Posts Tagged ‘BioShock’

Ken Levine: The Conversation, Part Two

“This is like your nightmare interview here, huh?”

Nah. This might not be going too well, but I’ve had worse. Much worse. (The most terrible was probably with an executive at one of the industry’s biggest PC game developers a couple of years back, where I had the distinct impression I was interviewing a robot who’d much rather murder me than talk to me).

This half hour with the lead designer of BioShock: Infinite would definitely win a place in my Top 40 Botched Interviews, but it’s not up there in shotgun-to-the-head territory yet. The mutual acknowledgement that it’s been a misfire does wonders too. Eventually.
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Ken Levine: The Conversation, Part One

Some interviews with prominent figures, as in Polygon’s widely-circulated one with BioShock: Infinite lead designer Ken Levine, are held on top of skyscraping Californian hotels. While it’s not something I’ve experienced myself, I can entirely appreciate why this often leads their eventual write-ups to be somewhat defined by awe, be it overt or subtle: a famous figure is encountered in a dramatic setting, the trappings of aspirational luxury around them. Thus, they are inevitably presupposed to be superhumans of a sort, with achievements and a lifestyle far beyond those of mere mortals such as the humble interviewer. This is the tale. Notoriously, this week also saw the outermost extreme of this, in Esquire’s absurd interview with/clearly lovelorn ode to the attractive but otherwise apparently unexceptional actor Megan Fox.

I can’t ever imagine going as far as Esquire, and I’d hope someone would throw me into the nearest sea if I did, but I do understand why it can happen. The scene is set in such a way that the interviewer is encountering, if not a god, then at least royalty. Even on a more moderate level, I have never conducted an interview in a Californian luxury hotel’s roofgarden, and my own interview with Ken Levine last month was no different, but I am nonetheless left thinking about the narrative created in that half hour. What tale could I now tell from just a talk with a guy in a room? Initially, I thought it impossible, or at least redundant, to spin a story out of a short, slightly awkward conversation in a dark little room somewhere in London: this is why Q&As are the standard interview format here. Let’s try, though. I want to tell you about what happened in that interview, and how it felt to me, as well as sharing Ken Levine’s comments about BioShock: Infinite’s characters, pacing and mysteries with you.
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4 Hours With BioShock Infinite, Part 1: Columbia

Earlier this week, I played around four hours of BioShock: Infinite, which is due for release next March. While this was at a publisher-held event (disclaimer – I ate some free salt and vinegar flavoured Hula Hoops and a small bowl of Moroccan tagine. Alas, I hate aubergine) and I was part of a gaggle of journalists, I was not guided or observed during my playthrough, so I approached it at my own leisure and pack-rat pace.

It has given me much to think upon, a few examples of which I shall share with you below. I will avoid all spoilers as regards to the events of the plot, but please be advised that I do talk in detail about the setting, its population and its backstory as presented by these initial hours of the game.
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Levine On… Bias, Trust, SWAT & Tennis

Elizabeth is very sad because she won't get to play any tennis today

Yesterday, we brought you Ken Levine’s explanation of BioShock: Infinite’s 1999 mode. The response was, perhaps inevitably, divided. Here’s the second part of my chat with him, in which he anticipates that, as well as addressing the fact he can only offer a biased opinion of his game, the problem with out of context headlines, tennis in BioShock, why SWAT 4 would have been a very different game under his stewardship and, yes, why “if you’re a reader on Rock, Paper, Shotgun, you are sophisticated enough to not listen to what Ken Levine says.”

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You’re Going To Suffer: Levine On 1999 Mode

Not Ken Levine. At least, I don't believe so. Haven't seen him in person since Freedom Force days.

Late last week, Irrational announced 1999 mode for BioShock: Infinite – an attempt to recapture the sense of binding decisions, permanent consequences and hard-as-nails challenge that we perhaps associate with a lost era of gaming. In this first of a two-part interview, I nattered to avuncular Irrational bossman Ken Levine about why they came up with 1999 Mode, what it entails, why it’s a very different prospect to simply a ‘hard’ difficulty setting, why he doesn’t want non-hardcore gamers playing that mode, and whether or not it’s a reaction to disappointment about BioShock from System Shock fans.
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You Were Born To Do Great Things

No, says the angry man in the comments thread

While waiting impatiently for something else to download over the weekend, I booted up BioShock 1 for the first time in years, curious to see how it held up a half-decade on. I’d forgotten how remarkable and how magnetic its first few minutes are: whatever else you want to accuse the game of, the work it does in so quickly and so assuredly building a world and a mountain of intrigue around it is something we see all too little of. The vast majority of mainstream games open with enough dry exposition to choke a rhino, but this grabs your total attention with a bare minimum of talk, a steady flow of unpredictable spectacle and a spinetingling cocktail of awe and anxiety. Irrational are, I think, right to leave Rapture behind – but, for no particular reason other than ‘why not?’, let’s remember just why they built it in the first place.
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World In Progress: Bioshock Infinite

I have spared you all the low-cut nature of this young lady's clothing. You are welcome.

