The most anticipated game for 2012 just became the most anticipated game for 2013.
Irrational Games and Take Two announced “BioShock Infinite” will now be released on February 23, 2013 instead of October 2012. Creative director Ken Levine made the announcement on the Irrational website:
A MESSAGE FROM KEN LEVINE
When we announced the release date of “BioShock Infinite” in March, we felt pretty good about the timing.
Since then, we’ve come to realize that some specific tweaks and improvements will make “Infinite” into something even more extraordinary. Therefore, to give our talented team the time they need, we’ve decided to move the game’s release to February 26, 2013. We wanted to let our loyal (and very patient!) fans know this as soon as possible.
I won’t kid you: “BioShock Infinite” is a very big game, and we’re doing things that no one has ever done in a first-person shooter. We had a similar experience with the original “BioShock,” which was delayed several months as our original ship date drew near. Why? Because the Big Daddies weren’t the Big Daddies you’ve since come to know and love. Because Andrew Ryan’s golf club didn’t have exactly the right swing. Because Rapture needed one more coat of grimy Art Deco.
The same principle now applies to “BioShock Infinite.”
What does this mean for you? It means a bit more waiting, but more importantly, it means an even better “BioShock Infinite.” The great can be made greater, and we owe it to both ourselves and to you, our fans, to take this opportunity. Irrational Games is one of those rare developers lucky enough to ask the people who sign the checks: “Hey, can we have a few more of those checks?”
We are also going to hold off on showing “BioShock Infinite” at the big events of the summer, like E3 and Gamescom. That way, the next time you see our game, it will be essentially the product we intend to put in the box. Preparing for these events takes time away from development, time we’re going to use instead to get the best version of Infinite into your hands in February.
Fans have been waiting for the next creation in the “BioShock” universe since “BioShock 2” was released in 2010. The new title will take players out of the underwater adventures as in the previous titles and put them in Columbia, a city in the sky, during a very tumultuous time of anarchy, strife and technological advancements.
In a December 2012 interview, Levine described how excited he was to work on this new setting.
“In all these stories, you have these incredible themes. One of great optimism and excitement for the future and one of this ominous feeling at the same time,” Levine said. “This yin and this yang that was present in all of this research really made me excited to work on this game.”
It is his attention to detail that helps him create his successful games and win over players. It now appears that he wants to refine the details on his latest creation as well.
2K Games is going old school with their newest and highly anticipated game from Irrational Games.
“BioShock Infinite” will feature a new form of play — the 1999 Mode — designed to challenge players in a variety of ways with each requiring substantial commitment and skill development.
The 1999 Mode is for gamers who long for the days of games that demanded more of the player. It will include tweaks and features that “BioShock” fans will not experience in a standard play-through of “BioShock Infinite,” no matter the difficulty level.
“We want to give our oldest and most committed fans an option to go back to our roots,” said creative director Ken Levine. “In 1999 Mode, gamers face more of the permanent consequences of their gameplay decisions. In ‘BioShock Infinite,’ gamers will have to sweat out the results of their actions. In addition, 1999 Mode will demand that players pick specializations, and focus on them.”
“I’m an old school gamer. We wanted to make sure we were taking into account the play styles of gamers like me. So we went straight to the horse’s mouth by asking them a series of questions about how they play our games,” Levine said. “94.6 percent of respondents indicated that upgrade choices enhanced their ‘BioShock’ gameplay experience. However, 56.8 percent indicated that being required to make permanent decisions about their character would have made the game even better.”
In addition to these permanent decisions, 1999 Mode will feature demanding weapon, power, and health management. The mode also takes a much harder stand on player respawning, sending the gamer directly to a “Game Over” screen if he or she lacks the resources to be brought back to life. It’s not for the faint of heart.
I was fortunate enough to be able to speak with BioShock creator Ken Levine in two separate interview for about 90 minutes total. While his answers were trimmed down for a story, I thought it would be interesting to reveal his long-form answers to some of my questions.
Levine spoke passionately on several different subjects. Here is some of our discussion.
You got your start in the film industry. How did that come about?
