BioShock Infinite Coming to PS3, First Video and Ken Levine Q&A

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Before you do anything else, watch the premiere video of the next game from Irrational Games that will land on the PlayStation 3 in 2012. The less you know before watching, the better!

We’re pleased and excited to welcome Irrational Games to the PlayStation.Blog to reveal their latest project to PS3 fans. I was fortunate enough to get a few minutes to chat with Ken Levine, Irrational Games’ creative director and a key force behind BioShock, in order to delve deeper into the details and inspirations behind the studio’s latest creation. Welcome to the PlayStation.Blog, Ken!

BioShock Infinite for PS3: Columbia

Sid Shuman: So… you guys know how to make an entrance, huh?

Ken Levine, Creative Director, Irrational Games: There’s been so much speculation, we wanted to play with people’s expectations a little bit. Coming out with a press release isn’t very interesting. One of the reasons there’s been so much secrecy is that we want people to see the trailer (above) prior to knowing what the game is.

SS: Your new game is quite a dramatic change from BioShock, isn’t it?

KL: I think the mission of this studio is to make games that other people couldn’t or wouldn’t make…when it comes to a BioShock game, the obvious thing people think about is the location. My sense is it’s more about mystery. It is about location, but that location isn’t Rapture.

We wanted to start this game with a sense of, “there are no sacred cows.” Anything from the existing franchise that would go into BioShock Infinite had to earn its way there. So there are obviously some similar elements. But there are also elements that you don’t even know what to make of. That’s important to us. There are so many things that are tropes of the BioShock franchise — Big Daddies and Little Sisters wandering around, for example. But even something as primal and central as that, we thought…is that the right thing for this game? Or do we want to take it in a totally different direction?

So “Project Icarus” is turning the page on the franchise and exploring a different direction.

SS: On that note, you couldn’t really consider BioShock Infinite to be a sequel to BioShock. Do you think of it as a re-imagining?

KL: In the game industry, people have a particular sense of what a sequel is. You know, they’re going to follow the story, it will be the same world, a lot of the same weapons…

I guess “re-imagining” is a good way to describe it. Anything that was in the previous game has to earn its way into this game. We’re open to explode any ideas, change any ideas, re-imagine any ideas. That’s why we’ve been quiet for so long. That’s a question we’ve had to wrestle with for a long time, and it took us a few years to get to the point where we were ready to talk about it. Now the team is super excited about it.

Once you make a game like BioShock, the audience expects to be surprised and amazed the same way they were by Rapture. We wanted to make sure we had something that felt familiar in some ways, but also felt different at the same time.

SS: Would you say that BioShock Infinite is in the same universe, or the same timeline, as BioShock?

KL: That’s a good question. That’s something that people should keep their eyes on — once the gameplay footage comes out, there will be some things that will make people ask questions along those lines, and wonder about any of those kinds of connections.

Ken Levine, creative director of Irrational Games Ken Levine, creative director of Irrational Games

SS: BioShock was highly notable for its Art Deco environments. But BioShock Infinite, with its flying city of Columbia, is something else altogether. What’s the inspiration for the game’s look?

KL: The feel of the game, as I described it to the team, is “Fourth of July, 1900.” The game is set in 1912 and has this feeling of an idealized America, a Norman Rockwell version of America. As with Rapture, there’s a fantastic component — the city is suspended in the air. But we wanted this feeling of this… memory of a summer’s day. Not even a real summer’s day, because there’s no summer’s day with a sky that blue, or trees that green, and the flags waving, and the popcorn popping. That’s the feeling that we wanted in this game, and it defines a lot of the look.

On a lower level, you have elements of Art Nouveau in the city, elements of colonial architecture styles in the city, and a variety of things. But they’re all in service of this “feeling.” BioShock was the same way — Art Deco gave us the “feeling” of what we wanted for that game.

SS: What brings the player to the airborne city of Columbia?

KL: One major difference from BioShock is that we felt it was really important that you are an actual person with an identity, with a mission that was clear to you. In this game you play a former Pinkerton agent named Booker DeWitt, who is known as a guy who gets things done, but maybe not in the most forthright manner.

