Ken Levine Interview

GamerNode interviews Ken Levine to ask him - amongst other things - a few questions about BioShock 2, only apparently he hasn't played the title.
GN: I know you said in the lecture that you haven't played BioShock 2 yet. But a lot of reviews, including my own which I wrote for [GamerNode], say that while it's a good game and it improved upon problems that BioShock had that it really can't compare with what you guys did with the original. I just wanted to get your thoughts and feelings about how people still hold the original in such high regard and still feel that it just can't compare to the sequel.

KL: Well as I said not having played it I can't make a judgment as a gamer. Look, Rapture was a very fresh place and environment for people I think in the beginning. And when you're gonna do a follow up to that, the advantages are that you inherit a lot of ideas. You know people are going to care about the city. When we were making the first one we didn't know that anybody would care about Rapture, right? We didn't know they would care about Andrew Ryan. We didn't know if they would care about anything. So you go into the second one. You already have this guaranteed caring. But then it's a challenge to amaze and surprise people as much as the first one. So I think it's a mixed blessing to take on that challenge. You get some advantages and you get some challenges. It seems from what I've read that they did a good job sort of addressing some of the issues we had with the first game, some of the learning challenges we had with the first game. And they didn't have to come up with a new engine. They didn't have to come up with the world. So they got to focus on some of the challenges that we had in the first game. But it sounds like they tried to make the best possible sequel that they could.
GN: Obviously you were the creative director of the first BioShock. You had a lot to do with how the story came about. In the sequel, the main antagonist is Sophia Lamb. She is presented as the antithesis to Andrew Ryan. She is all about bringing people together, bringing the splicers together as part of a collective for the betterment of society. How do you feel what 2K Marin did by taking Andrew Ryan's philosophy and flipping it upside-down as the new premise for the antagonist of the second game?

KL: Well I think that there's two ways you can progress writing that story. There's sort of two ways to go about it. Either you sort of flip it around like they did or you go in a completely new direction. And I'm not sure which, if I were to do it, what I would have done. But I think what you don't want to do is have Andrew Ryan junior. Because then you really have a problem. And the question is do you figure out the right thing to do or do you go, "What? What am I seeing here?" You know, completely different. And I think that's another one of the hard parts when you're dealing with other people's expectations. It has to be like the first one to some degree. You also want it to be pretty different in a lot of ways. So it's a hard question to answer.