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Old 02-18-2014, 10:22 PM   #1
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Irrational Shuts Down

Seriously?

SERIOUSLY?

Irrational Games have just announced on their website they are winding up, with Ken Levine going onto make a smaller studio backed by T2, with about 15 members of the team.

I'm GUTTED!

And for those who don't know who Irrational Games are, they erm, made Bioshock. THE best game on the 360. Infinite wasn't half bad either

Here's what KL had to say :

Quote:
When Jon Chey, Rob Fermier and I founded Irrational Games seventeen years ago, our mission was to make visually unique worlds and populate them with singular characters.
We built Rapture and Columbia, the Von Braun and The Rickenbacker, the Freedom Fortress and some of the nastiest basements a SWAT team ever set foot into. We created Booker and Elizabeth, the Big Daddy and the Little Sister, MidWives and ManBot. In that time, Irrational has grown larger and more successful than we could have conceived when we began our three-person studio in a living room in Cambridge, MA. Its been the defining project of my professional life.

Now Irrational Games is about to roll out the last DLC for BioShock Infinite and people are understandably asking: Whats next?

Seventeen years is a long time to do any job, even the best one. And working with the incredible team at Irrational Games is indeed the best job Ive ever had. While Im deeply proud of what weve accomplished together, my passion has turned to making a different kind of game than weve done before. To meet the challenge ahead, I need to refocus my energy on a smaller team with a flatter structure and a more direct relationship with gamers. In many ways, it will be a return to how we started: a small team making games for the core gaming audience.

I am winding down Irrational Games as you know it. Ill be starting a smaller, more entrepreneurial endeavor at Take-Two. That is going to mean parting ways with all but about fifteen members of the Irrational team. Theres no great way to lay people off, and our first concern is to make sure that the people who are leaving have as much support as we can give them during this transition.

Besides financial support, the staff will have access to the studio for a period of time to say their goodbyes and put together their portfolios. Other Take-Two studios will be on hand to discuss opportunities within the company, and well be hosting a recruiting day where well be giving 3rd party studios and publishers a chance to hold interviews with departing Irrational staff.*

Whats next?

In time we will announce a new endeavor with a new goal: To make narrative-driven games for the core gamer that are highly replayable. To foster the most direct relationship with our fans possible, we will focus exclusively on content delivered digitally.

When I first contemplated what I wanted to do, it became very clear to me that we were going to need a long period of design. Initially, I thought the only way to build this venture was with a classical startup model, a risk I was prepared to take. But when I talked to Take-Two about the idea, they convinced me that there was no better place to pursue this new chapter than within their walls. After all, theyre the ones who believed in and supported BioShock in the first place.

Thanks to Irrational and 2Ks passion in developing the games, and the fans who believe in it, BioShock has generated retail revenues of over a half billion dollars and secured an iconic place in gaming. Im handing the reins of our creation, the BioShock universe, to 2K so our new venture can focus entirely on replayable narrative. If were lucky, well build something half as memorable as BioShock.

We will do our best to update an FAQ in this space as questions come in.

-Ken Levine
@iglevine

*If youre a 3rd party interested in interviewing some of the best game developers in the world, please contact chris.bigelow@2k.com
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Old 02-18-2014, 10:28 PM   #2
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SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! Wow that's a shocker! Well lets see if their new venture can deliver above and beyond what Bioshock had to offer.
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Old 02-18-2014, 10:28 PM   #3
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I don't really get why you would shutdown a company like that even if you wanted to go in a different direction... Expand or sell.
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Old 02-18-2014, 10:28 PM   #4
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C'mon Lav, think of how awesome Ken's next game will be. See. I just turned your frown upside down!
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Old 02-18-2014, 10:56 PM   #5
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As big of a Bioshock fan as I am, I'm happy with the news to be honest. Outside of the folks who will be losing their jobs, which is always sad, I believe it's the right move. I'm sure most of them will land just fine with the resume they've built with Irrational throughout the years.

