Speaking as part of an impromptu panel at the DICE Summit 2008, BioShock creative director Ken Levine sought to remind developers what they were really meant to be doing, GamesIndustry.biz reports.
"It is easy to forget that your job is to amaze people," he said. "If you amaze people, they will buy the thing."
"Are people going to look at this and say 'Omigod! That's awesome!'?"
BioShock won five Interactive Achievement Awards - including the award for outstanding achievement in game design - after which spoke on the importance of narrative.
"Games are about a core fantasy," he said.
"That was a problem with BioShock. What exactly is the core fantasy of BioShock? Who is this guy?"
Levine admitted that the reason that the main character ended up being a sort of cipher was partly because he didn't take the time to fully develop him.
"Who doesn't want to be a rockstar?" he asked. "Who doesn't want to be a tool in an objectivist, failed utopia?" he said, to laughter from the crowd.
In hindsight, if he had to change one thing about BioShock it would be to end the game closer to the revelation of the main character's nature. Levine said he underestimated how strongly players would react to that moment, and felt that the game continued on too long after hitting that high point.
While the summit focused on innovation, creativity and narrative, Levine didn't discount the financial realities.
"At the end of the day, when somebody is handing you USD 15 to 20 million, you have a serious responsibility to help them earn their money back."
"You have to sell games when it comes down to it."
He said that he takes his fiduciary responsibility very seriously, finding it empowering because it requires developers to be honest about the value of their work.
In addition to BioShock's multiple awards, its sales are evidence that it has, indeed, amazed people.
"When two million people buy your game, it says something about your game that is hard to refute."
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