Game Designer, Ken Levine, known for his work on the critically acclaimed BioShock series, has officially confirmed that he is working on a small-scale, open world, sci-fi themed game for his next project. Being a guest on the NPR podcast, OnPoint from 21:20 and forward, Levine gives us some juicy details about this exciting new endeavor.
“We started this experiment once we finished BioShock Infinite. How do you make a narrative game, you know, kind of feel like the games we’ve made before, but make it replayable and make it extend and make it react to the players?
Make it replayable by giving players different ways to approach the problems and letting them really dictate the experience. That is not a simple problem to solve.
It can mean an open world game, and the thing we’re working on is sort of a small scale open world game. The reason ours is an open world game is because if you want to give players the agency to drive the experience, that really fights against the linear nature of the games we’ve made before, like BioShock and BioShock Infinite.
So, what it really means though is how do you make your content so it feels like the quality of the content you’ve made before but reacts to the player’s agency and allows the player to do something in one playthrough and something very different in another playthrough? The solution we’ve come up with, and when I say solution, the game is not done and we can [still] have some nasty surprise down the road, is to break down the narrative bits into what we’ve called narrative LEGO. We’re trying to make this crafted narrative but in small chunks, so that can then combine in millions of interesting ways.
The end goal is to have a narrative that plays out differently based on what the player does, to give the player that experience of ‘this is a great narrative experience, but I’m gonna play it again and again and it’s gonna feel different each time’.”
This sounds very promising and it’s great to know that games and their developers are evolving along with their consumers. Levine explains that even in the last few years, people have stopped making “AAA” single player narrative games–games like BioShock that had a lot of success in previous years–because they are “very expensive to make and I think gamers are saying pretty loud and clear that if they’re going to spend $40, $50, $60, they want an experience that lasts more than 10-12 hours. That’s a lot to ask somebody to spend.”
He revealed even more details about his new project earlier this week in an interview with GameInformer, saying:
“I’m so deeply involved in the themes of our new thing, our new game is a science-fiction game. It involves themes like artificial intelligence and what it means to be programmed, that you are a thing that was created by programming. That’s a big theme in the new game. And how much agency you have outside of what you are as a piece of programming instructions. So I’m scratching a lot of those itches in the new game already.”
Although he has left his landmark franchise behind him, the BioShock series continues to be an overwhelming success–selling over 25 million units worldwide–and remains an important IP for Take-Two Interactive. The company has also hinted that a new BioShock game could be making its way onto current consoles in the future.
We at PSU will definitely be keeping tabs on Ken Levine’s new project and have more details for you in the future!
How do you all feel about the progression of gaming narrative? Is Ken Levine heading in the right direction? Let us know in the comments below.