Whatever Ken Levine is making next will be small-scale and open world.
In the wake of the BioShock franchise and the disbanding of Irrational Games, anything series creator Ken Levine makes will fall under scrutiny. The success of the original BioShock, the mixed reception for its two sequels and the way 2K and Levine left the studio makes for some mixed opinions.
That explains the grab bag of reactions to his recent discussion about the next game he and his team are working on. Levine was on NPR‘s “On Point” to talk about his next effort, as summarized by the folks at Gamespot. Levine and company are aiming for this title to be extremely replayable.
Let’s start with the stuff that’s ruffling my feathers.
“The AAA, single-player narrative game is starting to disappear…
…Kind of games like BioShock. There’s fewer of them being made. The real reason is they’re very expensive to make and I think gamers are saying pretty loud and clear that if they’re going to spend $40, $50, $60, they want an experience that lasts more than 10-12 hours. That’s a lot to ask somebody to spend.”
I really, really don’t want single-player narrative games to disappear, Ken. I’ll spend that amount for a well crafted story, regardless of it’s length.
BioShock is a pretty linear, straight-forward experience. Players encounter the story in similar ways, and they drive the narrative forward by doing the same things. This next game? Levine is using what he’s calling narrative Lego to build the experience. That is, plot points will be assembled by players in different ways.
Here he is again, though this time following a job posting calling for someone with open-world experience:
“The thing we’re working on is sort of a small-scale open-world game…
…And the reason ours is an open world game is because if you want to give the player the agency to drive the experience, that really fights against the linear nature of the games we made before like BioShock and BioShock Infinite. What it really means though is, ‘How do you make your content so it feels like the quality of the content you’ve made in games before but reacts to the players’ agency and then allows the player to do something in one playthrough and something very different in another playthrough?'”
What do you think? Are the days of driven, linear, AAA narrative experiences done? Or, is Levine’s notion of open, small-scale narrative a bit misconstrued?