“The AAA, single-player narrative game is starting to disappear” says Ken Levine

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As you may or may not know, Ken Levine, one of the key the creative forces behind BioShock and co-founder of Irrational games sorta closed that studio, to create smaller, narrative focused games as an independent developer.

While he’s not ready to talk much about his new game just yet, he has shared that it’ll be a smaller-scale open world game – something that does away with the linearity that was a hallmark of BioShock. Why? Because gamers aren’t that keen to spend money on shorter games.

“The AAA, single-player narrative game is starting to disappear. Kind of games like BioShock. There’s fewer of them being made,” said Levine talking to NPR’s On Point (via Gamespot).

“The real reason is they’re very expensive to make and I think gamers are saying pretty loud and clear that if they’re going to spend $40, $50, $60, they want an experience that lasts more than 10-12 hours. That’s a lot to ask somebody to spend.”

Gamers, he says, want games that are a tad more open-ended, allowing for multiple playthroughs and different ways of approaching the same situations.

“We started this experiment after we finished BioShock Infinite,” Levine continued, “which was, ‘How do you make a narrative game feel like the kind of games we’ve made before but make it replayable and make it extend and make it react to the players?’

“[You] make it replayable by giving players different ways to approach the problems and really letting them dictate the experience. That is not a simple problem to solve.”

“And the reason ours is an open world game is because if you want to give the player the agency to drive the experience, that really fights against the linear nature of the games we made before like BioShock and BioShock Infinite. What it really means though is, ‘How do you make your content so it feels like the quality of the content you’ve made in games before but reacts to the players’ agency and then allows the player to do something in one playthrough and something very different in another playthrough?'”

I don’t know how I feel about this. I’ve largely grown tired of open-world games, and would love to see the return of the AAA linear narrative game – but I have to agree with Levine in that most consumers just don’t see them as great value propositions.

Last Updated: December 18, 2015

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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