Take-Two is reviving the BioShock franchise, but series creator, designer, and writer Ken Levine is not working on it. He’s instead working on a different, more experimental project within Take-Two. The project has been in the works for years, but it remains unannounced and largely a mystery.
Speaking at the GameLab 2020 event, Levine shared a few further teases about his new game, while he also offered a wider outlook on his thoughts on game design and production.
“I can’t really talk about the new game, but there’s some weird sh** in that game,” he said.
Also during the talk, Levine said he has come to his team with some “out-there” ideas. He’ll then workshop these ideas with the game’s producers to create something that’s more practically possible.
“If you don’t have people saying that sounds a little insane, you haven’t gone close enough to the edge,” Levine said. “The great stuff exists on the edge of over the top and just OK. So sometimes you gotta push past that point and make something outrageous and ridiculous, and then pull it back but if you don’t go to the outrageous and the ridiculous, you never know where that boundary is. You gotta sometimes go past it. You gotta go into the office and tell people things and they’re going to look at you like you’re insane. But then you sort of bring it back to something you can actually accomplish.”
Levine added: “I just want to keep the player going, going, going. I want to respect their time. I also don’t want to put things in front of them because if they find something, versus having it put in their face, they’re going to feel a lot more ownership over that moment.”
For Levine’s new game, which is in development at Ghost Story Games in the Boston area, Levine said he’s fortunate to be in a position where Take-Two isn’t forcing him to work on a strict schedule.
“Fortunately, I’m in a position now where … the kinds of deadlines I used to face when I was younger are different now. I’ve built up a little trust with Take-Two, and they sort of give me a little more leeway,” he said.
That being said, Levine stressed that he still worries about dates and timelines and budget issues. Deadlines and budgets are important because they can help a team hone in on a particular path, he said.
“I do worry about dates, and I do worry about times, because I do believe it’s important … If you get an infinite amount of time, infinite amounts of time and money, I think that can be a real problem for a creative director because that creates a kind of paralysis,” he said. “You want to have milestones you’re working towards, you want to have people around you who are reminding you of these things pointing out the tradeoffs. I never want to have a producer who says you can’t do that.”
As the president of Ghost Story Games, Levine is also responsible for the financial health of his company, and this is a further level of stress and concern, he said.
“If it’s not great it’s not worth it,” Levine explained. “You can save a lot of money by making not-great things, and then you’re not going to save a lot of money. You’re going to lose a lot of money. How you figure out that alchemy … that’s the job.”