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Shock: Levine's New Game Is Open Worldish Sci-Fiish RPG

Sometime BioShock boss Ken Levine has opened the first tears to his new development dimension. He effectively closed his long-time studio Irrational last year in favour of working on smaller-scale projects, but still within the protective fortress of 2K. At the time he talked about making narrative-led games with more replayability, and while last night’s sudden flurry of updates is nothing like a reveal, he has a least given out a few big hints, together with a pledge for more open development than was the case on the spoiler-vulnerable BioShocks. What he’s got planned is a open worldish (“but not necessarily outdoors”) RPG, sci-fi, PC, probably first-person, chapter-like structure, brand new setting, add “ins” rather than add-ons, and a Passion System. Missus.

OK, this is going to be a bit of a messy read I’m afraid, as Ken Levine decided to give away the first details of his new thing on Twitter, and his, ah, unusual reply formatting doesn’t help matters, but let’s just do the blast first of all:

Not sure how clear a picture that paints, though on paper it’s an exciting approach. And perhaps a necessary one, in terms of kicking against the rigidity of BioShock Infinite and Burial At Sea. The add-in/Legos talk suggests to me that in-game conversation, choice and consequence could expand in scope as more is added to the game. He references Civ repeatedly, and that’s a game in which the expansion pack model is to still be playing essentially the same game but with more possible things to do within it. I’m definitely interested in an RPG which takes that approach: different quests, different conversations and different outcomes from the same places. But I doubt the game I’m forming a nebulous idea of in my head will be anything like whatever this actually is. Love, hate or be a well-adjusted human being and have mixed feelings about the BioShock games, it was usually very hard to know exactly what they were going to be until they were right in front us.

Also: it’s hard not to let the mind wander towards System Shock at talk of “not necessarily outdoors” sci-fi roleplaying, isn’t? I am probably entirely wrong-headed here.

A little more can be gleaned from his earlier GDC talk about ‘narrative Legos’ as an approach to systemic world design:

Header photo by Dan Griliopoulos. See his collection of game dev portraits here.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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