Posted 9 August

BioShock Infinite Q&A: Ken Levine’s PlayStation Moves

It’s always a pleasure to speak with Ken Levine, creative director for the award-winnging BioShock and the upcoming dystopian epic BioShock Infinite. Ken’s been good enough to drop by the PlayStation.Blog before, bringing news of PlayStation Move support as well as an upcoming PS Vita BioShock game, but we’ve never been able to immortalize him in crisp HD video.

Until now. In Rey‘s lovingly produced video feature, Levine touches on the origins of Songbird, the enigmatic guardian of Columbia who jealously seeks ownership of a supernaturally gifted girl named Elizabeth. “There’s a lot of mystery around Songbird, and I think people will be surprised by his relationship with Elizabeth — it’s a complicated relationship that has elements of light and elements of darkness.” He also muses on the PlayStation Move motion controller and Killzone 3‘s much-praised FPS implementation, as well as PS3 gaming as a whole. “I think the platform is really hitting its stride right now,” he told me. “The exclusives have been great and it’s been a really interesting platform to watch develop.”

PlayStation.Blog: How is work proceeding with the PS3 version of BioShock Infinite?

Ken Levine, President and Creative Director, Irrational Games: Look, I’m not blowing smoke here. We were Xbox-exclusive for the original game, and now we have something to demonstrate to the PlayStation 3 audience. We love the platform. I have three PS3s at my house. It’s a great game system and I love the kinds of games that are coming out on PSN.

The PS3 has a different architecture than we had encountered before, but because we helped port BioShock to the PS3, we’ve become very familiar with the platform. And we have a new engine for BioShock Infinite, so we started the game knowing we’d be on PS3. We started thinking about how to leverage the multiple cores from the start, so we’re in a much better place this time on PS3.

PSB: Are you working anything into BioShock Infinite that you wanted to include in the original game but couldn’t?

Levine: Combat, for one. In the original BioShock, we gave people this huge tool set but never demanded that they use it. We want to expand the player’s gaming vocabulary — I think that’s one missed opportunity with the original BioShock.

So now we have these traditional BioShock spaces, but also big, expansive areas where enemies are hundreds of yards away. You’re fighting one guy, or 15 guys, so crowd control becomes meaningful. Long-range weapons like sniper rifles become very meaningful.

PSB: What’s been the most challenging aspect of creating BioShock Infinite?

Levine:With this game we got behind this idea of building this relationship between Booker and Elizabeth. We’re really focused on a relationship that is earned, a relationship that is believable. Our focus is, what forms a bond between two people? Making sacrifices for each other — that will build a relationship very quickly. Not just, “these two people are drawn together because they’re attractive.” The same way that in BioShock, I didn’t want Atlas to betray the character so much as the gamer. When Andrew Ryan tells you that you’ve been manipulated the whole time, you think, “Screw you, man!” In the same way, I want the player to build this relationship with Elizabeth in BioShock Infinite. That’s the challenge of what we’re doing.

Bioshock Infinite: Ken Levine InterviewBioshock Infinite: Ken Levine Interview

PSB: Replayability is a major concern for single-player-focused games. Have you been thinking about ways to encourage replay, maybe a New Game Plus mode? Is that up for debate?

Levine: I’ll just say that yes, we do think a lot about this topic. I can’t talk about what we’re thinking specifically. If we’re going to do it, we want to find a BioShock way to do it. People will see more as time goes on.

PSB: Are you intrigued about any gaming applications for stereoscopic 3D?

Levine: For me, it’s all about having something interesting to say with it. I’m never interested in technology in terms of checking a box. We didn’t do multiplayer for BioShock because we thought we would be checking a box if we did. Anything we do has to be unique, interesting, and be appropriate for the game.

So we’re thinking about that stuff now. So if we have that, then that’s a road we may go down.

PSB: What’s your secret for building mystique and mystery in a game like BioShock Infinite?

Levine: I think it’s an issue of detail, of the creators not being satisfied until they really understand their worlds, which takes time to develop. Some creators carry these things in their heads for a long time, or have had a lot of time to make a lot of mistakes.

It’s about consistency, having a consistent aesthetic. It’s difficult. It requires that you not be satisfied with any old thing. It’s the difference between some guy making a crappy action film versus the Coen brothers. They care about the details, they care about the consistency from frame to frame. Each Coen brothers movie feels like a full world. Look at A Serious Man versus True Grit versus Miller’s Crossing. They’re such different worlds, but they’re so rich. There’s no magic formula: It comes down to sweating all the details.

