Brine and brevity: Ken Levine defends BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episode 1


Brevity is beauty, said somebody once. Not Ken Levine. Though he did say a similar thing about BioShock Infinite’s rather brief Burial at Sea DLC – only in more words, ironically enough.

“I’m very respective of people’s time and money,” he said.

In a chat with Eurogamer, Levine said that Irrational had plumped for “quality over quantity” in developing Burial at Sea’s first episode, which was released last week. The DLC can be played through in two hours – though those who “really dig deep” may find it takes them over three.

“I think there are definitely people who are like ‘Well, I want hours and hours of gameplay’,” Levine acknowledged. “I think if that is your primary metric, this probably isn’t the thing for you. If you want to feel like ‘Wow, I just got a whole new experience’ – that’s what you get out of this.”

Having sold the idea of Burial at Sea, Levine went on to relate his discomfort with the idea of selling.

“Journalists often ask me to tell their audience why they should buy something,” he said. “I’m always very uncomfortable with that question because I don’t read people’s household budgets and I can’t tell them what they should buy. We chose quality over quantity. As a gamer that’s a choice I usually make. Very few people would judge a movie based on how long it is.”

Burial at Sea is really “the first level and a half of a new game”, argued Levine – “or maybe not a new game, but of a sequel. And we knew that meant it wouldn’t be the longest gameplay experience.”

“I never pick the particularly smart approach,” he admitted. “Hey, let’s not build Rapture, let’s build Columbia. Hey, now let’s build Rapture but completely afresh with new assets and a new engine. Hey, let’s take all of game systems we designed in Infinite and modify them so they belong in Rapture. So we have basically three versions of BioShock combat now – BioShock 1 combat, BioShock Infinite combat and the hybrid that appears in Burial at Sea.

“We have this new engine so we should take advantage of it,” he continued. “And, hey, let’s make all the shops and build 3D scenes out of the window which we never had in Bioshock 1. And let’s put people in the world and make it all huge and shiny and build everything fresh – or almost everything fresh.

“So yeah, we got carried away a little bit, I won’t deny it,” he finished. “But, hey, I don’t want to work on something that I feel is kind of a B in quality. You might as well go for it. The company is okay with it, so why the hell not?”

In hisBurial at Sea review, our Steve wrote that the DLC was “two very different games struggling to find a common ground” – one a passive tour of Rapture’s waxworks, the other built from that hybrid combat system. Still: it’s hard not to applaud at least the principle of Levine’s approach, don’t you think?