"almost everything" he's worked on is a "descendent of that feeling" he had playing Ultima Underworld where it felt "like a real place."
His games are "really struggling to create a sense of place" for us to get connected with, he says. Levine has "no patience" with game designers who lecture others how they should make worlds.
He reckons the "singular most inspirational video game" to him has been Ultima Underworld. It was "like a place that sort of existed, had a life of its own."
He carried the desire to make his own version of that feeling with System Shock 2 and eventually BioShock, and now in BioShock: Infinite. Levine didn't directly work on BioShock 2 which revisited Rapture.
"These are all games that I think are really struggling to create a sense of place and a sense of rewarding the player for exploring that space and really getting to know that space, so I think almost everything I’ve done has been a descendent of that feeling I had the first time I played Ultima Underworld of just like, “Oh my God. This is like a real place. I really feel a connection to this place.” We really connect to where is this happening," explained Ken Levine.
He's not some 'engrossing world' snob when it comes to video games as he'll play anything.
"I’m perfectly happy going home and playing some dual stick zombie shooter. I love all kinds of games. I’m totally happy playing the most mindless nonsense out there. I’m also happy playing something like Bastion or Limbo, which I think is a colossal smart piece of work, but... the last I want to do is say to any game designer, “Hey, you should be doing this instead of what you’re passionate about.” In fact designers who 'preach a standard' anger Levine.
"They should do what they’re passionate about. I have no patience for any game designer who says everybody should design games just like I do. That’s f***ing bullshit. It’s so small minded. There’s room for all kinds of games."
"Some days I want to just escape and sometimes I want to go somewhere really smart and thoughtful and sometimes I want something in between. And that’s what's so great about what we do. The team and I just make the kind of games that we make because that’s where are heads are at. That’s the kind of game we like to make," continued the boss.
"You make what you make because you care about it, because you’re passionate about it. I wouldn’t know, really, how to make anything else. We made a game called Freedom Force, which is sort of a little silly homage to Silver Age comics, but that’s because I love Silver Age comics and we care about it. We care about that stuff."
"If you gave me a basketball game to make, I’d be helpless, because I don’t care about basketball. But, hey, I’m thrilled the 2K guys are out making great basketball games. So you just have to make what you love. I don’t think there’s any real recipe for what people should make," Levine noted.
Check out thebetween Ken Levine and IndustryGamers. BioShock: Infinite releases on Xbox 360, PS3 and PC sometime next year. Do you feel connected with the world of Rapture, video gamer?