In his Reddit AMA last night ("Ask Me Anything", a Q&A session with users of the site), Ken Levine made a couple of announcements about the development of Bioshock Infinite. When asked about Irrational's commitment to the PC release of the game, he said, "We have a dedicated group on the PC version. Our first priority is making sure that it feels like a game that is at home on the PC."
Interview: Ken Levine on American history, racism in BioShock Infinite: "I've always believed that gamers were underestimated."
In between gathering good and ungood impressions of BioShock Infinite during my hands-on last week, I had a chance to talk with creative director Ken Levine about the game's interesting expression of American history and social issues like racism.
Booker DeWitt's stony mug and Wild Wild West getup on BioShock Infinite's recently revealed box art didn't go over too well among some fans, with Creative Director Ken Levine chalking up the action-movie-like design as a hook for non-enthusiasts. To smooth things over, Levine posted a blog entry today offering six alternative designs to vote on for a reversible box cover.
Proving that people can get worked up about anything, the reveal of Bioshock Infinite's box art sparked apoplectic rage among fans. Speaking to Wired, Bioshock Infinite's creative director Ken Levine admitted he knew the cover would prove unpopular with gaming enthusiasts. "I understand that some of the fans are disappointed. We expected it. I know that may be hard to hear, but let me explain the thinking."
It will also be the most ambitious thing Irrational has ever done, according to Ken Levine, BioShock Infinite's creative director.
We sent two intrepid reporters to get the lowdown on Irrational's follow-up to BioShock, this time set aboard Columbia, a floating city inspired by ideas of American exceptionalism circa 1900. Both Tom F and Evan got to sit down and play the game for several hours, and then caught up with Levine for a lengthy chat afterwards - more of which you will be able to read in the January edition of the magazine. But we couldn't resist teasing you with Levine's comments to Tom about how the team reacted to criticism of BioShock's ending - specifically, how that game failed to evolve following its twist.
I spent about two and a half hours with BioShock: Infinite yesterday during a press event in Los Angeles. Infinite already feels like something really special, mostly on the merits of its presentation and creativity. Inside, I’ve expounded on five things I really liked.
Go read Tom’s spoiler-free preview for more thoughts on the same demo, and tune in tomorrow for a list of things I didn’t love.
I've just played the first five hours of BioShock Infinite, and I've come away with the same dazed feeling I got after I first played Half-Life 2. It's a sensory overload: a relentless series of staggering sights, astonishing events, and more story and detail and mysteries than I could possibly absorb.
I'm not quite sure what I was expecting, but not this.
BioShock Infinite's turbulent journey toward its February 26 release has incurred staff departures and release delays as Irrational ensures the completeness of Columbia's sweeping set pieces. But one thing Columbia won't include is now very clear: taking to Twitter last weekend (via Kotaku), Irrational co-founder Ken Levine triple-killedanypossibility of multiplayer modes accompanying BioShock: Infinite's story.
In a blog post on the Irrational Games website, legendary designer Ken Levine has opened the clanking, whirring lid on BioShock Infinite’s brassy pair of collector’s editions.
The Premium Edition, which will cost $79.99 (around £50), includes a 3-inch keyring based on the ‘Murder of Crows’ special power, wherein lead character Booker summons a plural noun’s worth of corvids to attack his enemies. Kind of like Corvo’s ability to summon rats in Dishonored, but with wings. There’d be a neat little bit of symmetry here if BioShock Infinite’s leading man had a name that meant ‘rat’, given Corvo’s cognate. But it doesn’t. Oh well. It would have been a lovely bit of Booker-ending.
Using certain soldier names in XCOM: Enemy Unknown will activate XCOM Heroes - pre-designed super soldiers such as Sid Meier and Ken Levine. Before activating a Hero, a pop-up will warn you that they're too damn amazing to allow you to continue the game with achievements turned on, and you cannot modify a Hero character after summoning it. If you decide to use one, do avoid killing him with some bull-headed tactical screw-up -- we'd kind of like BioShock Infinite to be finished.
A message from Ken Levine on the Bioshock Infinite site brings word that the game's been delayed until February 26 next year. Hopefully they're not actually trying to make it infinite, or else we'll be getting a few posts like this on the Bioshock Infinite site over the course of the next few millenia as the sun gradually sputters out and entropy claims the universe.
"BioShock Infinite is a very big game," writes Ken Levine. "We’re doing things that no one has ever done in a first-person shooter." The delay will give the team extra time to polish the sunny sky-city of Colombia to a gleaming, golden sheen.
In a fascinating episode of the Irrational Interview podcast, creative director Ken Levine discusses the art of games writing with Uncharted writer Amy Hennig. They talk about the how the technical requirements of the development process enforces a haphazard approach to scripting. Levine uses Bioshock's most famous moment as an example.
