Pub/dev powerhouse 2K today announced the formation of a new studio, Cloud Chamber, whose primary objective is to develop the next entry in the long-running BioShock franchise. (Kotaku reports that Cloud Chamber has actually existed for a couple of years, but I’ll get to that in a minute.) It’s been six years since the most-recent BioShock game, BioShock: Infinite, put a man and a lighthouse on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PC in 2013 — a PlayStation Vita port was announced, but never produced.
Cloud Chamber is unique among 2K’s pantheon of internal development studios, as it is the first to occupy space in both the U.S. and Canada. “Kelley Gilmore will serve as Cloud Chamber’s Global Studio Head and be the first woman in 2K history to launch and lead a development studio,” according to 2K’s press release. Gilmore oversaw the rebirth of the XCOM franchise at Firaxis after its acquisition by 2K in 2005, with Executive Producer credits on XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Enemy Within, along with XCOM 2. Civilization 5 and 6 were also Gilmore joints.
As interesting as it would be for a long-running FPS franchise like BioShock to take the hard left into 4X territory, 2K probably selected Gilmore for her extensive team leadership experience, rather than her work in the turn-based strategy genre. Her dual-studio team includes BioShock series alumni Hoagy de la Plante, Scott Sinclair, and Jonathan Pelling, according to an email statement from Gilmore to IGN. Between the three of them, de la Plante, Sinclair, and Pelling have worked on every BioShock game up until now.
BioShock series originator Ken Levine, who handled writing duties and creative direction for BioShock and BioShock: Infinite, is not affiliated with the new project in any way. In 2014, Levine laid off the majority of his studio, Irrational Games, after deciding that he would rather focus on smaller narrative experiences, instead of big triple-A blockbusters like BioShock: Infinite. (This was around the time that interest in traditional big-budget shootman games was at its lowest, and story-focused first-person indie games like Dear Esther, Gone Home, and The Stanley Parable were all anybody was talking about. What a coincidence!)
Irrational, still under 2K’s corporate umbrella, was renamed to Ghost Story Games. In all, 75 people were pushed out of Irrational’s doors so that Levine could do … whatever it is he’s been doing for the last five years. Ghost Story Games has never officially announced a project, let alone released one. Seems like a smart investment!
According to sources speaking with Kotaku, this latest BioShock has been in development in one form or another since as far back as 2015, when it was a project under development at 2K support studio Certain Affinity in Austin, Texas. A year later, the project would be taken from Certain Affinity and given to Gilmore and her fledgling team back at 2K headquarters in Novato, California.
There’s no word on whether Gilmore’s BioShock is a reboot or continuation of the series, or if it’ll return to either of the series’ iconic dystopian hellhole cities, Rapture (underwater) and Columbia (flying). Both Gilmore and 2K maintain that the game will be in development for several more years at least, so there’s still plenty of time for them to invent a new kind of post-capitalist wonderland defined by avarice and suffering. Might I suggest: San Francisco, California, circa 2019?