Ken Levine discusses delaying BioShock Infinite along with the relationship to the characters, narrative, emergent gameplay vs. cut-scene heavy games and cutting up to two games worth of content from this upcoming release.
Talking to AusGamers in a video interview which is also transcribed, Levine goes into the mentality needed when thinking about release delays for a game such as BioShock Infinite. “But look, at the end of the day, it has to be great. So if it’s another 30 days, it’s another 30 days. I think the fans, at the end of the day, they want to play a game that is what the designers intended, and the developers intended. And the people who really sort of pay the price for it are the developers, because they have to keep working that much harder. But I think that we’re a team that’s happy to do that, because we’re so passionate about the game.”
“We have this sort of motto that — and Rod [Fergusson] (formerly Epic Games) sort of mentioned this when he came on — you just need to leave it all on the field. Especially if you’re a first-time game developer, and you look back at a game, you always think about the things you could have done in it.”
When asked if his love for Elizabeth and the portrayal of her made it hard to release the game Levine responds, “No, it’s not hard to give it to other people. I think it’s hard to stop working on it. Because after BioShock One, and to be honest — actually, I really appreciated… Cliffy B brought this up over Twitter on the weekend; he talked about his depression after shipping Gears One — and I actually went into a pretty deep depression after shipping BioShock One. Not because of the reaction to it, but because it’s almost like how mothers go through postpartum depression. Because you have this thing that you’re working on, literally for years, and it takes up your whole life, and all of a sudden, you wake up in the morning and you’re, like, “What do I do?”
From a development side, aspects of Infinite started off similar to the first BioShock, “Songbird looked much like a Big Daddy, specifically very much like a Big Daddy, with wings, and we realised we were staying in our comfort zone. So as we evolved it, it’s sort of a little bit of this [makes a layer-by-layer hand gesture], where we do a little bit of work on the world, and that gives the storytellers ideas, then those story ideas give the world-builders ideas, and you go back and forth, and frankly, there were ideas that didn’t work a lot of times; so back to the drawing board.”
“I can’t tell you how much of this game… we probably cut two games worth of stuff out of the game, and I say that just in terms of content. Finishing and polishing is a whole other matter, but this is just the raw amount of content, we cut tonnes and tonnes of stuff, because it’s not an easy… we didn’t wake up one day and say “Oh, yes. Booker knows a bit, and this is who they are, and this is their path; and it’s going to start this way, and there’s going to be this lighthouse”. Those things aren’t always apparent at the beginning.”
DLC doesn’t look likes it’s on the cards, perhaps not fitting with the way the story is told. “Oh, there’s definitely a definitive end to the narrative in this game. Any of the content that I talked about, there’s nothing that we could pack together and ship. A, it’s cut for a reason: we didn’t think it fit, and B, it’s left in a state that is completely… there’s a term that we have called “rot”, in the games industry. If you leave a level, or if you leave some code for a long time, and you don’t tend to it, other code evolves around it, and that code gets broken, effectively.”
“It’s very much like rot. Everything would be so deeply rotted, you wouldn’t be able to do anything with it. So I think to… there’s nothing in that, that we’re ready to go with, even remotely, that we’d really be able to release — there’s no day-one DLC on this thing [laughs], in terms of a content package. I think that we didn’t have, certainly Irrational, as a studio, didn’t have the bandwidth to be even thinking about that. We just were really focused on making this game ready.”
“People who play through this game, I think, they’ll find the narrative is so rich, and it’s not a story that you could tell outside of the games medium, I don’t think. And it’s not a story… a lot of people during the game’s development, wanted me to pitch the story to them, and I would always say the same thing — and I think it frustrated people — that “I can’t, you have to experience it; you have to watch it”.
Out on March 26 for PC, PS3, and Xbox 360, be sure not to miss it.