You’re contacted by an individual who wants you to go to Columbia, a city which has disappeared into the clouds. Columbia was founded as sort of a shining city on a hill, an example of American ideals — Jeffersonian, Democratic ideals — and the city would move around the world like the White Fleet. Like the Apollo space project, it was an example of what American ingenuity and ideals can do. The city, as it moved around the world, got caught up in a violent international incident that was shocking to the world. And then Columbia disappeared into the clouds, and nobody has known where it is for quite some time. The man who has contacted you knows where the city is, and he wants you to go there to find a young woman named Elizabeth. She’s been imprisoned in a tower there since she was five years old, for 15 years, and your mission is to get Elizabeth out of the city and back to Earth.

When you arrive in Columbia, you sense this is going to be a different kind of mission. You also learn that Elizabeth is squarely in the center of a conflict that’s going on in the city. And you get more than you bargained for.

SS: Some people might call Columbia a sort of “New Rapture.” Is that accurate?

KL: One is a city floating in the air, another lies at the bottom of the sea. But the feel of the cities, and the beliefs of the populace, are things that you can sink your teeth into. It’s relatable: politics and culture. Like Rapture, Columbia is a city of ideas – very strong ideas! And those ideas are represented by how the world is visually constructed. We don’t always want to use words — I think the visuals are the strongest element we have to communicate what Columbia is.

BioShock Infinite for PS3: Columbia SkylinesBioShock Infinite for PS3: Saltinstall

SS: In BioShock, the player enters a devastated environment and picks through corpses in order to find out what happened. But Columbia appears to be a very “alive” city…

KL: This is very important to us, Sid. Going back to the System Shock 2 and BioShock days, we’ve given ourselves an out, which is “everybody’s dead.” There wasn’t much character interaction, and when there is… I think I’m the guy who invented the [gameplay convention of the] player interacting with a guy on the other side of a glass. [laughs] I say that with dubious pride, because that idea is getting really long in the tooth.

Our concept in this game is that there are lots of characters who don’t necessarily attack you right away — they may not be interested in getting in a fight, either. The feeling we want is somewhat like the Wild West, where you go into a room and everybody has their hand on their gun because it’s a scary place. Part of your challenge in this world is figuring out who is a threat and who isn’t. Or, if you’re in a combat situation, if there’s a way to bring another person to your side somehow. We sort of pioneered this with BioShock with the notion of the Big Daddy, who didn’t attack you right away, and here we’ve extended this idea throughout the world. We realized quickly that this is much more like the way the real world works. In shooters, we’re not accustomed to that — we’re used to everyone seeing you and shooting you. From a narrative perspective, this gives us a ton of freedom.

SS: Based on the ultra-nationalistic posters I saw in the trailer, it would seem that the citizens of Columbia don’t take too kindly to strangers?

KL: There’s a mix in Columbia, and that’s part of the conflict there. The city was designed as sort of an envoy of America…it parallels some of the conflicts in America, not just back then, but other times during our history. There are some strong viewpoints in the city; it’s taken on a certain character in regards to the role of America and Manifest Destiny, and the city’s role in the world.

SS: Will we still see returning staples of the genre, such as the audio diaries from BioShock?

KL: I’m a fan of the voice recorders for a couple of reasons. Our goal is always to see how much story we can tell in the world. Some things stick out like a sore thumb — like the guys stuck behind glass windows. But some things are important tools that can flesh out narrative in a way you can’t do any other way.

I like audio diaries, and I think we’ll be continuing with those, but our goal is to expand upon that vocabulary. Another thing we thought that was getting a little old was the idea of someone in your ear, radioing you your mission. In this game, Booker will say, “I need to find Elizabeth.” Your character can define his missions, and interpret what’s going on around him, and give feedback and drive his thoughts using his own voice. It makes you feel more active in the world.

SS: On another note, I heard you were at E3. Did anything catch your eye?

KL: I was only there for a day, and mostly in meetings, so I didn’t get to see a ton. But I’m definitely interested in seeing what you guys are up to with PlayStation Move…there was a PSN game that really caught my eye, too, some kind of Gauntlet type of game (edit: we think Levine was talking about Hoard). Another one was The Magic: The Gathering Tactics. It seemed like a good year, there are a lot of core games coming out.

