Levine On His Next Game, Bioshock 2 & Rumour

By Alec Meer on July 30th, 2008 at 7:45 pm.

Kieron’s currently out at the Develop conference for us, so expect exciting missives soon. Or, more likely, incoherent booze-addled rambling about Kenickie. So, while he struggles manfully to work out what a wireless internet is, we can instead harken to reports from elsewhere in gamingdom. Specifically Videogaming247‘s coverage of Ken Levine’s bravely-named “BioShock and Awe: Immersing the Gamer in an Alternate World Without Drowning Out the Gameplay” lecture and some quotable interview gobbets they tickled out of him afterwards. Tempestuous Mount Bioshock never quite goes dormant, it seems.

He’s not giving away much about whatever his next game is, beyond calling it “pretty crazy ambitious” – though it seems increasingly unlikely it’s the rumoured X-COM revamp.

“I’ll say this about it. It’s important to us that whatever we do has the same impact on the gamer that BioShock did. And so, I think that the company’s position on us and what we do is that we’re going to be breaking down barriers and breaking down doors.”

He does so like his breaking, that man.

So there’s that, but there’s also confirmation that he’s pretty much done with Bioshock now. The PS3 version and its extra content is nowt to do with him, and he reiterated that he’s got little to do with Bioshock 2. Which is good or bad news, depending on your take on the rumours that he’s difficult to work with. Which he also addressed:

“Maybe I’m the nicest guy in the world, maybe I’m the biggest asshole. I couldn’t tell you. I think people choose to work with me because I can work with them and make a game called BioShock. Do you like to see people say you’re inconsiderate? No. When it comes to hiring, does it really matter? No.”

Finally, there’s a lengthy transcript of his preceding speech, packed with Making O’Bioshock nuggets, thoughts on the upcoming movie adaptation and his claims that it’s a game that can change people’s lives. Cripes.

Oh – apparently Mrs Ken does get upset about the name-calling, though. Aw.

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111 Comments »

  1. a-scale says:

    That’s a crying shame. I would be most offended if the sequel to Bioshock ends up ruining the good name of that franchise for me.

  2. Deuteronomy says:

    No wonder Bioshock turned out the way it did.

  3. Dracko says:

    a-scale: At this point, BioShock would need a masterful sequel to give it a good name in the first place.

  4. Leeks! says:

    If Kieron uses the internet to talk about Kenickie broad-wave, does that mean we’ll all be raped with magic?

  5. Turkish Superman says:

    BioShock was good, but hardly the masterpiece so many made it out to be.

  6. uppi17 says:

    How come this page looks all fancy on my iPhone, but the rest don’t? Is it due to the mention of Emmy-Kate Montrose? (EDIT: Bah now the rest do as well)

    I also agree with Mrs Ken about the name. Bioshock sounded more like a new type of yoghurt than a game.

  7. Subjective Effect says:

    I used to care about Levine’s ideas but now who really does?

    All the gaming greats fall. Warren Spector and his awful Thief 3, Ken Levine and his terrible BioShock. If you need to know what is wrong with BioShock just watch the Yahtzee review.

    When he says “pretty crazy ambitious” does that mean “not like BioShock and more like System Shock 2″? Because if it doesn’t, who cares?

  8. Vagrant Farce says:

    Wow, I didn’t realise we had moved on to calling Bioshock terrible now.

    [edit] also, didn’t Yahtzee like Bioshock?

  9. KingMob says:

    I was going to say something negative here about Ken Levine getting a big head after Bioshock, but this comments thread has turned me 180 and now I have to say:
    Bioshock was a great game. Not as good as System Shock 2, but then what is? Leave off bagging on Ken Levine and Bioshock, it only makes you look small minded.

  10. Razor says:

    I agree with KingMob.

    It would take alot to best System Shock 2. You’d have to drop the consoles completely for one thing. That’s pretty unlikely to happen with Bioshock 2.

  11. Funky Badger says:

    Up is down, black is white.

    Whisper it, but BioShock is a wonderful game – that slightly runs out of puff in the last segment.

    Intraweb revisionism is the new black, apparently.

  12. simonkaye says:

    You didn’t give this the obligatory ‘staring eyes’ tag.

