BioShock Creative director Ken Levine is reportedly in trouble. According to Bloombergs Jason Schreier, Levine’s studio Ghost Story Games and its long-awaited debut project have been plagued by changing design goals and an over-ambitious vision. It’s not a new review of Levine, but it does suggest that the game’s nearly eight-year wait may not end anytime soon, and it points out some details of what Ghost Story actually does.
Schreier’s story shows that Ghost Story, a division of Take-Two Interactive staffed with former members of Levine’s old studio Irrational, was originally supposed to release a small game in 2017. The project was a science fiction shooter Set on a “mysterious space station” where three factions would react to the player’s actions. (While Bloomberg compare it to BioShockwho have favourited the setting sounds similar to Levine’s earlier space horror game System shock 2.) But the scope of the project was apparently larger than the 30-strong team could handle, including a “complicated dialogue system that would change based on the decisions of the players”. From 2022, the project was apparently restarted several times and still has no name or publication date.
According to Bloomberg, part of the delay is due to Levine’s mercury management style and perfectionism. Like earlier reports from his time at Irrational, it describes a place where projects were suddenly overtaken or scrapped after months of work. One anecdote describes studio members joking about convincing Levine to adopt her ideas on “Kenception,” a nod to the man-made thoughts in Christopher Nolan’s beginning. A perpetual release period was apparently a double-edged sword, with Levine allegedly saying the studio’s running budget is a “rounding error” in the operations of Take-Two that could put its game into an indefinite development process.
But Ghost Story’s core mission also has some built-in tension. The studio grew alongside Levines Fascination for “narrative Legos”, its name for the type of procedurally generated drama produced by Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Nemesis system or some recent indie games. (The Bloomberg Report also mentions the procedurally generated games Dead cells and Empty bastards as potential influences.) At the same time, it appears to have the feel of a heavily scripted and elaborate 3D experience on a large budget, something that is difficult to produce with a very variable story.
the BioShock The franchise, meanwhile, continued without Levine – albeit a new installment been in development for some time with no release in sight. An independent one System shock To be continued and tortured even more Development roadmap.
System shock 2 helped define the immersive sim, a genre that gave players a feeling of freedom of choice through versatile, but often painstakingly handcrafted systems. It’s a style that feels ripe for experimentation with infinitely generated conflicts, especially coupled with Levine’s love of sublime, clashing philosophical movements. But right now these clashes seem to be happening in the studio as well.