Ken Levineless Bioshock in development at secret 2K studio

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After Irrational Games was dismantled in 2014, the future of the Bioshock IP was left twisting in the wind. It certainly wasn’t going to fall on former studio head Ken Levine, as he departed to run a smaller studio called Ghost Story Games which would have nothing near the production scale required to take on a new time-period magic-potion exercise in the violence of political ideologies and/or golf. But as part of a much larger 2K expose written this week over at Kotaku, it appears news has leaked regarding a Bioshock title in development at a super secret 2K studio. Or at least, you know, previously super secret.

Jason Schreier’s Kotaku piece is a deep dive into the failures at Hangar 13, whose Mafia III seemed like the start of bigger and better things, and they had both a sequel and a spy game in pending development… when everything got shut down. The article on Hangar 13 is absolutely worth your time to see what’s going on in an industry spiraling from a lack of leadership. Somewhat buried in the piece are details regarding Parkside, a game I am intrigued to learn more about.

“Next door, a small group of people were working on a project code-named Parkside, quietly recruiting from across the video game industry for a game so secret, they wouldn’t even tell their colleagues at Hangar 13 about it,” the report says. “Word got out, though, that it was in fact a new game in one of the most interesting shooter franchises of the past decade: BioShock.”

“They’re trying to be really smart about figuring out what the core thing is,” one person involved with the project said. “They’re careful about not falling into the same problem every studio has, where they have too many people and nothing for them to do.”

What Bioshock looks like without Ken Levine is, uh, open-ended to say the least. And this is… you know… rumor mill stuff about a thing in pre-prod at best?

Admittedly, I thought these teasers from 2K in 2015 were for a Bioshock sequel, even though they turned out to be for XCOM 2. And… that started my obsession with wanting a Bioshock/XCOM game. 2K, I have many pitch documents drawn on cocktail napkins to send your way. Reach out to me, y’all.

54 Comments

  1. Darth Gangrel says:

    I’ve only played the first one (repetitive, but fun) and now they’re already planning to do a fourth one!? This isn’t helping me to do less “backlog brooding”, but at least I’ve bought the Bioshock Collection a while ago, so I can go through the earlier games when I want to.

  2. SaintAn says:

    Kotaku and especially that writer have a really bad reputation, so I’ll believe it when I see it.

    • Sulpher says:

      Jason Schreier has a ‘bad rep’? First I’ve heard of it.

      • SaintAn says:

        Well at least you know now.

      • Janichsan says:

        Yeah, he got his “bad reputation” by daring to dislike a ridiculous oversexualised character design in a game, being against “GamerGate”, and first and foremost to report that No Man’s Sky was being delayed – which happened to be true, for which he got blamed.

        In fact, Schreier is one of the very few game journalists that take that “journalist” part serious. His articles about the troubled developments of some games (e.g. Destiny, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and the most recent one about Mafia III, where this information about the new Bioshock game comes from) are well researched, balanced, and very interesting.

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      Ninja Dodo says:

      They only have a bad reputation in certain dubious circles, so I’d consider that an endorsement, frankly.

      • Umama says:

        Yeah I assume you mean certain circles who like to throw around a certain three-letter acronym as an insult?

        Schreier’s deep-dive articles seem to be exhaustively researched and as far as I can tell he follows established journalistic practices with sources, etc. His book is a very interesting read as well.

      • dskzero says:

        Kotaku has a terrible reputation, and rightfully so. They are a glorified blog. Jason though has some interesting insights into the gaming industry, but that does not extend to the rest of Kotaku.

    • Thomas Foolery says:

      I think Schreier does some of the most interesting and thoroughly reported games journalism around. The things I’ve seen people get mad at him about (like reporting that a game is going to have a delay announced before it’s actually announced) have generally turned out to be accurate.

    • ZippyLemon says:

      lol

      kotaku has a bad reputation with gamergate, which is a good thing as well as ironic since kotaku journalists like jason schreier are some of the only games writers producing the kind of “real journalism” gamergate was ostensibly bitching for

    • vand says:

      JS has a bad reputation among GamerGaters who are still sour that their misogynistic project was undercut by actual journalists, sure.

  3. Crafter says:

    Not sure that the fact that ken levine is not working on it is telling much to me.

    The story is BS Infinite was a disaster IMO.

    I am not blaming him personally : even though we tend to put figureheads in front of projects, this is a big team effort. However injecting new blood and humility to the mix sounds like a great idea.

    • dethtoll says:

      I blame him personally. He’s an egomaniac who believes his own hype.

      Bioshock 2 was the best one.

      • gummybearsliveonthemoon says:

        I never got Bioshock 2 even being a thing. Graphics are better sure, controls are worse for sure, and… how is anyone even still living in it after the extreme damage done to the place in BS1? Shouldn’t it be powerless and flooded after you destroy Hephaestus’ big thermo-engine?

      • Janichsan says:

        Only because of the gameplay, which was less clunky than Bioshock 1’s.

