BEYOND THE SEA: The Beginnings of BioShock’s Big Daddy

MILD SPOILERS WARNING: If you’ve never played BioShock before, would you kindly wait a little bit before reading this behind-the-scenes look at the Big Daddy?



Easily one of the most iconic characters of the BioShock series has got to be the Big Daddy. From the first moment one lumbers into view as you’re unconscious on the floor, there’s no doubt about it – you’re in a world of trouble. But to really appreciate the Big Daddy, you need to understand where it came from.



Before they were called Big Daddies, these hulking beasts were named "Protectors." Makes sense. After all, these were envisioned as the guardians of Rapture before they became devoted to protecting Little Sisters – which we’ll get to in a bit. As with the enemies of Rapture, Big Daddies found their own special place of honor in BioShock as the fiction of the game grew. They turned from sluggish beasts to men in diving suits to the giant, menacing creatures we love (and fear) today.


According to BioShock’s Lead Animator, Shawn Robertson, “We looked a lot at turn-of-the-century diving suits from the beginning. We asked ourselves, ‘How did people get under water in 1900?’ Technically not the era we were doing for BioShock, but the technology was just so interesting, and we actually found a couple diving suits meant for fighting underwater with cages around them and that's where we got the idea for the cage around the Bouncer's head. There's lots of crazy ideas people came up with, and it didn't look like you could move in them at all.”

Once the team settled upon going the diving suit route, a number of artists on the team jam on ideas. This gives you a rough idea of the direction the Protector was going.


Senior Environment Artist Nate Wells spent some time working out the details on the Big Daddy's helmet, as you can see close-up in the pen sketch on the left side. He really started to get into the nuts-and-bolts of the Big Daddy's costume, cobbling together the pieces of the suit as inventors would in Rapture, using the parts of the city they could salvage to make unbeatable warriors. Now, onto the Big Daddies you meet in the game (and some you don’t).

Originally, BioShock had four Protectors planned. Of those, only the “Bouncers” that you meet early on and the “Rosies” with their oversized rivet guns made it into the final game. 


What you’re looking at here is the very first drawing of what would become a “Bouncer” Big Daddy as you recognize it today. The proportions aren't there. The legs are really skinny and the drills are really small, but that was the drawing that kind of gave birth to the Bouncer. It wasn’t until later the designers opted for that one imposing auger drill for its right hand. 


Where the “Bouncer” was clearly meant to be imposing up-close, the Rosie Big Daddy was ranged. It complemented the one with the drill. Robertson said, “We started asking, ‘Why are they there?’ We came up with the idea that they helped build Rapture, so a rivet gun was an easy fit.” He added, “Because we didn't want them walking around just like they were built to be warriors. They had to have a purpose. That's how she (or he) got her nickname – we call her Rosie – because she has a rivet gun.” Yep, Rosie the Riveter.

Another Big Daddy, dubbed the “Slug Bug,” essentially had an amorphous slug-like parasite sitting on the Big Daddy’s shoulders. Creepy, yes. Ultimately, though, it was scrapped and never made its way far past the concept art stage. 


And then came the Slow-Pro Big Daddy. The Slow-Pro was a victim of a late-in-development cut from the original BioShock. Think of the Slow-Pro as the heavy weapons monster.

A big question for it was how his weapon was going to fire, according to Nate Wells. “We were still pretty unclear on that. Then I found what actually helped me finish him off, a sketch by Leonardo Da Vinci of a diving suit.” He continues, “It’s a big leather suit that had this mask that was this wooden card with a lens on it that was connected to a watertight suit by this leather bag or bladder that had little windows in it. and it was very strange. I really liked it, so I tried to adapt it to the way the suit fit for the Rosies.”

Essentially, it would hunker down and launch these devastating shells from an arm-mounted canon. But it came too late and got left behind.


“I kinda wish Slow-Pro had shipped,” said Wells,”because one of the cool things was that card was attached to this flexible bag. Our plan was to have it articulate so the plate itself would look around in a way that the Big Daddies don't because they have no necks and can't turn their heads. Slow-Pro could actually turn his eye and angle it at the player, kinda stretch it out and pull it back in. It was a fun design and something I'd have liked to examine in other games just to see, because it would've been such a cool effect.”


The good news is that Nate didn’t have to wait too long. The Slow-Pro became what you’d know as the Rumbler Big Daddy in BioShock 2.

Ah…but the Rumblers, Big Sisters and Subject Delta are stories for another day when we start talking more about BioShock 2.

Stay tuned for more on that in the coming weeks.

Want to learn more about the worlds of Rapture and Columbia before BioShock: The Collection ships on September 13? Follow @BioShock on Twitter and Facebook – and be sure to explore our awesome fan-driven Wikia pages