Infinite Possibilities: Ken Levine Talks About the New ‘BioShock’

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Very few games have the kind of anticipation surrounding them that BioShock Infinite does. The first BioShock came out in 2007 and got hailed as a modern-day classic almost immediately for the way it wove character development, environmental design and philosophical underpinnings into a chilling and hypnotic experience.

BioShock Infinite is being built by the Irrational Games dev studio and takes the action skyward in an all-new politically charged setting at the turn of the century. (To find out more about BioShock Infinite, check out our report of the game’s unveiling and an interview with Irrational’s co-founder and creative director Ken Levine.)

One of the things that stoked the anticipation for Infinite even more was the amazing E3 demo staged at the annual video game trade show. That 14-minute glimpse just went public last night and makes for the deepest look yet at the airborne world of Columbia. I spoke to Ken Levine at E3 and he gave me some background on what exactly caused the floating city to disappear.

In the interview that follows, Levine talks about BioShock Infinite‘s main characters and how the game draws from politics and history, as well as the design challenges that Irrational’s trying to overcome with the ambitious new game. He proved, as always, to be smart, funny and passionate about what he and his team are building.

Read on for insight into one of 2012’s most anticipated games.

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You’ve shown an all-new slice of Infinite at E3. About how far into the game was that sequence?

A third. The level may have some changes when we actually ship the game but that would be what happens to Booker and Elizabeth at that point in the game.

(MORE: Look, Up In the Sky!: First Video from Bioshock Infinite)

One of the things that struck me was that the play experience seemed very dynamic. It didn’t seem to be on rails there and looked like you can play that as you want. You can jump on the skylines to move around the level or you can hold your ground and let the enemies come to you. That kind of openness feels like a huge technological leap for you guys at Irrational, and not just technological, but design-wise, too. Can you talk about that?

We want you to inhabit Booker DeWitt but we want you to be you, too. Because the relationship we are trying to form is between Elizabeth and the player. But you’re playing through Booker. It creates an interesting design challenge. We want Booker to have an identity but we also want the player not to ever feel at odds about it again.

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