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Cloud castles: Irrational talks next gen costs, Bioshock sequels, and educating Call of Duty

An enormous chat with level designer Shawn Elliott

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But I think, that said, there's some awesome stuff being done in free-to-play and I'm not just saying that: I've been playing a lot of Planetside 2 and it was one of those cases where I was convinced that, yeah this model definitely works because in the first week every single person I played with had spent a minimum of $30, and some as much as $80, just in one week.

It's totally anecdotal but that's everyone I know, and they tend to be cheapskates, so I think the room is there if you make the right game. Normally the question with free-to-play is: "well, is anyone actually going to pay for anything?" And you hear that it only takes about 10% of the player base to actually spend money for them to make a profit.

Another worry people have with free-to-play is that it ruins the suspension of disbelief. How do you enjoy a narrative when you're dealing with "buy me" pop-ups every so often?

Yeah that's a big challenge: how do you monetise a narrative-based free-to-play game? I don't know. I mean, I tend to be laser-focussed now just on creating the content that I've been creating. I love to hear guys like Gabe Newell talk about what they see in the future, because they're so brilliant - and especially in Gabe's case, they're vindicated by time, you know?

Like, you'll hear Gabe say something at one point and when you hear it you're like "nah that's crazy, come on now." And then you wait, just wait, and it might be five years, might be six, and suddenly: "Oh wait! Wasn't this the stuff that he was talking about that I thought was crazy?"

I swear he's growing that beard so that people take him more seriously at a glance. You can't argue with a beard. Just one last question: where will Bioshock go next? Is it time for Irrational to move on?

Right now there's only one thing on our mind - finishing it off, getting out the remaining bugs, final balance tuning and stuff for the 1999 mode, and then seeing how that does and seeing how people respond to it. But beyond that, I think if we pull this off and people are satisfied with it we'll have proven that the Bioshock brand - no pun intended - the sky's the limit on it. That we can do whatever we want with it, keeping those core tenants in mind, you know, and that there's range for a huge amount of difference between games. But that's just me speculating. We haven't talked about any specifics, at least to the public about what we're going to do next.

I hope you're successful, because there's a lot of antipathy about sequels right now.

It's not a lie to say that this is Bioshock, not by any means. But we all got to the point where we were like "this is Bioshock - but it's a tremendously different game." And so you get a little bit of both worlds there: you get the freedom of a new IP, but you also have the pedigree of the franchise.

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