Posts Tagged ‘Ken Levine’

BioShock is ten years old today

BioShock is ten years old! The first-person shooter set in the underwater city of Rapture was released on August 21, 2007 in North America (and on the 24th elsewhere), and I’ve been digging through RPS’s archives for the things we wrote about the game upon its release. Read the rest of this entry »

Ken Levine heads up Ghost Story Games

Ghost Story Games

Given Alice is not interested in any ghost stories which aren’t terrifying movies she can freak herself out with while alone in the house, it falls to me to tell you about Ken Levine and other senior Irrational folk’s new studio, Ghost Story Games [official site].

I’m not sure whether to call it a new studio or a rebrand, actually, as the site seems to position it as a new thing with familiar faces but their announcement tweet is: “The studio formerly known as Irrational Games is now called “Ghost Story”.” Maybe it’s more of an evolution or transition. Read the rest of this entry »

Doing Comics Justice: Freedom Force Vs The Third Reich

Superheroes are, my dear mole cave people recently thawed following a decades-long slumber, very much in vogue right now. Films about whiny teenagers with the least interesting powers of an arachnid are ten a penny, but video games of this kind have been oddly lacking. The superhero games we do have – for example, the Arkham series – are mainly about specific superheroes, not about the idea or the spirit of their original format, the comic book.

I have a strange bias here, as I’m one of the fifty people on earth who loves games but never cared about comics or superheroes. So I say this without exaggerating or clutching at straws: Freedom Force Vs The Third Reich [Wikipedia page], a real-time, squad-based tactical beat ‘em up from 2005, is the only game that truly shows why people love comics.

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Looking Glass / Irrational Does System Shock 2 Live

Even a few years ago, the idea of getting to watch assorted Looking Glass and Irrational alumni play and talk through revered sci-fi immersive sim System Shock 2 sounded like an absurd fantasy. Twitch and Twitter, whatever else they might be throwing at the world, have broken down so many barriers. For instance: two of hours of System Shock 2, with live commentary provided by the likes of BioShock’s Ken Levine, Gone Home’s Steve Gaynor and Ultima Underworld’s Paul Neurath (not to mention all the other landmark games those guys worked on).
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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.

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Bioshock Through The Looking Glass

The contemporary big-budget FPS has a few different strains: blood-n-guts military settings a la Call of Duty, open-world environments like Far Cry, and high-concept dystopias. Outside of open-world most of these styles were first codified in the 1990s, and FPS games then and now share an enormous amount: primarily a core mechanic of shooting many hundreds of enemies in the face over and over again, as well as crossover in areas like structure, goal-chaining, and narrative delivery. FPS games, in other words, have for a long time been constructed on resilient and proven principles. And many of them come from Looking Glass Studios.

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Ken Levine “Winding Down Irrational Games”, Lays Off Staff

Hmm.

In a post on the Irrational Games website titled “A Message From Ken Levine”, the BioShock creator announced that he’s “winding down” Irrational Games. What does that mean? All but a core team of fifteen developers are being laid off, so that the remaining few can focus on new ideas, “a long period of design”, and the idea of “replayable narrative”.

This is a surprise.
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BAFTA Chat: A Couple Of Hours With Ken Levine

Last week BioShock’s Ken Levine appeared at BAFTA to give a presentation on “the mission of Irrational Games”, and of course to talk about BioShock: Infinite. This was followed by being interviewed on stage by the very lovely Mr Simon Parkin, for an hour. Why am I telling you? Because you can now watch the entire thing, just below this sentence.

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Bioshock’s Ken Levine Talks Stories, Systems & Science


As if we hadn’t already heard enough from the man who steers the Irrational Zeppelin through developmental waters, Jim also had a long chat with Ken Levine, the creator of Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite. Read on for thoughts that span the sadness of cholera, the mystery of condiments, the joy of turn-based historical war, and some stuff about a game set in a flying city.

I’ve marked out some mild spoilers towards the end of the piece. These are non-specific discussions of the plot themes, but you can decide whether to skip.
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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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28 Days Later: BioShock Infinite Delayed

A visual representation of my sadness. HURRRR!
There’s a lot you can do in a month. You can write a novel, you can fill in one 12th of your calendar, you can take ride around the Earth once while on the moon. It depends on the month, though. For example, from February 25th to March 25th 2013 you’ll be unable to play BioShock Infinite. It was due out on the 26th of February, but Irrational are taking an extra month to ‘polish’ it. At least they chose February. If they delayed it for a month at any other time of the year, it would have taken longer to complete it. Thank you, February. You’re the best month.
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No BioShock Infinite This Year, Not For You

This embrace is not within your reach.

Let’s do this, okay: When a new game first announces a release date, let’s just go ahead and ignore it. Wasn’t it Einstein who said the very definition of insanity was filling a balloon with kittens and then severing off your own leg? So it is that BioShock: Infinite has declared it won’t be with us this year at all. They’re now looking at February next year.

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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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Hardcore: BioShock Infinite Has ‘1999 Mode’

Grubby girl.

Irrational Games have just announced a new play mode that will be appearing in BioShock Infinite. Called 1999 Mode, it’s aimed at appealing to those who think games have become too easy. Ken Levine explains, “We want to give our oldest and most committed fans an option to go back to our roots,” adding that 1999 Mode means that you’ll face more permanent consequences from their choices you make, and force you to stick with the specialisations you choose.

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Rational Discourse: Levine And Del Toro

Guillermo Del Toro: "videogames are the bridge to the future of genre narrative"

Do you enjoy conversation between passionate individuals? If so, the recent Irrational Interview featuring Ken Levine and Guillermo Del Toro is a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an hour of your day. The Mexican author/director is working on a horror game and the first part of this audio was posted on Halloween so I expected a focus on spooky happenings but the conversation is much more wide-ranging. There is some discussion of monsters but mostly it’s two men discussing the joy of the creative process, as well as the frustrations that can arise in the film and game industries.

Del Toro is frank as ever, at one point describing working on projects with no personal interest as like trying to “fuck without a boner”. He does swear a lot. Ken slowly warms to the idea of this navvy-like behavior and by the end they’re both at it. Two parts. Downloads here and here.

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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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Bioshock Infinite: Gillen vs Levine


Since abandoning sitting in my underpants writing games journalism for the glittering world of sitting in my glittery underpants writing comics, it takes a lot to get me out of bed. That said, it always took a lot to get me out of bed. I’m lazy. However, a chance to chat to Irrational’s creative director Ken Levine about all things Bioshock Infinite counts as something that’ll have me tearing the duvet asunder. So when I was asked to do it, I – er – did it.

And then it was transcribed into written words…

BioShock Infinite E3, The First Two Minutes

It's 2011. Where are my flying trains?

Irrational Games have posted the first two minutes of the Bioshock Infinite E3 presentation. The footage is introduced by the lovely Ken Levine and covers a brief rummage through an old curiosity shop chock full of adventuresome period banter between Booker and Elizabeth and also features some remarkably creepy sound design. Comrade Dan Griliopoulos previously reported on the demo which you can rejigger in your mind-memory right here. Impressive-sounding stuff, and you can watch his words spring to life below! Seems like too much of a coincidence. My new theory? Maybe he’s a god. He’s got the chin.

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