When it comes to Ken Levine’s games, discussions about his characters are inevitable. Perhaps it’s because his games contain so few characters (there are few people in Rapture left with functioning brains) that when they are on screen they tend to be arresting. The likes of Sander Cohen, Andrew Ryan, and Elizabeth Comstock have all been praised, but Levine plans to go further with his next, still highly secretive project.
He’s developing a new character system which allows feelings to emerge based on underlying constants of wants, needs, and passions.
Talking to Game Informer, Levine said: “The whole system that I came up with and that we’re developing is based upon the fact that to make an interesting character, you have to have a character who has a bunch of passions, wants, and needs. The player now has the ability to facilitate those wants or needs or go against those wants or needs or ignore those wants or needs.
“The reason I think the system is going to work is because it’s a very organic way to look at a character. It’s a quite systemic game. The character’s feelings about you change, they go up and down. But the heart of a character is still wants and needs, and that makes it no different than anything I’ve ever written before.
“If you look at the characters and what they want and need, that’s the heart of what the characters are – not their skin color, religion, [or] their sex. It’s what they want, what they need, and what’s in their way. That’s a function of talking about who they are and how they got to this place. Sometimes it’s skin color, race, or gender gets them to that place. But that’s a story.”
Describing the characters as systemic makes it sound as if the aim is to make characters far more dynamic and organic in their reactions to you and your approaches. No doubt such a system will require a phenomenal amount of recorded dialogue.
Levine seems to be content to drip-feed information on his new project, which is apparently attempting to create a non-linear narrative that is highly replayable. But with no title and no story outline yet revealed, it’s anyone’s guess what it may turn out to be. It is being developed for PC in Unreal Engine 4 though, so it will probably be quite pretty.