For more details on BioShock Infinite follow @IrrationalGames and Ken Levine on Twitter. And keep your eyes on the PlayStation.Blog!

Comments are closed.


33 Author Replies

  • Bioshock 2 sullied the waters for me… I really wish they went with a different name.

    Other than that, I can’t wait to see more!

  • I’m a little sad to be leaving Rapture, but I can’t wait for a fresh start above water. I’m guessing he got man handled by the Big Daddy of the game.
    And I agree, they need to have a PS3 version of System Shock. It would kill the competition if it were included.

  • @46 even if its not related to the previous stories its still a blatant attempt to squeeze some more money out of a past success.

    Instead of rapture underwater with big daddies, its columbia in the air with whatever the cyborg thing was. The fact that the qualifier “essentially” needs to be used points out that its not a new IP, it thats what you were going for you wouldn’t call it bioshock, this is just a cop out.

  • Wow. I have been wondering what would happen to Bioshock outside of Rapture. I have this feeling that Rapture is finally going to be destroyed in Bioshock 3. I think “The Rapture Trilogy” has a nice ring to it.

    Now Columbia. I really hope it is as captivating as Rapture. It looks like their aiming for the same kind of mystery. I was apprehensive about taking Bioshock out of Rapture but seeing the trailer is pretty convincing. 2012 is too long to wait but I really don’t want them to rush this. Take your time and make it right.

  • Nice interview, Sid. You just answered some of my questions. It’s really nice that they bringing a new experience into the Bioshock series and by seeing the photos, I have a sense that I’m going to be jumping to buildings to buildings in this game. 2012 for this game…WOW!!!!!!

  • Impressive… this looks like a much more interesting sequel than Bioshock 2 did, even though that was a good game too.

  • Where was it said that BioShock Infinite was using the PS3 as the lead platform? I haven’t read any indication of that in any of the previews I’ve read so far…

  • Hi. BioShock is my favourite game, and it’s the ONLY FPS I’ve ever played and enjoyed (I’m a TPS type of guy).

    I have platinum trophies in both the first and second BioShock, and I also wrote the trophy guide for BioShock 2 (along with DLC trophies) which I still maintain.

    But as a fan of the series, I really hope that you do not add MP. Your first BioShock is a testament that you guys pulled off the *best* single player experience, and I would like BSI to remain as such. Please do not add multiplayer, it will only bring headaches and cause bad PR like it did with 2K.

    Off topic, but I know second-hand sales is a burden for the gaming industry, and I’ve studied that extensively, but I think MP is not the solution; the solution is making a stellar SP and promising Post-Launch Single-Player DLC support. This way most will keep the game.

  • mehh… I’ll probably buy it just because it is a Bioshock game but won’t beat the first 2

  • Ah, thanks for the clarification, Sid.

    Yeah, I knew that it was coming out at the same time as the other platforms, but some of the discussion here lead be to believe that Irrational was using the PS3 as the lead dev platform, which would have been awesome.

    Anyway, thanks again.

  • Great interview Sid! Thanks for asking questions fans would want to know. Now I have another game to add to the “Super Stoked for” list. Great time to be a gamer.

  • GOOSEBUMPS! I can’t wait this is gonna be epic just like bioshock 2 :P

  • Topside Rapture? Yes please. Blue skies and surreal yet gorgeous landscapes and art direction is why I play videogames. Whenever I debate which of my games to play it usually ends up being the most colorful and distinct. I get so tired of playing games with dull color palettes. There’s millions perhaps billions of colors. Use them! Not Irrational, obviously. Devs in general.

  • Why was the title of this blog changed? Now it ruins the surprise!

    • Yeah, tough decision on that. Glad you agreed with keeping the surprise though. :-) With the news in wide distribution, and the original title of the Blog post being so vague, I wanted to make sure people who wouldn’t have watched otherwise would do so.

      But we kept it “mysterious” for the first 5 or 6 hours :-) Most other sites just spammed the game title right in the headline! >_<

  • game looks cool, I like the art style. too bad we have to wait till 2012 to play it

  • Ugh, it looks so good, but why does it have to be set so early? I loved BioShock (2), not just for the stories, but the time period as well. I’ll still get it anyway, though.

