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The Next Video Game From BioShock’s Creator Is in Development Hell

Ken Levine’s highly anticipated project was supposed to be out in 2017. People who worked on it explain how things went awry.

Ken Levine speaks during the Video Game Awards in Culver City, Calif. in 2012.

Ken Levine speaks during the Video Game Awards in Culver City, Calif. in 2012.

Photographer: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

It has been nearly eight years since development began on Ken Levine’s next video game. Levine, the creator of the hugely influential BioShock series, is an auteur of the medium. He embodies everything that comes with the title, according to people who have worked for him: a singular brilliance, stubborn perfectionism and a delicate ego.

Eight years is a long time to develop a game. Levine’s breakout 1999 release, System Shock 2, was finished in a year and a half. BioShock—a seminal shooting game released in 2007 that, according to New York magazine, “proved games could be art”—took about five years, as did a follow-up, which came out in 2013. His current project, which began in 2014, still doesn’t have a name or a release date. Development has suffered from numerous reboots and changes in direction, say 15 current and former employees of Levine’s Westwood, Massachusetts-based studio, Ghost Story Games.