Remember BioShock: Infinite, the first-person shooter that was brave enough to say "maybe racism is bad" in between all the wanton slaughter? Well, if you're wondering why you haven't heard much about director Ken Levine's next game, it's apparently because it's not going particularly well.
According to a new report from Bloomberg, the mind behind the revolutionary System Shock 2 and the underwater takedown of Objectivism, BioShock, is nowhere near releasing a new game despite seven and a half years of development time. In the report, current and former employees of Levine's studio Ghost Story Games describe a development environment that doesn't match the "narrative Legos" premise of the project, as well as some professional frustration with Levine himself.
Little to show so far — It's easy to forget now considering how much the video game industry has changed since 2013, but Levine was once-vaunted as one of the great "auteurs" of the medium, along with Hideo Kojima and Fumito Ueda. Unfortunately, while Levine might have an impressive CV, he's apparently quite difficult to work with, which has led key members of Ghost Story's creative staff to depart the studio over the years.
Ghost Story Games itself had a controversial genesis, as Levine dissolved his much larger studio Irrational Games in order to return to a smaller scale of development. (As the report notes, the closure of Irrational came as a surprise to the vast majority of its employees, who then had to scramble for a new job.)
However, while Levine succeeded in getting the studio size he wanted, interviewees say that his expectations for this new project did not align with the company's manpower and capabilities. "...Ken wanted to make a triple-A game with a 'budget' team size," early employee Giovanni Pasteris told Bloomberg. "It was never going to happen."
No exit in sight — The report notes that Ghost Story was originally slated to release a space-themed sci-fi shooter by fall 2017, but the project was delayed again and again due to its creeping scope. Levine would play popular games such as Dead Cells or Void Bastards (which is itself obviously inspired by the Shock series) and demand that Ghost Story's project change to fit those game's strengths.
One employee currently at the studio estimates that a release from Ghost Story could still be two years away, and feels that the dev cycle is finally on the right track. As for whether or not publisher Take-Two will run out of patience and force Levine to shunt out a game — which is exactly what happened with BioShock: Infinite, much to its detriment — employees say it's not likely. Levine describes the studio's cost as a "rounding error" to the GTA publisher.