  13. Pidesco says:

    BioShock is System Shock 2 with a lot of cool features removed or nerfed and turned into a shallow, circle strafing FPS.

    It’s System Shock 2 made deliberately worse for the wider appeal. What’s there to like about this approach to game design?

  14. sbs says:

    That’s da bidness.

  15. rocketman71 says:

    Bioshock’s endings weres ridiculous. The fact that you got the bad ending if you harvested a single girl was ridiculous. In fact, anything after meeting Ryan was ridiculous. And the more ridiculous thing of all was its DRM (nowadays finally defunct).

    BTW, has Levine finally made up his mind on whether story is important in a game?.

  16. MetalCircus says:

    ITT: people who like to look elitist.
    Sorry, but Ken is a great guy – every interview i’ve seen with him he has been pumped and enthusiastic, in a good way (i.e. not in a Jade Raymond way) and honestly, his heart is in the right place and I really believe that.

    People bag on him because Bioshock was dumbed down, compared to SS2, but there is something you guys are going to have to accept; there will never, ever be another game like System Shock 2. It’s over. Time to move on.

    People just don’t want to admit that despite the changes, Bioshock was a fucking great game, and a great experience too. Shame on you, internet.

    The games industry is facing increasing commercialisation in the face, and we’re seeing more faceless money making toss-bags take over and making dull dross for the masses; in an industry where this is being tolerated (especially by many people here posting on this site!) Ken Levine is at least on the good guys side. Come on, lay off him a bit.

  17. Saflo says:

    Uh oh, now you’ve done it.

  18. Funky Badger says:

    Umm… and let’s not forget, the last third of System Shock 2 was unplayable nonsense. From the Rickenbacker onwards was poor (at least in comparison to what went before).

  19. Josh says:

    I can’t tell you people how much it warms my heart to see so many express the opinion that while Bioshock was great, it was no System Shock 2.

    I agree completely that the move to develop the game as a console title first ruined any possibility of it being as incredible as its spiritual predecessor.

  20. JonFitt says:

    Quit the Bioshock hating, it had its flaws, but it was a great game.

    An X-COM remake would be awesome, but Cenega are doing an ok job as it is.
    At this point for a variety of reasons, I don’t think a true X-COM remake would be able to live up to expectations while attracting a new following, think Phantom Menace.

    So my suspicion is that Ken is working on the real sequel: HolyShock and or MeteorShock.

  21. MetalCircus says:

    You guys amaze me sometimes, honestly. You are happy to flap your gums about Halo 3, yet when something like Bioshock is released, an honest attempt at something GOOD, you take a shit on it, and associate anyone with it, no matter how good thier intentions to make a great game, is also dumped on. You people amaze me. Typical elitist gamers. Enjoy your endless stream of half arsed ropey sequals.

    I’m a bit tired, and quite hot and flustered at the moment, so I could just be in a mood anyway, and I apologise in advance if I seem harsh but I just wanted to get a rant off my shoulders, and I feel like I should be calling people on thier attitudes, because what I see, honestly, is bull crap. I’m sorry. *shrugs*

  22. Dan (WR) says:

    Sorry Metalcircus, but your reasonableness isn’t welcome around here.

    All videogames are created in Happyland with endless bags of money, time, understanding and development-team harmony, and there’s no execuse whatsoever for developers not to spend their time crafting games for one platform to the exact demands of the awesome and loving interwub. It’s not like they want much. Just something exactly the same as some game that was made a few years ago and is therefore flawless… but not completely the same because they’d moan about it…. but not different or they’d moan about it. No. Just the same, but with the awesome dial turned up to ELEVEN.

    After all, it’s not like System Shock 2 had respawning enemies and an overzealous weapon-degrading system. No. It was perfect. PERFECT.

    Now I’m off to murder a little girl. It’s not like God will mind just the one. Hell, I should get props for not blowing up a busload of them.

  23. JonFitt says:

    @Dan (WR)
    Eee-gad, my sarcasm detector just blew a valve.

    That’s exactly why an X-COM remake could not work.

  24. Abe says:

    Who the hell said anything about Halo 3?