(Film was) my first sort of career path in my younger period of time – late teens, early 20s. I didn’t start doing anything creative until I was about 18 or 19. I started writing plays and I didn’t really know. I just fell into that as a creative outlet. And I wrote some plays and I met a playwright, John Robin Baitz, who has done a bunch of TV work now, and I asked him about my plays and he liked them. I was about 19 at this time and I asked how do I make money doing this? I was starting to worry about the post-college years and I was just trying to find my way there. And he said that he usually left that stuff to my agent. And I didn’t know anything about writing as a business or anything at this point. I had a play and there was an agent who liked it and asked me if I could turn it into a screen play. Which I did and that sort of became my calling card that got me my first movie job.
Was it as successful as you hoped?
I wrote 8 or 9 (screenplays) and I sold 1 of them. Maybe it was 6 or 7 instead of 8 or 9. I don’t really remember. I sold one of them to Paramount. But I would not call my movie career a smashing success. I think I made a little money but I didn’t make any impact. I was very young and I certainly learned about the nexus where creativity and commerce meet for the first time. I remember when I was young and I was winning all these playwright awards and on the other hand I was just another screenwriter trying to make it in the difficult world of Hollywood. I certainly learned a lesson early on about what it means to write commercially versus constructively.
How did you transition from film into the gaming industry?
When I was about 22, I just kind of tooled around doing different things for the next 5, 6, 7 years. I was struggling to figure out what I was going to do as most people do in their 20s. I had been playing games since I was a little kid and I love games. All of the sudden it occurred to me that there are actually people who make these. Could I become one of these people? But I was getting bored and I knew nothing about it. So I started looking at gaming magazines for ads from the game industry and I just tuned into game designer primarily because I knew I couldn’t draw, I couldn’t program so what was I going to do? I didn’t even know what a game designer was. I ended up apply for a job with this company called Looking Glass. They hired me almost right away and I think they probably did because this was back in ’95. There was going to be this merging of film and video games and wanting somebody who was familiar with the Hollywood space and looking at me as some kind of expert, which I simply was not. I got the job and that was my big opportunity.
Did you start out as a writer? What did you do in the beginning?
When I came in, the notion of a writer wasn’t really being thought about that much. Games didn’t have that level of content and the thinking was you really didn’t need a writer for games. In making Looking Glass games, I worked a Star Trek game that never got published – Star Trek: Voyager – and I worked on this game called Thief. I’m not certain how the writing fell on me, but it did. They knew I could write and it sort of fell to me. I was able to bring an understanding of artistry and structure from when I was writing plays and in movies. Thief and System Shock had a feel for that structure and I think that was helpful. I think I had experience pitching things to actually go in and pitch things. I think I was naturally someone they would go to when they had to pitch ideas to a publisher. I had that experience of being in front of people and giving out ideas. I think those skills definitely helped me in the beginning.
How did you get involved with the “System Shock” franchise?
I played the first game (System Shock). I didn’t work on it, but I played it and I felt that there were different things that were special about it. The world that was created, I thought it was a very unique and interesting world. I felt at the time that games were sort of set in these abstract environments that didn’t really have a purpose. I thought Citadel Station felt very real. Looking back on it, it was quite crude. But at the time, I felt it was a real step forward in launching the gamer in a real environment that felt true. Also loved the feel of the characters that they felt like they were written in a naturalistic style. They were just people and you found all these diaries of the people in the Station. It played out like some sort of novel. Reading different letters between different people. It has a natural, believable feel to it. I think for a science fiction game to have such a natural, believable feel especially at the time was really striking. I remember this character named SHODAN felt like HAL in 2001, a HAL-esque computer intelligence, sort of a sinister, evil presence. When I had the opportunity to come up to work on the same sort of project, it was something that I felt driven toward or at least my skill set was better suited for. I thought I could really do, have a decent chance at doing a good job on it. So when the opportunity came up to do that (System Shock 2), I really jumped for it.
