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Ex-BioShock developer explains the viral baguette boy’s whole deal

Turns out yeah, Parisian kids just really love bread

The famous baguette boy dances in the Paris streets of Bioshock Infinite’s Burial at Sea DLC Image: Irrational Games/2K Games
Joshua Rivera (he/him) is an entertainment and culture journalist specializing in film, TV, and video game criticism, the latest stop in a decade-plus career as a critic.

As a repository for all of our waking thoughts and unrestrained id, it’s hard to beat Twitter. Of course, this can be bad; not knowing other people’s idle thoughts is often a good thing! On occasion though, it’s kind of neat — like when someone wakes up on an otherwise normal day and thinks: “Hey, remember how BioShock Infinite had some kid dancing with a baguette in the background for no discernible reason?” And then someone else says “I sure do because I made that kid.”

Over the weekend, Twitter user @instant_grat mused about a moment in BioShock Infinite’s Burial at Sea DLC, the only place in the video game where a boy can be seen frolicking around a pillar with a baguette held over his head — as if all Parisian boys want in the world is a loaf to call their own, to lord over all the loafless street urchins on the promenade.

It’s a very funny observation, but what’s even better is that Gwen Frey, the developer behind indie game Kine and former member of the BioShock Infinite team, noticed it, and since it was her actual job to put the bread boy there, could share the story behind this jaunty lad.

According to Frey, a big part of her job was populating BioShock Infinite with background characters, many of which include something she calls “chumps.” In her words, chumps are “skeletal meshes of humans with no AI.” Think of them as animatronics you’d run into at a theme park.

In order to liven up the Paris scene in question, Frey wanted to put a moving background character in the space but it was too resource intensive to script AI pathing necessary to guide a character around the space — so an ad hoc solution was stitched together from other assets taken from throughout the game. A looping dancing animation was deputized to add two dancing children to the scene, but having two kids dancing introduced more problems, and one kid dancing alone just looked wrong. But if Frey could put a baguette in said kid’s hands...that might work!

Frey’s tweets detail a classic problem of game development — the need to make the most of limited resources in order to improve the gameplay experience as much as possible, and make a game world feel just a little more alive. And also provide the raw materials for funny social media posts nearly a decade later.

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