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.