"I'll write a scene like the Andrew Ryan scene in Bioshock 1 before I've written most of the game, and because of the animation requirements, because it's a big animated scene we had to get started on that very early," he says. "I really don't exactly know how the hell I'm going to get to that."
"I don't know exactly how I'm going after that scene, but that scene is going to be set in stone to a degree, because of the animation requirements of it. You have to trust yourself, too, to say "this is okay, I'm going to figure this out!""
I didn't think I'd find myself writing that headline when I woke up this morning. There are big ideas behind the Bioshock games. The wars for Rapture and Colombia are battles between ideologies fought with bullets, each set in a fascinating, twisted dystopia. Never mind all that, though. No matter how smart your game is, there's always room for evil robot George Washington with a gatling gun.
The "motorised patriot" was revealed on G4TV, with comments from Ken Levine. "He's completely fearless," Levine said. "He doesn’t have a sense of self-preservation, so he’ll just keep coming at you and coming at you." Just like George Washington.
Update: There's a video! See the motorised patriot in action below.
This interview first appeared in PC Gamer UK issue 233.
BioShock Infinite is a first-person shooter like its predecessors, but a less lonely one. You play Booker DeWitt, who is trying to escape the flying city of Columbia with a girl named Elizabeth before a terrifying steampunk robot called Songbird catches her. The city is a spectacular airborne flotilla of districts suspended by vast balloons – a testament to America’s cultural might, and its fondness for things that are big but not terribly useful. Our last good look at the game was a spectacular 15-minute demonstration at E3.
I spoke to creative director Ken Levine about why Elizabeth is the centrepiece not just of the story, but of the technology that drives it.
Without giving too much away, a key twist in the original BioShock story is to do with your character being completely mute throughout the game. It was an interesting twist on Gordon Freeman-like character design, and a comment on the game’s key themes of determinism versus free will.
In BioShock Infinite, the protagonist - Booker DeWitt - will be able to speak. In an interview with IGN, its creator Ken Levine explained the decision. “How do you go back and say okay, well you're that kind of character again after you already had that discussion with the gamer?” asked Levine. “Our response to it was, let's really place you firmly in the world this time. Let's give you a story, let's give you a character to develop a personal story...You're very active, your story is very active, Elizabeth's story is very active.”
NPC companion, Elizabeth, is set to a vital part of Bioshock Infinite's storyline. She follows playable tough-guy, Booker DeWitt around the floating metropolis of Columbia, trying to evade the nightmarish Songbird that has kept her captive for years.
In spite of her torrid past, Elizabeth is a playful, funny sidekick. Some of the best moments from the superb fifteen minute E3 demo (above) were Elizabeth's brief, incidental skits in which she banters with Booker and at one point puts on a giant Abe Lincoln head for a quick impression. According to creative director, Ken Levine, these small acts are the "most complicated" development task for Irrational.
Ken Levine is joined by the voice actors who play Bioshock Infinite's protagonist, Booker, and his NPC companion, Elizabeth for the new trailer. The most telling moment comes when the actor who plays Elizabeth, Coutnee Draper, says that she doesn't know exactly how long her character has been kept captive because Levine hasn't decided yet. Later, Levine talks about the process of working with the actors, saying that "sometimes they'll bring something to the role and I'll change the role," confessing that "a lot of times I don't even know what I want." It's an interesting insight into Levine's flexible approach to creating the game's story, almost as though he's making it up as he's going along. It's a strategy that seems to be going well, the fourteen minutes of footage from E3 were incredible.
The Bioshock series has shown off a few human issues in its time; the ethics behind child experiments, human genetic manipulation and artificially manufacturing the father-daughter bond. CVG are reporting that Infinite will offer something slightly more personal, with the history of central character Elizabeth drawing influence from designer Ken Levine's personal experiences. Read on for the full story.
The latest Bioshock Infinite developer diary has Ken Levine discussing the ghostly tears in reality that can be found throughout Columbia. The theory is that there are hundreds of alternative, parallel versions of the floating city, each with its own slight differences. Your companion, Elizabeth, can use tears in reality to reach into these parallel universes and pull objects into your world. In fights you can ask her to materialise any one of a number of different tears, giving you extra cover, a helpful turret, or even a mob of friendly fighters.
In the last clip, we see that Elizabeth has the power to revive the dead, and change reality completely if she wills hard enough. It's a considerable step up from the occasional apparitions that would appear in the underwater city of Rapture in the first game. For more on Bioshock Infinite, check out the previous dev diary showcasing Columbia's Sky-line firefights, or read our E3 impressions.
After last week's E3 bonanza, top scientists have verified that it is officially impossible to not be excited about BioShock Infinite. That's why we jumped with joy when we saw that Irrational Games is releasing several short vignettes on Infinite that delve deeper into the game's background and lore. Join us in our giddy, schoolgirl-like excitement as we listen to the always-articulate Ken Levine discussing the opposing factions that are tearing Columbia apart: the Founders and the Vox Populi.