Thoughts On The End Of Bioshock
Okay so technically Bioshock isn’t going anywhere, but in the longer run that might not be the case due to recent events.
When Ken Levine, fearless leader of Irrational Games, mostly dissolved his studio the gaming world was shocked. What would happen to Bioshock? Everyone asked. It has been handed off to 2K in exchange for their support of Levine’s new endeavor. He wants to pursue the innovative and admirable goal of creating a game that has high replay value and a strong narrative. I’m skeptical about how all that will turn out, and even more skeptical about giving up Irrational Games as it once was to do it.
I do hope it works out for him, but a lot of gamers weren’t as hopeful. People are upset that those hard working folks got laid off. People are worried about what’s going to happen to a favorite franchise. It’s understandable. In the end Irrational was Levine’s studio and he has a right to fire everyone and follow his dreams, but I really would have preferred he left the team intact and maybe just did what Hideo Kojima has been dreaming of doing with Metal Gear Solid for years now and take on a supervisory role.
The employees will probably be fine, they get to have a bunch of Bioshock stuff on their resume and a letter of recommendation from one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people. It’s the series that’s in trouble from my perspective.
As you may know Bioshock 2 was handled by 2K Marin, and while I think it was quite good in its own respect most agreed it didn’t live up to the first. It did have the benefit of the lore and environment that Levine had created though. Bioshock Infinite had the creator back at the helm and it was magnificent. There has been a very late kind of public backlash recently against the game in comments sections but from my reading it appears these folks just didn’t understand the game from top to bottom. If you don’t get it then yeah you’d see it as another shooter, but it’s not.
After the Burial At Sea DLC Infinite will be done. I don’t suspect anyone will endeavor to return us to Columbia in the next game. I suspect there will be an attempt at a whole new premise, which would be the right path but who really has confidence that the deep and compelling writing will return along with the proper environmental panache and that nice mix of RPG and FPS we are so used to?
The trend today is to pass off big, established franchises to young, unproven teams to see what they can do with it. That may not happen here with so much riding on it, but what probably will happen is the same kind of free-for-all that always happens once the major creative minds are gone. Things go mainstream, and by mainstream I don’t mean popular, I mean the kind of mainstream that dictates that everything must be developed for people possessing nothing greater than an 8th grade education.
In short, 2K must tread careful ground not to wind up with a surfacey, old-timey run of the mill shooter that fancies itself as clever by pulling an unexpected ending out of its ass. It’s a difficult problem that many fiction writers run into. My suggestion: find a new visionary and bet on him or her.
Appealing to the masses will end Bioshock just as it is threatening to end so many other once great franchises.