Ken Levine on BioShock Infinite

Posted on February 02, 2011

FEATURE: Irrational Games Creative Director Ken Levine discusses the skybound city of Columbia and how it differs from Rapture.


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Extra, Extra: Big Daddy marries Little Sister in Toronto!

Posted on January 22, 2011

Perhaps the underwater utopia was already booked when Anna and Jon decided to get married in the backyard of his aunt’s (really nice) place in Toronto. Nevertheless, the couple tied the knot last May with plenty of inspiration taken from their “favorite video game,” BioShock, in a totally geeky hip wedding.

The cupcakes served at the celebration featured edible blue morpho butterflies, “a reference to the game,” Anna confirmed in a recent account of the wedding on Offbeat Bride. “Topping the tower of cupcakes were two figurines from the game” (pictured).

The ceremony programs, designed by Jon, also featured nods to the Art Deco shooter, though the choice in music — “We walked in to ‘Strangers’ by The Kinks, played ‘Loving Cup’ by the Rolling Stones while we signed the register, and walked out to ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,'” recalled Anna — was a bit unorthodox.

Congratulations, you two! May you love, honor, comfort and rapture each other in splicing and in health.

[Image credit: WyseVegan]

JoystiqExtra, Extra: Big Daddy marries Little Sister in Toronto! originally appeared on Joystiq on Fri, 21 Jan 2011 20:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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BioShock Infinite Cover Story

Posted on November 27, 2010

Our subscribers originally saw this story when it appeared in issue 210 of Game
Informer, but now our online readers can get check out the full text of the article.

Out Of The Sea, Into The Clouds
A young girl named Elizabeth was whisked away to a faraway city and locked up in
a tower. Confined to a single room, a hulking beast guarded her for 15 years until
a brave man came to her rescue.

This premise sounds like a fairy tale populated by idyllic characters and unambiguous
intentions, but it serves as the narrative core for the next BioShock – and
the situation is more complex than it seems. The minds responsible for Rapture’s
flooded corridors, Andrew Ryan’s twisted ideals, and the Big Daddies’
fatherly instincts wouldn’t be content to tell a simple fairy tale. With BioShock
Infinite, Irrational Games returns to the series it created, leaving the ocean behind
and turning its gaze toward the sky.

Elizabeth isn’t a typical damsel in distress; she has latent, dangerous special
abilities that are slowly awakening. The faraway city where she is kept is called
Columbia, a world-famous floating metropolis and one-time testament to America’s
power and industry. While the hulking beast is Elizabeth’s jailor, it is also
the only friend she has known during her long years of captivity. And the brave
man who saves her – that’s where you come in.

Starting Over
The city of Rapture defined the identity of the BioShock series when Irrational
Games released the original title in 2007. The ruined underwater utopia was more
than just a collection of tunnels and rooms for players to shoot splicers –
it became another character in the story with its own dark secrets. Given the popularity
of the setting, gamers weren’t surprised to learn that the sequel (developed
by 2K Marin) returned to Rapture. The art deco paradise and its iconic denizens
– Big Daddies and Little Sisters – seemed to be inextricable aspects
of the BioShock brand.

You won’t see any of them in BioShock Infinite.

“When we started working on this game, we decided that even though it’s
a BioShock game, there are no sacred cows,” says Irrational’s president
and creative director Ken Levine. In other words, everything gamers associate with
BioShock was up for assessment. This process began shortly after the first game’s
release, and resulted in a comprehensive look at its strengths and weaknesses.

“If you’re not the most critical person of your own stuff, you can’t
progress as a game developer,” Levine says. “For us, we have this game
that gets great reviews, and this great Metacritic average. But, it’s not
about continuing what we did. It’s about saying, ‘Where are the opportunities?’”

For Irrational Games, finding opportunities isn’t simply about adding a few
new weapons and characters. Three years after the project’s inception, the
Boston-based studio has a brand new game engine, a visually stunning setting, a
multifaceted story, and deeper gameplay – all while retaining the core of
the BioShock experience.

“For us, BioShock has never been about a city,” Levine says. “It’s
been about an idea. It’s about going to a place that’s mysterious and
strange and learning about that place and the powers you can use. It’s about
how you interact with that environment, how you interact with those characters.”