PSB: Based on your Tweets, you’re pretty positive on PS Vita. What do you like about the concept?

Levine: I’m a gamer, right? I like playing games on iPad… but deep down I want that level of control. What’s cool about PS Vita is that it seems to have all the benefits of an iPad-type device with the touchscreen and motion controls. But it has dual analog sticks….and I love shooters. You can finally play a shooter, a real shooter, on a handheld. Seriously, that’s a hole in my soul right now. Now I’ll have something I can play real shooters on, and that’s really important to me. It’s awesome.

I Tweeted a while ago that it did everything but make me an omelet. It sort of has everything and the kitchen sink in it, which is great as a gamer.

Bioshock InfiniteBioshock infinite

PSB: Andrew Ryan thought free enterprise was the solution to the world’s problems; the citizens of Columbia seem to think it’s purity. What does Ken Levine think?

Levine: [laughs] I don’t like to say what I think. It would just get in the way of what the games are saying. I love that some people play BioShock and think that I’m an Objectivist, or that I’m a rabid anti-capitalist. I don’t really Tweet much about politics, not because I don’t have opinions but because we make games that touch on politics.

If you’ve played the games, I think you can probably suss where I’m at. We tend to make games about characters caught between larger forces. They’re just trying to get by, and they’re surrounded by ideologies and incredibly powerful people. I think a lot of people feel that way. I sure do. I have strong feelings about this or that…but the only thing, politically, that I come out about is gay marriage, which I feel so strongly about. People should be able to marry who the hell they want, and it affects so many people that I care about. I’d rather not have a career than not talk about that.

In general, I get very nervous when people are absolutely certain about anything.

PSB: Are you looking forward to UNCHARTED 3? Are you a fan of the series?

Levine: Yeah, of course! How can you not be an UNCHARTED fan? They’ve managed to make characters that are so appealing, you just love being around them. There aren’t a lot of interesting characters in video games, and that’s why Amy and Evan and their team are so good at what they do. The technology is so competent, the controls feel responsive, the characters are great…how can you not love UNCHARTED?

Did you enjoy this?

Comments

29 Comments 6 Author replies
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Great interview, really looking forward to this game.

 
Stonesthrow 9 August, 2011 @ 3:17 pm   2

Well so far the only games I’ve enjoyed with Move were Heavy Rain and Dead Space Extraction.. A shooter like MAG really doesn’t work because you have to walk yourself and it just doesn’t feel right trying to take corners with the Move.. So I’m hoping it will work in this case..Although I doubt it.. Anyway this looks amazing with or without Move..

 

Great interview. I always think Ken Levine seems like a really nice guy who’s just so passionate and committed to what he does. It really shows in the games he makes too. Really looking forward to Bioshock Infinite :D

    Sid Shuman 9 August, 2011 @ 6:36 pm    

    Ken’s super cool. Some of my all-time favorite interviews are with that guy. Glad you liked the interview!

 
phyllito1 9 August, 2011 @ 3:30 pm   4

I know someone who hates uncharted 2… he never played uncharted 1 but he hates 2. I don’t know why…

 
DAVIE222 9 August, 2011 @ 3:37 pm   5

@phyllito1

i think i know who you mean…..

(not gona say name)

 
Shaggy2000 9 August, 2011 @ 3:37 pm   6

Great interview, only problem is neither you or Ken ever mention the move controller. so your little sentence at the top saying he does is a little wrong.

    Sid Shuman 9 August, 2011 @ 6:36 pm    

    He talks about it in the video! He likes how Killzone 3 implemented it.

 
ShadowDoGGG 9 August, 2011 @ 3:39 pm   7

@phyllito1 I began to get bored of Uncharted 1. Just same scenario – you go to an empty place. Oh look its empty. 2 minutes later. Oh its an ambush, who would have guessed?

Still enjoyed it eventually though. Though I wonder if Tomb Raider will take its crown back from Uncharted.

