ADAM is the raw form of the unstable stem cells harvested and processed from a type of Sea Slug parasite. It is believed to consist of totipotent stem cells that have the ability to differentiate into any cell type. As revealed in the Audio Diary Hatred, ADAM is a viscous, green liquid in its raw form.
ADAM can be genetically manipulated to produce cells that would not normally be present in the human body. It acts like a seemingly benign form of cancer, destroying native cells and replacing them with the unstable stem versions. While it is this instability that gives it its amazing properties, it is also what causes the cosmetic and mental damage to people who use it habitually. In the end, the instability of the stem cells means that the user will have to take in more and more ADAM just to remain sane and healthy, progressively deteriorating as they do so.
The problems caused by ADAM abuse among the population of Rapture were exacerbated by Andrew Ryan's Free Market beliefs. His hands off approach to running the city meant that there was no regulation of ADAM, and no prevention of its side effects. By the time the Rapture Civil War began and Ryan was running the city with an iron fist, the damage had already been done. However, in the book Bioshock:Rapture, when Ryan took control of the ADAM market he did mention that he would have the scientist continue working on ADAM to refine it into a more stable version without the destructive effects on the persons mind and body. This could explain why the main character in both games were not affected by ADAM's destructive effects and why there are more plasmids variations for them and not the other splicers. This might also explain why Big Sisters have more powerful versions of plasmids.
ADAM was discovered by Brigid Tenenbaum in a sea slug that had bitten one of Rapture's dock workers and healed his long-crippled hand. However, the sea slugs alone could not provide enough ADAM for experimentation and work, let alone marketing. But when the slug is embedded in the lining of a host's stomach it was discovered that, through regurgitation, they could have twenty to thirty times the yield of usable ADAM. This was the original purpose of the Little Sisters and the orphanage.
The exact date of ADAM's discovery remains murky, although it would seem to have occurred sometime before 1948 due to a concept for a Teleportation advertisement seen in Fontaine Futuristics, dated 06/16/1948. Another sign of it being at least before 1952 is that Tenenbaum, Yi Suchong and Gilbert Alexander are all seen in a "Rapture's Best and Brightest" 1952 poster. All were key figures in Rapture's scientific community after the discovery of ADAM. It is unlikely that Tenenbaum would have been so revered prior to ADAM's discovery.
ADAM is retrieved from Little Sisters. There is a choice regarding whether to rescue the Little Sisters by using a special Plasmid given to the player by Tenenbaum, or to harvest them. Saving the girls destroys the slugs inside them and allows them to live, curing them but gaining only 80 ADAM in the process. Harvesting involves forcibly extracting the slug, receiving the full 160 ADAM at the cost of ultimately killing the Little Sister (likened in an Audio Diary to removing life support from a terminally ill patient).
While choosing to rescue the Little Sisters provides less ADAM in the short term, after each third saved girl a gift will be placed in a teddy bear at a Gatherer's Garden which contains 200 ADAM as well as unique Gene Tonics and supplies. The total ADAM received from rescuing three Little Sisters is therefore 3×80 + 200 = 440 ADAM, which is only 40 less than the total of 160×3 = 480 ADAM received from harvesting three Little Sisters.
This choice affects the way Tenenbaum interacts with the player and the ending of the game.
In BioShock 2, new ways of gaining ADAM appear in the game. To get the maximum amount of ADAM in BioShock 2 it is necessary to perform all possible gather sessions, save the first four Little Sisters and obtain the Proud Parent Tonic, then harvest the rest of the Sisters. This would bring the player's total ADAM obtained to well over 3000. The ways of obtaining ADAM are listed below.
- Adoption: Subject Delta can adopt a Little Sister and have her extract the ADAM from a corpse. Each harvest yields 40 ADAM, and each Little Sister can harvest up to two corpses. In total, this yields 80 ADAM per Little Sister and per adoption. The harvest bonus can be increased to 60 ADAM through the use of the Proud Parent Tonic. This Tonic is in the first gift received after saving four Little Sisters. The player can obtain a total of 12×2×40 = 960 ADAM through adoption alone (or 4×2×40 + 8×2×60 = 1280 ADAM if using the Proud Parent Tonic).
- Save/Harvest: After adopting a Little Sister, Delta has the option to either save or harvest her. The player obtains 80 ADAM for saving and 160 ADAM for harvesting. Rescuers receive three gifts, each after rescuing four Little Sisters, containing a total of 450 ADAM and two Gene Tonics and some resources. This means that a typical Rescuer will earn 12×80 + 80 + 120 + 250 = 1410 ADAM while a typical Harvester will receive 12×160 = 1920 ADAM through the harvest/rescue operation.
- Kill a Big Sister: Each Big Sister corpse yields 40 ADAM, and constitutes the main reward after fighting her. There are a total of seven Big Sisters the player will have to kill in the game, earning the player 7×40 = 280 ADAM.
