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BioShock Infinite loses art director, other staff six months from release

There’s trouble in the floating city of Columbia, setting of Irrational and 2K Games’ BioShock Infinite. Considering that the crumbling metropolis is home to insane revolutionary factions and towering robot birdmen obsessed with protecting psychic ladies, it’s not especially surprising that the place is unstable. Then again, a city whose primary form of transportation is zip lines was probably unstable from the start. This trouble isn’t civic distress though. Columbia has lost some of the key people working on its creation as two staffers have departed Irrational Games.

Gamasutra reported on Wednesday that art director Nate Wells and director of product development Tim Gerritsen have left Irrational for new jobs.

Wells confirmed the departure via Twitter, posting, “New Job… Details to follow.” The post was removed from his feed shortly thereafter. He’s been a member of the Irrational crew for years now and his work has defined many beloved projects including the original BioShock as well as the Thief series, Freedom Force, and BioShock progenitor System Shock 2. As Gamasutra notes, Wells’ LinkedIn profile listed Naughty Dog as an employer in 2012, but that listing has also been removed. Wells would make for a potent force at the Uncharted and Jak & Daxter studio which is already known for its quality art direction.

The departure of Wells doesn’t indicate that BioShock Infinite is in trouble though. The game was expected out this fall though it was delayed into February this past spring. Its art is established.

Gerritsen’s departure however is concerning. His role as director of product development placed him at the centre of Irrational’s relationship with 2K Games. He was also in charge of much of the company’s day-to-day operations and staffing. His leaving the company so soon after a major delay in the game’s completion indicates that, if nothing else, Irrational is in a state of flux as it rushes to finish BioShock Infinite, a period when stability is essential.

Director Ken Levine posted a letter on Irrational’s website in May when the game was delayed. “I won’t kid you: BioShock Infinite is a very big game, and we’re doing things that no one has ever done in a first-person shooter,” said Levine, “We had a similar experience with the original BioShock, which was delayed several months as our original ship date drew near. Why? Because the Big Daddies weren’t the Big Daddies you’ve since come to know and love. Because Andrew Ryan’s golf club didn’t have exactly the right swing. Because Rapture needed one more coat of grimy Art Deco. The same principle now applies to BioShock Infinite.”

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