In late 2015, Levine described the team's next game as "sort of a small-scale open-world game" which "fights against the linear nature of the games we made before, like BioShock and BioShock Infinite."
Yesterday, Levine talked about making replayable narrative games—citing Chris Crawford's amazing 1992 dragon speech—and the two years of research and development Ghost Story has committed to solving the problem. He avoided too many specifics, but cited an inspiration we expected a lot of developers to draw from back when it released.
"The game that I think inspired me most—that we were maybe onto something, on the right track—was Shadow of Mordor, with the Nemesis system, which was my favorite part of the game," said Levine. That system empowered boss enemies who fought or killed the player, generating stories about their rise through the ranks which players could track as they hunted them.
"And that's a very limited, rudimentary approach to it that covers a very narrow area, but boy, when I sort of understood that I could kill whatever orc boss I wanted in whatever order I wanted, and really drive who I would kill and who I would convert, all that stuff—it's more of a meta-narrative and there's not a lot of dialogue support for that stuff, so our thing is much more ambitious.
"I haven't seen that much about [sequel Shadow of War], and I'm guessing they're probably going to double down on that, because I thought that was incredibly successful. That sort of gave us, 'OK, maybe we're not completely crazy in what we're trying to do.'"
Levine expanded on his thoughts during a Q&A session, saying that the studio's goal is to achieve "radical recognition."
"Like in Mordor, the player does something, [and] the game, as often as we can, should recognize that accomplishment or failure or whatever it is and find ways to have the world feed back that it cares," he said.
Responding to another question, Levine indicated that the game won't be designed like a Telltale game, which branch out as players choose actions and responses. Rather, it will be "a deeply systemic game," he said, describing a seemingly traditional narrative that can "react and comment on much more small level actions the player takes."