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Ken Levine on BioShock's Narrative Drive
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Ken Levine on BioShock's Narrative Drive

April 25, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 7 of 7

CN: It sounds like the development of BioShock was atypical in certain ways. Obviously lots of games have a strong focus, have delays, and get feedback, but it seems like you tried to be responsive and tried to be a little bit naturalistic about your expectations of how to work on the project.

KL: I think one thing that made the product successful was... first of all, my business partner was Jon Chey. Read his postmortem on System Shock 2. He was the product lead on that. I was the lead designer. Jon and I had this relationship where he's got production issues, and I'm the guy who's got creative quality.

The fact that we understand what each other does and accept each other and trust each other... he'll say to me at times, "Dude, it's not going to happen." And I'll say to him at other times, "I think this has to happen, or we're not going to have what we want."

That natural, healthy tension is critical to any project, and those people need to trust and respect each other in order for it to work. A lot of times, they're going to duke it out, and one guy's going to say to the other guy, "Okay, we're going to go with your approach on this."

CN: What do you think about hard and fast scheduling? Obviously you do have to have a ship date and get the game out, and very typically, that's also based on market realities. You had to launch before the fall. I'm very sure that was your target, to get there before the fall.

KL: Originally, it was set in spring. We had a few extra months. Thank God for that.

CN: At the same time, if you had come out when Halo was out, you would have probably been steamrolled.

KL: Oh yeah. We probably would've been another beloved...

CN: You would've been like you have been in the past.

KL: I think that you have realities. We all have the reality. The reality of launching in the spring meant that we didn't get what we all wanted, and we were able to know that, "You know what? Come hell or high water, we're hitting this date, because all this work may not have a real return on it."

So I think that was a nice compromise. We found the right date where we had enough time to polish before we launched. We can always use more time. But I think this was a good compromise.

CN: What do you think of the importance of polish in games?

KL: Very important. Without it, it's the difference between... I've looked back at some of my old titles, and I realized how different BioShock was from them, primarily because of polish.

Article Start Previous Page 7 of 7

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