I really do think people want stories. But they don’t want to watch a story like a movie, they want to participate in the story. Which is natural for interactive media. I think that games started off with no stories, then they started to get very passive stories. You play a game, you watch a little movie, you play some more. Now, I think we’re really, for the last 10 years or so, 13 years or 14 years, really trying to integrate the two where the narrative is imbedded in the gameplay. That’s a real challenge. We don’t have a model to work from. I think where games have been going from a narrative standpoint, you step back and you say is the future of narrative in games more non-interactive or more interactive. I think anyone would have to say interactive so the real question is how do you get there? How do you get to those levels of interaction so they feel natural and exciting? And anticipate what the player is going to do – that’s always a challenge. We don’t know what the player is going to do. And with a movie, are they going to have the same experience when they watch it every time? You have a lot of control. You don’t know what the gamer is going to do so we have a lot less control in our narrative ability. What you lose in control, you gain in excitement. The player becomes part of it.
Has technology driven the changes in gaming or is it a natural evolution?
In terms of the visuals, they are leveling off to some degree. It is more a matter of art direction than technology. We don’t really talk about, in Hollywood, who has the better technology. You talk about who’s got the better art director or cinematographers. We’re getting to that place with the technology – it’s less about how the different companies use the same piece of rendering that Irrational or some other company uses. One of the reasons BioShock was so striking visually was because of the technology. We had a great art director with a great visual sense. I think it is really about art direction than technology that is standard across a lot of games. Then it comes to immersion and how do you make that world feel, not just a backdrop to the gameplay, but part of the gameplay.
When DC Comics reintroduced their stories with “The New 52,” there was a backlash from the comic community. With the changes to the BioShock franchise in “BioShock Infinite,” do you foresee a potential backlash from your fans?
I think we sense, and this is true about every story, there is this permission. Does the audience give you permission to do something? Does the audience give permission for Batman to do item X, item Y? You probably need permission for Batman to become a child molester. They will accept him going to some pretty dark places because he’s Batman. That’s an extreme example. If you look at BioShock, the audience gave us permission to surprise them in terms of what the game is about. I think so much of what BioShock, the first BioShock game, was so much of the success was people were surprised and thrilled by the environment. And that rush of what is this place and where am I going? What is this city of Rapture? And Andrew Ryan? Who is Atlas? Who am I? All those questions, which we’ve answered. Once you answer the questions, a lot of BioShock’s appeal, it puts a strain on that appeal as it would with any franchise. It takes away from our mystery. I think in another franchise I probably would have been much more hesitant because a lot of franchises are based on hitting the same note over and over again. Once you start hitting the familiar notes, BioShock starts losing some of its power. I think you have to go with themes that are connected, strongly connected, to the BioShock franchise in the gameplay department. Very strongly in the gameplay department it is a BioShock game. Thematically, this idealistic world that is capturing a sense of idealism, unwavering, undying idealism. But I think that people crave in BioShock games is the need to be surprised. And that is so important for us to do that.
Where do you get your inspirations?
I have a great team of people that I work around. We are very intellectually curious at Irrational. We’re always coming in and be like oh I just read this or this or saw that. We’ll start up these conversations about the World’s Fair or conversations about politics or about American history or conversations about social movements. And because we are a bunch of industry and culture and social movement nerds in the company, we are fascinated by all these activities. When we make a game, BioShock, one of the things it is most noted for is the philosophical movement and architectural movement that we incorporate. That’s because our nerdity is pretty far reaching and broad at the company. We nerd out on a very broad range of things and we bring those things to our games.
Is there a difference between nerd and geek?
Not in my mind. It is basically.. I think the meanings of the words nerd and geek has probably changed. It was quite a negative. When I was growing up, it was an insult. Though I was by any definition, I played Dungeons & Dragons by myself. I didn’t have any friends really because I was such a nerd. By the definitions of the time, I was a nerd. I couldn’t help what I was. I couldn’t pretend to like things I didn’t like. I hated it to some degree because I was made fun of for it. Now that I’m grown up, I’m not made fun of for it and it is sort of celebrated. I don’t think there is much of a difference between nerd and geek but I think it has changed over time. Now it is something that people accept and it is cool. I haven’t changed. The world has changed.
