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Two top  Bioshock Infinite  team members leave Irrational
Two top Bioshock Infinite team members leave Irrational Exclusive
August 8, 2012 | By Chris Morris

August 8, 2012 | By Chris Morris
More: Console/PC, Production, Business/Marketing, Exclusive

Key members of the development team on Bioshock Infinite have left Irrational Games, raising questions about the state of the highly anticipated title, sources tell Gamasutra.

Tim Gerritsen, director of product development, and art director Nate Wells have both announced their departure. Wells was a 13 year veteran of the studio, whose distinctive style was heralded in the original Bioshock.

Wells confirmed his departure via his Twitter feed, changing his bio to "New Job … Details to follow" earlier today. (He has since changed it again after members of the NeoGAF forums began speculating about the circumstances of his career shift.)

His LinkedIn page briefly listed Naughty Dog among his employers in 2012, leading to speculation he had joined the Uncharted developer. He has since removed that – and updated the page to reflect his departure from Irrational.

Gerritsen lists his employment at Irrational as having ended this month on his LinkedIn page. While at the company, he directly managed the content creators for Bioshock Infinite and listed his duties as "interfacing with our corporate home base and publishing partners, strategic level partners and vendors, conducting contract negotiation, strategic level planning, hiring and recruitment, and supervising our day to day development."

Before his tenure at Irrational, Gerritsen was chairman and business director at Human Head Studios.

Gamasutra was unsuccessful in efforts to reach Gerritsen and Wells. An inquiry to Irrational president Ken Levine was not returned.

[UPDATE: Levine did acknowledge Wells' departure via Twitter, though, telling followers "Scott Sinclair, art director of Bio1, back in the art director's chair for Infinite to bring it home. Can't wait to show you what's cooking."]

First announced in 2010, Bioshock Infinite is one of Take-Two's most important games this fiscal year. Previously set for an Oct. 16 launch, Irrational announced a delay in the weeks before E3 with studio head Ken Levine announcing the game would ship instead on Feb. 26, 2013.

"I won’t kid you: Bioshock Infinite is a very big game, and we’re doing things that no one has ever done in a first-person shooter," Levine wrote. "We had a similar experience with the original Bioshock, which was delayed several months as our original ship date drew near. Why? Because the Big Daddies weren’t the Big Daddies you’ve since come to know and love. Because Andrew Ryan’s golf club didn’t have exactly the right swing. Because Rapture needed one more coat of grimy Art Deco. The same principle now applies to Bioshock Infinite."

The game was not shown at E3 and will not be on display at Germany's GamesCom show.

"The next time you see our game, it will be essentially the product we intend to put in the box," Levine said.

The delay and Irrational's decision to sequester itself led to concerns among fans that development on the game had run into troubles. Those concerns have not abated in the subsequent months.

While there have been no indications by the company of any shift in the game's release date, the departures of key team members raises questions. And some industry analysts are skeptical whether Bioshock Infinite will arrive on time.

"We suspect both GTA V and Bioshock Infinite could realistically slip into a fiscal ‘14 release period," says Mike Hickey of Janco Partners.

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Kale Menges
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The title seems to be a serious departure, if not a reboot altogether, and it's bound to be a risky project. I can only imagine the potential for internal disagreements or conflicts.

Rick Kolesar
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People need to stop thinking that people leaving a studio is a sign that a game is in trouble. People leave for a lot of reasons. Could be personal, maybe they want to do something new, or got offered a job at another company. In this day in age of game development, many people leave to start a new studio to work on mobile/smaller games.

But that's the game community mentality; always looking on the negative side of things.

This even could be a good sign for the game. Maybe they hit a major milestone and these guys wrapped up what they needed to do. Maybe they have been wanting to leave for a while but needed to wait until they hit that milestone.

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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To raise questions about the state of the project just because two developers of what I guess is a very large team have moved elsewhere is so... tabloidal? is that a word?

edit: what Rick said.

Jeff Cary
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As someone who has never worked in the industry of making large AAA titles, I am completely ignorant as to what this may mean. What I do know is that when important--I'm going to assume these people are important--people leave a company I think people like myself are going to question the motives and reasons for said people leaving. Obviously you and Rick have an experience with these types of things that others do not. Unfortunately, there is no "news" in "Mathieu Marquis Bolduc continues to work at Ubisoft."

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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Its what I mean, people are looking for news where there arent any.

The only news in "Mathieu Marquis Bolduc leaves EA, now at Ubisoft"
is "Mathieu Marquis Bolduc leaves EA, now at Ubisoft",
not "Potentially star programmer leaves EA for undisclosed reason, is EA Sport in jeopardy?"

Jeff Cary
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But Mathieu how do we know or not know if this is truly news? We can assume with what you and Rick are saying, or we can go the complete opposite and maybe it is the beginning of some underlying problem at Irrational. Do any us on here really know what is going on there. For all we know if could be a complete mess over there. It is really hard to tell w/o being there. Speculations by consumers, journalists, and pundits is part of the industry.

Rick Kolesar
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@Jeff - the problem is, no one knows what is going on at Irrational. So why focus on the negative? Because negative news makes people click on your story. No one is going to click on a headline that says “Irrational Games will be on-time in shipping Bioshock Infinite”.

