Ken Levine Under Fire: Father Of BioShock Gets Serious Criticism

Several employees of Ghost Story Games spoke to Bloomberg to explain the nefarious methods used by Ken Levine.



Ken Levine has made a name for himself in the gaming world for his work on BioShock, where he earned a significant mark in the industry as creative director, but before that, he worked on other classics like the memorable System Shock 2. Levine then closed Irrational Games (whose staff had already been hard hit by the development of BioShock Infinite) and set up a small studio under Take-Two, Ghost Story Games.


Did Ken Levine close Irrational Games so that he wouldn’t have to manage such a large staff?


Allegedly, Levine’s latest attempt was to avoid managing a group as large as Irrational Games, which he felt was getting out of control. However, it seems that he only invented Ghost Story Games after the studio’s demise. Hence, the passing of Irrational is more a testament to Levine’s poor management skills, according to both former and current employees of the developer who spoke to Bloomberg. These failures mainly affect the release of games.

As Jason Schreier writes in the article mentioned above, Ken Levine enjoys the approval of Take-Two for his past suggestions, as many consider BioShock to be one of the most influential titles in the video game industry. After the closure of Irrational Games, Levine began work on a game that would, in his words, feature “narrative lego”, meaning a unique experience for each player, and kick-start the development of his next game.

Former employees said the constant change was demoralizing and felt it was holding back their careers – Bloomberg

Unfortunately, the situation is far from ideal: Levine’s inability to communicate appropriately with his staff has led to days and months of work being thrown away because of a sudden change. Ghost Story staff spent weeks or months building components for the new game, only to have Levine scrap them. Levine’s tastes sometimes changed after a significant indie game like Dead Cells or Void Bastards, and he insisted that certain features be reworked to mimic those games. Former staffers said the constant changes were demoralizing, and they felt they were holding back their careers, Bloomberg reports.





After all, Ghost Story Games could afford to make such changes during development, as it had no release date for its game. As Schreier recalls, Ken Levine said in a conversation, “In almost every game I’ve ever worked on, you realize you’re running out of time, and then you make the game,” he said. “You sort of dick around for years, and then you’re like, ‘Oh my god, we’re almost out of time,’ and it forces you to make these decisions.”

The game may not see the light of day for another two years

From Levine’s point of view, that might be a good thing. But employees don’t think so, as it prevents them from providing information or expanding their portfolios in case they want to look for a new job. As the project has not yet been published, the creators cannot use their work as a career example, making it difficult for them to change companies. This situation has alienated a handful of developers, and not much has changed so far.


Ken Levine’s next game


As for the upcoming game from Ghost Story Games, no important details have been released yet. A couple of years ago, the lead developer himself said that his new work would be very similar to his previous work, which was expanded on somewhat by statements from Bloomberg. Reportedly, the title would feature the aforementioned Lego narrative and would be a sci-fi shooter set on a mysterious space station populated by three factions. Each faction would act as allies, neutrals, or enemies, depending on our choices and dialogue.

What about a release date? The Ghost Story Games title was supposed to be released in the fall of 2017, but constant changes and poor communication from Levine have dragged out the process longer than necessary. Now, one employee believes the studio is finally on track, but the game won’t be ready for another two years.

Whatever the case, Ken Levine’s attitude is not surprising in the industry, where his quest for perfection is often coupled with an obsession that can easily lead to months of work being lost. One of his cancelled games exemplifies this attitude: a Zelda-style adventure that never saw the light of day on PS2 and Xbox. As for the future, it remains to be seen whether Levine will be able to overcome all his inclinations and obsessions to finish this cumbersome development, which has been dragging on for many years. Not to mention that no matter how big the name, publishers’ patience is not infinite…

Source: Bloomberg

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