  • Also, did anybody else see some of the concept art for little sisters in BioShock? One concept had them as robot/android things. Looks like they’re actually going to implement that design.

  • Will a horror element return because it looks too bright and cheery to get a nice shock.

  • Great interview Sid. oh hell yea! looks so damn good, i am really intrigued on the co aspect of the game. I like how the co-op is an AI, she sounds more like Elika from prince of persia, i loved elika….

    Is it true that the game’s lead platform is the ps3?

    • Glad you liked it, and thanks for the praise! PS3 is “a” lead platform, so it’s not getting short shrift.

  • Looks to me like Bioshock is becoming a Final Fantasy franchise, in the sense that the games are all called Bioshock/FF but are all completely different worlds and stories.

    Still, I’m majorly excited for this game. L-O-V-E Bioshock. :D

  • first, I love the Anachronistic steam punk style they took with this one. clockwork cyborgs,pre-wwI America,flying cities? where do i sign up?
    second, can we get a system shock 1&2 port for psn?

  • Will there be a 1080p version of this trailer with great quality audio (320kbit/sec VBR AAC) available for download on PSN? I can’t wait to see/hear this in HD quality on my home theatre system!

  • Is Bioshock good?

  • I immediately loved Bioshock and had very high hopes for a unique environment in Bioshock 2. Like a lot of us, I was very dissapointed in the lack of creativity and enthusiasm put into Bioshock 2. I’m glad to see the franchise back in the hands of its creator. I am already counting down the days.

    *** I’d like to see some really creative ideas for a collector’s/ultimate/limited edition; ie. Fallout 3’s Survival Edition. (An artwork book and an 8×10 poster just doesn’t cut it these days.)

  • Holy $#@%! This looks amazing! Bioshock Infinite is officially on my “must own list”.

    …although I don’t know how I feel about the name.

  • So, basicallly, it’s like Bioshock 2. PS3 was “A” lead platform for that as well. What we need is multiplatforms looking and playing better on the PS3 – not being equal to the 360 version.

    • Exactly. And I’d love to see your latter point, though it’s a bit early to say if it will include any extra content or anything on the PS3. Many times, multiplatform developers try hard to make sure two different versions look and play the same — one looking better than the other can make some people upset. Anyway, I’ll definitely be checking in on this question over the next 2 years :-)

  • is there multiplayer in the game?

    • No clue, they’re only unveiling the overall concept now. I’d expect more on these kind of details to come later.

  • was bioshock 2 really necessary? i thought the first was better. Hey sid gamepro’s not the same anymore…


  • This looks awesome, I’m excited as hell to play. I still think they could explore Rapture a lot more, but I like that they are taking more interaction with characters on in this title. It’s what I wanted in bioshock2. Thought it would be cool to play through rapture where people weren’t all trying to kill you. Anyways, looks awesome and can’t wait!

  • As high of hopes I have for this game, it also comes with doubts. What I loved about Bioshock was that Rapture was so original and eerie. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. Andrew Ryan’s beliefs were incredible and everywhere I turned, the city of Rapture had something to make me crap my pants. I’m somewhat disappointed that they put Bioshock in the title. This doesn’t feel like the Bioshock series I’ve come to know and love. But regardless, I am looking forward to seeing how this Columbia like Rapture before (technically after) it becomes corrupted and how it affects the area around it.

    • Yeah, I think you nailed it — Columbia isn’t Rapture at all, but it’s a city based on utopian ideas and shares some similarities in that sense.

  • “In this game, Booker will say, “I need to find Elizabeth.” Your character can define his missions, and interpret what’s going on around him, and give feedback and drive his thoughts using his own voice. It makes you feel more active in the world.”

    Game evolution at it’s best. Why does Ken seem to be giving us the best designs?

  • I have a very strong feeling that this game will make me fall in love with the Bioshock name!

    I had heard great things about Bioshock (the first one) when it first came out, but I felt that the narrative actually fell short… the game didn’t feel personal enough for me… But, it seems like this game will definately solve those issues!

