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Ken Levine: Bioshock's claustrophobia is due to "an accident of technology"

"I kept wanting more verticality and more spaces that had more choices rather than just corridors."

Bioshock Infinite isn't just a challenging new start for Bioshock - in some respects, it's the Bioshock Irrational Games boss Ken Levine originally wanted to release back in 2007. According to Levine, his intentions as to the game's famous interiors were misinterpreted by level designers, who modelled their layouts on those of spiritual predecessor System Shock 2.

"The design of Bioshock, the sameness of it - the very tight corridor, one enemy, tight corridor?" Levine remarked in an interview. "There's actually a bit of a consequence of some of the level designers thinking System Shock 2 was designed that way on purpose. Actually, the way System Shock 2 was that way was because we couldn't do anything else.


"I never intended this back in the early days, this kind of game," he went on. "We never intended that to be the only expression of it. We only had those couple hundred polygons that we could show. Those things, a dungeon crawler like that worked well with the limitation of that engine."

Created by Levine's old outfit Look Glass Studios, System Shock and its sequel are exploratory survival shooters which incorporate role-playing customisation mechanics. They're both set aboard sealed space-based environments, and pit players against an all-seeing megalomaniac entity. The links to Bioshock should be reasonably obvious.

"On Bioshock, I kept wanting more verticality and more spaces that had more choices rather than just corridors," Levine admitted. "More tactical choices. I think it was really the case that people thought they were doing what I wanted, when actually it was really just an accident of technology."


Levine recognises, however, that many players enjoyed Bioshock's close confines, and promises that Infinite isn't just about blue skies and vertiginous views. "What I like about Infinite is that - because of the technology we have, because of the world we created - there's a huge variety of the types of space you can encounter.

"There's some very traditional Bioshock in there," he said, pointing to an area early in the game which sees player character Booker DeWitt touring the headquarters of a quasi-Masonic sect. "You go through that creepy club, it's very Bioshock. Then you go out and you see this huge skyline. That variety is really an essential part of the game.

Levine reckons you'll be flabbergasted by just how much the playable spaces vary. "I think that the verticality is a huge part, the openness and the space, but we also have a lot of traditional spaces. The variety is going to be a bit shocking to people, and the scale of it, in terms of these huge open spaces and the spaces where you look over your shoulder at every corner."

Infinite hits shelves on 26th March. I'm quite happy to fight Log, a past master of martial arts, for the privilege of reviewing it.