Ken Levine Was Asked A Lot About Making BioShock Without Violence

JET1971

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Myndnix said:
Make Bioshock without the action gameplay? Not if you want to make money in this industry.
They made it with and lost enough money to close the studio down. Infinite was a failure in sales.

It is a Bioshock game and violence has always been apart of the series. If they removed the violence the game would have failed even more. You cannot switch direction in the core gameplay with each sequel and expect to have customers.
 

wetfart

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I'm having a hard time picturing a game that is essentially Bioshock crossed with Dear Esther.
 

RJ 17

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WashAran said:
Do the people, that ask this question, not get why there was so much freaking violance in this particular game?
Cult-based religious zealots following a religion of hatred and bigotry? Oppressed minorities forced into slave labor? A megalomaniac hell-bent on destroying the world of sinners below him? Surely we can come up with a peaceful solution for all this! :p

(just to be clear: sarcastic post is sarcastic)
 

Lightknight

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Aren't the people asking these questions the people who don't play games? They basically just asked a steakhouse why they can't make all their steaks vegetarian.
 

Trishbot

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To be fair, a lot of great video games, and successful video games, thrive even with minimal to non-existent violence.

Portal may have turrets shooting at you, but the violence is quite minimal and it demands a greater degree of brainpower than firepower to get through the game.

I would definitely have enjoyed a Bioshock game that was more for the thinking man that relied less on mindless action tropes, but this was the game that basically created the "chin down, eyes up" angry gun-toting male on the cover jokes.
 

alxtronic

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Lightknight said:
Aren't the people asking these questions the people who don't play games? They basically just asked a steakhouse why they can't make all their steaks vegetarian.
It's more like going to a buffet and finding out that every dish is steak. Then when you ask them for a salad, they tell you that they don't know how to make one.
 

Bruce

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Bioshock's violence, well, the problem wasn't its presence so much as it being particularly badly done.

That is the problem with ludonarrative dissonance, people point to it because it sounds smart when really what they mean is that the game's violence has become a chore and a bore.

In a lot of ways Bioshock Infinite's violence would have made a lot more of an impact if there was a lot less of it - you don't really need all that much to point out the main character is a violent person.

When people ask about a Bioshock without it, what they are really asking for is a Bioshock game without the sucky bits.
 

Astalano

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Look, I haven't played Bioshock:Infinite and have no real desire to play it anytime soon, but this is something that bugs me.

I was playing Lara Croft yesterday and found the experience incredible, but incredibly jarring. I felt cognitive dissonance swelling in my head.

On the one hand, I believed Lara Croft was a relatively untrained civilian with some special skills who couldn't really pull her weight in a firefight but had other skills in archeology, clue gathering and a sense for the world, its animals and for climbing where few people can go due to experience in mountaineering. I believed she struggled in every firefight and felt great sadness when dispatching her victims.

On the other hand, I also believed Lara was a bloodthirsty superhuman cyborg warrior, and I can say this purely due to her bodycount. The game even counts for you as part of an achievement. I looted "200 corpses", then remembered a note I found. In this note it said that Father Mathias had close to 100 members now. That would mean I killed double the maximum number of enemies possible on the island.

The fact that combat is such a big part of Lara Croft means that I can't take the story seriously. I don't believe she's helpless or a growing character. To me she's ultimately a cold-hearted killer with magical super training and a tolerance for bullets that is reminiscent of a cyborg.

I want games to show that it's not easy to kill your enemies if they want their stories to be taken seriously. People take cover, they try to protect themselves, which is why if you're listening to the unfolding Ukraine situation, when a military transport plane gets shot down carrying 40+ soldiers, it's a god damn big deal, because losing 40+ men at once is extremely unusual. Put Lara Croft in Ukraine and she would have put down the rebels and been back for tea in time.

I want serious games to have an emphasis on injuring your opponents and also up the difficulty significantly. Make firefights a challenge where you don't want to poke your head out and make them grueling affairs. Make sneaking around a necessity and make it difficult, but rewarding to succeed in whatever you do.

I personally don't care about the industry being accepted in the mainstream. What I care about is engaging and realistic experiences. I can believe the Halo games or the current game Interstellar Marines that I'm following, because in those games you're a super soldier, the best of the best, and it makes sense when you're able to make it out of impossible situations.

I've been in the army. Even hitting a target can be difficult at any significant range, which is why the army isn't just made of snipers, but uses group tactics to get enemies to dislodge themselves from whatever position they're holding instead of the aim being to kill everyone who opposes you.

