Ken Levine Wants To Create A Game Less Like BioShock
Ken Levine excels at making System Shock games and that includes his two BioShock titles. He’s also got a knack for story-driven games, usually with a big sucker punch right at the end.
With the imminent liquidation of Irrational Games and the start of a new chapter in Levine’s life, the veteran game developer said during a panel at GDC 2014 this weekend that his next title will be a non-linear affair primely because “narratively-driven games tend to have poor replay value.”
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“Narrative doesn’t lend itself to systems,” he said. “I’m proud of what we did with linear narrative, but I’ve personally been doing it for over 19 years.
“The problem with narrative is that you sort of have to keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. That gets time consuming. That gets expensive. And you’re devoting years and years of your life to this one sort of big moment. You ship the game, and it comes out, and people play the game and it’s 12 hours long and people have a great experience and you see cosplayers and fans for years like that, but you don’t have that constant engagement with the audience.
“Linear narrative puts a boundary between the developer and the audience.”
Levine he wants to create a “narrative-driven experience where the narrative elements are non-linear and interact with each other.”
In essence he wants to create a game that is completely open-ended and crafted by player actions. It sounds arduous and perhaps impossible if the goal is true open-endedness but Levine doesn’t want it to get that far and is aiming for something more inline with what the Witcher 2 had. Many different endings based on choices the player made without knowing that they’d have a lasting impact on the game.
“You’re going to have to balance these things off one another, but they’re all going to be transparent to you. We’re going to have to have a limited number of them so you can track them all and it doesn’t become a giant spreadsheet that overwhelms you,” he said.
Levine is a great talent so it would be interesting to see what he comes up with for non-linear narratives. My only concern is that a big draw of his has been those twist endings but can he translate that into a game with a dozen various paths?