Kotaku has published a lengthy report on BioShock Infinite following the departure of four key staff members: director of product development Tim Gerritsen, art director Nate Wells, design lead Jeff McGann, and systems designer Kenneth Strickland. The report is a mix of confirmed and unconfirmed details, the biggest of which is a pair of axed multiplayer modes.
According to three sources “familiar with the game,” the development team at Irrational Games has struggled to create a game that “meets the promise” of early demos shown at game expos like E3 and PAX. The game had initially been set to include two multiplayer modes, which have since been removed.
The above, mixed with even more departures (a sizable amount of the original BioShock Infinite team is no longer working on the game), appears to be a troubling burden for the Irrational sequel. But Irrational Games creative director Ken Levine addressed these concerns during a phone call with Kotaku.
“In a company of 200 people you’re going to have turnover,” Levine said. “We never like to see a guy like Nate leave because he’s been here for a long time but it’s been 13 years and I think sometimes people want to spread their wings. I’m not going to stop people. We love Nate and I think we all remain friends. After 13 years he sort of finished his work on BioShock Infinite, as you will be able to tell when you see the game again… I think Nate’s moving on to something else.”
As a result of Nate and his colleagues’ departures, Epic Games director of production and Gears of War producer Rod Fergusson has reportedly been brought in to fulfill former design lead Gerritsen’s duties and help finish the project. Levine would not comment on this.
While a significant chunk of the original Infinite team is gone, much of the remaining team worked on the original BioShock back in 2007.
“As far as the team itself, the lead artist, the art director, the creative director, the lead effects artist, the senior sound guy, the lead programer and the lead AI programmer from BioShock 1 are all on BioShock Infinite. I don’t think there’s a single senior BioShock team member that isn’t here, which I think is amazing and a testament to their commitment to the studio. And there are a ton of amazing people who weren’t on BioShock 1 that are on BioShock Infinite.”
Jordan Thomas, who designed the first game’s “Fort Frolic” stage, has also been “on loan” from 2K Marin, Levine said.
Moving back to Kotaku’s unnamed sources, they described Irrational’s development process as lacking focus. The game’s two multiplayer modes, for instance, took months of work, only to be tossed in the long run. Even so, the studio placed a large internal focus on multiplayer while it was still underway in order to prevent the game from being traded in as quickly as the first title. It is unclear whether the game has more than two multiplayer modes. (Basically, we don’t know if there are any remaining.)
Similar to a tower defense game, the first cancelled multiplayer mode saw players miniaturized and placed into an old-timey arcade machine where they would fight against waves of enemy toys rolling out on tracks. The second, internally known as “Spec Ops,” was similar to the Spec Ops mode in Modern Warfare, where four players would play together in a co-op game, and make their way through levels from the single-player campaign.
So should you be worried?
“It’s always challenging when you’re trying to make a game that does a lot of different things,” said Levine. “Trust me, there are plenty of things in this game—either it was the Skyline or Elizabeth—where there were movements in the team to get rid of them. Because they are the most challenging things.
“When you are trying to innovate,” he continued, “the path is not always clear and these things take time. But I guarantee this: The next time we show you guys the game the judge will be you, not me.”
BioShock Infinite is due for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC in February 2013.