A Message from Ken Levine

by IG.Ken on August 12 2010

179 comments

Keeping secrets is hard.

The last three years for me have been dominated by a single question: “What are you guys doing there?”

Some of you were pretty certain it was an X-COM game, which I can now safely say it is not.  It is also not part of the Freedom Force, SWAT, X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter, Kingdom Hearts or Yar’s Revenge franchises.  The time for discussing what Irrational Games is NOT doing is over.

Today we announce BioShock Infinite.

That’s right, this is a BioShock game.

It’s a sequel.

But it’s also not a sequel.

Let me explain.

At Irrational Games, we believe that in order to fulfill expectations, you have to defy expectations.

When we completed the original BioShock, we felt we had said all we wanted to say with Rapture, but we weren’t done with the idea that is BioShockBioShock is so much more than a story of a single place or a single time.  We had so much more we wanted to say.

There are two core principles for us that define a BioShock game. First, it has to be set in a world that is both fantastical and yet also grounded in the human experience. Second, it has to provide gamers with a large set of tools, and then set them loose in an environment that empowers them to solve problems in their own way.

It would have been easier for us to go back to the well. We could have taken the easy route.  We could have simply done more of the same, but we would not have been true to ourselves as game developers.  Making the original BioShock was hard.  We challenged ourselves every step of the way, and we tossed aside many elements and ideas simply because they weren’t good enough.

So when we started the sequel, we said to ourselves: “We want to expand on those core principles, but beyond that, there are no sacred cows.  Everything else that people know or think they know about BioShock is open for negotiation.”

You will find yourself in a completely new world.  Columbia is not an unknown secret city at the bottom of the sea.  It’s a creation of an America transforming from a regional agrarian collection of states into a world power with global reach.

You now play an actual character, and not a cypher who is unaware of his own identity.  You are Booker Dewitt, a particular character with an established history, with a voice you will hear as he talks to himself and others in the game.

You’ve come to Columbia for a reason: to find a mysterious young woman named Elizabeth and bring her safely out of the city. She will travel with you, interact with you, and react to the situations you cause to happen, and through your relationship with her, we’re able to tell the story of this new and amazing world.

This world of Columbia presents radical differences in scale from what you are used to. You’re not crawling through corridors on the ocean floor, claustrophobic with the weight of the ocean bearing down on you.  Instead you find yourself navigating through huge environments, zipping around on Sky-Lines at eighty miles per hour and getting into firefights at ranges of two thousand yards.

In fact, there is so much new and radical about BioShock Infinite that we simply can’t tell you all about it in one revelation.  What we present to the world today is merely the tip of a very large iceberg.  In the coming months we’ll begin to reveal more of what BioShock Infinite is all about and let the world know why we are so excited.

For now, we want to thank you all for your patience, and for sticking with us all these many months while we labored in silence.The time for silence is over. First up for the fans of this site is another episode of Irrational Behavior with Shawn Elliott that covers the announcement of BioShock Infinite and the work that led up to it. I’m sure you’ll dig it.

Down the road a bit, actual gameplay footage awaits. It’s something you’re going to want to watch more than once. Trust me on this one.

Avatar Image Posted this August 12 2010 03:20 pm, under Insider
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  • zer0hvk | August 12, 2010 3:31 pm

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    this is amazing, I can’t wait to see some gameplay, I’ve ben having trouble downloading the trailer (maybe because thousands of people are doing so as well), but I’ll watch it in a couple of minutes.
    I gotta say, I did not see this coming, it’s a pleasant and unexpected surprise, I can’t wait to see more of what you’re working on.
    You guys are amazing, 2012 can’t come soon enough.

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  • nickhemlepp | August 12, 2010 3:32 pm

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    I am… Flustered, in the biblical way about this game.. mercy me

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  • jslaked | August 12, 2010 3:32 pm

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    I cannot wait to be in Columbia. :D

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  • pharaoh | August 12, 2010 3:36 pm

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    Looking forward to the excellent gameplay, great story and social commentary that Mr. Levine and Irrational games are famous for.