What is it about today’s culture that makes being a nerd or a geek cool?
I think you have to say that the Internet coming in and touching everybody’s life. This weird little activity of poking around on a video screen which used to be a very sort of nerdy little thing. Like playing video games or program, things like that. The Internet really changed what you could do on your computer. Everybody’s got a computer with them. When I was a member of the computer club at school where all the little nerds used to hang out, you don’t need a computer club anymore because it is just some part of our culture and it breaks those barriers. They start coming down. When I was growing up, I was interested in Spider-Man. If nobody else was interested in that, I was considered a nerd. With the Internet, all of the sudden, everybody was connected and the isolation itself started to disappear. Now we have PAX, the Penny Arcade convention. I mean, there is nothing like that – the celebration of being a nerd! A lot of people are saying I’m a geek, I’m a nerd. It almost becomes something people want to be. It is very easy to forget that guys my age, I’m 45, it was pretty lonely being a kid. Now I’m very grateful that it is not the case. I’m happy for all the kids growing up because they won’t be isolated. The fact that they like science fiction, that’s great that it is part of our culture.
Today’s kids have it easier being a geek?
I’m very happy that it is no longer.. I remember being bullied. I’m very happy that kids growing up now, it is very much more accepted. Will not be made fun of because of what I went through as a kid. I’m very happy about that.
What games did you play as a kid?
I really got started with Avalon Hill board games – like Luftwaffe and Panzer Blitz. I still love them. I grew up playing all those Avalon Hill games and Dungeons & Dragons.
Are there still console wars or is it more about the games?
I think it is an interesting time because the games are transforming so fast and the platforms are transforming so fast and the business models are changing. I’m loath to make predictions but I will say that the only thing that’s going to be constant in the next 10 years is change.
What was your first console?
Atari 2600. I got it on my 13th birthday and it was one of the best moments of my life.
So many IPs are cross-platform now. It seems every title has a book or comic that is coming out. Is the idea to expand the brand or reach out to potential fans who aren’t into games right now?
Novels and graphic novels is just a chance to get your brand out. People in different places, comic book stores, book store and things like that, toy store with action figures. Creators like me, when the opportunity comes, you’re going to want to look at .. you know, you have more shows so each show potentially reaches fewer people. You want to bridge the gap between one form of media and the other. For example, Spider-Man started off as a comic book character and now he’s a multimedia character. Obviously that’s a lot more valuable for people than if he had just stayed in comic books. Not every character or every concept can make that leap. Concepts that can make that jump are highly valued and rightfully so in terms of how much money they can create and the reach they can have. The proliferation of different types of media is increasing.
Is there an idea or story that you’ve thought about but never really gotten the chance to flesh it out?
I don’t get that attached to a story or spend a lot of time with it. I get hundreds of ideas every day. But I don’t get attached because I’m not invested. It takes me a while to get invested and once I do, I tend to go very, very deep on it. BioShock was more of a concept than a story for many years until we really started working on it – Atlas and Andrew Ryan and the underwater city of Rapture. We just had a bunch of game concepts and a lot of ideas, but once I got very invested is when it came together. I really don’t have a bunch of ideas running out of my head because I would want to develop them more and get more attached to them. I don’t get that attached to something at that time. I’m not that promiscuous. I’m pretty monogamous. Once I’m drawn to that thing, that’s where I’ll put all my attention. I don’t have a little black book (of ideas). I’m really focused on the thing that I’m working on.
I understand you like to read and absorb a lot of media when you are working on your ideas.
