Game development

BioShock Infinite’s Bread Boy proves game development is an unfathomable mystery

The second part of BioShock Infinite’s Burial At Sea DLC takes place in Paris, so it’s no surprise that a boy dances endlessly around a billboard wielding an oversized wand. Paris, you know. The French love big bread sticks. It’s a pretty blunt stereotype, to say the least, and maybe that’s why it quickly became a meme. He was even cosplayed.

But, the Bread Boy became a Bread Boy for a pretty logical game development reason, and as we’ve learned, many aspects of game design that gamers take for granted are actually the result of extremely unintuitive tricks. Gwen Frey worked as a 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.

When developing the Burial at Sea DLC, Frey felt that the Parisian section was too underpopulated, but with limited development resources at hand, not to mention the need to avoid performance issues, she was forced to resort to “idiots”. Chumps are, in Frey’s words, “skeletal meshes of humans without AI”. Bread Boy is one of those jerks.

Frey decided that having a human figure running around the billboard cylinder would help bring Paris to life. But this being DLC, the team had to rely on animations from the base game, lacking the resources to create more. So recycle animations of this sceneFrey first decided to have two children dancing around the bulletin board.

“However, children had different proportions than adults,” Frey tweeted. “So the kids’ feet were going through the floor and their hands were going through each other.” After a bit of tinkering and discovering that it would be impossible to have two children dancing seamlessly in this spot, Frey changed tack.

“So I removed the boy’s dance partner and tied a wand to his hands. Bam! The boy is dancing with the wand! Ship him!”

She continued, “I figured if anyone asked me, I’d just say ‘the bread is awesome, isn’t it?! I didn’t think about it at the time, but this boy is the most viral thing I’ve ever done.”

The bread is indeed excellent. Lesser are creepy man babies, another meme NPC from BioShock Infinite. Frey also has an explanation for this, and it’s fun. The terrifying baby man is actually a placeholder model, and was meant to be replaced by a new baby model. “But the main game came with a shrunken normal child (placeholder!!!) and then I was told to use it again in the DLC and…I just…choose my So fight…”

Is there anything duller than perfection? Long live the Baby Man and long live the Bread Boy.