BioShock creator’s team has made “huge inroads” on Narrative Legos prototype

By Brenna Hillier, Tuesday, 16 December 2014 22:10 GMT

BioShock creator Ken Levine has made a few tantalising comments regarding the project he exited traditional triple-A development to pursue.

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BioShock developer Irrational Games was pretty much shuttered this year, with most staff let go and Levine moving on to lead a small team backed by 2K.

So far we’re heard very little about what this new team is up to, with Levine saying only that he wants to work on different kinds of projects than the big triple-A extravaganzas of the BioShock series.

But in a new Medium post discussing Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, Levine gave us a better idea of what it was attracted him to this new endeavour.

“Two years ago, I started thinking about how to build a system to let story be as variable as gameplay and still be awesome in the way story can be awesome,” he wrote.

“Could you have characters, conflicts, and dialogue that could end not in 100 states, not in 1,000, but in X to the Y states? Goodbye linear, hello geometric! And that’s the new big thing that my colleagues and I have been working on at our yet-unnamed new studio.”

Levine first introduced the outlines of this idea at a GDC talk in March this year, labelling the concept “Narrative Legos”.

According to the new blog post, Levine’s team has since “made huge inroads into our design” which aims to “make a flexible narrative that is broadly replayable and strongly adaptive to player choice”.

Levine referenced the illusion of choice presented by traditional narratives in video games, a subject he tackled head on in the first BioShock. “You really don’t have a choice,” he said of narratives in games. “When it comes to player choice in narrative, our medium is limited indeed.”

Games like Civilization, XCOM and Minecraft so offer real choice, he added, but they don’t provide the same opportunities for storytelling as traditional narratives do. Even games like Dragon Age with branching paths and world states aren’t that flexible, Levine opined.

The full post is a pretty interesting read, and Levine has a lot of praise for Shadow of Mordor’s approach.

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