Ken Levine On Next Game: Shadow Of Mordor Validated Interest In ‘Narrative Replayability’

by Mike Futter on Jan 27, 2015 at 07:36 AM

Irrational Games founder and BioShock mastermind Ken Levine took to Twitter today to answer questions about his new team’s inaugural project. We learned a bit more about the title, though don’t expect a title (or concrete specifics today).

Levine says he’s trying to approach this project through the lens of open development. As such, he took questions from fans that help put his next game in focus a bit.

The game is likely to be a first-person title with a sci-fi feel or setting. As we learned at GDC 2014 though, Levine and his crew are taking a different approach to storytelling. 

These “narrative Legos” will empower players with non-linear story beats that can be interchanged or work in different orders. What this will yield, according to Levine, is a breakaway from the traditional, linear three-act structure.

And while he says that the game will play out in chapter segments, Levine is clear that it won’t emulate Telltale’s style as seen in The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us.

The new narrative approach will still allow for voice acting and AI (though something dissimilar from Elizabeth in BioShock Infinite). “But [we] have to write them very differently so smaller chunks recombine in meaningful ways,” he writes. “Lots of headscratching.”

Levine was asked if Monolith’s Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, which also created emergent and unexpected narrative, might have impacted this project. “Mostly in that it validated that people would care about narrative replayability,” he says.

The primary character likely won’t be a fixed character like Booker in BioShock Infinite (or Talion in Shadow of Mordor). Rather, the player will be able to project him or herself onto the template

Don’t expect to see Levine’s new game at E3. “That's not the way we want to share it with people,” he says. And, for those of you anxiously awaiting the name of the new team, we have some good news. “We think we’re close on that,” Levine says.  

In 2014, Levine worked with 2K to wind down Irrational Games and reboot with a smaller, nimble team. This project will be that initiatives inaugural outing, and it is currently planned for PC, with a prototype hopefully available in the coming months.

[Source: Ken Levine on Twitter]


Our Take
I’ve greatly enjoyed Levine’s work on the BioShock series, and the more I hear about this new endeavor the more excited I get. I hope the ambition of the project and the time and flexibility his small team have been afforded result in something truly unique and groundbreaking.