When a Bioshock Infinite video arrives in my lap, which is how I demand delivery of all gaming news, I do not expect it to feature actual human beings speaking at me. Ziplines and plummeting are gravely missing from this video. Although it does contain game footage, it’s mainly Ken Levine talking about the world he’s creating, which he sees as but one of the game’s main characters.

There’s a focus on actual people characters, with the voice actors behind Booker and Elizabeth also featured, breaking the rule that they, being the opposite of Victorian infants, should be heard and not seen. Now, in my mind’s eye, Booker Dewitt will always look like Troy Baker, whose name should immediately be attached to Syndicate’s antagonist.

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Interview: Card Hunter’s Jon Chey (Part 2)

Curse our limited-length titles! For this post should really be called something like ‘Irrational co-founder and now Blue Manchu boss Jon Chey talks more about his splendid-sounding new PC boardgame/ CCG/ MMO mash-up Card Hunter, how to make free-to-play non-horrible, what he thinks the future might be for immersive sims in the vein of System Shock and his thoughts on his former studio’s controversial XCOM remake’. Doesn’t bloomin’ fit though, does it? Oh well. You’ll find all that stuff out for yourself simply by reading on: tons of interesting comments in here, and I’m particularly excited by the thought towards the end that a coming wave of mid-budget simulational shooters might be on the cards, and far more likely to take big creative risks than their glossier triple-A peers… (Oh, and if you missed the more Card Hunter-centric first part of this interview, looky here).

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Rapture In Paper: The Bioshock Novel

No, the table doesn't magically change. Trick of the light. Move along....

Timing-wise, the long-in-development Bioshock prequel novel couldn’t have landed at a worse one. Remember Rapture? That’s right. It’s the place that was so awesome, before we were blown away by Columbia a few weeks ago. In the mood to return? There’s the rub…

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Another World: BioShock Infinite vs Reality

But is it as nob as Revenge of the Sith?

Those of us who didn’t spend the best part of a week legging it around a giant convention centre earlier this month could only swoon at the resulting tall tales of BioShock: Infinite’s newly-announced reality-rift feature, known as Tears. Now we get our own crack in space-time to peer through, as Ken Levine talks about (and demonstrates) companion character Elizabeth’s ability to introduce elements from other realities into the player’s game-world.
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How Infinite Fixes BioShock’s Key Problem

Plus, underwater would totally mess up her 'do

The upcoming third BioShock game intends to fix an oft-made criticism of the Rapture-set original games, according to Timothy Gerritsen, Director of Development at Irrational Games.

The Executive Producer on Bioshock Infinite admitted to RPS in an interview published today that, in the first Bioshock, “we failed in giving you a sense of that city underwater.”
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Who’s Fighting Who (& When) In Bioshock 3

She'll send your horse to another dimension

Well, obviously pretty much everyone’s fighting you – it is a first-person shooter, after all. But there’s also inter-factional conflict in 2012’s Skyoshock, as one Mr K. Levine reveals below. What on earth could make the denizens of a rebel, militaristic, ultranationalist city in the sky turn against each other? Oh, riiiiiight. Also: time travel.
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Look, Sky-walker: BioShock Infinite In Motion

You look a lot less little, sister

Only a shortie for Ken & chums’ latest, but it’s pretty confident proof that we’re not in Rapture anymore, Andrew. Rocket-spewing zeppelins, anti-gravity powers, gruesome splatting via sky-crates and, at the end, a hint of how large the environments may be. Also, it really plays up the fact that this is a buddy game – but not exactly a buddy comedy. Read the rest of this entry »

Post-Rapture: BioShock Infinite Breaks Cover

Disconsolate at having not been cast in X-Men First Class, Patrick Stewart took to extreme skydiving for catharsis

