Eurogamer: It seems like you're going to end up touching on some issues that are quite sensitive today - about America and its place in the world, and how it handles it.
Ken Levine: I think you saw some elements in the trailer and the demo - you can see some of the themes that we're playing with.
Our goal is always more to report than to actually make a statement about something. To say, here are these ideas, and here are these ideas, and let people make their own decisions. I love that in previous games people never really knew where we stood on these issues as individuals, because it doesn't matter. We're just talking about those ideas out there.
Eurogamer: You've chosen to use a more defined player character this time, with a name and a past and place in the story. How come?
Ken Levine: My broken record tonight is that the first thing we decided on this game is that there are no sacred cows. A sacred cow on a couple of our games so far has been that you're a mysterious Mr X, and we used that to our advantage in those games.
We didn't want to allow ourselves that... What if it was a BioShock game but you were a clearly defined character, you had a role in the world. And that instead of somebody else driving your missions, you drove the missions yourself - in terms of you speak to yourself?
I've worked on a game called Thief where we did something somewhat similar, but we hadn't done that in one of these games: to put yourself as a character who had some basis in understanding who he was - and then take the next step of actually having a relationship with somebody else. That's not something you've seen a lot of, certainly in a first-person shooter; there are some games where the protagonist is silent but the person with them is not.
We wanted a relationship with Elizabeth that was complicated, she's trying to figure out her own mystery, she doesn't understand why she was in prison for 15 years, she doesn't understand why she's so central in this world, and you're both trying to figure that out but also trying to figure out how you two can integrate your abilities together so you can survive.
Eurogamer: Is there a romantic element to the relationship?
Ken Levine: There might be. You definitely sense a connection between the two characters, even in the demo, they care about each other. We'll see where that goes.
Eurogamer: It also seems like a perfect set-up for co-operative gameplay.
Ken Levine: No, you do not play as Elizabeth. She is somebody that you're with as a partner, but she's not somebody you play.
Eurogamer: What time period is the game set in? In BioShock there was a a gap of a decade or two between the city being built and the events of the game taking place. You've said that Columbia was built in the early 1900s...
Ken Levine: We're not revealing anything about the timeline right now, but the action you saw tonight takes place in 1912.