I’m a real history nerd. Once I sort of determine the period that we’re working in, I try to understand what’s really going on from a social perspective. With Infinite, it was interesting that I knew almost nothing about the turn of the Century, 1912, where Infinite takes place. I knew a lot about the Civil War, World War 1, World War 2 but I knew nothing about the pre WWI period. The more I started looking into it, I think what tuned me in was not a book but a PBS documentary called America 1900. When I watched it, it struck me how the two threads that were going on in the country at the time. The incredible optimism in two areas. One optimism of technology and, you think about the period, the world had completely changed in a short period of time. You have in the last 30 years of our lives one major piece of technology and that’s been the Internet. If you go back to 1912, they had like 10 different things on the scale of the Internet. They had electricity, cars came about, movies came about, records came about, airplanes came about, radio came about in a period of about 10 or 20 years. Their heads must have been absolutely spinning. That led people to sort of think that the future was going to continue to change at that pace and it gave people an incredible sense of optimism for the future. Simultaneously, you have America starting to come into prominence in history. Starting to get involved in foreign adventurism. We got involved in the Spanish American War with Cuba and got into the Philippines and we really hadn’t done that in a substantial way outside of the continent. That was a real change for America. We had been a colony ourselves about 100 years before that. So both of these things really gave the country some optimism for the future, what America was going to be able to do politically and what we were going to be able to do from a technology standpoint because almost all of the technology was coming out of America. And that gave me the lead I needed to start defining the story of this game. The story of the world of Columbia came out the geist of this time, we just sort of enhanced it, enhanced that geist, sort of what we did in BioShock 1 as well. And then I started reading more. I read a book about the assassination of McKinley, profiling McKinley who was the first American adventurer of the time when all these adventures were happening and was shot part of an anarchist movement, something that was rising at the time and would eventually completely change the world as we knew it for America when an anarchist shot the Archduke, just like an anarchist shot McKinley. One shot Ferdinand in Sarajevo that started World War I that involved most of the empires in the world that existed at that time. These incredible themes were all just running through the world and even as a history buff, I wasn’t aware of them. I was really excited once I started tuning into them and I found myself incredibly obsessed with the details at the time. I also read “The Devil in the White City”, which my guys turned me on to. It deals with the 1892 World’s Fair, the Chicago World’s Fair with the Columbian Exposition where there was both this incredible display of technology by electricity which is one of the first times people had ever seen that and it was all mentioned for the future of the World’s Fair but it was also simultaneously the time of America’s first serial killer was stalking the fair and Chicago and the area around where the fair was. In all these stories, you have these incredible themes. One of great optimism and excitement for the future and one of this ominous feeling at the same time. The ominous feeling was the serial killer and that’s a true story. You have the enthusiasm of technology that happened at the turn of the century bookended with the start of World War I and seeing what all that technology can do. This Yin and this Yang that was present in all of this research really made me excited to work on this game.
I think the thing I’m most interested in is how what we intend to do, we often go into things with the best of intentions and how unintended consequences can frustrate us. We often have the best of intentions. I was originally inspired many years ago by a book called Red Mars, which is a science fiction book. I don’t read a lot of science fiction but I love this book about a human colony on Mars. They were all excited about the colony on Mars because they thought they would leave all the problems of Earth behind – racism, war, all that. What they forget is that on Mars they bring the problems with them because they bring the people with them. We are doomed to a certain degree to not have things turn out as they are intended. It just sort of happens when you look at art, social engineering. You look at Rapture and Columbia and they are to a certain extent large scale social engineering. What happens is things don’t always happen the way they are created to whether it is Ryan in BioShock 1 or Comstock in BioShock Infinite. They have these plans and they think that it is going to work out as well as the characters in their philosophy. That’s what I found fascinating even if you read Rand and you read Atlas Shrugged or Fountainhead, things work out great for those characters because she controls all the variables. She is the author of the book. What I tried to make in BioShock was what if you really had somebody like one of those characters and you tried to do something like that in an open world. What would really happen? And as fantastical as BioShock is, I think it is probably in some ways a more honest look at what would happen, much like Rand’s philosophy or anybody’s philosophy if you tried to put it into motion. That if you try to be pure, things will happen that you can’t anticipate and that will confound your vision and the challenge is how will you react. I think Ryan’s in BioShock 1 was he didn’t accept the fact that it wasn’t what he’d hoped it would be and he couldn’t change course. He just believed in the philosophy – philosophy trumped reality.
What other media do you enjoy?
