Bioshock creator Ken Levine has explained his thought process when it comes to creating games, saying that the number one rule that developers need to learn is “throwing away” your work.
Speaking to Arcade Attack, Levine described his time at Looking Glass Studios, where he created Thief: The Dark Project. “My mentor figure at the time was Doug Church and we’d talk about (pitch documents that I wrote) for a while, and he’d end up saying this isn’t going to work. I’d have to learn very quickly to bounce back from rejection and I think he was right in all those cases, like I think Thief was the best of those ideas, it was the most unified of all those ideas.”
The Bioshock creator went on to admit that after his failed pitches, he went on to create “something better, and it really gave me the most important lesson in games, which I think a lot of developers struggle with, which is you’ve got to throw out your work. Just because you wrote something, it doesn’t mean it’s good enough.”
Art is often created by stumbling in the dark until you bump into something cool. This scene is a perfect illustration of that. https://t.co/tOPjWlEdxv
— Ken Levine (@levine) November 30, 2021
“As a writer, there’s a saying: ‘writing is rewriting’,” he continued. “And it’s a luxury in the games industry to be able to do that. I have been fortunate enough to be able to have that luxury and I think most of the reason that if the work I do is good, it’s because I’ve been able to say no, this isn’t working and move on and throw it out.”
“And that can come across as indecisiveness and I can definitely see why people feel that way, but for me, I don’t know another way to get there, but it also requires you to be willing to pick up that pen again and start over, and I think it’s critical, so I view it as a luxury,” he added.
At the start of the year, a report from Bloomberg, alleged that Ken Levine’s auteur management style had caused development hell at Ghost Story Games.
“The ideas and ambitions were great,” Giovanni Pasteris, an early employee, wrote in an email. “But the scope just grew and grew without concern for the team’s ability to get it done by our fall 2017 deadline. Ken wanted to make a triple-A game with a ‘budget’ team size. It was never going to happen.”
Away from Levine, details about Bioshock 4 have reportedly been revealed with the title looking at a 2022 release date.