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  • nickhemlepp | August 12, 2010 3:36 pm

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    @pharaoh: Indeed! I was trying to write a piece on religion and pop culture on Bioshock, but Ann Rand got in my way /pout/

    Side note: The Mayans may have been right: The end of the world is in 2012.. becasue this game will make all others into Aquaman 64 ^.^

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  • Rye0077r | August 12, 2010 3:38 pm

    Hole. Lee. Crap! Well played, Irrational. Well played indeed!

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  • roxy | August 12, 2010 3:39 pm

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    I am excited for this game more than words can explain. Thank you so much for continuing to expand BioShock with this new game. I’ll be waiting anxiously for new previews and information.

    Keep up all the good work! *^_^*

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  • mikeohara | August 12, 2010 3:41 pm

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    I downloaded the trailer and was very amazed with the footage presented. Can’t wait for the game to come out!

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  • g1mrg323 | August 12, 2010 3:42 pm

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    I’m so happy, I’m crying!

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  • pbhawks45 | August 12, 2010 3:44 pm

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    Balls, Ken.

    You and your studio gots some big ass balls. Congrats. GIMME GIMME NOW.

    Looking forward to the demo footage.

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  • danieljameslearmouth | August 12, 2010 3:45 pm

    This is going to be perhaps the greatest game you have ever made if you pull this off IG. Keep up the good work!… would you kindly?

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  • nickhemlepp | August 12, 2010 3:52 pm

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    Quick idea: Do you think that their will be resident evil 5 style co-op?

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  • neuroman42 | August 12, 2010 3:56 pm

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    I want this to be more than essentially a reskin of Rapture. Stunning trailer… but I am still worried. Just being honest.

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    • drewjamicks | August 12, 2010 4:25 pm

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      Ken himself said they built this game from the ground up, using zero assets from the previous game and a completely new engine. Woot!

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      • neuroman42 | August 12, 2010 4:38 pm

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        Does not mean this is NOT the same game. The trailer looked amazing, but it is still giving off the vibe of JUST being “BioShock in the Sky”.

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  • lflips25 | August 12, 2010 4:00 pm

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    This game will NOT disappoint. I think it’s going to exceed expectations again. Can’t wait for this one!

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  • Salvor | August 12, 2010 4:06 pm

    *dances*

    This is all.

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  • jamesrandy | August 12, 2010 4:06 pm

    Levine you rock dude, I have all the confi-d-ence in the world in this project. And tbh I guessed that icarus was SOMETHING to do with the sky!

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  • borrego | August 12, 2010 4:09 pm

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    BioShock really isn’t just a game, but an idea. I LOVE that you guys are delving even deeper into the concept of BioShock! Great times we live in!

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  • chowda | August 12, 2010 4:13 pm

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    How far into development is this? :)

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  • seankh | August 12, 2010 4:20 pm

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    Ken, thx for the info. Can’t wait for more details. The relationship you guys have with the community is what makes you a first class developer. Thx.

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  • facture | August 12, 2010 4:21 pm

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    You know, I always thought there was an age when I would stop playing games because I maybe thought I needed to grow up (I’m 37 1/2), stop doing frivolous things, etc, etc. But time and time again, someone like Kevin and his team come gently knocking on my door and telling my mind, “look at this”. I’ve played games since the 70’s and I really don’t think there has been quite a series that has captured my attention, dreams, and inspiration like the Bioshock franchise. What is it that draws me in so deep about these games? The atmosphere? Locations? Art Deco inspired architecture or maybe the well-thought out soundtracks that are accompanied by fantastic gameplay (thanks Ten Cents a Dance). I think it’s all these wonderful ideas molded into one beautiful piece of art. And after reviewing the trailer, it does what its meant to do. It pulls me in, takes me to someone elses dreams and fantasies, while making me want to stay, live, play and dream within their own dream. Fantastic job Kevin and team. You never disappoint.

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    • borrego | August 12, 2010 4:30 pm

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      I’m with you. I don’t think video games will ever take back seat as something I should leave in my high school days, pot smoking days, or whatever. They won’t be pushed back because there is so much to be experienced in a game like BioShock. Great post! It is Ken though, just for future reference.

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  • neuroman42 | August 12, 2010 4:23 pm

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    More Bioshock might be a good thing but I’m also disappointed you guys aren’t doing something NEW, I really wanted something more, then just riding the Bioshock train once again. BS2 was just more of the same… and now we get BioShock in the sky?!? Even the name just does not really fit the sky setting… would have dropped the name for something NEW. I trust IG… just hope you’re not becoming EA with their sequel factory.

