Rolling Stone's Glixl publication ran a detailed interview with BioShock director Ken Levine (via GameSpot). The interview touched on a wide range of subjects, including why Levine chose to step away from producing blockbuster games in favor of smaller, more experimental projects.
Levine directed 2007's original BioShock as well as BioShock Infinite, the latest entry in the franchise released back in 2013. Having been immersed in the franchise for several years by that point, Levine realized it was having adverse effects on his life.
"I saw a picture of me when we first announced it. That was 2010. And then I saw a picture of me after I did an interview on NPR when we shipped it in 2013. And I look 10 years older," he said. "It changed my life in terms of what it did to my health, and what it did to my view of making games, and my relationships with people."
Although he didn't feel up to making another installment right away, he resolved himself to table the idea and told his bosses at Take-Two that he would be leaving to create a smaller game. "I think the natural expectation was that I would go and do the next bigger and better BioShock game. And I felt, 'I think I'll fail if I do that. I think I'll lose my mind, and my marriage.' And so my solution was to quit."
Take-Two asked him to stay, and Levine and a few ex-Irrational developers formed a smaller studio as part of Take-Two. To Levine's surprise Take-Two closed Irrational Games rather than put another team on a new BioShock game.
Even so, he's happy working in a more intimate setting. "Managing 30 or 40 people where you know everybody's name is a very different process than managing 150 people. You walk by people in the studio and you don't know who they are."
2K published BioShock: The Collection for Xbox One, PS4, and PC this week. The package includes remastered versions of BioShock, BioShock 2, and BioShock Infinite, as well as all single-player DLC for each game plus extras like commentary with Levine as well as lead animator Shawn Robertson.