Posts Tagged ‘Ken Levine’

Levine meets Objectivists

This is an odd one. I haven’t seen it linked in any of the other blogs – it’s possible I just haven’t been paying attention to the right places though – but I found it when researching something.

(That is, entering random Bioshock related phrases into google.)

Basically, Andrew Russel, an objectivist gentleman drops Mr Levine an e-mail. And Mr Levine replies, and talks candidly about his beliefs regarding objectivism and world politics and hints at his intentions with Bioshock. And then Andrew posts the replies to the objectivist forums he frequents. To briefly set the stage – and it’s worth doing so, as in the UK, Objectivism and Ayn Rand are a lot less known than they are in the States – Bioshock’s setting of the isolated city of genius founded by one Andrew Ryan is clearly a riff off Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, and not necessarily a complimentary one. You may have seen Objectvists turn up in some Bioshock comments threads, voicing concerns (at best) and voicing anger (at worst).

As Andrew puts it…

What I am hoping is that BioShock treats the theory of individualism with proper respect. It would be very disheartening if BioShock were to equate individualism with an endless desire to prove oneself superior to others (this being a form of conformist parasitism Rand referred to as Second-Handing), free-market capitalism with making profit as an end-in-itself, or advocate the fallacious notion that laissez-faire is a zero-sum game. As you are obviously aware, Objectivism is often assumed to be wrong, evil, or an engine of societal collapse and disintegration, regardless of the historical evidence in favor of many Objectivist-approved principles.

Ken replies at length, but a couple of bits stick out. Firstly answering Andrew’s questions regarding Shock 2…

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Exclusive: Ken Levine on the making of Bioshock

When Ken Levine, the main man behind Bioshock and System Shock 2, drops you a line asking if you want to do an interview, you say “yes.”

Levine’s a fascinating figure – articulate, driven, passionate. And, no, I don’t want to have sex with him. (Denial’s not pretty – Ed) It’s worth stressing how this interview came about. Levine – a major developer – mailed me for no other reason than that he wanted to talk. No-one does that. He’s played the PR machine on Bioshock enormously hard, clearly very aware of the enormous stakes he’s playing for. And he is, in a real, fundamental way. Levine sold the company he co-founded in order to get this game done. Irrational no longer exist in name thanks to selling it to 2K, but without their money Bioshock wouldn’t have been made in a recognisable way. It was only possible because of the Faustian deal, and he needs to make the best of it. It has to do what none of its peers and precursors (The Thiefs, The System Shocks, The Deus Exes) have done – become not just a hit, but a enormous HIT. If Bioshock does anything short of changing our world, he’s failed.

So, yes, he likes to talk. As he should.

Anyway – Bits of the interview end up being cannibalised for features in PC Gamer UK, Wired and Edge. If they come online, clearly, I’ll be linking to them – the PC Gamer one has lots of stuff on designers’ ethics and needs, while the Edge one is a making-of look at System Shock 2 (The Wired one’s up now, and you’ve just wandered past its link. And I’ve edited the PCG one in now too – Ed). However, even with all that, there were still several thousand words of interesting material left spare. In the days leading up to Bioshock’s release, Rock Paper Shotgun seems the perfect place to share them. I’ve included narrative bridges for the bits which have gone into the other pieces to give context. Oh – and this feature was written before I’d played the finished game, having only experienced the first couple of levels in preview.

We start at a fairly obvious point, but I was fishing for quotes for the more general-readership Wired feature. Bear with us, and read on for Ken’s thoughts on the legacy of System Shock, how Little Sisters were formerly insects, the nature of superheroes, objectivism and, of course, much more.

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Ken Levine: Stop paying attention to my game!

For a week anyway.

Artist-formally-known-as-Irrational’s Ken Levine posts to Through The Looking Glass’ Bioshock forum with some instructions.

“If you’re going to buy the game this week, I highly recommend you stay away from any forums that might have spoilers until you play the game through. Our goal in making the game was to thrill and, often, surprise you.

Please don’t ruin other people’s experience by revealing secrets in unmarked threads, and if you want to enjoy the game to its fullest, stay away from any threads that might ruin the fun for you. With a game like BioShock, it will really make a difference.”

I’ll echo his words. I’m a bit over half-way Bioshock at the moment, and there’s certain reveals which you really want to play out as they’ve crafted them. The one which I’ve just hit is as powerful as any plot-beat I’ve experience in gaming, I think. And that’s all you’ll get out of me from now.

Oh yeah – if you’re a XBox gamer, be careful with even reading friends profiles. Plot elements turn up in some of the achievements.

Oh – and while on the topic: THERE IS NO TYLER DURDEN.