Bioshock has run it's course and I consider Ken Levine to be one of the best developers in the industry. I respect that he knows when to walk away and I think a lot of other developers could take a lesson from him. It's apparent that he's had enough of the series. They literally could have done anything with the DLC for Bioshock Infinite and instead we ended up back in Rapture. A Lutece story feels like a huge missed opportunity and that's only the tip of the iceberg of what could have been, and that's taken a year to get done. I'm sure at some point Levine thought to himself, Infinite was complete a long time ago and here I am working within the same universe I was working on back in 2007. Hell, it was probably much longer than that when they began production on the first Bioshock.

I like what he's saying about making shorter digital games with a focus on narrative. Essentially, it could work episodically or at the very least reduce production time and allow him to make more games in a much shorter time period. More and more I'm finding a four to six hour indie game with a tight focus much more appealing than some of these triple-a games that just don't know when to quit and drag on for ten hours after the story has exhausted itself.

I'm sure 2K will find someone to keep making Bioshock games but I doubt I'll get as excited about them in the future. Although, I'm in the minority of people who actually thought Bioshock 2 was a pretty great game considering someone other than Levine was in control of development. Aside from the unnecessary multiplayer I thought the campaign was good and Minerva's Den was an excellent add-on.
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Old 02-18-2014, 11:20 PM   #6
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Mr White, excellent points!

Sure, this will be the best thing, but only because he wants to end it. If his head isn't in it, then the games will reflect that.

I just think it's a shame. Ken could of gone his own way, with Irrational staying open developing something else. I'm sure they would of got financial backing based on their name alone, whether Levine was there or not.

But lets not forget, Levine may have been the head, but a head can't move without legs. The rest of the studio are obviously great at what they do, and it was them combined that gave us Bioshock. I'm sure Levine's next project will be great, but just seems a shame.

Oh, and I also thought Bioshock 2 was an excellent game, with Minerva's Den the best piece of DLC I've ever played.
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Old 02-18-2014, 11:21 PM   #7
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Just saw this on reddit. I'm shocked!
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Old 02-19-2014, 12:49 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by WalterWhite View Post

Bioshock has run it's course
Perhaps, but they could always make a similar game and/or spinoff of some sort with the same basic gameplay (and obviously some tweeks or additions).

I just played "Dark" a little while back and it was similar to Bioshock in certain ways (but obviously not in the same caliber) and I really enjoyed the game.
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Old 02-19-2014, 01:44 AM   #9
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Stunning news to be honest, but not a catastrophic scenario. I agree a lot with what Walt posted above. I also firmly believe the worst thing you can do to a great franchise is wear out it's welcome. If there are no further Bioshock games made, i'm content with the experiences they have offered and appreciate that they didn't milk it for every penny by overdoing it entirely like some others tend to do. It's the same way I feel about Mass Effect, I'd rather see them move on to something new now after releasing 3 instead of gutting it to the point of overkill.

I wish the best for the new paths those employees take and looking forward to seeing what they can offer up to whatever respected developer or game company they may wind up working for.
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Old 02-19-2014, 01:57 AM   #10
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That's a shame but like White said, Levine seems like he knows what he's doing. That's the big thing here. Bioshock Infinite was great and I plan to put the hours in to 100% it, but it's almost completely unrelated to the first two Bioshock games (at least to my knowledge - I only played Infinite). It's almost as if Bioshock was a badge to make a steampunk sky world in the same was as AC4 only has the badge because nobody would buy a pirate game without a franchise backing it up.
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Old 02-19-2014, 03:38 AM   #11
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Sad to see them go as a name, hope they will progress in a great manner.
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Old 02-19-2014, 03:43 AM   #12
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Quote:
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As big of a Bioshock fan as I am, I'm happy with the news to be honest. Outside of the folks who will be losing their jobs, which is always sad, I believe it's the right move. I'm sure most of them will land just fine with the resume they've built with Irrational throughout the years..
I've already talked about this a bit in the Random Thoughts Thread.