  25. Muzman says:

    I’ve often thought Ken’s writing is the only factor that really changes between Thief 1 and 2 (ie he’s missing from two) and could be the difference in over-all cohesion. SS2 was well written and the writing of the various characters and the general moral murkiness of Bioshock is one of its few faultless aspects.
    Ken not being involved with B2 is interesting. It’d be funny if it was this brilliantly open and adventurous thing in all the ways Bioshock wasn’t, but with bog standard limp computer game writing.

    (and surely the proper sequel to Bioshock is Geoshock. Sedementry vs Igneous. Fight! “Back to the magma with you, nihilist. I was born of the holy spurting mountain god!”

  26. MetalCircus says:

    That was some top notch sarcasm there!

    Sorry to dissagree with people in such a vehement manor, but I feel like it should be said. Some people expect the world, and surprise surprise, when they realize life isn’t like that, it’s unnacceptable.

    And Abe, is there a point you want to make or are you going to gripe? Because I was using Halo 3 as an example to prove a point. Do I really have to explain this concept?

  27. Stu says:

    uppi17: You know what? Fuck Montrose; thanks to her hopping onto the tour bus as soon as possible after a gig, I only got three out of four signatures on the inlay of my Punka radio promo CD. Three fucking signatures! I might as well have not bothered. Besides, Marie was always my favourite; she could take me to Burger King any day, anthrax-laced Coke or not.

    Sometimes I wish it was 1998 again: before Kenickie split up, before Dubstar went shit, before Hefner fizzled out; before the extent of my financial worries was how much of my beer money I should spend in Vinyl Exchange that week; before the hangovers came quicker and hit harder.

    Shit, I’ve just realised — ten years since they split. Maybe it’s time to forgive myself for missing that last tour.

  28. Subjective Effect says:

    “… there is something you guys are going to have to accept; there will never, ever be another game like System Shock 2. It’s over. Time to move on.”

    Perhaps you have chosen to accept mediocrity as the new excellence, but others have not.

    BioShock is deeply flawed, and for no good reason. It sold on the marketing of something it wasn’t and if it WAS what Ken claimed it would be it would still have sold as well. But have been better. There is no doubt that the writing is good. It’s just that apart from looking, feeling and sounding good it’s pretty trite. Can you blame the consoles? Perhaps.

  29. yutt says:

    It is hilarious to me when people use nothing more than their feeling of nostalgia to measure the quality of a game.

    Just because you have fond memories of playing DOOM when you were a child doesn’t mean it is, in fact, the greatest game ever made. The joy you found playing those games had to do with the fact you weren’t a bitter, hateful cynic when you were 12.

    Try *enjoying* a game for once in your adult life, and you’ll find they are a whole lot more enjoyable. Don’t compare every fucking game you play to some Glory Days event of your childhood.

    What I am saying is: System Shock 2 isn’t that great. Bioshock is higher quality, more coherently designed, has a more intricate and well told story and mythos, is more enjoyable, and more accessible. It is better in every single way.

    The only thing Bioshock can’t do is clean the filthy cesspool where your sense of joy used to be.

  30. Muzman says:

    A tad presumtuous to assume nothing more than nostalgia goes into such opinions isn’t it? How is your way of making the exact same time disperate comparison so much better?

  31. shinygerbil says:

    It’s a real shame to see so many people react so badly to Bioshock. How many of you played it all the way through? How many of you stopped and looked around you at the scenery, and just generally admired the place?

    How about this: Ever watched a film, or read a book which you find absolutely perfect in every way? Perhaps it fits your personality, or you really like the setting, or a particular character, or just about any part of it – but however it happens, you feel connected with its creator on some special level? You feel like you really know what that person was thinking, like they made that especially for you. It earns a “special place in your heart”, so to speak.

    I know I’ve read a fair amount of books which make me feel that way, and I’ve seen such movies, and I’ve heard such music. I’ve played such games, too. One of them was Bioshock.

    I find it highly depressing that, because of the fact that “Bioshock is not System Shock”, people are willing to climb the nearest soapbox and shout “BIOSHOCK R SHIT, ALL GAMES R DUMBD DOWN.” Well, I thought you guys didn’t like it when people made the same game over and over again. (John Madden’s System Shock 2008, anyone?)

