Jonathan: I've always wanted to ask: Is Thief suppose to be an allegory for capitalism?
Ken: Why do you say that?
Jonathan: Well, the acquisitive nature of the thief, his ability to take what's not his and make it his own (from which all great fortunes are amassed), and his invisibility whilst taking it.
Ken: Well, what's interesting about thief is that Garrett is more moral than the powers that be. Because at very least, he's honest about who he is. Everybody else hides behind a moral proposition or an ideology to cover up their greed and cruelty. Garret just puts it out there.
I like to think that we were creating of one of gaming's first anti-heroes.
Jonathan: As in a modern hero with a high degree of negative capability?
Ken: Most heroes in games just take on the tasks given to them because, they're, well, the heroes. I wanted Garret to be motivated by things that every day people could understand: money, women, and a sense of ownership of his own body.
Jonathan: Right, really the only different between the hero and villain in most games is that the hero is better at violence than the villain.
Ken: Whenever I write a scene and it's terrible, it's usually for one of two reasons. 1) I suck or 2) the charactersí aren't motivated. What makes Lord of the Rings great is not the heroism of the characters, it's their doubts.
Jonathan: Of course, humanism.
Ken: When 10 zillion game writers copy Tolkien, they only remember the orcs and the dragons, they forget about the most compelling elements of the story: the seductive aspects of power – something we can all relate to.
Jonathan: But we've had non-linear shooter going 6-7 years now, what makes BioShock so accessible to the mainstream, like the other titles you mentioned?
Ken: Yes, Shock 2 was a non-linear shooter. Deus Ex was a non-linear shooter. We learned a lot from making/playing those games. There are certain expectations the modern gamer has that those games didn't fulfill.
From the Shock 2 perspective, a) it was too hard to get into b) it didn't make the choices clear to the average player and c) it, frankly, wasn't visually competitive.
The key is giving the player a huge amount of expression, but giving him access to understanding that expression and those choices. If the player doesn't understand he has a choice, why bother giving it to him?