Ghost Story Games
|Industry||Video game industry|
|Founded||February 23, 2017[a]|
Number of employees
Ghost Story Games, LLC is an American video game developer based in Westwood, Massachusetts, and led by Ken Levine. The studio is the rebranding of Irrational Games as announced in February 2017, and while still the same business subsidiary under Take-Two Interactive, the rebranding was considered a fresh start by the founders as they move into more emergent narrative-driven titles compared to the larger titles they had made under Irrational.
Irrational Games had a history of several successful titles, including BioShock and BioShock Infinite, both helmed by Levine. Levine expressed how much stress completing a large title was at the conclusion of work of BioShock Infinite, and decided that he would drastically trim down the studio "to refocus my energy on a smaller team with a flatter structure and a more direct relationship with gamers. In many ways, it will be a return to how we started: a small team making games for the core gaming audience." While Levine had considered founding a new startup for this endeavour, Take-Two convinced Levine that they would still be the best place for his studio. On February 18, 2014, the studio was restructured: Levine kept about 15 others, with Take-Two, 2K Games, and the studio helping to find positions for the other 75 employees. At this point, Irrational was effectively shut down, though over the next few years, it would continue to provide new job openings.
In October 2016, several video game journalists noted that Take-Two had filed a trademark for the name "Ghost Story", related to video games, but otherwise not clear what this was for. On February 23, 2017, the studio announced it had rebranded itself as Ghost Story Games, though they were treating it as a fresh start as a newly founded studio. It was founded by 12 of the former Irrational members with Levine still as president and creative director. The studio's focus is "to create immersive, story-driven games for people who love games that ask something of them"; the name was chosen as ghost stories "are immersive, exciting, and steeped in community", similar to their design philosophies. As of this point, the studio had about 25 employees.
While details of their first game have yet to be made, Levine has spoken on elements that they are trying to develop for it. At the 2014 Game Developers Conference following the restructure, Levine presented his idea of "narrative Legos" that he wanted to explore with this studio. Levine stated that in this concept, they can distill narrative elements to key aspects that the player can learn, act upon, and affect a non-linear narrative story, and then combine them in a way to make a player-driven, highly-replayable game. In January 2015, Levine said that their first game with the narrative Legos concept will be a "first-person sci-fi" game. During a presentation at the March 2017 EGX Rezzed conference, Levine said that this game uses a system inspired by the Nemesis System within Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, which he found provided a way to include a larger metanarrative in a game without having to customize a lot of story or dialog for it. Further, he said they included the idea of "radical recognition", in which the game's world responds in some way to actions that the player makes in a more programmatic manner, in contrast to the narrative approach used by Telltale Games which simply features branching decisions. Levine also anticipated the game will not be as "smooth" for players in contrast to the BioShock games, in that he does not anticipate that they will explain how the game's mechanics work directly to the player but require the player to figure out as they go.
- Ghost Story Games is a rebranding of Irrational Games that was founded in 1997, but the studio considers this rebranding as a fresh start and a separate history from their Irrational Games background.
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