Burial at Sea: Ken Levine on BioShock Infinite’s Return to Rapture
BioShock Infinite garnered wide acclaim this spring for its mindbending story and fantastic environments. But the announcement of Burial at Sea — a two-part adventure that sets Infinite protagonists Booker DeWitt and Elizabeth in the underwater city of Rapture — might just be Irrational’s most ambitious and exciting project yet. Creative Director Ken Levine kindly took a few minutes from his schedule to answer our pesky questions about the upcoming downloadable episodes.
PlayStation.Blog: What compelled Irrational to return to Rapture for BioShock Infinite’s Burial at Sea DLC episodes?
Ken Levine, Creative Director, Irrational Games: We never wanted to return to Rapture unless there was something new to say; a new story to tell that wasn’t just bringing to life the story that we already told. We found that there was a Booker and Elizabeth story to tell in Rapture that we got very excited about. A fresh new story focused on the main characters of Infinite and the only place it could be was in Rapture.
PSB: What opportunities does Burial at Sea provide in building Rapture that weren’t available in the original BioShock? Has time changed Irrational’s approach to designing the city?
Ken Levine: There were a few changes. First of all, we have the ability to populate the city – from Elizabeth to all the people going about their business. Which we couldn’t before. We could only have a few AI’s in the scene in BioShock 1. We also built a much larger scale of space and we put a lot more detail in the world. For instance, in BioShock 1, every scene at the window was basically just 2D art and 2D backdrops that look like 3D. They were cycloramas basically. Whereas now the city outside is actually 3D assets.
PSB: How will the Burial at Sea episodes fit into the larger narrative of the BioShock universe? Will the two Burial at Sea episodes be chronological in structure? How much time will have passed between them?
Ken Levine: That’s for me to know and you to find out.
PSB: How have the Vigors/Plasmids and weapons changed in Burial at Sea? Have they been balanced to reflect the new play environment, or will they work largely as they did in Infinite?
Ken Levine: The combat is quite different in Burial At Sea than it was in Infinite. There are smaller scale combats that give the player much greater opportunity to observe the space ahead of time and set up the combat situation to his or her taste. Therefore traps become much more meaningful than they were in Infinite. So stealth becomes a larger component. We generally think combat is a little more deadly but a little less frenetic.
PSB: Elizabeth is playable in the second chapter – to what extent? In Infinite, Elizabeth provided a lot of active support but rarely attacked — have you had any difficulty transforming a loveable NPC into an FPS protagonist?
Ken Levine: It’s very important to us that playing as Elizabeth feels very different from playing as Booker. She’s a different person, and having gone through the experiences of Burial At Sea: Episode One has a substantial effect on her too. So we’re spending a lot of time working on how she feels and how she plays. To some degree Infinite, Burial At Sea: Episode One and Burial At Sea: Episode Two both feel a little different from a gameplay standpoint.