    I’m highly looking forward to this one!!!!

  • These visuals look like they should be in an PS3 Exclusive Game… I wonder if Irrational Games will change their minds and make it an exclusive? Hmmm

  • I hope the PS3 version of this game will be comparable to the Xbox 360 version given Bioshock got a shoddy port with a lesser resolution (720p vs. 680p), poorer framerate (<30fps) and weaker textures. This seems to be typical of multiplatform games where the PS3 gets the inferior version the vast majority of the time.

    • What’s encouraging is that it isn’t being announced 9 months later than the other versions, but right up front — hence being “a” lead platform.

  • Ken the game looks great BUT can you please make the shoot button R1, it feels so wrong on Bioshock 1 with shoot being the R2 button. This is very important to us PlayStation users. Games like GTA, Red Dead and now Mafia feel wrong because of this simple thing. Thanks

    • I had hoped to dig this detail out of him too, but he kind of deflected me :-) I’m sure they’re still deciding on gameplay details like this, but I agree with you.

  • Looks interesting, although being bassicaly a FPS game I’ll probably go for the PC version.

    Why oh why do developers not give keyboard/mouse options in console games? They both support it, yet very few give the option of using it. Is this another case where multiplayer ruins the single player experience in the interest of ‘fairness’?

    In anothe note … I’m begging you please make a System Shock 3. SHODAN is probably one of the best villians every to be created in a video game and I want MORE!

  • I want this game now!!!!! Cant wait till 2012!!!!

    where do I pre-order it? any pre-order bonus?

  • A brave decision to go for a completely different setting, but also the right one! We know the story from Rapture, to repeat it ad infinitum over and over again would kill the franchise. This setting has more than a touch of steam-punk. Great trailer. I can’t wait to learn more.

  • 2012? For ***** sake I was expecting to read next year. Not the year after next!

  • looks real good

  • Rapture made Bioshock/// looks intersting though. I really love the upgradable weapons in Bioshock the most. keep me playing for awhile to see what I could make.

  • My hope is that Irrational Games will focus squarely on providing gamers an exceptional single player experience akin to the original Bioshock. Multiplayer is completely and utterly unnecessary.

  • unless it somehow connects to BioShock at the end it should have been called SteamShcok.

    System Shock, System Shock 2, BioShock, BioShock 2, SteamShock, . . .

  • nice. Good to know they didn’t make Bioshock 2. not that 2 was a bad game, but I have more props for these guys for their drive to continuously innovate and never get comfortable sitting on their laurels. These are the kind of developers we need now, ones that don’t just think about sequels as a re-release of the same game with “the same world, a lot of the same weapons…” I’ll be keeping my eye out for you!

  • They’re asking if PS3 is THE lead platform in terms of development, which I doubt. PS3 owners get the short end of the stick 95% of the time with multiplatform titles and I’m getting sick of it. Sony, help these developers make their PS3 games look as good as the 360 version. Give them whatever they need, cause they don’t appear to have it. The situation is not as bad as 2006-7 but I still get the worse version every time I buy a 3rd party game.

    • That was my takeaway here — the fact that PS3 was specifically mentioned in the announcement suggests it’s getting full attention up-front during development.

  • @ Sid Shuman: That’d be great but the same thing has been done for many games in the past; they are initially announced for both PS3 & 360, yet they are optimized for 360 and then ported to PS3. And that usually results in PS3 getting an inferior version. I love my PS3 and will never switch consoles but I just get sick of reading online that 360 has the better version of almost every multi-platform game I buy. I want my game to be as good as the other guy’s game.

    • Totally. As I understand it, the key is to consider both platforms on day one so each can be their best. When the decision to add a different platform comes later in the dev cycle, it’s much harder to compensate for.

  • begining made me go ” dangit not rapture again”, but when the newer big daddy or whatever that robotic creature was threw him out the window i yelled YESS!!!!, thanks for giving me something to look 4ward to Irrational Games!
    preorder?: Defidently

  • diddnt end right, also its in an earlier year (chicago 1895) im guessing

  • finally the character gets to talk in bioshock cant wait for this game to come out in 2012

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