Pretty much sums up how I feel, myself.
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Old 02-19-2014, 03:52 AM   #13
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I suspect this has more to do with Bioshock Infinite's long and troubled development than Ken's planned departure.
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Old 02-19-2014, 05:45 AM   #14
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I feel like crying. So many memories of Bioshock and irrational games. I hope 2k doesn't misuse the series am I the only one that caught that 2k now owns Bioshock 100% I'm nervous about that. I can understand ken wanting to make something new. If a musician wants to expand the music he has to keep challenging himself and make more art. Pretty much that applies to making games. Ken felt like he had done everything he wanted with Bioshock and wanted to make something new. I tip my hat to him Id love to have a beer with that guy.
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Old 02-19-2014, 06:40 AM   #15
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Gonna go though and play all the old Bioshock games,just for old times sake.
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Old 02-19-2014, 10:34 AM   #16
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I feel the same as Walter. I'm also a massive Bioshock fan. In a way I'm hoping 2K don't make anymore Bioshock games, because that may be milking it a bit. I'd much prefer Bioshock to end on a high note than to end up like Assassin's Creed.
It is quite sad in a way though. Bioshock has been a big part of my gaming career. The games are unique. Like nothing I have ever played. The story driven gameplay is what makes it special and memorable and will go down in history for sure.
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Old 02-19-2014, 06:21 PM   #17
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I loved the first Bioshock. It had a fantastic narrative and took a completely more "Adult Themed" plot without throwing gratuitous profanity all over the place. The interactions with Big Daddy's as well as splicers in any fashion was unique almost every time. Very few games have sucked you in to the point where once the "reveal/twist" makes itself present, you're left flabbergasted. Heck, I'm not a big fan of demos given a weird "not enough/want more" imbalance, but Bioshock was the first demo to make me go - "I MUST play this!" and bought it that day.

The sequel was a sheer disappointment of offering the idea of becoming the Big Daddy only to get it in the final moments of the game and the notion of making the Big Sister into multiple instead of one continuous reappearance, felt like a repainting of Big Daddy Encounters. The articles before that change made encoutnering the Big Sister sound like a different way to best her each time. Instead, they basically made them Super Splicers. There was minimal challenge in comparison to facing either Rosy or a Bouncer in the predecessor.

I never got around to Infinite since the sequel was a major bomb and it honestly felt fine as a stand-alone title.
The problem here with Irrational shutting down is there really isn't a problem. Levine will surely make a comeback but as far as the studio goes, it was practically pointless. They produced almost nothing noteworthy aside from the Shock games and most weren't privy to System Shock until Bioshock was announced. In essence, Irrational was Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird in the way that, Bioshock & Infinite were quite literally the ONLY things released majorly and there was a 6 year gap in between.

I don't see a direct repeat of what happened with Bungie into 343 Studios, given Bungie was similar that the nods to the previous games (Oni, Myth, etc) were irrelevant if you weren't a Bungie fan. Until Destiny, ALL Bungie had was Halo only they worked on titles 1 through Reach.
Irrational made one great game, left the deving to the publisher 2K and they did the same thing they did with LA Noire - Offered massive POTENTIAL but ultimately no payoff. I do plan to play Infinite but everyone I trust has mentioned it is better than Bioshock 2 but still doesn't come close to topping Bioshock.

Hopefully, Levine's next foray will warrant more than 2 titles in a decade
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Old 02-19-2014, 07:06 PM   #18
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I loved the first Bioshock. It had a fantastic narrative and took a completely more "Adult Themed" plot without throwing gratuitous profanity all over the place. The interactions with Big Daddy's as well as splicers in any fashion was unique almost every time. Very few games have sucked you in to the point where once the "reveal/twist" makes itself present, you're left flabbergasted. Heck, I'm not a big fan of demos given a weird "not enough/want more" imbalance, but Bioshock was the first demo to make me go - "I MUST play this!" and bought it that day.

The sequel was a sheer disappointment of offering the idea of becoming the Big Daddy only to get it in the final moments of the game and the notion of making the Big Sister into multiple instead of one continuous reappearance, felt like a repainting of Big Daddy Encounters. The articles before that change made encoutnering the Big Sister sound like a different way to best her each time. Instead, they basically made them Super Splicers. There was minimal challenge in comparison to facing either Rosy or a Bouncer in the predecessor.

I never got around to Infinite since the sequel was a major bomb and it honestly felt fine as a stand-alone title.
The problem here with Irrational shutting down is there really isn't a problem. Levine will surely make a comeback but as far as the studio goes, it was practically pointless. They produced almost nothing noteworthy aside from the Shock games and most weren't privy to System Shock until Bioshock was announced. In essence, Irrational was Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird in the way that, Bioshock & Infinite were quite literally the ONLY things released majorly and there was a 6 year gap in between.