I’m constantly reading all the time. It is easier for me to read now because I can read wherever I am. I’m watching and re-watching Mad Men. I’m watching and re-watching Breaking Bad. I read comic books. I play video games. I’m a huge media whore. I view it as part of my job because I need to know what’s going on. I want to feel like if I went back in time and I was there that I wouldn’t be that confused or surprised by what I saw. That would be my goal.
“BioShock: Infinite” is one of the most talked about games in 2011 and highly anticipated games for 2012. With a combination of fantastic art direction, immersive gameplay and deep storyline, the third installment in the franchise has attracted attention from gamers and non-gamers alike.
The series is the brainchild of creator and game designer Ken Levine. Levine, 45, has been working in the gaming industry since 1995 and had early success with “System Shock 2” and “Thief,” but it is his more recent work in the creation and development of “BioShock” and “BioShock 2” that has garnered the most attention.
In an interview for CNN.com, Levine talked about where he gets his inspiration for his game development ideas, growing up as a nerd and being a self-proclaimed “media whore.”
Inspiration for games
Levine didn’t start out his career in gaming. During his college days, he turned his creative talents to writing plays. While working on his craft and worrying about his post-college years, Levine sought out the advice of playwright John Robin Baitz.
Baitz began to educate Levine about the business side of writing and dealing with agents. So when an agent asked to turn a play Levine had written into a screenplay, he had his opening into the movie industry. Levine ended up only selling one screenplay to Paramount and was learning what it meant to be a writer commercially versus creatively and being just another screenwriter trying to make it in Hollywood.
He began to “tool around doing different things” for the next seven years and was struggling to figure out what he was going to do for his future. His attention turned to something he loved doing as a child – playing games.
“All of the sudden it occurred to me that there are actually people who make these,” Levine said. “Could I become one of these people? I started looking at gaming magazines for ads from the game industry and I just tuned into game designer primarily because I knew I couldn’t draw, I couldn’t program, so what was I going to do?”
Levine was hired by Looking Glass Studios and was ready to unleash his creative talents in the gaming world. He was particularly fascinated by the creation of unique and interesting worlds and how players moved through them, which was unique at the time. He worked on the writing and design of “Thief: The Dark Project.”
“I’m not certain how the writing fell on me, but it did. They knew I could write and it sort of fell to me,” Levine said. “I was able to bring an understanding of artistry and structure from when I was writing plays and in movies.”
“Thief” was Looking Glass’s most successful title in sales and critical acclaim. But he was looking for a new challenge and joined two others in forming Irrational Games in 1997 and he jumped on the opportunity to work on “System Shock 2” as game designer after playing (and enjoying) “System Shock.”
“I felt it was a real step forward in launching the gamer in a real environment that felt true,” he said. “I also loved the feel of the characters that they felt like they were written in a naturalistic style. They were just people and you found all these diaries of the people — it played out like some sort of novel. It has a natural, believable feel to it.”
It was during this time that Levine began to hone his skills for telling a creative and interesting story while still making it interactive for the player.
“How do you get to those levels of interaction so they feel natural and exciting? And anticipate what the player is going to do – that’s always a challenge.”
“System Shock 2” wasn’t a commercial success, but it drew attention from critics for its forward thinking about how a game should play and the elements of a successful title. Levine and his Irrational Games team began to build a culture of intellectual curiosity at their studio as a way of inspiring ideas and concepts for their games.
In 2002, that free flow of ideas and themes gave rise to the ideas for the “BioShock” franchise. Levine said “BioShock” and “BioShock 2” are noted for their incorporation of philosophical and architectural movements, which comes from a “nerdity that is pretty far reaching and broad at the company.”
“We’ll start up these conversations about the World’s Fair or conversations about politics or about American history or conversations about social movements. And because we are a bunch of industry and culture and social movement nerds in the company, we are fascinated by all these activities,” he said. “We nerd out on a very broad range of things and we bring those things to our games.”
For “BioShock: Infinite,” Levine tries to really understand what’s going on from a social perspective in the time period the game is based. A Public Broadcasting System documentary called “America1900” served as the launching point for the upcoming game’s themes of optimism and anarchy. The game is set in theUnited Statesin 1912, a time between the Civil War and World War I. It was also a time of great technological leaps that Levine said gave people an incredible sense of optimism.
