Ken Levine Explains Irrational Switch, "Underwater Horse"

Some time this year Ken Levine will finally let people know what game he and his studio are working on, the creative visionary behind BioShock told Kotaku today. Not yet. Today, he wanted to discuss the re-renamed Irrational Games.

As reported earlier this week, 2K Boston, the lead development studio behind BioShock, System Shock, Freedom Force and Swat 4, switched named back to Irrational Games, the name the studio was known by from 1997 until 2007 when it was acquired by Take-Two Interactive.

Levine's crew is back to being called Irrational, though not necessarily because Irrational Games is an inspired pair of words. "I don't think there's anything so great about the name Irrational," Levine told Kotaku today. It's a name that came to him and the studio's founders on a whim back in the '90s. Before it, they had been considering "Underwater Horse", based on an obscure option to wage underwater horse vs. underwater horse combat in an equally obscure board game.

What brought "Irrational Games" back, Levine explained, was the desire to evoke the studios' legacy. "We heard from the fans that maybe they missed [us]being called Irrational," he said. Internally the team wanted to change back too. "When we were bought, Take Two wanted some alignment in the branding sense. At first we were like, 'Okay, you bought the company. That's fair.'" That turned them into 2K Boston, part of Take-Two's 2K Games family. "As time went on, we wanted to go back to the original name."

Levine joked that he is "too self-centred" to have considered whether other studios that have been branded with a publisher-based name would benefit from switching to a more distinct label name. "I think it's a judgment every studio makes for themselves," he said. "There are good reasons for people to consolidate names."

For now, 2K Australia will remain 2K Australia. 2K Marin will remain 2K Marin. And, elsewhere in the industry, EA, Ubisoft, Rockstar and other publishers or development brands continue to maintain many regionally-branded development studios, such as Ubisoft Montreal or Rockstar San Diego.

As part of the re-rebranding of Irrational Games, the studio has re-launched its website. The new site kicked off with a podcast by former Games For Windows podcast standout and current Irrational employee Shawn Elliott. The site will also host interviews between Irrational developers and outside creators in a series called Irrational Interviews. First up is a chat with comics writer Brian Michael Bendis. already reveals some information about a scuttled zombie game Irrational was considering developing. More secrets will be revealed on the site, Levine said. And, while the site might not be the first place Irrational's first game since the 2007 BioShock will be announced, that game will have a presence there some time in 2010.


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