What exactly is going on with the next game from Ken Levine? The BioShock creator announced his new studio, Ghost Story Games, in 2017, but his next thing has actually been in the works in some form since shortly after he made the surprise decision to shut down Irrational Games in 2014. Well, there’s good and bad news per a new insider report from Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier -- on the plus side, Levine’s game is still very much in development, and may have even found its groove. Less positively, it’s been a real struggle to get here and the game is probably still at least two years away.
For those who haven’t been keeping up with Levine’s latest, he’s said the game is built around the concept of “narrative Legos” – that is, a story-based game made of interchangeable parts allowing players to craft their own narratives. Schreier adds some more detail in his report, saying the game is a sci-fi shooter set on a space station ruled over by three factions, each of which can be ally, enemy, or something more subtle, depending on your choices.
Sounds like a promising premise, but unfortunately, the game is still some ways away following numerous reboots and rethinks. While Ghost Story Games was supposed to be an opportunity for Levine to change how he makes games with a smaller team, word is, he’s largely stuck to his “auteur” ways, often throwing out large chunks of completed work, demanding changes in direction, and still insisting on AAA-quality presentation. Also, while “narrative Legos” sounds like a cool idea on paper, there are times it clashes with Levine’s desire to control all aspects of the game.
Ghost Story employees Schreier spoke with say Levine has a tendency to alienate, browbeat, or even fire those who come into conflict with him. Perhaps that’s to be expected – nobody’s made any secret of Ghost Story being Levine’s vanity studio, so devs should know what they’re getting into – but perhaps it should also be expected tensions would rise given the length development has stretched to.
So, does all this mean Levine’s next game is in danger of cancellation? The game was originally supposed to be delivered in 2017, after all. The answer is probably no. Levine reports directly to Take Two Interactive’s top brass, and they’re confident he will deliver something worthwhile – perhaps their next big IP – eventually. The Ghost Story team’s relatively small size means T2 is willing and able to fund their project almost indefinitely. That’s a good thing in some ways (Ghost Story employees report little crunch at the studio), but in other ways, it may be exacerbating Levine’s management issues. With past projects, Levine has admitted he usually pulls his scattered ideas together at the last minute, but with no hard deadline from T2, he’s under no pressure to do that. Some devs Schreier spoke to think the project is finally on track, but will Levine ever get that kick in the butt needed to finish things? We shall see.
What do you think? Are you looking forward to Levine’s next? Or will all this development time be for naught?