The creator of the famous “BioShock” series, Ken Levine, launched his last game “BioShock Infinite” in 2013. Soon after, he closed the door to Irrational Games, a studio he founded in 1997. Most of the employees were fired, with a lot of short notices, but a few developers were carefully selected to join his new small studio startup Ghost Story Games.
The new studio, still at the helm of 2K and parent company Take-Two Interactive, started developing a new game in 2014—this is the Lego story that Levine talked about years ago.Now, eight years later, the public has seen that game without a trace, and there is a new report Bloomberg Revealed the reason.
Ghost Story Game
Sadly, what the report reveals is not uncommon in video game development: poor leadership, employee burnout and frustration, and dogmatic pursuits of one’s game vision, even though these pursuits may have consequences for others in the studio Influence. Game informant I collected some of these stories about development hell in a recent series, you can check it out here: Video games fall into development hell part 1, part 2, and part 3.
Bloomberg In conversations with a number of current and former Ghost Story employees, the publication reported that many people blamed Levine for his “torture project”, calling him a “defective manager who often had trouble communicating his vision and alienated him.” Or intimidate those who challenge him or fail to meet his expectations.”
A joke that happened in the office was called “Kenception”. Alluding to Christopher Nolan’s 2010 movie, At the beginning of its establishment, The former and current anonymous employees of Ghost Story say that convincing Levin is so difficult that it may be easier to penetrate his dream and plant an idea so that when Levin wakes up, he will think it is his own thought. from.
Those ones Bloomberg Respondents also detailed the shortcomings of allowing people like Levine to have so much autonomy in the creation of Ghost Story. Of course, Levine may create the next Bioshock for 2K and Take-Two, but some people who work with him want to know how much it costs. Mike Snight, who helped start Ghost Story with Levin, eventually left the studio because he was dissatisfied with Levin’s well-known seemingly endless cycle of creation-cut-creation-cut and repeat .
“Ken is a difficult person to work for,” Snett said. “I think he tried a lot of changes, and his performance in this company is indeed better than Irrational because it is a small group of people.”
However, Levine’s creative process led Snett to leave the ghost story.
“When it keeps looping and you are no longer consistent, you are a little tired of being a part of it,” he said. “I’m really not happy anymore.”
The control given to Levine seems to hinder part of this creative process. Bloomberg He wrote that when negotiating a contract with Take-Two, Levine successfully negotiated. He directly answered Take-Two instead of 2K. The publishing company (maybe) one day will publish his next game. Employees say that Take-Two executives occasionally stop by Ghost Story to learn about updates, but otherwise, what happens to Ghost Story depends on Levine.
If he wants to cut a few months of work because he is no longer satisfied, he will do so, which makes the employees engaged in the above-mentioned work feel very frustrated. However, given that Levine has publicly discussed his views on the content of the clip, this is not surprising.
As pointed out Bloomberg, Levine told Australian players In an interview in 2012, he “probably reduced the value of two games” while developing BioShock: Infinite. Then, a few years later, Levine said, “In almost every game I played, you realized that time was running out, and then you made this game.”
“You are a little confused, and then you say,’Gosh, we are running out of time’, which forces you to make these decisions.”
Since Levin has a lot of autonomy in Ghost Story, there is no hard deadline and time seems to have not run out. Therefore, it is reported that he continues to cut in and intestines as he wants, making Ghost Story employees want to know when their game will see the light. .According to reports, some people will stay, but some will leave because of this Bloomberg The report, sadly, because the contract usually stipulates that the work cannot be displayed before the public release, many people are in an awkward position. They have years of Ghost Story work on their resumes, but nothing shows in their portfolio.
Speaking of games to be showcased, or more precisely, games that have not seen the light yet, Bloomberg reports that Levin’s “Narrative Lego” proof-of-concept game should appear as a shooter in the form of a fall 2017 science fiction novel Set on a mysterious space station inhabited (and contested) by three factions. Depending on the narrative of what the player did and how they constructed and changed the Lego bricks, the faction can be transformed into an enemy, allies, or something else.
Although Levine’s goal is to make Ghost Story feel like an independent studio with an AAA budget (in terms of creativity and rhythm) (provided by Take-Two Interactive), his vision for the game is as ambitious as BioShock.The early employees of the studio told Bloomberg They recalled the 2016 version of this game, which had “well-crafted levels and rich 3D graphics.” They want to know how this team of less than three dozen developers will complete the game.
“Others remember a complicated dialogue system, which changes according to the player’s choice, requires a lot of writing, and cannot be completed in a year,” Bloomberg Write.
Giovanni Pasteris, a former Ghost Story employee, said, “These ideas and ambitions are great,” but “the scope just keeps expanding without considering the team’s ability to complete the work before the fall 2017 deadline.” Pasteris said Levine wanted to produce An AAA game with a “budget” team size, he said this will never happen. According to Levine’s changing tastes, missing deadlines is a further hindrance. Bloomberg Report.
He would play games such as “Dead Cell” or “Void Bastard”, and then return to “Ghost Story”, asking for the functions they saw in their own games. This led to the target release of the game in the fall of 2017 shifted to 2018 and then 2019. Now, an employee of Ghost Story said that the team is ultimately optimistic that the game is on track, but there may be two years away.
A positive, if you will, this constantly changing deadline is a clear lack of austerity time, or at least reduced austerity time, but employees tell Bloomberg Developing a game with no end in sight is a challenge in itself. In addition, Levine hopes to retain the film direction and focus of “BioShock” and “BioShock Infinite” in this new project dedicated to presenting a different experience for each player, and the development pressure of Ghost Story will only continue to grow.
Further suggesting Levin’s my way of running the studio or the highway style, Bloomberg The report stated that those who quarreled with Levine in “Ghost Story” would be mysteriously fired. Managers simply said that the fired employee was not suitable for “Ghost Story”.
“[Levine] It can be very charming and charming,” Pastris said.[Levine] Becomes moody and furious, picks out one person and scolds them in front of colleagues [too]. ”
Bloomberg A more comprehensive depiction of the difficult development of this upcoming Ghost Story title and the loss it has caused to the developers currently there and the developers who have worked in the studio.Worth reading The full report is here. For more information, check out our thoughts on Levine’s last game Game informant BioShock unlimited review, then read our thoughts on 2016 BioShock: Collection. Read what we want in the next BioShock game after this.