigate the impact of this city on the Antarctic ecosystem. Dark twist: the city has optimised penguins for manual labour and service-industry jobs, and has flown in polar bears from farther afield to act as security personnel.