        The plot in BS2 was full of holes and logical flaws, even more so than BS1’s and BSI’s, which both already have tons of problems.

    • DeepFried says:

      On the contrary, I think the story in infinite saved the game from the horrendous gunplay. But that’s personal preference I guess.

      • sinbad says:

        That’s exactly how I feel too. Got through the fighting bits to enjoy more of the story.

      • Crafter says:

        well again, I am not really fond at pointing fingers at one person for greatness or failure of such a big team project.

        The fact that you had to endure shitty gameplay to go to the next part of the story is an issue already.

        And what did BSI had to say about race exactly ? It tooks a very complex and hurtful topic and all it had to say was that racism is bad but that maybe the exploited are just as bad ? ok ..

        Why did all these people suddenly become maniacs ready to kill and die in hordes ?

        Who the hell designed these `big daddies`? did that person even play once to BS1 ? Because it seems to me that this person missed the point.

        Yeah, the last 20 minutes of the game were great; but the 10 hours before, not so much.

  4. Hoot says:

    Just let it die, man.

    Bioshock was amazing, and it still is. Bioshock 2 was OK, Minerva’s Den was great, and it still is. Bioshock Infinite and Burial At Sea were good games with a convoluted story-line. You see the trendline there though? Aside from the Minerva’s Den blip the games got progressively worse, not better. That’s not to say they weren’t all good games, but the original is by far the best.

    I think they’ve done pretty much all that can be done with the franchise and to push forward without the original creator or talent is just…madness. Mass Effect: Andromeda madness.

    • Werthead says:

      This may make sense to players, but the fact of “25 million copies sold” makes a bit more sense to the bean-counters at Take-Two, who are aware they can’t rely on a new GTA rolling up any time soon and need to get some more popular games out of the door (especially as a new Civ is likely years off, and a new XCOM at least a couple of years off).

      • Hoot says:

        That’s the sad thing about bean counters, they want a better bottom line but don’t want to take risks when actually the thing that would 100% result in a better bottom line is coming up with something new and original in a medium that has any amount of room for innovation.

        Fucking bean counters, man.

        Who needs ’em?

        “You’re a bean counter Jeong, I’m a Spectre. Tell me, how good are those odds?” – Shepard. Quote has nothing to do with the comment but it’s the best use of the words “bean counter” I’ve ever heard.

        • April March says:

          Something new and original is not 100% guaranteed to be better for the bottom line. New and original things fail. They don’t work. They fail to find a market.

          So you can respond: well, sometimes when you push a known IP so far and it becomes crap, and it also sells crap.

          Well. Yeah. But a crap old IP always sells better than a crap new IP.

          Plus, imagine you’re the bean counter. If your new IP fails, you have to say: well, I took a gamble, I trusted this idea, and it failed. But if your old IP fails, you can say: well, who could have seen this coming? All this data points to every earlier installment on the franchise selling like hotcakes. I only did the obvious thing.

          I’m not saying this to defend the bean counters, just to dispell the notion that good stuff means stuff that makes money. That’s not how the world works, not by default anyway.

          • Werthead says:

            Yup. How many interesting games with good gameplay and story have launched, been critically lauded by everyone, and sold really badly? Anachronox, Hostile Waters, Freespace 2, the Homeworlds (although they at least did enough to get 4 games and a relaunch) and Ground Control 2 are games that I replay every couple of years and all of them wipe the floor with a lot of flavourless unit-shifters. More recently something like Banner Saga 2 was a great game that sold poorly (at least initially, it’s done better since the Kickstarter for BS3, apparently), or Shadow Tactics: Blades of the Shogun, which was an utterly fantastic game that did okay but nothing like what it should have done given the quality of the title.

            At least with BioShock you can see there is the potential (in the infinite universe idea) to make lots of different games and they could be quite bold and experimental in whatever they do next. Whilst I’ve always found the franchise a little overrated, it is visually and atmospherically distinct to most other first-person franchises.

        • JimboDeany says:

          Hey, don’t blame the bean counters….they’re just ensuring the owners get their money back – which is the crux of the issue, the people who own these companies don’t want to take massive risks, that’s just the nature of investment. It’s why we generally see more interesting games from smaller, independent developers.

          Also those beans need-a-counting!

  5. malkav11 says:

    Whatever they do with it, it shouldn’t be Yet Another Game in Rapture. It was a great setting, but a big part of the greatness was its originality. It’s not original anymore. We’ve been there. Three times now, actually!

    • criskywalker says:

      I’d rather have a new location that makes us feel surprised like we were with Rapture.

      • Werthead says:

        We’ve had an underwater city and a flying city so I’m going to guess the next city would be either underground or a lunar city of some kind.

        • Daymare says:

          *burrrp* Wh- wh- what about a city inside a — * baarrrp* a person, Morty? What about that, huh? Whaddya think about that, M- Morty? A theme park, Morty, let’s make a game inside a theme park inside a living fucking person’s anus. They’ll never exp- *hurp* never expect that from us, not even from us, Morty!

