It has been 48 agonising hours since Ken "Ken" Levine, Creative Director of Irrational Games, and beautiful mind and silky soft hands behind games such as System Shock 2
and Bioshock Infinite
, sent the video gaming world of video gaming into a maelstrom tailspin when he announced that he will be killing 90% of his staff by hand, forcing the remaining 10% to work on smaller, digitally delivered games.
Thanks to a shocking level of insomnia and a rocking imagination that has been misdiagnosed by several respected psychologists as "certifiable and textbook insanity", I have been able to secure an exclusive interview with the man himself, subtly grilling him on the future of Irrational Games, where he sees the Bioshock
universe is headed now that it has been released from his firm yet comforting grip, and any other nonsense that I could glean from yelling at pictures of a gentleman I have never met and jotting them down.
Please, please. My postman calls me Mr Levine. Call me Ken.
Ken, I will get straight to the point. The news that you would be downsizing Irrational Games and will be no longer working on the Bioshock
series has been nothing less than a blow from Thor's hammer into a nest of baby dodo eggs, causing many furrowed brows of confusion and concern; why would you disband the majority of your team and move away from AAA development, especially considering the commercial success and critical acclaim that Bioshock Infinite
Well Cap, I can see why you may consider such behaviour…irrational... [chuckles]
but the truth be told, the development of Bioshock
and Bioshock Infinite
especially, took a massive toll on my taut, muscular physique and my juicy, fertile brain.
I distinctly remember spending many nights sipping banana daiquiris alongside my development brethren, all hunched over the Lead Designer's monitor, agonising over the size of Elizabeth's boobs. Make them bigger? Make them smaller? Maybe make one bigger than the other? Every inch of cleavage had to tell a story. Rebellious? Yes. Adventurous? Maybe. Vulnerable? Doubtlessly. Watermelon? Don't mind if I do!
I remember when we first broadcasted demonstration gameplay which showcased Elizabeth using her powers alongside Booker's vigor abilities and weapons. It took a lot of guts to take that gameplay out entirely, and have Elizabeth focus on hiding in corners and singing like a Disney princess. Guts of steel, my brother.
It similarly took a lot of cajones
for me to put my hands on Todd, our music guy's, shoulders and say to him, "Todd, I'm only putting one REM cover in the game soundtrack. You're going to have to pick one. One
, damn your beautiful brown eyes!"
If you knew Todd, and how much he loved REM, that last one would make a lot more sense to you.
But the main reason I felt the need to have to move on is…the title. I mean, I really painted myself into a corner calling it Bioshock Infinite
, didn't I? After all, what is bigger than Infinite? Infinite Plus One? That sounds silly. That wouldn't work. What were you thinking suggesting Infinite Plus One, stupid head?
[kicks over table]
I'm sorry about that. Making that mistake still hurts me somewhat. Why didn't I listen to Ted and call the game Bioshock 3?
Why didn't I listen? WHY?!
I completely understand. Getting back on topic Kenny, you've said that you are going to heavily downsize your team and develop smaller, digitally delivered titles. Would you care to elaborate on this?
I see the future of Irrational Games in much the same way I saw it when I first founded it in 1997. I intend to push the boundaries of mainstream interactive entertainment. I am to compel, absorb and inspire those who digest my work. I want people to enjoy my games, but I also want people to think. Think about real human concepts, like tyranny, morality, the nature of space and time, science, technology religion, power, greed, corruption, identity, society. I want my games to remain an allegory of the adventures and puzzles that are humanity and civilisation.
Of course, now we are switching to digital titles, we just need to focus on whether we would be developing these concepts in an 8-bit endless runner format, or as a vividly-coloured, cartoon-style tower defence game format.
Thanking ye, Kenster. Where do you see the Bioshock
series heading, now that 2K have declared they will continue to develop the series in your absence?
I have nothing but admiration and respect for the fact that 2K will continue to milk the fine, doe-eyed heifer that is my beloved life's work until they squeeze out every last atom of creamy goodness from its succulent teats.
During restless nights when I cannot beddy-byes no matter how tightly I squeeze Teddy No-Shoes, I have considered what the next Bioshock
would look like.
I have envisaged a pattern played not above, nor below, but upon the waves, in a scenario where humanity is not thriving, but struggling.
The world is nearly fully covered in water, the society they once knew is totally destroyed. The last remaining hopes for the species have found sanctuary upon ramshackle settlements using technology salvaged from the distant now.
But then, I realised that I was describing Kevin Costner's Waterworld
I once thought of the main character as an outsider in a world in which he feels out of place and under constant scrutiny… but the city is on a vast electronic database that half the world are plugged into… abilities are downloaded into people electronically… because it's all digital
, you could slow down time… you slowly uncover that many elements of the environment are under your control, for your benefit…and the big twist is, that the whole experience is controlled by one person, voiced by Ed Harris…you know? From Apollo 13
? That would be pretty sweet. I hope they do that.
Ken Hom, you are a legend. If I could have one final question?
Anything for you, my child. [lightly caresses my cheek]
Your favourite sandwich?
Steak…bourbon and sour cream dressing…gherkin…mustard, no
, horseradish…gem lettuce. YES. Finally… bacon?
The twist is… the steak is actually you, who died in the future and was brought back to the past, cooked, and filleted! You are eating yourself!
Kenny Rogers, 'tis been a pleasure.
The pleasure was all ours. Or was it?
I'll leave that for you to decide.