 
Roneberg 9 August, 2011 @ 4:52 pm   8

This guys is the MAN!!! he just earn my total respect… that was words of a true gamer, not a fanboy! ;) keep it comming man!;)

 
RedeyeCult 9 August, 2011 @ 4:57 pm   9

ken ken , ken in response to your last question. some people who play games dont like uncharted this is because they have whats known as zero taste & style unfortunately not everyone can be as awesome as you and me ken. no wait i apologise your way more awesome than me your the ben stiller of video games man

 
capitales7 9 August, 2011 @ 5:24 pm   10

How does move tie into this?

 
chrisandsheva 9 August, 2011 @ 6:47 pm   11

Gay weddings? sorry but theres no place in a gaming interview for this opinion,that is for other blogs/forums etc,.. without going into it, what responsible Adults do behind closed doors is totally there business, but call me old fashioned {or probably worse?} it should stay behind closed doors,1st bioshock was awsome, but that 2nd effort has me doubting if i will get infinite.

 
Azzurri82 9 August, 2011 @ 7:00 pm   12

Fear not chrisandshava, Ken Levine had nothing to do with Bioshock 2 and calls Infinite, Bioshock’s spiritual sequel.
This is already looking like one of the very best games of 2012.

 
chrisandsheva 9 August, 2011 @ 7:13 pm   13

ah my bad, this changes things, thnx for info.

 
Shadiest187 9 August, 2011 @ 7:20 pm   14

In the E3 gameplay trailer am I the only one that gets chills when Elizabeth puts Booker’s (my) hand around her neck & says to promise…? :D
& also already damn determined to do whatever it takes to save her so that it doesn’t come to that…

I guess that means it’s ‘mission accomplished’ on this end anyway Ken ;)

 
colmshan1990 9 August, 2011 @ 7:31 pm   15

Just how many gaming device does he OWN?!
I’m jealous…

Shou_Kobayashi 9 August, 2011 @ 7:32 pm   16

I’ve never played Uncharted, it was never appealing to me, do I have to give up my PS3 than, or can I still enjoy the other awesome games?

 
HazelAM 9 August, 2011 @ 7:55 pm   17

the game is looking awesome, i consider this the true sequel to bioshock with levine back in charge.
not that bioshock 2 was a bad game, i wouldn’t have just bought the limited edition, but the first game was a masterpiece.

infinite is looking a very worthy successor.

i’m loving what i’ve seen of the character of elizabeth so far.

i’ve enjoyed watching all the videos and presentations Ken’s done on the game, his passion for the game and the world he’s creating really comes through.

 
carlosdfn 9 August, 2011 @ 8:21 pm   18

No matter how many times I see this footage I’m always amazed. This might end up being one of the best games ever.

 
Stonesthrow 9 August, 2011 @ 9:45 pm   19

@2RE No Sid actually I haven’t tried Killzone 3 with Move yet, I’m gonna get on that as soon as possible and hope it changes my mind about playing first person shooters with Move :p I’ve heard great things about Killzone 3 with Move.. Hope they can pull it off in the new Bioshock too.. In Heavy Rain it worked really well imo.. The same great experience but just motion controlled, and probably even more realistic..

 
jakster123x 10 August, 2011 @ 12:57 am   20

@16

Yes, unfortunately you are actually going to have to leave us. Sorry (Seriously, though, give the games a try!)

Anyway, really looking forward to this game!

 
raffieltiger 10 August, 2011 @ 1:50 am   21

Looking forward to this now, since it is completely unique and has a steampunk feel to it :D.

 
young_hastings 10 August, 2011 @ 2:54 am   22

i had my doubts about a raptureless bioshock game but im really looking forward to this now i will probably still miss rapture but im looking forward to this big time

 
MitchZombie 10 August, 2011 @ 4:49 am   23

Looks great!
loved Bioshock 1 & 2
Great interview also

Ghost-Rhayne 10 August, 2011 @ 6:55 am   24

Is 3D confirmed for Infinite? Just after E3 there was some secret goings on where Ken or IG revealed that it would not only have Move support but 3D too. In this interview though, it still sounds like it’s a “maybe” and not “for sure!”

Erorrless 10 August, 2011 @ 7:01 am   25

GOTY 2012

Erorrless 10 August, 2011 @ 7:01 am   26

GOTY 2012!!!

 

I don’t play in first person if I can help it(I get claustrophobic and I like to be able to see/keep my feet(the exception I make is to CoD’s Zombies)). If the Bioshock games were available to play in the third as well as the first, I’d happily buy them…

 
MohammedMK 11 August, 2011 @ 4:40 am   28

I love you Levine. Your game looks absolutely excellent.

Future_grim 14 August, 2011 @ 1:58 pm   29

Bioshock infinite = instant classic