Even without the trappings of Rapture, fans will still see thematic and gameplay
connections to the previous two games; this is still BioShock, but any lingering
homesickness you may have for Andrew Ryan’s failed experiment will fall away
the second you lay eyes on Columbia.


Go to Source (Game Informer)

Bioshock Infinite preview: cheery, sunny, and unsettling

Posted on October 17, 2010

My first glimpse of Columbia, the floating city where Irrational have set their follow-up to BioShock, is of a sneering caricature of a Mexican face, reminiscent of racist US propaganda from the turn of the last century. Then the camera pans to a similarly twisted Asian face. Finally, it pulls back to reveal that we’re looking at a mural of a heroic George Washington, chin up, perfectly lit, surrounded by these sketchily drawn foreigners. Below it, the words ‘It Is Our Holy Duty to Guard Against The Foreign Hordes.’

Columbia is more than just a city: it’s a floating World’s Fair, travelling from country to country on vast hot-air balloons, a shining example of American endeavour. Beautiful colonial buildings hang in the void, tethered to each other by travel rails, parting clouds as they glide. It looks peaceful, but it’s a façade. Following an unexplained international incident, Columbia’s true nature is revealed. As Irrational’s creative director Ken Levine puts it: “it’s a DeathStar.” Columbia disappears up into the sky, and becomes a twisted symbol of what it once was. Years pass, countries fear its arrival, but it remains hidden from public view. Like Rapture, the ocean-floor hugging art-deco neighbourhood from the original BioShock, Columbia is another city cut off from the world, a place where an idea has festered, infecting the population. Here, American exceptionalism has twisted into evangelical xenophobia.

Mr Saltonstall, about to hook onto a travel rail.

It is 1912, years after the city vanished above the clouds. You’re Booker DeWitt, a disgraced former Pinkerton Agent (19th century detectives and skull crushers). He’s been asked to find a missing woman, Elizabeth. She’s in the sky. She’s on Columbia.

Same but different

At the game’s announcement event in New York, I asked Ken Levine how all this fits into an Ayn Randian world of Big Daddies, crushing fathoms of water and notions of free will? How can this possibly be the same universe that the original BioShock was set in?

“There are two things we think are essential to a BioShock game,” he said. ‘Put away all the things with Splicers and Little Sisters and all these… they’re important, and in Rapture they were important to BioShock, but they weren’t the centre. The centre was being in a world that is amazing and weird and strange and fantastical, but also grounded in the human experience and believable, and then exploring that world.

“The second thing is having a huge suite of tools and a huge range of problems coming at you, and you determining how to deal with these problems with your set of tools. To make a game and have those things – and we weren’t done with those ideas – and to put it in another city and not have it be a BioShock game would not be, I think, really honest.

OK, OK, it was the wrong time to ask you out.

“It is a BioShock game. BioShock has never been about Rapture, it’s been about those two core ideas.”

So while there are plasmid-like powers and metallic, groaning beasties to fight, Infinite is looking like a clean slate on which to write ‘fuck everyone’ over and over and over again.

Go to Source (PC Gamer)

Ken Levine: BioShock Infinite Is Not About The Tea Party

Posted on October 01, 2010

As they’ve watched the BioShock Infinite gameplay video and read our cover story, many readers have noticed that the powers that be in Columbia have more than a few things in common with the uglier side of the Tea Party movement. We asked Irrational Games creative director Ken Levine about this in our special edition podcast, and he took the opportunity to set the record straight. BioShock Infinite is in no way intended to be a direct commentary on the current political climate.

“We get a lot of questions about this, and [it was] last thing that was on our minds – especially because when we started looking at these issues it was prior to some of the current political scenarios that you see,” he said. “I have no interest, and the team has no interest in masquerading a current political situation in our game as a way to comment on the current political situation. I think it dates what you’re doing, and if you’re dealing with something that’s very temporal and very current – pulled from the headlines – it’s not something that’s going to last. It’s not something people are going to look back on in 10 or 20 years and find any interest in. You need to deal with more timeless issues.

“I think if you look at the issues that we’re dealing with in BioShock Infinite, you’re seeing reflections of them now but that’s just because they are timeless. They come up over and over again – issues of nationalism, and issues of xenophobia, and issues of what is the role of government, and what is the role of individuals within the government. These are things that have come about over and over again though history because they’re the important tensions.”