Seeing enemies retreat, gather wounded, the value of ambushes, etc., would go a long way to making games believable. We've got a new wave of shooters that want to be taken seriously in terms of story, but carry an outdated gameplay system along with them.

You don't have to ditch it entirely though.

Just KNOW THE GAME YOU'RE MAKING AND MATCH THE GAMEPLAY TO THE STORY.
 

Casual Shinji

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JET1971 said:
It is a Bioshock game and violence has always been apart of the series. If they removed the violence the game would have failed even more. You cannot switch direction in the core gameplay with each sequel and expect to have customers.
I heard somewhere that Ken Levine didn't want to make this a Bioshock game, but that he had to if he wanted to make it at all. And this makes sense seeing as the game forces itself to be Bioshock while it's so at odds with the setting.
 

Lightknight

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alxtronic said:
Lightknight said:
Aren't the people asking these questions the people who don't play games? They basically just asked a steakhouse why they can't make all their steaks vegetarian.
It's more like going to a buffet and finding out that every dish is steak. Then when you ask them for a salad, they tell you that they don't know how to make one.
But all of their actual customers want steak. Not salad. I don't want an interactive story. I want a game. These assholes can stay the hell out of my games. Bioshock Infinite is literally a story about violence in a pseudo-paradise.

This is a AAA game. It isn't a buffet. This is one company making one dish and damn it I want steak. I've played Dear Esther. It's cute but I can hardly call it a game so much as a walking simulation.

If these dummies can't be bothered to figure out that those of us that game are more likely to be full grown adults than minors then we really shouldn't give them any sort of access to persuading our developers unless they're going to make their own Elmo Island games. These people get off on trying to change or censor violence to protect kids when the average gaming age was 30 before they included iOS devices in the studies and even then is still over 20.
 

TheMadDoctorsCat

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WashAran said:
Do the people, that ask this question, not get why there was so much freaking violance in this particular game?
Well I played the game all the way through, and I don't.

Seriously, 90% of the game was shooting at identikit enemies, thrown at you without any apparent reason. This should've been a movie, not a game. Even a freaking GHOST has to be fought four separate times. And why do the Vox turn on you again...? And why on earth wouldn't that dilemma have been sorted out by a couple of lines of dialogue from the main character?

I don't have a problem with the violence. I DO have a major problem with the violence in that it's used as a distraction to keep me, the player, from noticing that I have zero effect on the game's world (or worlds), regardless of what I do. (It completely fails in that.)

And I'm not even talking about choice here - "Half Life 2" has no choice, but it's still very much the player's story. Not in "Bioshock Infinite". The story happens to this other guy, who you're supposed to be playing but who keeps doing dumb stuff that you don't want him to do. The shooting is there as a crutch. It's a case of "Here's the story over here, now go over there and shoot some things to keep yourself entertained."

Now objecting to the violence BECAUSE it's violence... that's nonsensical, I agree. I wasn't aware of anybody doing this specifically about "Bioshock Infinite", but then I don't generally read the kinds of publications where you'd see that kind of criticism of games anyway. So it would quite likely pass me by.

But objecting to the violence because it's repetitive, boring, and an unnecessary distraction from a story that you have zero influence over? That's a perfectly valid criticism, and one that I've made myself.
 

TheMadDoctorsCat

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Astalano said:
Look, I haven't played Bioshock:Infinite and have no real desire to play it anytime soon, but this is something that bugs me.

I was playing Lara Croft yesterday and found the experience incredible, but incredibly jarring. I felt cognitive dissonance swelling in my head.

On the one hand, I believed Lara Croft was a relatively untrained civilian with some special skills who couldn't really pull her weight in a firefight but had other skills in archeology, clue gathering and a sense for the world, its animals and for climbing where few people can go due to experience in mountaineering. I believed she struggled in every firefight and felt great sadness when dispatching her victims.

On the other hand, I also believed Lara was a bloodthirsty superhuman cyborg warrior, and I can say this purely due to her bodycount. The game even counts for you as part of an achievement. I looted "200 corpses", then remembered a note I found. In this note it said that Father Mathias had close to 100 members now. That would mean I killed double the maximum number of enemies possible on the island.

The fact that combat is such a big part of Lara Croft means that I can't take the story seriously. I don't believe she's helpless or a growing character. To me she's ultimately a cold-hearted killer with magical super training and a tolerance for bullets that is reminiscent of a cyborg.