“You have, in the last 30 years of our lives, one major piece of technology and that’s been the Internet. If you go back to 1912, they had like ten different things on the scale of the Internet,” Levine said. “They had electricity, cars, movies, records, airplanes, radio in a period of about ten or 20 years. Their heads must have been absolutely spinning.”
It was also a time of great upheaval as an anarchist shot and killed President William McKinley in 1901 and an anarchist would assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand ofAustriain 1914. A book entitled “The Devil in theWhiteCity” detailedAmerica’s first documented serial killer who stalked the 1912 World’s Fair inChicagoand caught Levine’s attention.
“In all these stories, you have these incredible themes. One of great optimism and excitement for the future and one of this ominous feeling at the same time,” Levine said. “This Yin and this Yang that was present in all of this research really made me excited to work on this game.”
Growing up nerd
Levine revealed he was a nerd when he was growing up, but it wasn’t the badge of honor that it is today. He said he played “Dungeons & Dragons” by himself in his family’s basement. He played war games from Avalon Hill, like “Luftwaffe” and “Panzer Blitz.”
His first console was the Atari 2600 that he said he got on his birthday and was “one of the best moments of my life.” And while he freely admits that he was, and still is to the day, a nerd, it was a very lonely moment in his life when he was a child.
“By the definitions of the time, I was a nerd. I couldn’t help what I was. I couldn’t pretend to like things I didn’t like. I hated it to some degree, because I was made fun of for it. Now that I’m grown up, I’m not made fun of for it and it is sort of celebrated.”
Levine said he hasn’t changed, but the world has changed and the nerd culture barrier has broken down largely in part to the Internet and peoples comfort level with computers. Everyone got connected and the isolation that comes with being a nerd started to disappear.
He points to the PAX convention hosted by Penny Arcade as a celebration of being a nerd. And people openly proclaiming to be a geek or a nerd is more evidence of the changing culture.
“I remember being bullied. I’m very happy that kids growing up now, it is very much more accepted,” Levine said. “(They) will not be made fun of because of what I went through as a kid. I’m very happy about that.”
When diving into a project like “BioShock: Infinite,” Levine dives head first into researching everything he can about the time period, the culture, the technology and the conflicts of his setting. He said he gets deeply invested in the concepts because he wants to be able to fully understand all the elements so he can weave as complete a story as possible.
Levine said he constantly reads and, with his Kindle, he can read wherever he is. He is a self-proclaimed history nerd and, while he doesn’t read a lot of science fiction, was originally inspired by a book called “Red Mars,” which he said revealed quite a bit about unintended consequences to him – a running theme in the BioShock franchise.
“They were all excited about the colony on Mars because they thought they would leave all the problems of Earth behind – racism, war, all that. What they forget is that on Mars they bring the problems with them because they bring the people with them,” he said. “Things don’t always happen the way they are created to, whether it is Ryan in ‘BioShock’ or Comstock in ‘BioShock: Infinite.’ They have these plans and they think that it is going to work out as well as the characters in their philosophy.”
He also consumes other types of media voraciously and views it as part of his job because he needs to know what’s going on.
“I’m watching and re-watching ‘Mad Men.’ I’m watching and re-watching ‘Breaking Bad.’ I read comic books. I play video games. I’m a huge media whore.”
He said his appetite for media feeds his creativity for his projects. The more he reads and watches, the greater detail he can put in his games. Critics and players consistently point to the attention to the littlest elements in the “BioShock” series as one of the standout elements in the franchise. Levine wants the players to feel as he would want to feel in the game’s time period – like they belong.
“I want to feel like if I went back in time and I was there that I wouldn’t be that confused or surprised by what I saw. That would be my goal.”
If you’ve seen any of the early trailers from “Bioshock Infinite,” there is quite a bit of emotion evident from the characters.
It is a tumultuous time for the United States and the conflict between the anarchist Vox Populi and the nationalist group, The Founders, creates high tension as the player characters move through the environments.