I don't see a direct repeat of what happened with Bungie into 343 Studios, given Bungie was similar that the nods to the previous games (Oni, Myth, etc) were irrelevant if you weren't a Bungie fan. Until Destiny, ALL Bungie had was Halo only they worked on titles 1 through Reach.
Irrational made one great game, left the deving to the publisher 2K and they did the same thing they did with LA Noire - Offered massive POTENTIAL but ultimately no payoff. I do plan to play Infinite but everyone I trust has mentioned it is better than Bioshock 2 but still doesn't come close to topping Bioshock.

Hopefully, Levine's next foray will warrant more than 2 titles in a decade
I don't mean this in a hostile way, but what does it matter if a studio/developer only releases two to four games within a fixed time period, a decade in this sense.
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Old 02-19-2014, 07:56 PM   #19
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I don't mean this in a hostile way, but what does it matter if a studio/developer only releases two to four games within a fixed time period, a decade in this sense.
There's nothing wrong with it. But obviously Levine himself would rather have shorter production times. I can't imagine the amount of work that went in to creating the universe for the Bioshock games, and half of it is roped off to the player in the end.

On a slightly related note, there is an excellent documentary about The Last of Us out. It's currently free on Amazon:
Amazon.com: Grounded: The Making of The Last of Us: Unavailable: Amazon Instant Video Amazon.com: Grounded: The Making of The Last of Us: Unavailable: Amazon Instant Video

This gives some pretty good insight to the amount of work that goes in to these kind of games.

I watched it last night, I was gonna PM you about it since I know you liked the game but this is as good of place as any I suppose. It's a well done documentary, it's not some silly thing that was tossed together for YouTube or anything.
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Old 02-19-2014, 08:27 PM   #20
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I don't mean this in a hostile way, but what does it matter if a studio/developer only releases two to four games within a fixed time period, a decade in this sense.


Agree. The more time that goes into a game, ususally the better it is. Don't bother bringing up DNF

Bioshock 2 cops so much flack.. I liked it almost as much as the first game and also thoroughly enjoyed Infinite. If anymore Bioshock games come out, I'll happily give them a try.

Ignore: We get the 2nd part of the story DLC for Infinite next week also! Going to be a very busy week for gaming though. Might have to leave it to the following week.
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Old 02-19-2014, 08:37 PM   #21
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We get the 2nd part of the story DLC for Infinite next week also! Going to be a very busy week for gaming though. Might have to leave it to the following week.
I thought Burial At Sea Part II was supposed to be released on March 25th.
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Old 02-19-2014, 08:39 PM   #22
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I thought Burial At Sea Part II was supposed to be released on March 25th.
Yeah, 25th. Same as Thief and Garden Warfare and God knows what else

That's next week isn't it? It's still early here, brain is only at 25% activity at the moment

Edit: I'm an idiot and still half asleep. *Reaches for coffee
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Old 02-19-2014, 08:40 PM   #23
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Originally Posted by WalterWhite View Post
There's nothing wrong with it. But obviously Levine himself would rather have shorter production times. I can't imagine the amount of work that went in to creating the universe for the Bioshock games, and half of it is roped off to the player in the end.

On a slightly related note, there is an excellent documentary about The Last of Us out. It's currently free on Amazon: Amazon.com: Grounded: The Making of The Last of Us: Unavailable: Amazon Instant Video

This gives some pretty good insight to the amount of work that goes in to these kind of games.

I watched it last night, I was gonna PM you about it since I know you liked the game but this is as good of place as any I suppose. It's a well done documentary, it's not some silly thing that was tossed together for YouTube or anything.
Half of it ripped off, and maybe another quarter of it is ditched entirely (the E3 demos of Infinite in 2010 and 2011 looked really different from the finished product).

