'BioShock Infinite' Director Ken Levine Discusses New Game

Ken Levine at GDC 2014

Anyone who hasn't already seen BioShock Infinite director Ken Levine's talk on "Narrative Legos" from GDC 2014 should absolutely take the time to watch it. It's fascinating not only as an insight into what Levine plans to do with "player driven replayable narrative gameplay" in his future endeavors. Currently the games that are most often praised for their stories - games like The Walking Dead and The Last of Us - also have very linear narratives and are easily comparable to books or movies.

Achieving a decent narrative within the context of non-linear gameplay is a lot tougher, but that didn't stop Levine from taking his core Irrational Games team and moving on to explore horizons beyond that of linear first-person shooters. During the GDC talk he warned that he was merely throwing around ideas of game mechanics that he wanted to explore and not giving concrete details about any upcoming games, but this week he offered to answer questions on Twitter about his current project.

Levine described the status of the game's development as: "Stuff in engine. Very rudimentary gameplay. Concept art. Passion system in code. A working board game to demonstrate passions." A full explanation of what he means by the "passion system" is outlined in the GDC talk, but a rudimentary example of it would be Dragon Age: Inquisition's system of "approval" and "disapproval" among party members. For example, one of Sera's passions is disobedience, so whenever the player rebels against authority they may get a notification saying "Sera approves," and Sera's level of approval affects how she interacts with the player character.


There's a limit to how specifically Levine can answer certain questions about his game right now, but here are the important details:

  • It will be a "small open worldish (but not necessarily outdoors) RPG with quest structure coming from passion system."
  • In terms of genre the team is "playing with something sci-fi. Or sci-fi ish."
  • The game will have a "high level of replayability" and the gameplay will be "heavily reliant on re-usable "Lego" narrative and game systems, which are re-combinable."
  • The game is currently being developed for PC, though it could potentially become multi-platform.
  • The game will include performances from voice actors, "but [we] have to write them very differently so smaller chunks recombine in meaningful ways. Lots of headscratching."

As for what the game won't be:

  • It won't be set in any existing game universe.
  • It's not a Freedom Force game ("That's still in my back pocket.")
  • There probably won't be a lighthouse.
  • It won't use Telltale Games' style. ("It's add IN, not add on. Think civ expansion packs.")
  • It won't have a three-act structure ("More like chapters.")
  • It won't be showcased at E3 ("That's not the way we want to share it with people.")
Bioshock Infinite Complete Edition Release Later This Year

Levine said that he wants to have an open development approach to making the game, so we can expect to learn plenty more details as development continues. He also hinted that more questions would be answered at this year's PAX East, where he will be on a couple of panels.

It seems like the game will end up drawing on elements from Dragon Age: Inquisition and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, both of which were huge successes in 2014, as well as the oft-referenced Sid Meier's Civilization. The passion system that's being planned sounds like it could be a whole lot of fun to play within the context of an RPG, and we're definitely looking forward to finding out more.

Source: Ken Levine

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