BioShock Infinite: Why the characters will say more with less

Ken Levine is a very talented man. But, unlike some talented men who would sit on their talented laurels, he's all about self improvement. Which is, of course, why his current project BioShock Infinite is going to be freakin' amazing. But while most devs are happy to show off by letting characters ramble on and on about nothing just to show how fully-voiced the game is (*cough* Skyrim), Levine does things a little differently.

You may remember last week when we showed you the picture of the script for GTA III next to the script for GTA IV and freaked out over how big the latter was in comparison. Well, while BioShock Infinite's script is going to be bigger than the original's due to there being an NPC character (Elizabeth) around you as you play, the characters will actually be saying more with fewer words.

In an interview with Gamasutra, Levine explained: "The first creative thing I ever really did was write plays. What I really took away from it is how to work with actors, and how to trust actors. You have to give them space, you have to make them partners with you, don't try to overwrite for them. You have to let them find good stuff in simplicity sometimes. It's really a lot about that."

He continued: "Every time you go to bat you learn something. Every time I write a game, I think I learn how to write less - how to get an idea across with less text. How to rely on the visual space, whatever the visual elements you have in the world, or in the characters.

Above: Do you need any verbal procrastination to understand the emotion in this picture?

"People saying stuff is the last resort in a video game, especially if it's going to constrain the player from acting. You know, I want the player to be active. Active, active, active. So you just really learn, you sort of sharpen your toolset each time out. I try to get across the same amount of ideas, but I try to use less text to get that idea across. I don't know if I'll succeed, but I'm trying."

Some of this sparing attitude towards dialogue comes from necessity as the player clearly won't always be around to hear a 200 word soliloquy when they're running around blasting bad guys. But that doesn't mean the dialogue is unimportant - quite the opposite. After remotely directing voice sessions for the original, Levine is personally working with the voice actors for Booker and Elizabeth (Troy Baker and Courtnee Draper respectively) to get the best from them and his writing for BioShock Infinite.

A new BioShock with Ken Levine personally getting involved to make sure it's done right? Can. Not. Wait.

BioShock Infinite is still on track for a 2012 release on PS3, 360 and PC, although an exact date has yet to be announced.

Source: Gamasutra


  • winner2 - January 11, 2012 3:59 a.m.

    That's a script?
  • ObliqueZombie - January 10, 2012 11:24 a.m.

    Everytime I hear something new about Infinite, I'm both amazed and more impatiently excited. Ken Levine/Irrational may just be my favorite writer/developer of all time.
  • ThisIsMyFuckingThirdAccount - January 10, 2012 10:49 a.m.

  • therawski - January 10, 2012 10:42 a.m.

    See! There she is again!! Is there any other character in this game?
  • ObliqueZombie - January 10, 2012 11:21 a.m.

    Well, since Booker will always be viewed from the first person perspective, I'm not too sure you'll be seeing anymore than Elizabeth. THAT, and I'm sure it'll be spoilers to see other characters! Then again, you never saw the other characters in BioShock too much, not until you killed them.
  • ManWithNoName - January 10, 2012 8:43 a.m.

    I like how Levine think about game writing. Better than Kojima who cannot shut up his characters. please visit
  • ManWithNoName - January 10, 2012 8:42 a.m.

    I like how Levine think about game writing. better than Kojima, who cannot shut up his characters. please visit
  • vortigauntSKUL - January 10, 2012 8:08 a.m.

    Looks like they're following HL2's dependence on imagery and Gordon's muteness
  • ObliqueZombie - January 10, 2012 11:23 a.m.

    I don't think so much imagery, as raw emotion on the face. Surprisingly, Booker seems to talk a lot, from what I've seen of the voice acting sessions and trailers. But yeah, they'll definitely be going for imagery, though I'm not sure how much imagery translated into ideas during the course of Half-Life 2.
  • Channel4 - January 10, 2012 5:56 a.m.

    I'm excited for this game, mainly for the setting. But I think I hate Ken Levine. He just comes across as pretentious, boring and he has no sense of humour.
  • comaqi - January 10, 2012 7:16 a.m.

    You've never listened to Irrational Interviews have you? You see a side of him that never comes across in text interviews. He's a hilarious guy!
  • BladedFalcon - January 10, 2012 7:50 a.m.

    I could almost bet your hated is based solely in a couple comments that have been published, most recently his comment about Elizabeth's chest. Which is rather shallow, specially if you're gonna be so petty as to "hate" someone you've never met, and probably never will.
  • BaraChat - January 10, 2012 8:37 a.m.

    This coming from someone who has likely never heard Ken Levine in an interview. If you have and you still think that, I think you're beyond redemption my friend.
  • comaqi - January 10, 2012 11:13 a.m.

    Ken could narrate Moby Dick and I'd listen just to hear his voice.
  • Redeater - January 10, 2012 5:03 a.m.

    Also, can anyone seriously complain about the boobs thing and keep a straight face after all that nonsense with the latest Ivy ads?
  • Redeater - January 10, 2012 5:01 a.m.

    While I still wish they had kept this titled Icarus so I could get my Bioshock 3, I will be getting this game day one.
  • Joco84 - January 10, 2012 4:36 a.m.

    cannot wait for this game, it's going to be amazing!!

Showing 1-17 of 17 comments

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