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BioShock Infinite U-turn made Irrational staff 'really uncomfortable'

Ken Levine and studio devs talk about constantly binning ideas

Irrational boss Ken Levine says the studio's success is down to knowing when to throw things away, but it's a policy not all his staff are comfortable with initially.


"We basically develop our games by failing," Levine told Gamasutra, "We'll just throw things away all the time. We try things, and are incredibly open to failing, and learning from that and moving on. Everybody has to get comfortable with throwing their stuff away."

"Our philosophy of process is that process serves development, it doesn't drive development," said director of product development Tim Gerritsen, speaking in the same interview alongside Levine, Infinite lead artist Shawn Robertson and art director Nate Wells. "If the process isn't serving the goals of the company, then we change the process."

"For a long time, [Infinite] looked like 'BioShock 1 in the sky," Levine explained. "That's when we came to the conclusion we had to do some aggressive change to make it a distinct look," added Wells.

"It was uncomfortable for us," Robertson admitted, talking about the initial transition to new concepts of American exceptionalism. "Ken started literally pushing back the clouds -- 'bluer, bluer!' We were really uncomfortable with it, our initial reaction is it's a little bit cartoonish.... but when we saw it in context, that was our a-ha moment."

"That searching and that failure was absolutely essential," Wells said. "By spending some time muddling around... by failing, you find it. That was an idea that I don't think that we could have landed on; we wandered to it. You need that galvanizing idea, but you can't... just do nothing until you have it."

"This isn't a studio that says, 'we're going to make a design doc on day one and build that'," Gerritsen agreed. "There are certain aspects that we still don't have 100 percent nailed-down."

We're certainly happy that Irrational was bold enough to stick with the sweeping change. Last month's awe-inspiring BioShock Infinite demo is proof that it was the right decision.

[ SOURCE: Gamasutra ]