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    • drewjamicks | August 12, 2010 4:28 pm

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      In all fairness to IG, Bioshock 2 was developed by 2K Marin

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      • neuroman42 | August 12, 2010 4:37 pm

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        I understand that… why drag the name of BioShock on when the last one was lack-luster. Seems smarter to start fresh… and disconnect yourself from that series.

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  • drewjamicks | August 12, 2010 4:23 pm

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    EXCELLENT! Take your time with this, we can wait. :)

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  • xybot | August 12, 2010 4:23 pm

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    It looks great! I can’t wait to see how (if at all) it relates to the other 2 games. Has anyone else been pausing the trailer to see is they can make out the billboards?

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  • kuhnen | August 12, 2010 4:24 pm

    Honestly.. I almost cried reading this post..

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  • number47 | August 12, 2010 4:25 pm

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    I will wait with my comments, till I have seen gameplay footage, but my inital thoughts is: not that impressed. That may be because I was slightly dissapointed with Bioshock in the first place.

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  • Vengeful | August 12, 2010 4:25 pm

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    You cannot believe how happy I am that you guys are making a bioshock game true to what you guys wanted to do, not just a sequel set in Rapture. I applaud you greatly! and I can’t wait for this, please for the love of god come out soon, I have no patience.

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  • obie191970 | August 12, 2010 4:35 pm

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    I see this game and all I can think of is the Chums of Chance and the skyship Inconvenience. If Against the Day was at least a minor inspiration for this I’d be shocked.

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  • slamelov | August 12, 2010 4:38 pm

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    I must admit that I’m a bit dissapointed. I hope I change my opinion about this “new” project when you release more information about the game, narrative, gameplay…

    Anyway, I’m sure I will buy it, as always I have done with Irrational Games.

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  • August 12, 2010 4:40 pm

    A Message from Ken Levine | Irrational Games…

    I found your entry interesting do I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)

    See Original Post at [www.wwnewsflash.com]

  • erezyehuda | August 12, 2010 4:40 pm

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    This sounds wonderful, and looks intriguing. No problem here with Rapture out of the picture, but I’d definitely feel like something was missing were it not at least mentioned, and it’d be nice if we learned of its fate.

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  • adventecho | August 12, 2010 4:55 pm

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    Looks amazing so far i cant wait to see more on the new game. I’m a huge fan of the BioShock series and this is another game in the series that im excited to play :)

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  • clavietika | August 12, 2010 4:56 pm

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    Looks great! I can’t wait to see more of it.

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  • davidebasile | August 12, 2010 4:57 pm

    Thank you guys for existing, the original BioShock was an incredible experience that signed my life and mind for the years to come, so did all the other games you’ve created so far. And now you’re giving me another reason to live, really. I hope 2012 arrives as soon as possible…! Again, thanks!

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  • rexneron | August 12, 2010 5:03 pm

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    As much as I enjoyed Bioshock 2, I think you guys are getting close to all you can with the world of Rapture. I’d venture to think that we could wrap up any loose ends with Rapture through Bioshock 2 DLC. That said, I’m excited to see what’s possible with Columbia.

    Quite honestly, I was really hoping this was NOT a Division 9 announcement. I’m personally burnt out with the whole zombie theme.

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  • crowejohn20 | August 12, 2010 5:03 pm

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    *shocked* and very happy.

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  • sukharevskaya | August 12, 2010 5:13 pm

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    Thank you Mr. Levine for putting so much effort into this project and Bioshock. You have redefined the industry. I’ll be honest, I didn’t like the name Bioshock attached to it at first, but you conviced me in your article, and I respect that. Just make us proud…..and give it to us 2011 :)

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  • nabeel | August 12, 2010 5:18 pm

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    Wow, I had thought of the idea before, but never expected it to be the game you guys were working on! Very, very excited!

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  • elestian | August 12, 2010 5:46 pm

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    Ken, you are easily the best writer in the video game industry, and your style shows even in simple blog posts like this. I was disappointed to learn that you were not truely associated with BioShock 2, but if this is the product I get in return then I am more than satisfied. Infinite looks amazing and I’m sure that its story will not fail to excite and intrigue.

