Live blogging the Ken Levine Develop 2008 keynote

Wednesday, 30th July 2008 09:30 GMT By Patrick Garratt


Ken Levine’s about to start his keynote speech at Develop 08 in Brighton. The talk’s called “BioShock and Awe: Immersing the Gamer in an Alternate World Without Drowning Out the Gameplay.” Trips off the tongue. We has internets and batteries, so we’re coming to you live. After the break. Latest updates at the top.

  • It’s over. Thanks for stopping by, San Diego.
  • Levine’s talking about the start of the game, with the Splicer and the “baby carriage”. “These are people that all had horrible tragedies that destroyed their lives,” he says.
  • “Moral choice is a very complex thing” that needs to be handled honestly, says Levine. Nate’s saying that putting little girls in the game was a major decision, and one they felt responsible for and had to “attach importance” to so it wasn’t seen as exploitative.
  • Levine’s just been asked a question about “moral choice”. This may go on for some time.
  • The audience is “not a bunch of mouth-breathing Neanderthals who are into games,” says Levine, explaining that he believes BioShock’s audience may be broader than previously thought.
  • “You can’t compromise bold ideas. I don’t know another publisher that does that… There’s a market benefit with not being cowardly”: Levine.
  • “There’s no way this game would have been made without a leap of faith at Take-Two,” says Levine. He’s just called the Housers the “godfathers” of the creative risk aspect of Take-Two’s corporate culture.
  • Levine’s saying that the art guys had to have a “deep” understanding of art demo to make BioShock, but not anally so. “Put all that on your resume and you’ll be find,” he jokes. Tittering.
  • Levine says employees should be as literate as possible.
  • Levine just asked how many level 70 WoW characters Nate has: “Just one.”
  • “Personality is really important… Even for programmers.”
  • They’re saying that what they look for in art employees is people that aren’t that attached to games.
  • He say Take-Two had “courage” to accept they weren’t going to do multiplayer.
  • BioShock multiplayer: “If you’re not going to come to the ball ready to compete with the Call of Duty’s and Halo 3′s, don’t do it.”
  • They’re taking questions now.
  • Levine’s talking about his next project. He says they need a mix of “D&D guy” and people with less hardcore tastes on the dev team.
  • “A healthy respect for each other challenges” will make better games from movies and better movies from games, says Levine.
  • Levine’s saying that movie-makers should never underestimate what it takes to make a great game, and vice versa.
  • Ken’s 42. He just said so.
  • Levine’s said, “With BioShock we tried to make the most integrated porn movie of all time,” referencing the Heavy Rain chap’s comment on Uncharted being structured like a porn film.
  • Could do with something exciting now, chaps.
  • We have to pitch it with context. He’s talking about the Thief pitch, where they had to convince people that having fewer weapons was a good thing. “But they’re not going to tell you how to fix your game,” he says of the press.
  • “If everyone’s saying they hate something… there’s probably something there,” says Levine.
  • French is asking them how much they were influenced by the press.
  • Levine’s talking about “keeping it plastic,” so they could mould BioShock right up to launch.
  • Levine: “I think this is going to be one of those games where people come up to you afterwards… It’ll be one of those games that change gamers’ lives.”
  • Levine: “It was a real strain to make this game.”
  • Sorry, there are three other guys on stage aside from Levine. One was hidden behind a head. He’s talking now about tech stuff. He says they invested money in dynamic lighting. When they got money from Take-Two, he says they shifted from, “What do we have to do to get this game out?” to “What can we do?”
  • Levine’s talking about “constant communication.” Talk about BioShock 2, Ken.
  • Nate says they all work in the same room, and they meet every day. It stops isolation, he says.
  • “Just jamming together and being willing to make those changes is really key,” says level guy.
  • The other guy’s BioShock’s level designer. He’s saying having Levine there on a daily basis was essential to the game’s creation.
  • Levine’s saying there need to be “so deeply integrated into the process.” Director Gore Verbinski and the writer of the BioShock movie go for three-hour walks to talk about the film, says Levine.
  • Levine’s talking about the pitfalls of bringing in a “Hollywood writer” for a game, as they have to be completely integrated into the development process.
  • Levine’s saying they “fought” to make the relationship between the Little Sisters and Big Daddies the core of the game, to make it symbolise the “everything that was wrong with Rapture.”
  • They’re talking about the birth of Big Daddies and why they picked a diving suit. They describe they as “lumbering and very sad.” Nate Wells, 2K Boston’s art director, says he was obsessed with diving suits.
  • “You have to constrain the player or it’s really difficult to tell a horror story.”
  • “If you want to make art, if has to be painful and there has to be fighting. There has to be throwing of glasses.”
  • They reckon the only way to make triple A games is to never be satisfied. “Unless you’re chewing your nails on release day, you screwed up.”
  • Levine’s just called himself a “pretentious twat.” Seriously.
  • “We had the luxury to bump into a lot of things before we found the way,” says Levine, saying they were more fortunate than most developers when they were working on BioShock.
  • They’re describing the dev process as “terrifying,” describing a PS2 engine demo they ported to the Xbox that contained an “eel man.” “It was an early attempt to build on the System Shock 2 gameplay,” says one of them.
  • French is asking what makes a triple A game. “We’re working on a new thing now,” says Levine. He says he can never remember how they did it the last time.
  • They decided to focus on telling the story of “eight or nine people in incredible detail” instead of trying to explain the events surrounding the thousands of inhabitants of Rapture.
  • “There was no shortage of pretentious crap I could come up with at any point,” says Levine. It’s in reference to telling the story of Rapture “without cut-scenes, to minimise the size of audio logs,” and not use words in general.
  • He said that they went through every single corpse in BioShock and had a back story to how they died.
  • There are two other guys on stage with Levine, but we missed their names. They’re both from 2K Boston, obviously.
  • When he went to Irrational he got his dream challenge. “Fuck. We want to make System Shock 2. Who wouldn’t?”
  • Immersion set UU apart, he says. “It was so powerful.” He says that System Shock 1 had “such an impact” on his as a gamer.
  • Levine’s talking now. It’s taking a Q&A format. He’s talking about the Ultima days and how BioShock is in his “DNA.”
  • Just a general montage of fighting. Nothing new.
  • They’re showing a BioShock movie. It’s “immersive,” says French.
  • We’re off. Develop editor Michael French is introducing BioShock and Levine.
  • Levine’s standing at the front chatting to audience members. He looks hot. Should be starting in a few minutes.



