Next Game from BioShock Creator is Reportedly in 'Development Hell'


  • Next Game from BioShock Creator is Reportedly in 'Development Hell'

    Ken Levine's newest project is said to be stuck in "development hell."
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    Developer Ken Levine has a rather impressive list of titles under his belt. He has worked on games such as Thief: The Dark Project, System Shock 2, and the first three mainline BioShock titles. About eight years ago, Levine announced his new project with his new studio, Ghost Story Games. Since then, not much about the game has been revealed.

    According to a new report by Bloomberg, the lack of information is due to the fact that the new title has apparently been stuck in "development hell" and has been rebooted several times over the years. This project has long since become Levine's longest project, surpassing the five-year span of time it took him to finish the original BioShock.

    The stories shared by 15 current and former Ghost Story employees suggest that there are some major issues at the studio. One of those issues seems to be with Levine's leadership.

    Ghost Story Games began shortly after Levine himself shut down Irrational Games and laid off most of the staff. At the time, Levine told employees that he wanted to start over with a smaller team and explore new ideas. There were 11 Irrational employees that were kept on to help for Ghost Story and to begin work on what Levine had called a "narrative LEGO" game. He had wanted to create a game that would offer a unique experience to everyone that played it. Characters would react differently based on each player's actions and choices.

    The plan was to get the game out by Fall of 2017. It was going to be a "sci-fi shooter like BioShock set on a mysterious space station inhabited by three factions."

    Take-Two gave Levine basically carte blanche to make the game he wanted to make, no matter the cost. Former employees say that this "lack of oversight seemed idyllic at first" but was actually "detrimental to their work and mental well-being."

    One of the former Irrational Employees that joined Levine at Ghost Story Games was Mike Snight. Here is a bit of what Snight had to say about Levine's leadership.

    "Ken is a very hard person to work for. I think he tried a lot to change, and he really excels better at this company than Irrational because it is a smaller group of people."
    A current employee says that they are "optimistic" that the project will actually be released withing two years. Snight, along with half of the original team, left Ghost Story Games after five years.

    "When it continuously goes in cycles and you don't align anymore, you kind of get tired of being part of that," he says. "I wasn't really happy anymore."
    According to former employees, a major problem with developing under Levine is that he wanted to make a AAA experience akin to BioShock, but with only a fraction of the team size. Bloomberg's report says that Levine just "never seems content" and cites his background as a screenwriter where he was "taught that the process for achieving greatness was to keep rewriting until everything was perfect."

    Some employees said that weeks and months of work would be scrapped after Levine's ideas were influenced by the latest indie title. For instance, after playing Void Bastards, Levine "insisted some features be overhauled to emulate those games."

    These factors, and more, contributed to Ghost Story's game not being ready by Fall 2017. Three former employees did point out one positive for this entire situation, saying that "the lax approach to deadlines minimized crunch time."

    As for publisher Take-Two, it may be surprising to hear that they have not tightened the reigns on Ghost Story Games. Levine has told employees that Ghost Story is merely a "rounding error" when compared to the larger studios under Take-Two's umbrella. It's entirely possible then that Levine and the rest of Ghost Story will continue to be given all the time and funding they need.

    As for Levine's legacy, there is a new BioShock game that is confirmed to be in development. The confirmation came back in 2019 when it was announced that (then) newly formed 2K studio, Cloud Chamber, would be creating a new BioShock title.

    • K-16
      K-16 commented
      Editing a comment
      "...can become moody and lash out, singling out an individual, while berating them in front of their co-workers."

      I hate this. This hits too close to home.
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