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IGN talks with Ken Levine
IGNPC: Is Bio a true sequel or prequel to System Shock 2, or is it a spiritual successor?

Ken Levine: BioShock has absolutely no relation to the System Shock series in terms of the intellectual property, characters, settings etc. However, it is inspired by the open-ended design principles pioneered by Looking Glass. Irrational is dedicated to maintaining that tradition.

BioShock Q&A at ShackNews
Shack: Why an underwater city? What not outerspace, or even a post-apocalyptic setting?

Ken Levine: How many games have you played in outer space? How many in a post-apocalyptic world? How many in a fantasy world about to be overrun by a mad Necromancer?

All in all, it seemed like the underwater city was due.

Through the looking Glass Interview

TTLG: Developers and fans lament that in recent game history, the same few genres are produced over and over again. What is the innovation in BioShock you are most proud of?

Ken Levine: No doubt, it's the AI. Our goal with BioShock was to make a game where the AIs have interesting and meaningful relationships with one another…in ways that really impact on the gameplay. The Big Daddys and Little Sisters are real to me, and they're real to the team. They're the moral and technological center of the game.

GameSpot Interview with Ken Levine
GS: Tell us about how diplomacy can be used solve any of the game's challenges, if it can be. How many living characters, which are articulate and sane enough to carry on a conversation, will be in the game, and how will your character's skills figure into these dialogues?

KL: I'm not a fan of dialogue trees, and I never have been. I think they're limiting in the sense that your options are always either A, or B, or C. I've never liked digital options--I've always liked expressability. I've always liked being able to choose by action, rather than choosing by pressing the 1 or 2 keys on a keyboard. So, we have, for instance, the whole moral range of the game--the big daddies, the little sisters, and the various other characters that have a stake in what's going on in the world. Some characters may encourage you to do things that may seem morally wrong, but there are advantages to do so for the player. But then, there will be other characters who will try to show players a different way to deal with situations, and encourage and reward you differently for not exploiting or hurting the little sisters. And there are different rewards that you'll get for that behavior--for both kinds of activities.