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New BioShock Dev's Studio Head On Bringing The Franchise Back

A new chapter for BioShock.

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It's been quite some time since BioShock Infinite, and although publisher Take-Two Interactive, the parent company of 2K, has previously said that there's life in the franchise yet, fans have had little reason to believe in this statement. That's no longer the case, however, as 2K has established Cloud Chamber, a two-studio team that will be developing a new BioShock game.

Details on what this BioShock game is were not provided and, having spoken to Kelley Gilmore, it seemed that those details may not be clear to the team making it yet either. Since the new BioShock will be in development "for the next several years" so it could be some time before we get more concrete details, but in the meantime, we had a very brief opportunity to ask Gilmore: why Cloud Chamber and why now?

GameSpot: What makes Cloud Chamber the right studio to tackle a new BioShock project?

Kelley Gilmore: Well, that's a great question. And none of us take lightly the responsibility of taking this great franchise forward and we're really excited about it. The team we've assembled so far, it's a small team of people, but we have several folks on the leadership team who actually have come from prior BioShock games.

Hogarth de la Plante is our creative director and he's worked on a couple of the BioShock games previously. Scott Sinclair is our art director who also has been with BioShock for quite a bit, and Jonathan Pelling has worked on BioShock games in the past. So, with those three--and we have a few others throughout the team--but with those three in leadership positions, we feel like we have pretty solid BioShock DNA in this group.

And then along with them, we've hired veterans from other great gaming franchises around the industry like Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed and Star Wars. So we've got people with experience from all kinds of other games as well, and I think together that group is a pretty strong creative force.

You said it was a small team. BioShock games traditionally have been quite large projects. Do you expect this to remain a small team as a kind of skunkworks project or do you expect to grow as a studio to accommodate the ambition for this game?

Yeah, we expect to grow. And so, obviously, we're new because we're just announcing now, but we have a studio in Novato, California, and we're just opening a studio in Montreal and we are hiring. So we definitely intend to grow and we're going to grow, you know, as the game gets to a stage where we're ready to add more people to the team.

A lot of people are going to ask: why now? Why is this the right time to do BioShock and bring the franchise back?

Well, I mean, 2K has been kind of thinking about the idea of bringing BioShock back for a while and you know they have a stable of great development studios within the 2K umbrella, but everybody's busy working on their own things. So when the decision was made to actually move forward to make the next game in the BioShock franchise, they decided to just develop a team from the ground up to do that.

There's an ongoing discussion about narrative single-player games and their place within the industry as it currently stands. The BioShock franchise has always had strong narrative-driven, single-player experiences. But in an age of persistent lifestyle games, there are some questions about whether those kinds of games can be successful or even sustainable. What your take on the single-player [games]? Do you see that three-, four-, five-, however long it takes you to develop- years in the future that single-player games will still have a place within the medium?

Cloud Chamber is based in California and Québec
Cloud Chamber is based in California and Québec

If only I could predict that, I would be a very wealthy woman. You know, look, we're still creating the vision for this game and certainly, we're aware of all of that's going on in the industry currently and whether or not that indicates what people are going to want when this game comes out. It's very hard to know that for sure, but we do understand what has made the BioShock franchise great in the past, and we certainly want to uphold that so that this delivers on the promise of the brand. What we do from there, we just don't know yet.

So just to be clear, ideas like multiplayer in BioShock 2 aren't necessarily off the table. It's just, fundamentally, it will be a single-player game and from there on you're open to ideas.

I mean, honestly, I don't want to commit to any details like that right now. So I don't want to say anything definitive about what we're thinking because it's still just such an open creative process at the moment. So I'm going to stay away from confirming any of that.

You mentioned the heart of the BioShock brand. What do you think, as someone who's in a leadership role at the studio that is working with this franchise now, are the core pillars of a BioShock game and how does that match with your vision for a studio and the expertise that you have?

Well, I mean, certainly a compelling narrative, as you've already mentioned, is one of the cornerstones of this game. So that's something that we're very excited about, and we've got a team of pretty talented people who understand story and how to deliver it. So that's part of it. Of course, creating these immersive worlds that are fascinating for people to be in and experience is another piece to this that we understand is really important.

How beholden do you want to be to the legacy of BioShock? Thematically there's always been things that connect the BioShock games together, even if they're distinct in other ways. Is that something that you want to take and carry forward, to have this kind of the essence of BioShock's themes still be there? Or is it a case of, "We're starting fresh and we're bringing wholly new narrative ideas to this game?"

Well, again, it's too early for me to talk about things that specifically in terms of what we're thinking for the vision. So I'm going to keep that for a later conversation.

Longtime fans of BioShock will want to know: Was there any input from Ken Levine on the project? Do you intend to consult him given that he is kind of intrinsically linked to that franchise? You can't think of BioShock without thinking of him. Is he involved in any capacity?

Ken has his new company called Ghost Story Games. From what I understand, they're pretty immersed in creating whatever great thing they're working on, which we all know something will come out of there that's amazing as usual. So he's involved with that and he's not involved with this project.

For the sake of clarity, can you kind of break down what stage of development the game is at?

No. Other than, you know, clearly we're just announcing so we're at the beginning stages.

Now that the excitement has been stoked, do you have any kind of thoughts or plans on the cadence of news and the type of conversation that you'll have with fans? Is it going to be a case of you've announced it and now it's going to go dark for three years, or do you expect to be a little more open with your development progress and communicate with your fan base regularly with updates on the project?

Well, that is a plan I will leave in the capable hands of our 2K PR team because they put that whole plan together and I don't know what that is yet, so I don't have the answer for that.

That growth you mentioned earlier, is that expected for both Cloud Chamber studios or is it a case of the Canada team is what it is now and the California team will be the one that grows?

No, both studios will grow.

How is that dynamic going to work and how do you expect both studios to feed into this greater project?

We know that's challenging and we know lots of other studios who have multiple locations for their teams and so we're talking to a lot of them and trying to learn best practices. But from our perspective, we're viewing it as one team in two locations. So we'll have, you know, leadership in both studios and both studios will be working on core parts of the game. And that's how we're approaching it.

And communication will be key to that. And figuring out how to be able to communicate with people on a day-to-day basis through whatever equipment and technology we have that will work when we need it, we'll do that. But it definitely will be a challenge. We have a team working in Montreal now and we're finding that it's working. We have great relationships with them. We have people flying back and forth quite a bit so that we have face time with each other. And so communication will be the key and also making sure that people do feel like we're all one team and there's not one group just being a support to the other.

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Tamoor Hussain

Fear the Old Blood.

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