    I also thought Bioshock was a genuine attempt to do something different, to branch out and be creative. (Note that creativity and innovativity are two different things here. There is room for both, independent of each other or not, in a game.) So, yes, I can see that not everyone will like it – and I think it’s better off that way – but when people dismiss it without weighing it on its own merit, I can’t understand. Honestly, I think some people would rather have just had System Shock 2 with a re-skin. Or, perhaps, no skin at all, just blank textures and placeholder story. It would make no difference, really, it seems. Most people don’t really want what they think they want.

    edit: holy crap, rant-a-riffic :O

  32. SenseiJinx says:

    Bioshock 2 is being directed by Jordan Thomas, the guy who was responsible for the Cradle in Thief: Deadly Shadows and Fort Frolic in Bioshock. Those credentials give me quite a bit of faith in him!

  33. Scandalon says:

    But, but…I was 15, and Doom *IS* still the greatest game ever made.

    :P

  34. James T says:

    You guys amaze me sometimes, honestly. You are happy to flap your gums about Halo 3, yet when something like Bioshock is released, an honest attempt at something GOOD, you take a shit on it, and associate anyone with it, no matter how good thier intentions to make a great game, is also dumped on. You people amaze me. Typical elitist gamers. Enjoy your endless stream of half arsed ropey sequals.

    I forget, what is it the road to hell is paved with?
    And actually, apart from the runaway-awesome art department, I’m not all that sure about 2k’s saintly, pioneering intentions; under that A-grade gloss, the game brings less to the genre than Far Cry, and I don’t even like Far Cry.

    Sorry Metalcircus, but your reasonableness isn’t welcome around here.
    All videogames are created in Happyland with endless bags of money, time, understanding and development-team harmony, and there’s no execuse whatsoever for developers not to spend their time crafting games for one platform

    Oo, my favourite — “making [insert media here] is hard work and involves compromise, therefore it’s okay if [the output in question] sucks!” In that case, I’d love to know what heaven-sent miracle allows any decent game to ever be made. If you have a job to do, you should do it well, and you’re open to criticism if you don’t. Welcome to the working world.

    to the exact demands of the awesome and loving interwub.

    (Gamers being disappointed by the mediocrity of a mediocre action-shooter is actually them being really bizarrely specific (“I dislike the game because the walls were red instead of purple!”) and has nothing to do with the actual game under the gloss being tedious as fuck.)

    Just something exactly the same as some game that was made a few years ago

    Actually, Bioshock did exceptionally well in this regard (cf. Doom 3).

    After all, it’s not like System Shock 2 had respawning enemies and an overzealous weapon-degrading system. No. It was perfect. PERFECT.

    And he’s gone for the trifecta, with a false dichotomy! Sorry sweets, I couldn’t give a hurtling fuck about System Shock 2; Bioshock easily achieves inadequacy without it.

    The only thing Bioshock can’t do is clean the filthy cesspool where your sense of joy used to be.

    The final resort for someone with no justification for their blather — references to ‘joy’!

  35. redrain85 says:

    How many of you stopped and looked around you at the scenery, and just generally admired the place?

    @shinygerbil:
    How could I, when I was being attacked by Splicers every 20 seconds or less. The incessant spawning totally ruined the immersion and atmosphere. I wanted to admire, but those damn pests wouldn’t let me.

    And it’s not like I could ignore them, either. I remember Joe McDonagh at 2K Australia saying I’d be able to do more than “just shoot” at all the characters I met. Well, what other choice did I have? It was either kill, or be killed.

  36. James T says:

    Nownow, you could also bash them!

  37. MetalCircus says:

    See. Alot of people are using generic “Oh, you’re just accepting anything given to you!” type arguments to make guys like myself, who enjoyed Bioshock, seem like inferior neanderthals. Really, it reeks of the kind of stuffy elitism that is special only to the PC gamer crowd. Also it’s a ludicrously false statement to make. Most mainstream games, at least the ones i’ve played have often made me weep acidic tears as I play them (this is also why I mentioned Halo 3 which was stunningly boring on all accounts) so to say i’m just a bottom-feeding consumer, hoovering up any old discarded tat developers fart out is a bit of a stretch. I picked up and enjoyed Bioshock because it was a world away from the generic horsecock that developers have been making recently.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love games like SS2, Deus Ex (acctually, I love them immensely), etc, and of course, I have fond memories playing them. But guys, they were special for a reason – because they’re the only games of thier types. They’re unique. If we start mass producing these games, like developers do with your cookie cutter space marine explosion fest 2008 then we’d be sitting here moaning about the lack of “fun shooting games” out on the market.

