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Ken Levine wants to make narrative “replayable”

BioShock Infinite

Those who finished BioShock Infinite wanted to do one thing and one thing only: talk about it. That’s something they’ve singularly failed to stop doing since its release seven months ago.

What they didn’t necessarily want to do was play it again. Infinite had just two minor forks in its road, as I recall, and neither yielded especially dramatic alterations to its story. How could they? Writer Ken Levine had drawn numerous complex, interlocking paths, and knocking just one off course could’ve rendered his temporally-treacherous tale nonsensical.

You might argue that the results were a little rigid, though. That’s something Levine hopes to correct in Irrational’s next game.

“I have in the back of my head – I’ve been talking about some stuff, I’ve been thinking about some stuff – about what narrative is and where it can go,” Levine told Digital Spy. “Because one thing narrative doesn’t do right now is be replayable.”

“It’s sort of, you play it and have that experience, and I’ve been thinking about how you make narrative replayable,” he went on. “And that’s not a simple problem. It’s fairly complex. The combination of content and technology – I’ve been thinking about that.”

Levine said that he was working on a GDC talk on the same subject – but protested that Irrational’s next project was in a “super-early” stage. The thinking stage, probably.

I have to say, Infinite’s genre sister Dishonored did a much better job of doing just that – making narrative replayable. It succeeded in that regard by planting its story beats as far from each other as possible, and realising that it was okay to let the player take care of some of the details. Who lived, who died, that sort of thing.

What would a BioShock with a replayable narrative look like? Can you imagine such a thing?