- Harvest a Sea Slug: Sea Slugs can be picked off the ocean floor, and yield 10 ADAM each. There are five Sea Slugs in total, giving the player 5×10 = 50 ADAM. Three are found in the beginning underwater section of Siren Alley. The other 2 are found in Fontaine Futuristics; one can be found at the beginning of the level, and the other can be reached by climbing the staircase near an Alpha Series corpse on the way to the hidden Plasmid lab.
- Gather from a Corpse: In the later stages of the game, the player will be able to control a Little Sister who can gather ADAM from corpses, yielding 40 ADAM each time. There are a total of three corpses in the level, yielding a total of 3×40 = 120 ADAM.
- ADAM from Eleanor: In the level Inner Persephone, Eleanor will harvest/save Little Sisters from the Therapy and Infirmary Wards, granting the player 50 ADAM for each ward. Therefore the player will get a total of 2×50 = 100 ADAM.
Note: In other words, saving will grant the player 3,240 ADAM in total. Harvesting will give 3,430 ADAM instead. Combining both methods (after earning the Proud Parent Tonic) will net the player a final sum of 3,510 ADAM.
In the DLC, ADAM is gained in the same way as in BioShock 2. In total, there are nineteen Sea Slugs, six Little Sisters and two Big Sisters. Saving all the Little Sisters in a level will grant the player the Proud Parent Gene Tonic and 100 ADAM (along with a cash reward) as a first gift, and persisting will earn the player the Armored Shell 2 Tonic and 120 ADAM. If the player has purchased the Protector Trials and unlocked every star, they may also access the Master Protector Tonic for free, which increases all ADAM rewards from gathering sessions by 40.
If the player chooses to rescue the Little Sisters exclusively, they will earn a total of 1570 ADAM (2050 with Master Protector) plus Armored Shell 2 and $260, which are both extremely useful in the final fight against Reed Wahl and cannot be obtained otherwise. If the player chooses only to harvest them, they will earn 1710 (or 2190) ADAM, thus creating a gap of 140 ADAM. If the player chooses to rescue the Little Sisters in Minerva's Den and then harvest them in Operations they will accrue a total of 1690/2170 ADAM, plus $100, which is 120 ADAM more than for a "pure" Rescuer but still 20 ADAM less than for a Harvester.
In the multiplayer, ADAM also serves as the player's main form of advancement through Ranks, and can be obtained in various ways. They are listed below as follows:
- Kill. Reward: 10 ADAM. Granted upon killing an enemy.
- Assist. Reward: 5 ADAM. Granted upon dealing damage to an enemy without having dealt the killing blow.
- Hack. Reward: 10 ADAM. Granted upon successfully hacking a machine.
- Research Photo. Reward: 10 ADAM. Granted upon successfully researching an enemy corpse.
- ADAM Vial. Reward: 10 ADAM. Granted upon collecting one of the ADAM vials scattered across the level.
- Killing Streaks. Reward: 50 ADAM. Granted upon killing three enemies in a row without dying.
- Big Daddy Suit. Reward: 50 ADAM. Granted upon picking up a Big Daddy Suit in the level.
- Big Daddy Takedown. Reward: 100 ADAM. Granted upon landing the killing blow upon a Big Daddy.
- Trial Completion. Reward: Varies depending on the trial and its level. Granted upon completing a trial.
Behind the Scenes Edit
- ADAM and EVE are a reference to the Biblical characters Adam and Eve, who, according to Genesis, cursed themselves and the human race with death after eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This mirrors the fall of Rapture and its citizens.
- The effects of ADAM are reversible, as explained in the Minerva's Den DLC, but the effects of ADAM have only been reversed on one person, Charles Milton Porter, with the help of Brigid Tenenbaum.
- Tenenbaum's visual description of ADAM in her Hatred Audio Diary, describes ADAM as it looked in the BioShock X06 Trailer. In the final game, however, it appears as a reddish orange or red substance. This may mean that one was ADAM in its raw form and the other was ADAM in its refined, usable form.
- In his last fight with Fontaine, Jack drains Fontaine's ADAM with a Little Sister needle, obtaining a large amount every time he does so. However, there are no more Gatherer's Gardens accessible at this point in the game, making this ADAM completely inconsequential.
- In the book "Deco Devolution" - the art book included in the BioShock 2 Special Edition - there are some references to ADAM being called EDEN, perhaps in its early stages. From the Splicer section of the book; "The concept of EDEN lead us to experiment with enemies so devolved in their form that they become more or less human blobs."
- Early in BioShock's development, ADAM would have been the actual currency of Rapture, just as the dollar was in the final game.
- If the player looks out of any window in Outer or Inner Persephone, they can see an enormous glowing orb. According to one of the game's developers, Steve Gaynor, it's this orb that gave the slugs the ability to produce ADAM.