So there you have it. Irrational Games is leaving the political punditry to the rest of the media.

Go to Source (Game Informer)

BioShock Infinite: Finding An Art Style

Posted on September 21, 2010

It only takes a brief glimpse at BioShock Infinite to realize that the city of Columbia has a different style from the underwater corridors of Rapture. We talked to the team at Irrational Games about the process of establishing and evolving a distinct visual identity for this ambitious new world.

Check out the video below to hear Irrational’s approach to finding the right look for Columbia.

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Go to Source (Game Informer)

BioShock Infinite Gameplay Footage Available on the Xbox Live Marketplace, New Screens Released

Posted on September 21, 2010

The gameplay demo we saw in New York last month for Irrational’s upcoming return to the world of BioShock is now available for your viewing pleasure on your Xbox 360.

The nine minute gameplay demo of BioShock Infinite takes players through the sky-high streets of Columbia, showcases some of the abilities the main protagonist Booker DeWitt and the mysterious Elizabeth can utilize in tandem, and a screaming, flying horse. (You’ll understand what we mean when you see it.)

Go to Source (ShackNews)

Irrational Games Outlines 'Ten Things You Should Know' about BioShock Infinite

Posted on September 20, 2010

Over the last week and a half, Irrational Games’ latest employee–and former Shack editor–Chris Remo has been outlining ten things gamers should know about Irrational’s upcoming BioShock Infinite.

The slow trickle of details from Irrational concludes tomorrow, when the developer will finally reveal the first gameplay demonstration of the sky-high adventure.

BioShock Infinite

The “Top Ten” list covers a lot of what we learned when we saw the game in New York and in interviews with Irrational’s

Go to Source (ShackNews)

BioShock Infinite Demo Footage Goes Live Online Today

Posted on September 20, 2010

Our BioShock Infinite cover story has made big waves with gamers, thanks both to the amazing cover art and the fact that the game itself looks stunning. For a 24-hour-period starting at 9AM Pacific, you can get a glimpse of the BioShock Infinite demo that debuted at Game Informer’s PAX panel. For today only, the video will be available on Xbox Live and

If you don’t catch it today, you can wait until this Wednesday, September 22, when the video will be put up on and distributed to the Internet. Trust us, you are going to want to see this, it’s amazing.

Go to Source (Game Informer)

Meet The Guys At Irrational

Posted on September 17, 2010

If you think Bioshock was a fun game to play, imagine how cool it would be to work with the guys who made it. The team at Irrational is a bunch of lovable goofballs and we flipped on the camera just to see what we’d get as we wandered the office. Whether it’s jokes about Richard Dreyfus or silly stories from the balcony, the Bioshock Infinite team never seems to take themselves too seriously. We’re ending this week with a fun, light-hearted look inside the studio and we’ll be back next week with even more exclusives.

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Go to Source (Game Informer)

Irrational Musings: BioShock Infinite In Their Words

Posted on September 17, 2010

Our latest cover story is packed with details about BioShock Infinite, but even 12 pages isn’t enough space to fit all of the cool observations and insights from the team at Irrational Games. During our visit to Boston-based studio, we heard plenty of interesting comments pertaining to many facets of BioShock Infinite, but we just couldn’t print them all. Now, we bring you a veritable highlight reel of quotes from key staff members that will shed a little more light on how the team is approaching this phenomenal-looking game.

On Previous Games:

“This is not a game about history, in the same way that BioShock 1 was not a game about history. But it’s set in the context of history.”
– Ken Levine

“We started from scratch and said ‘what was one of the challenges of BioShock?’ For one, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.  Everything was a tight corridor. You were only facing one or two enemies. In this engine, you can fight 15 or 16 enemies at once in spaces of huge scale at high speeds.”
– Ken Levine

“On the story side, one of the criticisms from System Shock 2 to BioShock to BioShock 2 is that whenever you encounter somebody, they’re behind a piece of glass.  I invented that trick back in 1999. We’ve gotten rich and fat off of that trick, and we decided, ‘no more of that trick.'”
–Ken Levine

Creative director Ken Levine

Go to Source (Game Informer)

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