    And it’s not to say liking something like Bioshock will spell the end of all complex and well made games – what about Stalker? Clear Sky’s coming out soon. If liking games that people see as dumbed down is bad, why are great games like Stalker still being made?

  38. Gorgeras says:

    We’ve been calling Bioshock awful since October of last year when on the 2K forums a rep said that we were not being ignored and they were seriously looking into the “Physics capped at 30fps at second” issue which spawned the biggest thread on that forum and it’s still alive now.

    We never heard back from the pleb and we are sure they are not going to fix the physics issue. But just abandoning this still-alive thread without saying “we’ve decided to just leave it as it is” was enough. I’m one of many who have pledged not to buy Bioshock 2 just because of this one fairly superficial issue. We’re petty.

    Bioshock is now unofficialy a ’70%’ game. They’re even worse than ’60%’ games.

  39. SanguineLobster says:

    *Ahem*
    I think it’s time, children, for me to tell you the story of the bunny who mistook his opinions for fact.

    Once upon a time, Bun, the bunny rabbit, was eating carrots with his brother under the big maple tree. Bun took a bite out of a big carrot and said “Ew, this carrot is poorly made and has bad graphics!”. His big brother took a bite and said “Mmmmm, I enjoy this peculiar taste and the graphics seem charming.” “Well that’s because you’re stupid!” Yelled Bun angrily, and he ran off away from his brother.

    Bun then met up with the elder rabbit who was eating some lettuce. Bun tried the lettuce and immediately spit it out. “Yech!” he said “This lettuce is too old and is doesn’t have enough flavor.”. The elder rabbit turned to face Bun and spoke in his deep grumbly voice, “I enjoy it because lettuce is my particular favorite and I like to concentrate on the texture more than the flavor.”. “For someone so old, you sure are stupid!” Replied Bun and ran away again.

    Then Bun came across a piece of celery sitting in a trash heap, that everyone had discarded, because it was so disgusting. Bun was very hungry at this point, so he took a small bite. “Wow!” he said to himself “This is the best piece of celery ever!” Just then it occurred to Bun that different people have different opinions about everything, and just because they have different ideas, that doesn’t make them stupid.

    The End

    Moral: Just because you think Bioshock is Good or Bad doesn’t mean it’s true. Move On.

  40. Sum0 says:

    @Stu – please stop referencing the female indie bands of my childhood, you are scaring me

    BioShock was a rough diamond in an ocean of … polished turds. Does that make any sense?

  41. MaximumFish says:

    Jesus Christ. I didn’t realize we’d all started hating Bioshock. When did that happen, and why didn’t i get the memo?

  42. James T says:

    See. Alot of people are using generic “Oh, you’re just accepting anything given to you!” type arguments to make guys like myself, who enjoyed Bioshock, seem like inferior neanderthals. Really, it reeks of the kind of stuffy elitism that is special only to the PC gamer crowd.

    Circus, you’re not the focus of the conversation; if our criticism of a game you like implies anything about you, then that’s a shame, but it’s purely incidental. And, well, I don’t want to get into the ‘my side is better-behaved’ crap, but there’s been a lot more ‘whingeing about critics’ from the likes of you than cogent defenses of the game. I love what they did with the veneer of Bioshock, but if you think the game beneath it is not ‘generic horsecock’, please, explain what it brings — even after adopting a wilfully obscure and developer-indulgent playstyle on my second run through (‘only use the most idiosyncratic plasmids’, that sort of thing), all I experienced was a nerfed, stultifyingly crude corridor shooter, lacking even the environmental challenges that give one’s trigger-finger a rest in the Half-Life series (apart from, oh… Kyburz’s office?). Not to mention the weapon balance, or rather, complete lack of it. If a game’s going to be nothing but run-and-gun, it should at least succeed at that!
    …Or don’t defend it at all; but in that case, don’t expect critics to rein in valid complaints if you’ve got nothing to say (apart from “you’re ELITIST for not liking Bioshock”).

