Live blogging the Ken Levine Develop 2008 keynote

By Patrick Garratt
30 July 2008 09:30 GMT


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.

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