The 2K way of late appears to be announcing impossibly ambitious and exciting-sounding games then going deathly silent for months (with the notable exception of Duke Nukem Forever, which has been very, very noisy since its comeback announcement). So it’s grand to see BioShock: Infinite start its promotional gears turning again, ahead of what will hopefully be a grand old infosplosion at E3. Following a revamp of the game’s website, we’ve got four new screenshots to stare at and make desperate, fannish guesses about. Hope you don’t like horses, because I’m about to show you a picture of a dead one.
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Bioshock 2 Minerva’s Den Comes To Daddy

To think, we might actually have an actual PC screenshot instead of just repeatedly using this owl picture soon

Good news, everyone. I’d given up absolutely all hope of this ever happening, and yet it has. The final DLC for Bioshock 2, Minerva’s Den, was a smart vignette full of nods to System Shock and the history of computing, not to mention being a welcome opportunity to approach the fascinating, doomed society of Rapture from a perspective other than its increasingly fantastical main narrative. This standalone tale of a calculating rogue AI seemed tailor-made for PC gamers… only PC gamers never got it. So it’s with fairly delighted surprise that we discover it’s finally, finally due out on PC almost a year after its console version.
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The Very Important List Of PC Games, Part 4/5

I don't look like this. Yet.

Young people. Good grief. Your ignorance is as plain as those spots on your greasy face. Don’t you know anything? Can’t you be bothered to learn anything? Did you even read the words of esteemed colleagues Rossignol, Walker and Smith detailing the first three parts of this Olympian list of The Most Important PC Games Of All Time? I am quite sure that I, Deacon Meer, am wasting my time attempting to impart my own wisdom on this matter to your feckless minds, as is Intel’s AppUp developer program for having the consideration and grace to so thoughtfully sponsor this series. You’re probably all too busy fiddling with your genitals and snorting heroin at one of those ‘rave parties’ I hear young people go to every night. I shall say my piece regardless.
Sit down, shut up, listen >>

Illuminated Ones: Shadow & Light In Games

ughhhhshhshshshshshshalkfhglkh!

[This was originally printed in a slightly different form at the Escapist in 2007. Post-Bioshock 1 and 2, it struck me as a good time to return to what was on Jordan Thomas’ mind back then – especially the sections which foreshadow Fort Frolic. And with the darkness obsessed Amnesia due within a week, turning our mind on what lurks in the gaming’s dark also struck me as worthwhile]

Light is, as far as fundamental issues in game design goes, an opaque topic for most gamers. In modern 3D engines, it’s something you simply can’t have a level without – or, at least, one which doesn’t involve a lot of bumping into walls. It’s something that effects mood and functionality, so acting as a supporting pillar for both the artistic and mechanistic elements of game design. But when implementing it, what is a designer really thinking about? To shed a little light on the matter, I talked to Jordan Thomas, best known as co-designer of the Cradle in Thief: Deadly Shadows and has been recently been working on a little game called Bioshock.
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Shock! Irrational’s New Game Looms Close

That’s the studio formerly known as 2K Boston formerly known as Irrational to you. As in Ken Levine’s original-name-reclaiming bunch: the developers who made System Shock 2, SWAT 4, Tribes Vengeance, Freedom Force – and, of course, Bioshock the first.

And there’s that Pandora’s box opened. The important news, though, is that Irrational are finally taking the lid of whatever their new project is next week. Several years in the making, massively mysterious: whatever it is, whatever it’s like, it’s bound to be a big old chat-magnet.
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Dark Futures Part 3: Jordan Thomas

Jordan Thomas first came to our attention with Thief: Deadly Shadows where he co-designed the Cradle with Randy Smith. Next he was on Bioshock, with his fingerprints over all Fort Frolic. Then, he stepped up to Creative Director at 2k Marin with Bioshock 2. He’s highly verbal, scarily optimistic and wants to talk to you about the Immersive Sim as an Anti-genre, the death of seriousness and the growth of snark, Thomas Moore Utopian fiction and what Ion Storm Austin were considering doing with Deus Ex 3…
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Thief: DS For £2.09?! And Other Bargains

It's a steal!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm sorry.

The Steam summer sale thingamy is continuing to offer some ludicrously good prices, as it happens. I’ve just spotted some for which there’s only six hours left, which should fill in some vital gaps on your virtual shelf. There’s Thief: Deadly Shadows for £2.09, BioShock for £3.49, and Titan Quest Gold for £2.49. There’s also Dragon Age, about 80 hours of game, for £11.99.

I can’t get over Thief 3 for barely more than £2. This is one of those games that come 2014 we’ll be writing ten year retrospectives about. If you never did, you absolutely must right now. Just for the heck of it, I’ve pasted my review of the game from 2004 for PC Format.

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