  43. Alex says:

    Jesus Christ. I didn’t realize we’d all started hating Bioshock. When did that happen, and why didn’t i get the memo?

    That started happening juuuust after it was released, because people got bitten by the big bad hypemonster and then the game wasn’t Jesus-Christ-in-a-box, so people went all sour on it.

    I don’t care, I think it’s a wonderful game. I actually think the story isn’t all that impressive but I loved the mix-n-match gameplay and the “storytelling through architecture”.

    Mr. Gillen actually wrote an article for Eurogamer end of last year to battle against the tide of BioShock-hat0rz:

    http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php?article_id=88881

    Rereading it now, it’s fun to see how many of the same arguments that pop up in these comments are mentioned in his article.

    So, BioShock is and was great.

    Kenickie, on the other hand, were and are SHIT. I mean, fully paid-up lifelong members of the Fucking Dreadful Music Club. Lauren Laverne single-mouthedly ruined singing. FOREVER.

  44. Dracko says:

    It’s worth noting that System Shock 2 is rather shoddy too, as is that defence article (“Kieron Gillen said so, so it must be true!”).

    It’s not even a matter of hype at this point: The game is astonishingly facile and full of poorly implemented ideas that date back to the 90s. It doesn’t need to be the Second Coming, but it’s really not noteworthy in any other way either. Far, far better has come out of the industry before it reared its ugly head and got reviewers all wet and sticky because “oh wow water effects and ayn rand! tickle me nutsack, levine!”.

    FOR CREDIBILITY’S SAKE, I PLAYED THROUGH IT TWICE OKAY AND IT WAS JUST AS BAD THE SECOND TIME AS I HAD ASSUMED WAS UTTERLY ACCIDENTAL THE FIRST!

    People go on about the setting and the environment and being captivated by them, but never once seem to stop for a moment to realise how hokey, contrived and ill-designed they actually are. The game – let alone the plot – is chock full of ridiculous holes that break any sense of immersion and reveal it for the tedious corridor massacre it actually is. Ironic, considering the masses of people spitting on “shootum games”, yet fail to recognise one because the characterless antagonists, superfluous weaponry and powers and utterly illogical object placements (Don’t get me started on the sales machines) are all hidden under glossy textures and water effects.

  45. Caiman says:

    These comment threads are starting to look more and more like NeoGAF forums every day.

  46. Dracko says:

    We presumed to be better?

  47. RichPowers says:

    NeoGAF? Take it that’s not a good comparison?

    RPS’ discussions are always spirited and entertaining. I’ve yet to play Bioshock but as far as I’m concerned, the game’s a success if discussion about it elicits phrases like “Jesus-Christ-in-a-box” and “oh wow water effects and ayn rand! tickle me nutsack, levine!”

  48. James T says:

    It’s worth noting that System Shock 2 is rather shoddy too, as is that defence article (”Kieron Gillen said so, so it must be true!”).

    Yeah, if that pissweak article’s back from grave, I may as well refer to the big ole post I made in its comments thread (see ‘samadriel’.)
    Hype-monster or no, the game was sold as something which it thoroughly was not (and which was not outside of the realms of possibility; I wasn’t expecting the fucking Second Coming, but I did expect better of them than ‘Doom 3: Ressurection of Art Deco’; what an ogre I must be), and then failed at what it actually was.

  49. Mr. President says:

    lacking even the environmental challenges that give one’s trigger-finger a rest in the Half-Life series

    Aww.. This reminds me of one of Bioshock’s early press releases. Back then, the game’s main feature seemed to be that there would be tons of enviromental puzzles that could be solved in different ways, depending on the magicks you wield.
    After the game’s makeover it was revealed that the game would be about bigdaddy-killing rather than physics-based exploration, but I still hoped there would be something. Well, we ended up with only a few physics puzzles in the beginning of the game, and they were all pretty basic :(