Levine: “…opposed to multiple endings”

By Kieron Gillen on October 5th, 2007 at 12:07 am.

Okay, this is intriguing. Gamespot have done a large interview with Ken Levine of The-artists-previously-known-as-Irrational about Bioshock. In it, he’s getting grilled about a number of issues to do with the whole what the game means thing. One of them gets an interesting response – regarding the fact the game, after all this complexity, the endings are a harsh Manichean dichotomy (i.e. You’re either Jesus or Mr UltraBastard of Shitsville). He admits that it was never his intention, and the request came from “somebody up the food chain from me”. Later, he elaborates…

“One of the reasons I was opposed to multiple endings is I never want to do things that have multiple digital outcomes, versus analog outcomes. I want to do it like the weapons system in the combat in BioShock. There are a million different things you can do in every combat; you can play it a million different ways. Looking into the future for the franchise, that’s something I want to [figure out], that by the time you get to the ending of that choice path, you have a sense of your impact on the world through lots of little permutations rather than like a giant ending piece, if you follow my meaning.

And I think we did a reasonably good job with [the endings], but there are just two of them. And this is not a game about A and B. This is a game about one through 1 million, and all those permutations of choice. And as I think about the future of the franchise, that’s where I want to take that.”

There’s lots more in the interview, including some impressions of the way his thoughts are going for the inevitable sequels. Especially worthwhile is his final statement where he notes “If the sales success of BioShock means anything, it means that we can trust our audience a little more”. And Amen to that.

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12 Comments »

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  1. wiper says:

    “the endings are a harsh Manichean dichotomy” – I’m beginning to think it was you who was responsible for the renaissance of obscure/defunct terms in Edge (Lilliputian, anyone?). I mean, who was the last person to talk about the Manicheans besides Saint Augustine?

    In other news: Mr. Levine says he wanted you to “have a sense of your impact on the world through lots of little permutations rather than like a giant ending piece”, but he doesn’t directly say whether he means that he doesn’t think there should be a ‘giant ending piece’ at all, or whether it simply shouldn’t directly reflect your actions: does this mean that the game would normally have had a blank/ambiguous ending, a-la KOTOR II? Or that it would have had a single, ‘grand’ ending that was relatively amoral? Or something else entirely? Curious. I’d read the piece in full, but I’m worried that I’d spoil the game for myself – the binary endings currently disappoint me only in principle as I’ve still not played the game, so perhaps I’ll love them.

  2. Kieron Gillen says:

    Don’t blame me for Edge’s wordosity. I barely write for ‘em.

    I got it from Alan Moore who has Ozymandius use it to describe Rorschach.

    KG

  3. wiper says:

    Really? I’d forgotten that. I was probably too busy looking at the pretty pictures.

    And the wordosity I’m recalling (a word Firefox doesn’t like, shockingly) was years ago, and only occasional, so I’m going to blame you merrily anyway.

    Tomorrow I get to play Bioshock for the first time. Yay!

  4. Kieron Gillen says:

    It was in that faux-Rolling-Stone-esque interview in the back of (I think) Issue 11.

    KG

  5. CrashT says:

    In more BioShock related fun, Chris Kline’s (Irrational Lead Programmer) IGDA Montreal Presentation on “Saying ‘Yes’ to the Player” is up on GoogleVideo: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4508664361400518462

    Includes some video footage of original BioShock concepts.

  6. The_B says:

    “Especially worthwhile is his final statement where he notes “If the sales success of BioShock means anything, it means that we can trust our audience a little more”. And Amen to that.”

    How long before someone pipes up with something about the copy protection?

  7. Trystero says:

    Great use of the word ‘Manichean’. It got me through a lot of seminars at university. The last time i heard someone else use it was John Humphrys on Radio 4 quite a while ago. He put it to Tony Blair that he see “the world in Manichean terms” which utterly confounded Blair, who had to ask for the meaning of the word. :D

  8. Leth says:

    I hope that by saying “we can trust our audience a little more” he means that there will be no more stupid copy protection that plague PC gamers. As of right now I am not buying any game from 2K games anymore. (not that it matters anyway)

  9. Martin Coxall says:

    I hope that by saying “we can trust our audience a little more” he means that there will be no more stupid copy protection that plague PC gamers.

    Just because the developers trust you doesn’t mean the publishers won’t still treat you like idiots. Developers have a non-zero chance of not being fuckwits. This doesn’t apply to publishers.

  10. JP says:

    Since 2001 most of us Americans know what Manichean means, even if some don’t know the word specifically.

    [POLITICALLY TINGED FROWNY FACE!!]

  11. Pidesco says:

    “Especially worthwhile is his final statement where he notes “If the sales success of BioShock means anything, it means that we can trust our audience a little more”. And Amen to that.”

    I’d like to see how Bioshock would have done without the marketing millions behind it.

    And, on a related note, I’d also like to see how System Shock 2 would have done if it had those marketing millions behind it.