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Ken Levine reflects on BioShock: 'I don't enjoy shipping games'

"If I could still get paid, I would make games and never ship them," Ken Levine tells Glixel, reflecting on his time making BioShocks. "I don't enjoy shipping games. I think it's kind of dreadful."
"It changed my life in terms of what it did to my health, and what it did to my view of making games, and my relationships with people."

- Game designer Ken Levine reflects on the experience of making BioShock Infinite.

It's been nearly a decade since Irrational Games earned widespread acclaim for releasing the original BioShock, and more than two years since the venerable studio effectively shut down after shipping BioShock Infinite.

Now publisher 2K Games has breathed a bit of life into the franchise by releasing remastered versions of all the BioShock games in a single pack -- BioShock: The Collection. In an effort to shine more light on the series' genesis, Glixel recently sat down for a chat with series frontman Ken Levine about game development, politics and BioShock's design problems.

The full interview makes for interesting reading, as Levine speaks candidly about how it felt to go from working on BioShock with a modest team to working on Infinite with a much larger group of people who were spread out across the globe.

"The studio was split up. My business partner, Jon Chey, ran the Australian part of our group. He and I were the yin and yang of the organization, the creative side and the production side. Jon and some people from my team were moved to 2K Marin for BioShock 2," said Levine. "It was hard enough to build Irrational the first time. We had to rebuild it while making this big follow-up. The culture got so shattered, it was never properly rebuilt. I don't think Irrational ever recovered from that schism."

He also speaks frankly about his own weaknesses as a game maker, and expresses a sentiment that many developers may sympathize with: that in hindsight, the work of making a game is often more enjoyable than the work of shipping it.

"If I could still get paid, I would make games and never ship them. I don't enjoy shipping games. I think it's kind of dreadful," Levine told Glixel. "You're exposing yourself in a very real way. You're saying, 'This is what I worked on, now go make a judgment about me and my work.' That's not always fun. The real, warm experience is being with the team and making it."

The full interview is well worth reading, as it includes further comments from Levine about everything from BioShock's design failings ("It's terrible. You have this great game, and then you end up fighting this giant nude dude," he says, remarking to the game's final boss fight. "We didn't have a better idea,") to the thinking behind some of the games' political themes.

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