    MARRY ME, PLS
    :D

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  • pizawle | August 12, 2010 5:53 pm

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    I thought you might be doing BioShock 3. or somehow System Shock 3. I even thought AeroShock was a real possibility, even though most stated it as a joke. But I honestly thought you guys were going to do something new again. Something fresh. And in a way you are. But also you are not.

    I really adore this concept of BioShock now. That it is an idea. It is so eloquent and lovely. Such a perfect way to describe what you have masterminded. However, it does come with a couple of concerns.

    First, you can take this anywhere, expand and improve on it all you wish but in the end the base remains the same. That hurts it. Because even though it is truly great and can remain great there is something formulaic about it despite whatever changes and enhancements you make. It is kind of an ironic counter to what this is supposed to stand for.

    And second, five years to make this. It better be truly incredible (which I’m sure it will be). The bigger thing is if you guys are going to keep doing BioShock, now that you are establishing it in this way, that means Irrational Games, which already gives us a new title so rarely, is not going to be bringing anything truly new. You always will and yet you will not. That is a huge downer. You guys are some of the most creative, talented folks in the industry. To inhibit that, even in this way, is a bit of a shame.

    Also, and this is unrelated to the the rest of it, but am not sure about the Infinite subtitle. Perhaps you can provide some more basis for that.

    Anyway, despite that ominous dark cloud looming, I am still greatly thrilled about this project and have trust in IG to fully deliver and hopefully also wipe my fears, that I’ve stated, away.

    Godspeed to Columbia!

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  • tr00pa | August 12, 2010 5:55 pm

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    I guess I had expected something like System Shock 3, but I guess evolution takes time :) It all started in the ocean, then the Sky was the limit, and finally we might end up in…space ?

    What was that with the discreet smile when the journalist from Joystiq asked Mr. Levine about the possibilities of BioShock going into Space ?

    I´m looking very much forward to se the actual gameplay of BioShock Infinite, damn you guys are awesome :)

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  • cristoflanga | August 12, 2010 6:02 pm

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    YYYEEEESSS!!! I kinda dreamed for something like this for the past years, since I finished the original. Haven’t touched the second one. And now I feel like crying! :D .

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  • reptar | August 12, 2010 6:25 pm

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    awsome

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  • August 12, 2010 6:50 pm

    [...] from the teaser video and the Ken Levine announcement made today, the franchise is aiming for the sky. Set in the fictional world of Columbia, a city [...]

    See Original Post at [popculturemonster.com]

  • gregjackson | August 12, 2010 7:09 pm

    This is going to be awesome, 2012 can’t come fast enough :)

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  • luisgerardozwittagsolana | August 12, 2010 7:26 pm

    Amazing guys!!!! I can’t wait to see more of this!!!!!! And @Gregjackson I don’t think this game will come till 2012… I think more likely 2011 looks like they’ve been working with this one quite a while now…

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  • marijnlems | August 12, 2010 7:40 pm

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    “There are two core principles for us that define a BioShock game. First, it has to be set in a world that is both fantastical and yet also grounded in the human experience. Second, it has to provide gamers with a large set of tools, and then set them loose in an environment that empowers them to solve problems in their own way.”

    See also: System Shock. So why not just say fuck you to the marketing department and just call your NEW IP Aeroshock? Don’t let this massively stupid title be a blemish on your otherwise unimpeachable efforts…

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    • borrego | August 12, 2010 8:01 pm

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      You’re seriously on Irrational’s website saying this? I’m sure we’re all insanely excited about the title you’re bringing to the table!!

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      • marijnlems | August 13, 2010 5:20 am

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        See also Johnny Maverik’s comment below – he puts it a lot better than I did.

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    • borrego | August 13, 2010 10:58 am

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      I just read Johnny Maverik’s comment. I see what you guys are saying. Here’s how i see it: BioShock itself is more of a theme. Yes, we originally played in Rapture when we were introduced to it. To me, BioShock is way more about survival in a terrifying situation, brought on by epic human error. Even though Rapture is a very intriguing location, I always thought that the real quality of BioShock was in the message behind the story. Irrational can take any paradise and turn it into the most terrifying place you’ve ever visited. When you think about it, the term “bioshock” was never once even used in the script. This is a little wordy, but bottom line, I think they’ve had lots of time to think it over. I’m going to trust they know more about what they’re doing than we do.

