BioShock Paved Way for Unconventional Shooters, Says Creator Levine

By Aaron Linde, Aug 05, 2008 8:00pm PDT 2K Boston and 2K Australia's narrative-heavy BioShock (PC, PS3, 360) has exposed millions to a new brand of shooter and effectively opened a new market, lead designer Ken Levine believes.

"I can pretty much guarantee to you that if BioShock wasn't successful, there never would have been another game like this," Levine told Eurogamer.

"I don't even know how we convinced people to pay for BioShock. These games had never made any money—everybody told us when we were pitching BioShock, sounds like a great idea, you'll sell 150,000 units—next!"

Levine added that his team aimed to popularize the gameplay emphasized in BioShock, which featured first-person shooting blended with role-playing and customization elements. BioShock predecessor System Shock 2 (PC) employed those elements to a much greater degree, but failed to reach commercial sales expectations.

"How many of these type of games do you think are going to be made now, compared to how many were going to be made before?" Levine asked. "How many people had played these kind of games before? 300,000, 400,000—maybe? Now millions of people, because of this game, have played this type of game."

The developer concluded that BioShock success will allow future titles to take greater risks in the genre, citing Westwood Studios' 1992 real-time strategy Dune II as a precursor to such modern RTS games as Relic Entertainment's Company of Heroes.

"Before, as great as System Shock 2 and Deus Ex were, nobody bought them. We wanted to crack that. I think now, the sky's the limit for how deep these games can go."

Following publisher Take-Two's announcement of a BioShock sequel, Levine has since revealed that he is 'not substantially' involved in the game's development, and is currently at work on a yet unannounced title.

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37 Threads* | 135 Comments

  • BioShock engineered a lot of its own hype by looking great and having a more imaginative setting than just about any other game. GameSpot couldn't shut up about it after they saw it for the first time. For me the game was a masterpiece of story-telling and a brilliantly fun shooter. It was never intended as a RPG so it's not surprising those elements weren't as sophisticated as, say, System Shock 2. Anyone who bought BioShock expecting a RPG should have read, I don't know, any one of a 1000 previews where Levine said it was, first and foremost, a FPS.

    It stood out from the crowd, had buckets of original thinking, and sold extremely well. I think we should let the guy enjoy his success for a change.

  • Bioshock was a great game. But lets be realistic here. If Bioshock had sucked, there would always be people willing to try new things. Moreover, the thing that made Bioshock unique was mostly the setting and the art directon. It's not like they reinvinted first person shooters. They just borrowed from a sub-genre that has yet to be explored in games.

    If you want to be really unique, how about coming up with a new idea that hasn;t been explored over and over again in books and movies? Ya., that's not very easy and frankly video games are likely a waste of a good idea anyway.

  • I think launching it simultaneously on a console had a huge impact on its success as well. System Shock and Deus Ex were amazing games, but launched on PC where they had a limited market. Not that they were all that high in hardware requirements. At the time only gamers really owned the rigs capable of playing FPS games. It was a niche market.
    Even if you raved about either title your console owning friends weren't going to see them. And for word of mouth to be effective you'd want to launch the console version at the same time.
    Bioshock was coming out of the gate with a small but strong fanbase that raved about the previous incarnations. Having it appear multiplatform meant that if the consumer didn't have the PC to handle it, they most likely had the Xbox to do so if they're a modern day gamer.
    The word of mouth effect probably boosted its sales on the Xbox considerably.
    Never underestimate the power of happy customers to increase your sales.