  1. Blerk

    “He looks hot”? Pat, I had no idea. Congratulations on coming out!

    #1 6 years ago
  2. patlike

    He’s so hawt. I want him.

    #2 6 years ago
  3. Dr.Haggard

    /gay for Ken

    #3 6 years ago
  4. Vahn16

    Wow, he really thinks he’s pretentious, huh? I guess everyone’s their own greatest critic.

    ..And I get him after you guys are done.

    #4 6 years ago
  5. mart

    Do you really expect him to announce something new? I don’t see why he would.

    #5 6 years ago
  6. Newbie101

    What is the point in this OOI? ;)

    #6 6 years ago
  7. Vahn16

    ‘Cause it’s interesting. And because, well, read the first four comments.

    #7 6 years ago
  8. patlike

    I’ve got an interview with Levine later, so I’ll have some great quotes, I’m hoping. I’ll start putting stuff up this afternoon.

    #8 6 years ago
  9. Blerk

    Ask him if he’d consider making Bioshock 2 a bit more adventurey and a bit less shooty.

    #9 6 years ago
  10. patlike

    Yep, will do. I’ve already been told he won’t talk about specific games, though. I’ll do my best, innit.

    #10 6 years ago
  11. Blerk

    I suppose you could leave out the Bioshock 2 reference and ask about future games in general.