There is also drama as the game protagonist, Booker DeWitt, tries to rescue Elizabeth, a 20-year-old woman with some special powers. She can manipulate “tears” that rip open time and space.
However, her control over those powers (at least from the trailers) is suspect at best. But what really sings is the raw emotion that Courtnee Draper, the voice of Elizabeth, brings to the character.
Irrational Games has released a new video showing how Draper, Troy Baker (voice of Booker) and BioShock franchise creator Ken Levine work to tap into their creative sides to bring out the best. It is a great look at what goes on to produce some fantastic performances.
“Bioshock Infinite,” winners of 39 Game of Show Award at E3 2011, continues to wow people with innovative gameplay and what promises to be an exciting story line.
Creative director Ken Levine spoke about how Elizabeth, the game’s female protagonist, is a byproduct of scientific achievements that were going on in the world during the game’s time frame. Levine said the powers she exhibits are extensions of what the great scientists of the world were hypothesizing.
Elizabeth is able to see into alternative timelines, called tears. These tears in the fabric of time/space allow her to bring in items or people to help during combat.
Levine said this was a natural extension of the scientific work in the field of DNA manipulation done in previous “Bioshock” titles and adds a new element for the player to consider. He said this mechanic lets the game experience be different for everyone.
Irrational Games and 2K Games also released the first 2 minutes of its E3 demo that excited the audience. They plan on showing the entire demo, plus discuss elements about how the “Bioshock Infinite” was created, during a show on Spike TV on July 7.
The player assumes the role of former Pinkerton agent Booker DeWitt, sent to Columbia to rescue Elizabeth, a young woman imprisoned there since childhood. He will develop a relationship with Elizabeth, augmenting his abilities with hers so the pair may escape from a city that is literally falling from the sky.
DeWitt will learn to fight foes in high-speed Sky-Line battles, engage in combat both indoors and amongst the clouds, and harness the power of dozens of new weapons and abilities.
“Bioshock Infinite” is targeted for a 2012 release.
We know “Bioshock Infinite,” the latest in the Bioshock series from Irrational Games and 2KGames, is going to take place up in the sky.
We also know that there is going to be some awesome combat in and around Columbia, the floating city.
Now we know why Columbia was created and how it fell into conflict.
Irrational Games creative director Ken Levine talks about the two factions who are battling over control of the floating city. He explains the philosophy for each side and what drives them against the other.
The latest video trailer also shows some of the hysteria that is tearing apart Columbia.
“Bioshock Infinite” will be coming out in early 2012 for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
“Bioshock Infinite” is the third and latest in the franchise, but this time, the action has moved from under the seas to into the clouds.
As previous demos have shown, open sky separated the buildings in Columbia. A rail system acts as a connection between the buildings, moving people and freight cars along to their destination.
In “Bioshock Infinite,” those rails systems are used as combat locations as friends and enemies attempt to get from place to place. Irrational Games creative director Ken Levine discusses the origins of Sky-Lines in Columbia and how they influence the gameplay in BioShock Infinite.
Irrational Interviews, a podcast series from Irrational Games, are back featuring guest and fellow game designer Brian Reynolds.
Brian co-founded Firaxis Games and Big Huge Games, and now he is the Chief Game Designer at Zynga. He has spent 30 plus years making games.
In their chat, Brian and Irrational’s creative director Ken Levine discuss the past, present, and future of games, the ins and outs of entrepreneurship, the advantages of having Sid Meier around when you start a new company, and how a strategy game like “Alpha Centauri” and a shooter like “BioShock” may have more in common than you would think.
The latest addition to the franchise is set, not underwater as in previous incarnations, but in the skies. You will be playing as Booker DeWitt, a Pinkerton agent turned private investigator, as you track down a woman named Elizabeth.
The time is the late 19th century, but nothing like what you’ve read about in the history books. Steampunk is king and industry is everywhere.
The art work and propaganda, created by Irrational Games artists Mike Swiderek and Jorge Lacera, reflects the time period and the uncertain mood of the country as it moves out of the Civil War era and tries to find its place in the New World.
“BioShock Infinite” is due out in 2012.