I want games to show that it's not easy to kill your enemies if they want their stories to be taken seriously. People take cover, they try to protect themselves, which is why if you're listening to the unfolding Ukraine situation, when a military transport plane gets shot down carrying 40+ soldiers, it's a god damn big deal, because losing 40+ men at once is extremely unusual. Put Lara Croft in Ukraine and she would have put down the rebels and been back for tea in time.

I want serious games to have an emphasis on injuring your opponents and also up the difficulty significantly. Make firefights a challenge where you don't want to poke your head out and make them grueling affairs. Make sneaking around a necessity and make it difficult, but rewarding to succeed in whatever you do.

I personally don't care about the industry being accepted in the mainstream. What I care about is engaging and realistic experiences. I can believe the Halo games or the current game Interstellar Marines that I'm following, because in those games you're a super soldier, the best of the best, and it makes sense when you're able to make it out of impossible situations.

I've been in the army. Even hitting a target can be difficult at any significant range, which is why the army isn't just made of snipers, but uses group tactics to get enemies to dislodge themselves from whatever position they're holding instead of the aim being to kill everyone who opposes you.

Seeing enemies retreat, gather wounded, the value of ambushes, etc., would go a long way to making games believable. We've got a new wave of shooters that want to be taken seriously in terms of story, but carry an outdated gameplay system along with them.

You don't have to ditch it entirely though.

Just KNOW THE GAME YOU'RE MAKING AND MATCH THE GAMEPLAY TO THE STORY.
You may not have played B:I, but I've played both games and I absolutely agree with your comparison here. As well as everything you say about "Tomb Raider". In all fairness I gave up on that game after the first couple of hours (seriously, I couldn't take any more... it was not a fun experience!) but up until that point, everything that you mention having jarred you really bugged me as well.

As for "Infinite", I've gone into this more above, but there's a massive dissonance between what you're actually doing in the game (mostly shooting irrelevant stuff) and what's happening to the world / characters around you. Mostly, the two are completely separate. And when the main character DOES have any influence on the world, it's in a cutscene or something - it's got nothing whatsoever to do with the player.
 

TomWiley

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Personally, I found the fighting in Bioshock Infinite to be dull, repetitive and little more than a distraction. What makes this game interesting is the characters, the dialogs, the rich backstory and philosophical undertones, not the braindead shooting.
 

TheRiddler

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My problem was just that the extreme violence was never at any point sufficiently justified. In Bioshock the splicers felt like monsters, but in a way they actually were. They were certainly no longer human, and were driven mad either by a combination of their genetic modifications, living in a tin can at the bottom of the sea, and just witnessing the horrors of Rapture's fall. Here, though, there's no reason for why everyday townsfolk rush Booker with a suicidal fervor and insatiable bloodlust. Rapture played like a place where Adam addicts were stalking you for their next fix; Columbia seems to put enemies in your way because, "you know, it's a video game. That is what video games do, right?" Booker's violence, while perhaps thematically appropriate considering the origins of the game itself, is nonsensical in the context of the narrative.
 

Fox12

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I always felt Levine was a bit of a coward. He wants to make art games, but he feels the need to throw in dude bro elements because he doesn't have enough faith in his work to let it stand alone on its own merits. That's why we have wonky dull fight mechanics, that's why Elizabeth was moved to the back cover, and that's why we can't go 5 seconds without shooting something in one of his games. It's a shame, I think he can be a great story teller. I just think his obsession with chasing the market is holding him back. He should have more faith in his audience and in himself, and stop trying to make philosophical stories aimed at specifically at the Mountain Dew guzzling COD crowd.
 

VondeVon

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It seems some people are a bit narky about Bioshock being criticised for being violent but I think the article just said that Levine was questioned as to whether he could make the game without it. I read this just as a theoretical/pushing the boundaries question. In that context, Levine's answer was 'no, because I don't know how to make a game without the base fighting mechanic'.


That's what I saw, anyway.
 

jFr[e]ak93

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scotth266 said:
I feel that those asking why there's violence in the Bioshock games are rather missing the point, ESPECIALLY when it comes to Infinite, as violence is a central part of Booker's character.
My thoughts exactly.

*Spoilers*

With Infinite there is a LOT of discussion about the violence at hand. Elizabeth goes so far as to condemn Booker for killing the guards in the early game, before she starts to realize the violence is necessary for survival. It also wears her down to the point of murdering someone.

