Levine: extra development time helped to make BioShock a success

Praises Take-Two for "leap of faith".

Take-Two's faith in BioShock meant 2K Boston and 2K Australia had "the luxury of getting to bump into a lot of things", the game's makers have told an audience at the Develop conference.

Speaking in a keynote session this morning, creative boss Ken Levine said that the amount of time and money the team had been given to develop BioShock allowed for mistakes to be made and numerous ideas to be trialled.

"We didn't get as much time as Blizzard does, but it was a lot more than we used to get," said Levine. "Time... Lets you stop drinking your own Kool-Aid, step back and see how things really are."

The team gave a few examples of early ideas for BioShock that didn't work out - including an early prototype featuring a monster called "eel-man", which dragged itself across the floor. "Not only could it not move, it could even turn invisible!," commented lead technical artist Nate Wells. "I thought it would be terrifying," Levine lamented, before Wells added that "its main attack was making you feel awkward".

The BioShock team was also disparaging of approaching game development with everything planned out in advance - rather than allowing the game to emerge and adapt during the process.

"AAA games are about never being satisfied," Wells told the audience. "If you aren't biting your nails on release day, you've screwed up.

"It's easier to make a schedule, work out what your levels will be like, how your characters will look... But the game will be boring," he said. "It'll be more like a product than like art. Making art is about fighting, arguments, throwing glasses," he concluded, referencing a now-infamous moment when Ken Levine threw his glasses on the floor in anger during a design meeting.

Astonishing instances of nerd-rage aside (and Levine ruefully noted just how dorky the above anecdote makes him sound), the team's respect for its publisher (and now parent company) Take-Two came across strongly during the keynote.

"There's no way this game would have been made without a leap of faith," Levine commented, reserving special praise for Sam Houser, who he described as Take Two's "spiritual godfather". Houser, he said, had shown the company how to "ignore the parasites" - with Levine saying that he'd had his own taste of the kind of behaviour Take-Two has had to deal with when a news crew came to his house under false pretences and attempted to film a slam piece about him and his wife.

Oh, and Levine also described BioShock as "the most integrated porn movie of all time", commenting that while games are, indeed, like porn movies (a little story, some action, a little more story, etc.), BioShock's approach is to make it so "the action is the story". We're being good today, though, and haven't made that into the headline. Can we have a gold star?

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