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  • karltimmerman | August 12, 2010 7:49 pm

    Emergent mechanics in a sky environment with a known protagonist. Victorian stylization with a theme of American Imperialism. Mechanical men with rude intentions, and a damsel in distress.

    I’m sure it is going to be great but I was hoping for something darker and more cerebral. Oh well.

    Bioshock 2 ruined Bioshock as a franchise for me anyway.

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  • elementdelta59 | August 12, 2010 8:06 pm

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    Hello, Ken… Please stop what you are doing immediately. I aspire to become a game developer in my future, I have already come up with multiple ideas for games and have about five employees at the moment. I understand the creative sways that make games, games. But what you are doing with the Bioshock franchise is a big step. I bet your probably eager for this idea to become reality but you need to take your time. I personally LOVE Bioshock and has inspired a couple of game ideas for me. But for me the part of Bioshock that makes the game Bioshock… is Rapture. With the direction that you took in making a Bioshock 2 has opened the floodgates on the city and now you must let it all in! You need to end Rapture! Do NOT make this Bioshock 3! I STRONGLY suggest that you make a Bioshock 3 that is enormous and the masterpiece of Rapture. It explains all the secrets and ends with the city’s destruction. I honestly cried at the thought of you leaving Rapture with Bioshock 2, maybe Minervas Den will do just that but please. You’ve started something that you must follow through on! So developer to developer, this is my opinion, but it’s your franchise, do whatever you will.

    As for my first views of the game i feel disappointed. Like this isn’t Bioshock, which it’s not! But if they do close Rapture i can move on. But i feel like crap having Rapture be a cliffhanger… I would really love to finish it off. ~Maybe we can make a business deal in the future ;)

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    • aguynamedjustin | August 12, 2010 11:36 pm

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      But Irrational had nothing to do with Bioshock 2. Really, Rapture’s story was complete at the end of the original Bioshock. The setting of the original game was integral to the it’s theme but in Bioshock 2 it was just an excuse to have “Explore even more of that place you liked before!” on the back of the box. It already seems that an opulent airship city flying high above the rest of the world is a great place to set a parable about the American century. I’m excited and I feel that anyone who has enjoyed Irrational’s previous work should be too.

      Good luck Ken and Co. At least I now have something to look forward to in 2012 before the Mayans rise from the dead and turn our machines against us like in that one movie with the AC/DC soundtrack.

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    • taylorward | August 13, 2010 12:04 am

      I don’t mean to troll, but I read through your post and noticed a flaw. Ken Levine had nothing to do with Bioshock 2. I just thought that I would point that out.

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      • taylorward | August 13, 2010 12:05 am

        Haha oh. I failed to see the post above mine. My apologies.

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    • helixpea | August 13, 2010 12:20 am

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      From a gamer to a developer, you should take a look at the credits before you say anything about this new game. I respect your ideas and preference on keeping it within Rapture… but Bioshock Infinite looks amazing. And by reading Ken’s message, he is indirectly saying that this is the *real* Bioshock sequel, which is why it is not simply titled “Bioshock 3″.

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    • borrego | August 13, 2010 12:39 am

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      While Rapture is an absolutely fantastic setting, I never felt that BioShock was exclusive to Rapture. The term bioshock is never actually used as dialogue in the story, but rather serves as the name of the entire idea behind the story. So, as a gamer, for all I care, they could have a BioShock Egypt, and I would still be excited because I know what kind of story and gameplay I am going to experience.

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    • iceejoe | August 13, 2010 12:01 pm

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      in bioshock 2 you blow up rapture and send it into the black abyss (big black hole) sorry friend but Rapture is Dead!

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      • elementdelta59 | August 13, 2010 12:58 pm

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        sorry for you but you don’t blow up Rapture! Lamb blows up persephone big difference!

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  • jetblack | August 12, 2010 8:35 pm

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    2012… you are a cruel person Ken. Just show us more. :)

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  • juan29zapata | August 12, 2010 8:44 pm

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    Can’t believe it’s for 2012! I hope that at least there will be nice information about it, and trailers as mysterious as this one.

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