          And we’ll call it The Crapture, haha, wahohoho you gehburrrupp, you get it?

        • beleester says:

          You know what would be really shocking? If the next group of utopian pioneers decided to *not* build their city in an incredibly hostile environment. You know, just in case their utopian social experiment breaks down and they need to leave in a hurry.

          (I get that you need the environment to be sealed off for gameplay reasons, but surely there’s a way to do that without making the people who built it seem like idiots?)

          • April March says:

            I was going to make a joke about a city that is just in a place where there’s already a city but that would actually be a cool concept. Something like The City & The City meets Neverwhere. A secret city hidden inside another city, in the tiny gaps between buildings.

          • Werthead says:

            “Okay, so the plan is that this time we’re going to build our city on a plain surrounded by good agriculture and access to several fresh water sources.”
            “OR…we could build the city on Neptune.”
            “What? Neptune doesn’t even have a sol…”
            “NEPTUNE.”
            “But on what socio-economic basis would people want to live on Neptune?”
            “People who feel entitled to the sweat of their brow.”
            “…”
            “ONLY MEN.”

      • Zenicetus says:

        A space theme seems like the obvious-but-boring choice, especially after Prey and the upcoming System Shock reboot.

        Since the timeline of the previous games were before the middle of the 20th Century, I think it would be fun to have something like an 1880’s cyberpunk version of the Wild West set in San Francisco. Like the Wild Wild West TV series (not the movie), only better. Make it an alternate history for the Pinkerton guy in the last one.

        • malkav11 says:

          Space doesn’t have to be boring. Consider, for example, a setting where late 1800s notions of space travel were actually successfully implemented, and other planets weren’t the lifeless rocks we know them to be today, but rather the sorts of things that the early SF novels envisioned. Dash in a bit of real world history and politics, with a suitable alternate history spin. So, maybe in this setting the Bolshevik Revolution failed, and the core communist ideologues fled to Venus to live in exile in hellishly dangerous jungles full of weird alien life. And of course brought certain discredited scientists along with them. And now, perhaps, the Romanovs have had word that they pose a new and unprecedented threat and so they have sent you via stealth space cannon to sneak in, investigate, and hopefully do a little targetted assassination to forestall the problem.

          • Daymare says:

            Yeah I thought about something similar. And those scientists could’ve spliced the shit out of alien DNA and created weird human-alien-hybrids, your player character’s plasmids/powers could be explained the same way. Sounds really neat.

          • Werthead says:

            This reminds me of the Space: 1899 video game.

          • malkav11 says:

            Yeah, that’s exactly how I was envisioning powers etc being explained.

            Now, it’s easy to spitball high level concepts like that and a lot more work and challenge
            to actually plot them all out and turn them into a fun game experience, but I’m just saying, there’s scope. :)

  6. gummybearsliveonthemoon says:

    “Ken Levineless Bioshock in development at secret 2K studio.”

    PARKSIDE!

    Alllll the people,
    so many people,
    and they splice in their hands
    hand in hand through through their
    Parkside

  7. faircall says:

    I’d like to see them return to the unused original Bioshock pitch. The one inspired by The Fly that was more about splicing insect-like appendages to your body and the resulting struggle to retain your humanity. Maybe make the traditional “medical, engineering, leisure” environments based around the different habitats of arachnids, wasps, bees, etc. Best of all, “insects…don’t have politics.”

  8. Janichsan says:

    I’m rather surprised that the news here is that another Bioshock game in development. That’s probably the least unexpected part here.

    The Bioshock series was and still is massively popular and a commercial success, and 2K already had stated back in 2014, when Irrational games was dismanteled, that they will be developing new games in that franchise.

    The more surprising part is that this game is still not out, or even just announced.

    • Werthead says:

      I think that was it, the timing more than the game’s existence. A lot of stuff in the games industry is about momentum and it’s already been five years since the last game came out. Given that BioShock is a peculiar franchise with a unique tone and atmosphere linked to its creator (BioShock 2 didn’t have that involvement but it was heavily derived from BioShock 1 so arguably didn’t need it), I think it would have been understandable if 2K had either let it go or announced it a few years ago.

      Another question this raises is what the heck is Levine and Ghost Story Games working on? I thought their whole schtick was going to be games that didn’t take 5-6 years to develop and were smaller and faster and cheaper?

  9. Jaykera says:

    More than Bioshock itself, I’d like to see a game from another genre set in Rapture
    , before or after the « incident ».
    A tactical could be great indeed.

    • death_au says:

      I always wanted a detective-noir style adventure game set before the fall of Rapture, but I think Rapture’s done. Time to move on to a new and different failed society.

  10. bacon seeker says:

    I would love if they return to series roots and make a System shock/Prey type game, instead of a average shooter with an overwrought story

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