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Ken Levine AMA Talks BioShock Infinite, Burial at Sea DLC & Release Date, The Future, PS4/Xbox One, Elizabeth Porn, Weapon Wheel Returning, Much More

October 8, 2013 Written by Jason Dunning

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With the release date of Burial at Sea Episode One for BioShock Infinite seemingly very close, Ken Levine and Andres Gonzalez from Irrational Games took part in the always fun Reddit AMA.

As in previous AMAs (Naughty Dog, 2K Marin, Deep Silver, Volition, Ellen Page, Keiji Inafune), we have sifted through all the comments and broken down the interesting parts into a simple Q&A form below:

*Spoilers Ahead for BioShock Infinite

Andres Gonzalez, Lead Level Designer of Burial at Sea

What made you decide you want to go back to Rapture for the BioShock Infinite DLC?

We wanted the opportunity to show what Rapture was like before the fall and leverage the power of the BioShock Infinite engine to build the environments in a way that wasn’t possible to us before. This was a creative challenge that we found very exciting and we took full advantage by building Rapture pretty much from the ground up for the DLC.

Since Burial at Sea Episode One is mostly narrative, what unique challenges does that create for designing the levels?

There is a narrative area at the beginning of the DLC, but there is quite a bit of gameplay in Burial at Sea as well. Since we made the decision to set the DLC back in Rapture, we reworked and rebalanced the gameplay systems more towards stealth and resource management. This gave us the opportunity to create combat encounters that are more player initiated and give greater tactical opportunities.

The main challenge we face when designing any BioShock level is creating spaces that tell the story we want to tell and also support the gameplay. Specifically for Burial at Sea, creating spaces that allowed us to show what Rapture was like before the fall and support the new gameplay encounters was the hardest creative challenge we faced as level designers.

Is there more of a focus on the narrative and less in combat in Burial at Sea, particularly Episode One?

Burial at Sea has a new story AND new gameplay. Because we wanted to bring players to Rapture before the fall, we basically rebuilt Rapture from scratch and reworked the gameplay systems to offer a unique experience that has elements of the original Bioshock, but is built in the Bioshock Infinite engine. What we ended up with was an experience that feels new and unique.

Can you give any hints as to what new plasmids and weapons we will be seeing in Rapture?

I can tell you that for Burial at Sea: Episode One we added new weapon, a new Plasmid, new Gear, Tears and we brought back the weapon wheel…

As far as upgrades go, there are upgrades available for Plasmids and you can upgrade the new weapon.

Will there be any more DLC?

Clash in the Clouds and the two episodes for Burial at Sea are the only packs that are currently planned.

Do you have any plans in bringing cut content to BioShock Infinite as DLC or something?

Almost everything in our DLC is entirely new and created for our new engine. We don’t have any cutting room content.

At what point did you decide to return to Rapture?

Once we finished Infinite, we started talking about what we wanted to do for the DLC. The idea of setting it in Rapture before the fall came up pretty quickly, and once it did, we knew that’s what we wanted to do.

What was the development process like for Burial at Sea? What was it like to work with two source materials?

Having the opportunity to draw from both worlds was daunting but one of the most rewarding creative challenges we had. It was a lot of work to sort through all the possibilities and find the threads that aided us in telling the story we wanted to tell.

Will the feeling of Rapture as a character return in the DLC?

Sure, that’s one of the main challenges we had when we decided to set the DLC in Rapture. We spent a lot of time figuring out how to build Rapture before the fall, and thought a lot about how the citizens would behave in Rapture and the kinds of things they would say and do. As you play it, I’d encourage you to walk around and really take it in. There is a lot of attention to detail in the spaces we built.

Was there any point in designing Burial At Sea where it felt too BioShock 1 and 2? Did you ever step back and think — is this too far from Infinite to be DLC?

Not really… We knew we wanted to draw from both universes, and the challenging part was finding the opportunities in bringing the two together to offer an interesting experience.

We did that with the story, the environments and the gameplay, and early on we realized we had something that felt new and unique.

Ken Levine, Creative Director and Co-Founder of Irrational Games

What was it like developing a functional Rapture as opposed to a dilapidated one?

Developing a functional Rapture has been awesome because we never got to do that before. I always saw it in my head, but to put it on screen and to do it in a new engine, with actual citizens around has been great. I got to geek out on Rapture in it’s prime.

Are the BioShock games over?

We really have no solid idea what’s coming next. Almost the entire team is on Burial at Sea. I wish that was some PR crap, because life would be easier if I knew what was next, but it ain’t.

Will there be anymore DLC?

No plans as of yet.

As Burial at Sea is looking to be Film Noir, I expect future DLC installments to follow various genres such as Spaghetti Western and Romantic Comedy. Thoughts?

It’s going to be porn. Lots and lots of porn.

Seriously, whoever is doing the Elizabeth porn on deviantart, please stop it. You’re killing me. It’s like coming across a picture of your daughter. I die a little inside with every page view.

What were your inspirations for Elizabeth’s look and demeanor?

She was awesome to design, one of the hilights of my year. She was actually conceived by Jorge Lacera, Gavin Goulden and myself. Sarah Rosa did a ton of research on period looks and we sort of mixed and matched from Lauren Bacall, Rita Hayworth, and like five other people. We wanted her outfit to feel very Elizabeth, but very Rapture at the same time. This isn’t the same girl you met in her tower (the same person, but changed by experience).

Were Booker and Elizabeth originally related in the early versions of the game?

We never talked about them being a romantic pair. That was a product of your fertile imagination, my friend.

Are the Luteces going to appear again?

Hmmm, can’t say. I’ll suppose I’ll flip a coin.

What were your inspirations for BioShock and BioShock Infinite?

Bio1: Miller’s Crossing, Logan’s Run, Ayn Rand, The Shining.

Infinite: There will be blood, O Brother where art thou?, Angel Heart, Beauty and the Beast.

Do we have a release date yet for Burial at Sea Episode One?

We will have both console platforms in submission by the end of the week with the first parties. After that, the ball’s in their court, but it’s coming. We don’t have a date for part 2 yet, but we’re working our asses off on it.

So next week we could be playing Burial at Sea Part One?

Hey, slow down there Tex. Submission can take some time, and if the first parties bounce it back, we’ll have to resubmit. We want to super sure before we have a date, but it will be before the holidays and hopefully fairly soon.

How do you personally feel about the new consoles?

To be honest, I don’t spend a ton of time thinking about [the] platform. I think about experiences. I have a vague set of notions about what design concepts I’d like to pursue in the future, and they’re not really platform dependent.

Did you find this AMA informative? Let us know in the comments below.