    From my point of view they spent a long time working on the maturity and depth of the backstory for the Bioshock universe, but the gameplay itself didn’t really progress in the same way – at its heart it was still a shooter. It’d be interesting to hear if they have plans to progress the game itself in future episodes, or whether they plan to stick to the same basic template.

    #11 6 years ago
  12. patlike

    Yep, I reckon that’s fair. It’s definitely my biggest gripe of the game itself. He can’t really not answer that. If you think of anything else, just leave it in here. I’ll be online quite a bit from the look of it. There’s good wireless in here.

    #12 6 years ago
  13. Blerk

    Don’t tell him that I never actually played it. :-D

    I’d also be interested to hear if they’re including PS3 support by default from now on, or whether it’ll still be 360/PC first, PS3 later.

    #13 6 years ago
  14. El_MUERkO

    ask him about the last section of the game and how it seemed to toss much of the cool mechanics out the window and turn the game into a shooter

    oh, and why do developers feel the need to make games harder the further into them a player gets!?! especially when they seem willing to throw atmosphere and game balance out the window at the same time :(

    #14 6 years ago
  15. patlike

    Yep, I’ll ask him that. I reckon he’ll talk about the second game, to be honest. I’m not really sure how he can’t.

    #15 6 years ago
  16. SticKboy

    I agree – I *so* wanted to adore this game beyond all measure, but the gunplay really lets it down. In fact, the violence in general lets it down. It’d have been far more fun (for me) if it was more of an adventure game or RPG than a straight up FPS with some RPG-lite additions. More exploring and talking, less shooting please.

    Powers are great, though. More powers please.

    #16 6 years ago
  17. Dr.Haggard

    Well, they wanted to make a new System Shock game in all but name, and we wanted them to, but at some point the decision was made to make Bioshock a bit more accessible and/or appealing to a more action oriented market.

    With any luck having introduced some of those System Shock-esque features, setting and story to a wider audience will allow them to be a bit less action focused in future.

    Unfortunately you could also argue that trying to wean those straight-up shooter fans onto a more RPG-like, story and exploration heavy style of game in that way might backfire.

    You could also argue that those market divisions simply don’t exist and they just need to promote a System Shock/Deus Ex style game properly for it to be successful.

    #17 6 years ago
  18. wz

    “Every time you mention Deus Ex, someone will reinstall it” – good that I did so already. I wonder if the amount of ‘content’ that can be found in System Shock or Deus Ex is nowadays simply no longer attainable due to time and money restrictions.

    Look at Oblivion and compare it to its predecessor Morrowind, Oblivion is a lighweight game in comparison, and the more Beth talks about cool ‘features’ of Fallout 3, the more I fear it’ll be empty and lifeless just like Oblivion was.

    BioShock was a great shooter, but not the awe-inspiring experience Levine tries to convey here. It’s a brilliant shooter-with-RPG-gimmickery, but nothing we never saw before (except for, maybe, the impressive stylistic creation that is Rupture).

    Games nowadays no longer seem to have that “Oh my god, that’s impossible! Look at this, it’s great!” aspect, except in the graphics department. And that is like porn.

    #18 6 years ago
  19. Dr.Haggard

    Funnily enough I was just pondering earlier today how graphics don’t have that impact on me anymore. Playing the (rubbish) Space Siege demo got me thinking about Dungeon Siege and how amazing it looked at the time, with those gorgeous forests and waterfalls etc.

    I’ll never forget the first time I played GLQuake for example, or Quake 2, or Unreal etc, all unforgettable experiences. I just don’t get that feeling anymore. Plenty of games look stunning, not least Bioshock, and I still wander around them just gazing wide-eyed at the scenery, but I never get that “Oh my god!” feeling like I used to.

    The wow factor of new developments like 3D, coloured lighting, particle effects, high res textures, wide open levels, real time shadows etc is all far behind us and nothing is surprising or exciting anymore :(

    #19 6 years ago
  20. Blerk

    I find scale much more impressive than graphics these days. Show me a pretty picture and I won’t blink. Build me an interesting world that I can wander around at my discretion and you’ve got my attention.

    #20 6 years ago

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