Booker is caught in a cycle of murder that he can't seem to get out of... and when he does he's a tyrant that is still killing people, just with (self imposed) justification

Not having shooting in Infinite would be like having Star Wars without Jedi. Cool setting, decent story, but missing a lot of the point.
 

TheMadDoctorsCat

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TomWiley said:
Personally, I found the fighting in Bioshock Infinite to be dull, repetitive and little more than a distraction. What makes this game interesting is the characters, the dialogs, the rich backstory and philosophical undertones, not the braindead shooting.
TheRiddler said:
My problem was just that the extreme violence was never at any point sufficiently justified. In Bioshock the splicers felt like monsters, but in a way they actually were. They were certainly no longer human, and were driven mad either by a combination of their genetic modifications, living in a tin can at the bottom of the sea, and just witnessing the horrors of Rapture's fall. Here, though, there's no reason for why everyday townsfolk rush Booker with a suicidal fervor and insatiable bloodlust. Rapture played like a place where Adam addicts were stalking you for their next fix; Columbia seems to put enemies in your way because, "you know, it's a video game. That is what video games do, right?" Booker's violence, while perhaps thematically appropriate considering the origins of the game itself, is nonsensical in the context of the narrative.
Fox12 said:
I always felt Levine was a bit of a coward. He wants to make art games, but he feels the need to throw in dude bro elements because he doesn't have enough faith in his work to let it stand alone on its own merits. That's why we have wonky dull fight mechanics, that's why Elizabeth was moved to the back cover, and that's why we can't go 5 seconds without shooting something in one of his games. It's a shame, I think he can be a great story teller. I just think his obsession with chasing the market is holding him back. He should have more faith in his audience and in himself, and stop trying to make philosophical stories aimed at specifically at the Mountain Dew guzzling COD crowd.
Very well said all. And to the last guy... the weird thing is that Levine has never gone this way before. There's been violence in all of the games of his that I've played, yes, but it's never felt as peripheral and extraneous as it has here. In fact, there's so little of Levine in this Levine game that I'm wondering just how much pressure was put on him by the studios - and how much that affected his subsequent decisions with regards to his career.
jFr[e said:
ak93]
scotth266 said:
I feel that those asking why there's violence in the Bioshock games are rather missing the point, ESPECIALLY when it comes to Infinite, as violence is a central part of Booker's character.
My thoughts exactly.

*Spoilers*

With Infinite there is a LOT of discussion about the violence at hand. Elizabeth goes so far as to condemn Booker for killing the guards in the early game, before she starts to realize the violence is necessary for survival. It also wears her down to the point of murdering someone.

Booker is caught in a cycle of murder that he can't seem to get out of... and when he does he's a tyrant that is still killing people, just with (self imposed) justification

Not having shooting in Infinite would be like having Star Wars without Jedi. Cool setting, decent story, but missing a lot of the point.
I don't think we're missing the point. I absolutely agree that violence is endemic to Booker's nature. But that doesn't excuse the fact that the way it's portrayed in the game makes absolutely no sense, and has no consequences! EVERY decision that has any consequences in the game is made either offscreen or in a cutscene. The player has no control over it. Mowing down leagues of identikit "bad guys" (who in most cases aren't really bad guys and whose presence often isn't really justified either) doesn't make the point that Booker's tragic flaw is the violence within him, because tragic flaws have CONSEQUENCES. What you, the player, do during the game does not. That's my whole problem with it, right there.

But even disregarding this... it's a videogame! So to say it's Booker's story at all misses the entire damn point. It's the PLAYER'S story. Booker should be the avatar for the player first and foremost. That's not to say that he can't have his own character, but it has to be one that the player can sympathise with. Booker constantly makes stupid decisions that I wouldn't have made, yet I'm supposed to be the one controlling him. So what the heck am I supposed to do with that? It's not like I'm reading a book or watching a movie here. This guy's the protagonist of a videogame. His decisions should be my decisions. If they're not, then I'm sorry, but that's a dealbreaker.

When Gordon Freeman - who, although mute, has a very clearly defined character and backstory in the "Half Life" universe - led the resistance against the combine, it fit naturally into the world and into his character, yet I always felt that it was ME leading the resistance when I controlled him. I felt as though my actions had some weight to them. I felt that there was a connection between me and the world I'd been thrown into. The exact same was true of "System Shock", "System Shock 2", and "Bioshock". When was that ever the case in "Bioshock: Infinite"? It wasn't for me.