The next game from BioShock creator Ken Levine is said to be in “evolutionary hell”

Ken Levine, the acclaimed video game developer behind the BioShock franchise, began working on his next project with his studio, Ghost Story Games, about eight years ago. Since then, according to reports from Bloomberg, the game has reportedly entered “evolutionary hell” and has seen multiple reboots and changes of direction.

Levine’s current project at Ghost Story, which has yet to be officially announced or given a fixed release date, has taken a lot longer than his previous work, including the year and a half it took to develop System Shock 2 and the roughly five years it took to develop until BioShock finished. Obviously, video game development is an immense challenge, and each project brings its own unique challenges, but 15 current and former Ghost Story Games employees say this is a little more – and part of it is Levine’s leadership style.

After Irrational Games closed in 2014 and Ghost Story Games started, the new team began working on what Levine called a “narrative LEGO”. He wanted to create a game that would ensure that each person’s experience was unique. This meant that the characters would react differently based on the player’s actions, and each time different scenarios would play out depending on what was previously selected.

The original plan was to release the game by fall 2017, and it would be “a science fiction shooter like BioShock set on a mysterious space station inhabited by three factions”. The choices made by the player would determine how these three factions behave towards them.

Following Levine’s past success, publisher Take-Two Interactive Software gave him the creative freedom few others in the game industry have to make that dream come true. While this “lack of supervision at first sight” seemed idyllic, in the opinion of former employees it would “have a detrimental effect on their work and their mental well-being”.

Mike Snight, one of the former Irrational Games developers who selected Levine to start Ghost Story in 2014, gave a little insight into working with Levine.

“It’s very hard for Ken to work for him,” says Snight. “I think he’s tried a lot to change and he’s really better than Irrational in this company because it’s a smaller group of people.”

While one employee says the current team is “optimistic” about the project again and thinks a release date in two years, Snight – and half of the original team – have already left.

“When it cycles continuously and you get out of alignment, you’re kind of tired of being a part of it,” says Snight. “I wasn’t really happy anymore.”

One of the biggest problems, according to former employees, is that Levine wanted to create an AAA experience as ambitious as BioShock with a fraction of those who did it.

While it has served him well in the past and helped produce successful and popular games, Levine’s pursuit of perfection has also created a myriad of problems for those who have taken these trips with him. As Bloomberg puts it, “one constant about Levine’s projects is that he never seems satisfied.” Levine has a story in drama and wanted to be a screenwriter from an early age, and he was “taught that the process of achieving greatness is to keep writing until everything is perfect.”

This meant months of work could be discarded if it did not meet standards. In 2012 Levine shared AusGamers that while developing BioShock Infinite, he “probably cut stuff worth two games”.

That philosophy has extended to the Ghost Story project, and some even say that weeks or months of work could be given up after Levine’s tastes changed, “after playing a hot indie release like Sideways scrolling action game Dead Cells or the comic book-inspired shooter Void Bastards, and he insisted that some features be redesigned to emulate those games. “

Many of these factors contributed to the game not being ready by fall 2017, and while this may be frustrating for many inside and outside the company, there was a positive result – “The lax approach to deadlines minimized crunch time, A welcome change from irrational, say three former employees. “

Eight years later, many have wondered how long Take-Two will keep this project going. Levine apparently told staff that Ghost Story is just a “rounding error” for the publisher of games like Grand Theft Auto, which means Levine will most likely get all of the time it takes to create a new hit that can be successful at the level of BioShock.

While fans wait for Ghost Story’s first game, 2K has also announced that a new BioShock game is in the works from its in-house studio, Cloud Chamber. However, this project also seems a long way off.

Read more about this story below Bloomberg.

Adam Bankhurst is a news writer for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamBankhurst and further Pull out.

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