Ken Levine's next game draws inspiration from Shadow of Mordor's Nemesis system

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At EGX Rezzed 2017 (opens in new tab) yesterday, BioShock creator Ken Levine came to the stage for a brief conversation about his career and what his new, post-Irrational studio, Ghost Story (opens in new tab), is up to.

In late 2015 (opens in new tab), 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.

[The Nemesis system is] more of a meta-narrative and there's not a lot of dialogue support for that stuff, so our thing is much more ambitious.

"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."

You can watch the whole interview on Twitch (opens in new tab) , and watch more EGX streams (opens in new tab) live throughout Saturday.

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the rise of personal computers, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on the early PCs his parents brought home. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, Bushido Blade (yeah, he had Bleem!), and all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now. In 2006, Tyler wrote his first professional review of a videogame: Super Dragon Ball Z for the PS2. He thought it was OK. In 2011, he joined PC Gamer, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.