Besides, no matter what goes on at Irrational Games, it has zero effect on me. I don’t work there, I don’t own stock in the company, and I don’t know anyone that works there. Hell yes I would love to play Bioshock Infinite tomorrow and have it the greatest game ever and have Irrational go on to make more like it. But if it gets delayed or even canceled, life goes on for me. Too many gamers take it personally when a game is delayed and the feel that have to vent about it online and lash out at the people making the game.

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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You just dont know, and you dont try to make it news by speculating. Freaking SIGGRAPH is happening RIGHT NOW, but journalists are too busy scourring linked in, looking for changes in developer's resumes.

Rob Wright
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Word just broke todat that the mulitplayer mode has been cut from BioShock 3, soooooo....yeah, I guess the talent loss did/does/will matter.

Rick Kolesar
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Full story (from Ken Levine) about what is happening at Irrational.

Yes, people have left the team.
Yes, multiplayer has been cut.

But, all the lead staff from Bioshock 1 is working on Infinite...
"As far as the team itself, the lead artist, the art director, the creative director, the lead effects artist, the senior sound guy, the lead programer and the lead AI programmer from BioShock 1 are all on BioShock Infinite."

And the game is still schedule to ship on time...
Levine remains committed to BioShock Infinite, and when asked if the game was still on track for a February 2013 release, he said, "It is currently on track."

Nathan Zufelt
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There is constant turnover in this industry. AAA games often have teams of 100+ people working on them and are massive collaborations between artists, designers and software engineers. They are rarely dependent on the skills of any one single developer.

I can understand it being headline news if Ken Levine had left. But this is akin to The Hollywood Reporter drumming up rumors of catastrophe if a Spielberg movie lost a Production Coordinator and Set/Costumer designer.

Studios like Irrational are home to talented designers/artists/programmers that are used to constantly changing scope and workloads during project cycles.

I have no doubt that Infinite will be a successful game that they will all be proud of.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

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Nate Wells has been with Ken Levine since the Looking Glass days. He's been at Irrational since the very beginning, and he runs the entire art department for Bioshock Inifinite. It does say something that'd he leave, and at the exact same time as another company director, without seeing the game through. They've only got 6 months left, most people would see that it got shipped, out of respect to their colleagues and their careers (you wanna be known as the dude who bailed right at the end?)

It should also be noted that not even two months after they announced the October ship date they announced a 4 month delay, pushing the game's release date right to the end of Take-Two's 4th quarter and fiscal year end. In March they were confident enough to announce a release date about 6 months out, then in May they said they need more time? What happened, or what did they discover, during that time frame that made them delay the game?

Jeff Cary
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Can anyone with any experience in making a game of this scope explain what could possibly explain the 2nd paragraph? Its seems so odd to announce and then push back in such a small window. I can't imagine Irrational throwing darts at a calendar to pick their release date, and then saying "oh shit!"

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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There are just so many people and factors involved in determining a release date, like the QA department, "we need this much time to achieve this quality", sales , "should we ship this title in the same quarter as that one?", business "we need to ship that game in THAT quarter to match analyst expectations", buyers (like Wallmart), "I can get you good shelve space on that week", and many more.

They all change their mind all the time and few of them have anything to do with the game being ready or not.

PS: Its the industry in general... that varies from place to place. But you get the picture.

Jean-Paul LeBreton
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Because A) I go by "JP" on lots of discussion forums, and B) there might be some Irrational PR people reading this thread, I feel like I should point out that the commenter above is not me and I have no comment on anything in this thread, other than "best of luck, Nate and Tim."

Dave Smith
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this seems like the perfect time to leverage success into a new opportunity but there are many possible reasons. stop overanalyzing.

George Blott
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I had a feeling they might be delaying the game a bit when I saw them actively looking to hire level designers a few weeks ago. To me this just means the game is getting better - never a bad thing.

Let ye who do not have any games left to play in their pile of shame cast the first stone at those who delay a game's release!

Rick Kolesar
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Speaking of Bioshock and games we have not played; I never got around to playing Bioshock 2. Now, I've heard mixed things about it but I've also heard Minerva's Den (DLC) is incredibly awesome.

Does anyone know if I can play the DLC without playing the whole game? My time is limited (work and two 3 year olds at home).

(this is also an attempt to turn this thread around)

Ali Afshari
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@Rick: I have Bioshock 2 and Minerva's Den waiting in my pile. From what I've seen, it's accessed from the Downloadable Content menu, so it seems like you can play it without playing the main game...not 100% sure, though.

Michael DeFazio
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here's my report card

gameplay : Bioshock 2
story : Bioshock 1
fun : Bioshock 2
environments : Bioshock 1 (by a nose)
replayability : Bioshock 2 (by FAR)

dunno what kinda player you are, but as FPSs go, Bioshock 2 is a very nice game, couple that with some awesome powers/plasmids and weapon upgrades and it's a great romp... starts off a bit slow/cheap but gets very great after the first hour.

Ali Afshari
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I'm still excited for this game even if it's delayed another 2 years. I loved Bioshock and I have faith in the Irrational team. Wells leaving, as a fan, is a little sad only because I dig his style. I'm sure he'll be a success wherever he lands.

Aubrey Hesselgren
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Tim kinda indirectly got me my first job in games. Best of luck to him!

Matthew Downey
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No one has commented on the very real possibility that their dismissal could have been planned months or even a year ahead. There is a large possibility that they would have left regardless of delays.

There's nothing wrong with trying out new franchises, especially if it's an artstyle or game you have always wanted to try your hand at.