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Bioshock creator’s next game inspired by SoM’s Nemesis System, aiming for flexible narrative

Bioshock creator Ken Levine’s game studio, Irrational Games, effectively shut down earlier this year in February, but that doesn’t mean that Levine and his team aren’t working on a new project.

In fact, in a recent piece written by Levine for Medium, the genius behind the Bioshock franchise has revealed various ideas and mechanics that he wishes to implement in his current, yet unannounced project.

What is surprising is that in the aforementioned article, Levine reveals his love for Monolith’s critically acclaimed Lord of the Rings game, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, specifically of its impressive and ambitious “Nemesis System.”

For those unfamiliar with Shadow of Mordor’s Nemesis System, in short – it remembers player’s actions and behaviors, allowing the game’s narrative to reveal itself in numerous, and often unpredictable ways.

In regards to Levine’s next game, he wishes to implement a similar system into it – one that offers players flexible narrative alongside meaningful player choices (which the game will subequently adapt to, rather than breaking the story) – referring to his idea as “narrative Legos.”

Read more on Levine’s ideas for his next project after the break.


Bioshock Creator Reveals Ideas For New Project

Bioshock creator Ken Levine's new project inspired by Shadow of Mordor's Nemesis System 3

The following comes from the previously mentioned Medium article, written by Levine:

“Two years ago, I started thinking about how to build a system to let story be as variable as gameplay and still be awesome in the way story can be awesome. Could you have characters, conflicts, and dialogue that could end not in 100 states, not in 1,000, but in X to the Y states?

And that’s the new big thing that my colleagues and I have been working on at our yet-unnamed new studio. In March, I gave a talk at the Game Developers Conference about some of our ideas. We called it ‘Narrative Legos.’ The goal is to make a flexible narrative that is broadly replayable and strongly adaptive to player choice.”

Levine admits that there were times when, during work on his new project, he and his team would wonder if such an idea could blossom into a relevant, functional, and ultimately meaningful system that appeals to the gaming community – that is until Shadow of Mordor arrived on the scene, Nemesis System in hand:

“By breaking down the elements of character into small chunks and re-combining them based on randomness and, more important, responses to the player’s choices, Shadow of Mordor tells a story that could never exist in another medium. If the audience could somehow change a plot point in Death of a Salesman, the narrative would break. If they could change something in BioShock Infinite, the story would break.

But you can change the narrative in Shadow of Mordor–kill an important character, fail an important mission – and the story heals itself, because the system can create new characters on the fly… Players can choose their own paths, not by selecting from a list of three or four predetermined options, but by making decisions in an endlessly combinatorial gameplay system.

While Levine’s current project is still unannounced at this time, gamers now know some of what to expect from it. It may not be the next Bioshock, but judging by Levine’s words, it seems that it could potentially be much more than that.


What are your thoughts on Levine’s statements? Do you think taking cues from Shadow of Mordor‘s Nemesis System is something more games should be doing? What do you think of the following buzzwords in regards to video games? Flexible narrative, endless replayability, meaningful player choice, and adaptive envrionments?

Also, would you rather Levine focus on a new Bioshock game, or is a new IP more desirable to you?

Let us know in the comments section below! As always, stay tuned to Gamer Headlines for the latest in video game and technology news.


Image credit: Victor Kerlow