"If there's a bathroom, there should be a toilet. And if there's a toilet, it should flush. It's these little pieces of seemingly pointless interactivity that maintain the illusion of being inside a functional other place, not just a place-shaped box." Toilets also reveal something about the people who build them. You can tell a lot about a developer's approach to world-building by the authenticity, and flushability, of its crappers. [...]
Developers are well aware of players' fascination with toilets, and they're always leaving surprises there: whether it's loot, a hidden enemy, or in BioShock Infinite's case, a raw potato. [...] But why a potato? Initially, Elliott is evasive. "In an act of meta-commentary I placed a consumable potato in one of Columbia's toilets," he says. "It was an interactive pay-off for inquisitive toilet inspectors, and also an acknowledgement of the absurdity of where items are found in our world. Pineapples in cash registers and so on." He adds: "really, though, it just looked like a turd."
I asked several developers what their favourite videogame toilet was, and the same game kept coming up: Frictional's psychological horror game Soma. "There's an incredible toilet in the first few minutes," says Brendon Chung. "You have fine analogue control over the toilet seat and flush handle. Flush it and you see the water swirling in the bowl. This is an absolutely luxurious amount of control reached by no other developer." [...]
As for the process of building a videogame toilet, it can be a surprisingly tricky task. I ask Frictional artist Aaron Clifford, who created Soma's peerless khazi, about the process. "The toilet was in good shape, but I wasn't happy with the flush. It didn't do it justice. It was impossible to make a decent swirling effect using particle systems, so I used an animated water texture that moved along a strip of polygons. Then all I had to do was bend and twist the strip to have the water flow down the bowl."
"Toilets are valuable precisely because they have no real relevance to the game at hand," says Fullbright's Steve Gaynor.