I'll be sure to check that video out over the weekend when I get some free time, finally. Definitely loved the game and I'm always interested in the creative process that goes into making good narrative-driven pieces (or really any game) like The Last of Us. Thanks for the link

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We get the 2nd part of the story DLC for Infinite next week also! Going to be a very busy week for gaming though. Might have to leave it to the following week.
Next week? I thought it was coming out March 25th?
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Old 02-19-2014, 08:48 PM   #24
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I don't mean this in a hostile way, but what does it matter if a studio/developer only releases two to four games within a fixed time period, a decade in this sense.
Not at all sir! That's why I mentioned Bungie. Marathon, Myth & ONI weren't major players at all. Easily overshadowed by any given World War-esque FPS or Doom, etc. Epic Games really only made waves with Gears of War until Shadow Complex and finally refitted itself to People Can Fly for Bulletstorm.

To me, a trusted studio deals with consistency. At least with Bungie and Epic/PCF studios, their games are based on replay value for the multiplayer aspects.

I love a good SP campaign that will cause me to go through it more than once but it still doesn't offer the same as a game with MP capabilities will. BS2 had atrocious MP in the end. DLC was the only thing that kept it somewhat fresh.

Two to four games in under 10 years would be more acceptable. Two titles total? Infinite started development in 2008. With how I adored BS, I should've been amped to play this. It's predecessor was a big let down.
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Old 02-19-2014, 08:52 PM   #25
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Next week? I thought it was coming out March 25th?
Hahaa.. Maybe when I figure out what month we're in I'll post again.

How come everyone thinks Bio 2's multiplayer was sooo bad? Sure, it probably shouldn't have been there in the first place, but for what it was. I found it to be a nice distraction from the campaign. Was it because of the multiplayer achievements maybe? Apart from some occasional host-applied lag, I always had fun with it and couldn't really fault it. Still play it from time to time when someone brings it up in party chat.
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Old 02-19-2014, 09:02 PM   #26
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I'll be sure to check that video out over the weekend when I get some free time, finally. Definitely loved the game and I'm always interested in the creative process that goes into making good narrative-driven pieces (or really any game) like The Last of Us. Thanks for the link
I would recommend signing into your Amazon account and "buying it" now, I'm not sure how long it will stay free. Then you can watch it whenever you want to.
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Old 02-19-2014, 09:26 PM   #27
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I mean, I hated it. But I might not be a very good journalist. The news that Irrational would effectively close, laying off its staff, leaving Levine to start a new endeavor with just 15 former Irrational members and a flat hierarchy, came as a surprise to me -- and that's even though someone told me it could happen, a year ago.

...

No one talks to the games press officially. I wish they did, but I get it. They want to keep their jobs. Let's just say multiple people within a studio were willing to risk their careers to confirm to me that yes, in fact, if their game didn't sell extremely well, like exponentially more than its predecessor or "well" according to a matrix of time and cost investment and desired profit, that their studio would be closed in a year.
http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/2...ty_laundry.php
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Old 02-19-2014, 09:41 PM   #28
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This is the unfortunate side effect of mixing business and art. It's pretty discouraging for people who want to make it their career, not to mention scary.

It's sounds like Levine might be a bit of a dick, which is fine, it can happen when people are under pressure and their grand vision is at stake. Part of that though could be the bureaucracy of it all as explained in the article, of which the context was a bit confusing at first, haha. True or not, speculation or otherwise, you don't need to be a fly on the wall in the Irrational Games office to infer some of these problems, I'm sure most studios deal with it on a daily basis.

I thought this bit was interesting, and pretty much sums up what I was describing about making these massive budget games and probably why Levine is interested in scaling back. It's probably what needs to be done to avoid future situations like this.

Someone Who Works In The Industry told me that thanks to Ken Levine's breadth of endless ideas and philosophy of fearlessness and un-planning, Infinite grew far, far over its budget and far, far beyond its scope.
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Old 02-19-2014, 10:07 PM   #29
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I loved Bioshock series. I wasn't much of a fan of 2, but I was with the first and Infinite. I wish all of them well. Hopefully 2K will keep true with the franchise, and not have some dev make some craptastic sequels.
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Old 02-19-2014, 10:41 PM   #30
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It's sounds like Levine might be a bit of a dick, which is fine, it happens when people are under pressue. Part of that though could be the bureaucracy of it all as explained in the article, of which the context was a bit confusing at first, haha. True or not, speculation or otherwise, you don't need to be a fly on the wall in the Irrational Games office to infer some of these problems, I'm sure most studios deal with it on a daily basis.
Rod Fergusson's account of what happened would be amazing to hear.
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