Ken Levine is most famously known as the creator of the video game franchise, “BioShock” with the latest installment, “BioShock Infinite” topping best game lists all around the world. The Irrational Games’ co-founder recently spoke at GDC 2014 about the concept of building replayable narratives, a process he calls “Narrative Legos.”
This concept is in stark contrast to his famous games “System Shock” and the “BioShock” series. Levine commented on during the talk about how he didn’t want to keep doing grandiose game experiences explaining that how linear storylines puts boundaries between developers and the audience. For example, he remarked how the iconic “Would you kindly?” moment only works once.
Levine also described how systematic games don’t lend well to narrative focused games and vice versa. He explains they are expensive to make, aren’t player driven, and don’t fully embrace the unique power of video games that separate them from any other medium.
According to his talk at GDC 2014, Levine wants games where story elements are non-linear also interact with each other. He also wants events that are triggered by the player but exist transparently to the player at the same time. He doesn’t want to overwhelm the player with too many characters; thusly he wants to limit the number of “stars” in a given area. His idea of a star is an NPC with very specific passions which the player can act upon. The player should be able to see these passions and have the ability to respond to them. This game style is similar to the Bethesda created game series, “Fallout.”
He told the audience,
“With good writing, players should have to balance emotional gain with physical rewards.”
Levine’s talk came just over a month since Irrational massive layoffs and a major change in focus. Don’t forget that “Burial At Sea: Episode 2” releases next week!