Levine Talks BioShock’s Checkered Launch

Levine Talks BioShock's Checkered Launch

In an interview with Next Generation, BioShock director and creator Ken Levine discusses technical troubles, surprise success and allegations of violence against children.

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2K Boston Director Ken Levine has had a long week. The launch of BioShock, a stunning achievement in gaming that should have been met with celebration and long vacations, has instead been dealt blow after blow as forums explode with complaints of technical troubles and broken bonuses. What’s more, some reporters at more mainstream publications are starting to question if the game’s potential for violence against ‘Little Sisters’ is going too far.

Tech Troubles and Rapid Response

Through all this, Levine is pushing forward. “We’ve had a couple hiccups along the way,” he says. “If the launch was as good as the game, we wouldn’t have these problems.”

It’s a reference not only to how proud he is of the project, but to the critical and commercial success that BioShock is now experiencing. But it’s that very success that has helped cause some of the launch’s most difficult issues. The number of PC activations of the game that have occurred this week overwhelmed the game’s anti-piracy authentication servers, Levine says. “The problem that we have had is that our activation servers were a little wonky earlier in the week.” He is now positive however that the situation is dealt with.

That’s not the only trouble that BioShock has had with its copy protection, but with SecuROM more than doubling the game’s number of allowable reinstallations from two to five, Levine is confident that the issue is likewise resolved.

But it’s not just technical issues that have troubled BioShock in its first few days of retail existence. The Limited Edition of the game has also been experiencing complaints, as the Big Daddy figures that were shipped in the package were prone to breaking during shipment. Gamers also complained about the soundtrack CD, which only had three song mixes from Moby.

Levine tells us that these situations are also issues no longer. 2K Games will be replacing broken Big Daddy figures, providing a free art book to affected consumers as well. “People have had some broken Big Daddies. We’ve dealt with that. People are upset about the soundtrack; we’re going to make the soundtrack available for free.“ Levine says he doesn’t know the exact specifics of this new soundtrack, but that it will feature music from the game and be available gratis.

These are just quibbles though, issues that have been or are being solved. BioShock is free to move past them, and once it does it appears the sky is the limit for the game.

The Future for Rapture

Levine brushes off questions of player interactions with the girl-like ‘little sister’ characters as being overly violent. Regarding allegations made by the Boston Patriot Ledger, he says, “I’m not surprised,” understanding that this is the bent normally taken by such local outlets. Of course Levine stands by his game’s artistic vision, telling us “We take the story we’re telling very seriously. Anyone who has had the experience of harvesting a little sister, it’s about the least exploitative imagining of that concept on screen.”

Instead of dwelling on such non-issues, Levine is looking forward. When asked if he thought the game could maintain its momentum through the holiday season, he is quick to point out anecdotal evidence that despite shooters being a “boys with their toys” genre (“And no shooter has more toys than BioShock,” he adds), other family members watching the game being played have also been quick to pick up the controller. He accurately states that this doesn’t normally happen with shooters.

Which naturally leads to questions of franchise. Regarding the potential for there to be more games in BioShock’s future, Levine states that in thinking about the question there are three other questions that must be asked.

“Am I interested in continuing to work in the world?” is the first question, to which Levine answers “Yes, I am.” The second question, if there is a popular demand for such work, is also answered in the positive by Levine—though in truth he need not answer at all, the game’s high review scores and server-breaking sales alone telling that tale. But the third question is whether or not the story is complete, whether or not BioShock has told all there is to tell.

“I think that’s the question we have to ask now,” Levine states. Hopefully he’ll take the weekend off first.