Inside ‘Bioshock’ Developer Ken Levine (Rolling Stone Interview)

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Video game visionary Ken Levine recently spoke with The Rolling Stone regarding his past work producing games, founding Irrational Games, his early success with Bioshock 1 and more. It is a really great interview and highly recommend you give it a read, which will be at the source link. But will be putting a few quotes I enjoyed from the article below.

In the five years between 2007’s BioShock and BioShock Infinite the creator of the series, Ken Levine, became the ambassador for video games to mainstream culture. He was profiled in Wired and The New York Times. The Washington Post‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic, Michael Dirda, took the time to play BioShock. Guillermo del Toro raved about it. Even the London Review of Books mused about this odd but wildly successful game, which might as well have been called Atlantis Shrugged: a gorgeous, underwater Art Deco dystopia that seriously grappled with the consequences of libertarianism run amok while letting players kill zombies with their lightning fingers. BioShock is considered one of the best video games ever made.BioShock Infinite, when it was finally released in 2013, received gushing reviews and sold more than 10 million copies. (The underrated BioShock 2 was made by another studio, 2K Marin.)

Source: The Rolling Stone

On Developing Infinite:

Why was BioShock Infinite was so hard to make?
The studio was split up. My business partner, Jon Chey, ran the Australian part of our group. He and I were the yin and yang of the organization, the creative side and the production side. Jon and some people from my team were moved to 2K Marin for BioShock 2. It was hard enough to build Irrational the first time. We had to rebuild it while making this big follow-up. The culture got so shattered, it was never properly rebuilt. I don’t think Irrational ever recovered from that schism. I don’t think it could have. It made me have to wear both hats. That’s not my training.

Information on Scrapped Game The Lost:

If you were satisfied, you would never create anything. Creation comes from a sense of dissatisfaction with the world as it is.
If I was sane, I would just go and live on an island. You have a passion to make things that, quite often, are going to make you unhappy, that are going to put you into situations that are stressful, that are going to separate you from your family at times, that are going to open you up to criticism. You could fail.
I have a pretty good track record so far. I don’t have any giant disasters. Outside of one, but we buried it because we didn’t want to release it to the public. We actually bought it back and buried it because we weren’t happy with the product.
What was that?
It was a game called The Lost. We made it right after System Shock 2. It was a game about a woman. Her daughter dies, and she makes a deal with the devil to go to hell to try to get her back. What it’s really about is the process of accepting loss. It’s a game about mourning. It reflects some things that I had seen in my own life at that point.
Is it a whole game?
It’s a finished game, for PS2 and original Xbox. It exists somewhere. We never released it because it wasn’t up to our standards of quality. The game just wasn’t good. I think it would have really hurt us.
It was a Zelda-style, third-person action game. We had never made a game like that. Zelda is genius, Mozart-level stuff, how you find these tools that are both useful gameplay items but also essentially keys. You go through a dungeon and you get the bomb. All of a sudden you look around and see the cracks all over the walls. He’s seeded in all this brilliant opportunity for me! The overworld/underworld structure is brilliant.
We tried to create a game like that and we very quickly realized it wasn’t a game I was really cut out to design.


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