Ken Levine makes his games like a sculptor makes sculpture. The creative director of BioShock Infinite and co-founder of Irrational Games told Polygon in a wide-ranging feature that means a lot of chiseling until he manages to find the statue.
But those raw blocks of marble don't just appear in his studio. It takes the combined efforts of dozens of developers, who work on iteration after iteration of every piece of content, until the vision sparks for Levine. Sometimes it never does, as was the case for a colorful shantytown area which was stripped from the game after months of work.
Longtime art director Nate Wells left after clashing with Levine about that decision, one of several high-profile departures from the studio which left us rather worried.
"I'm very friendly with a lot of people from work," Levine said, "but at the end of the day you have to accept the fact that you as a person are sometimes going to be ... a person who sometimes disappoints people. If you get really stuck over the fact that they may be upset with you for that, you compromise the game for that, they may like you less as a friend. You have to be very careful about that because you can end up really not fulfilling your responsibilities."
While the game is now in its final stages of polish and other preparations for its March 26 release, significant revisions were being made to the story as recently as this summer. This creative process can be difficult for those unfamiliar with it, Levine said in a Reddit Ask Me Anything thread.
"BioShock games are the hardest kind of games to make that I've ever worked on. I think sometimes people on the team look at the old timers and wonder, 'Do these guys have any idea what they're doing?' Because we know part of the process is not knowing, but discovering. But that's hard for people who haven't been through it before to always understand."