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Jordan Thomas was featured in the latest episode of Game Developer’s Toolkit, he became a hero of a huge article at VICE. Maybe it’s because he took part in the development of Bioshock’s amazing level ‘Fort Frolic’ and worked as the Creative Director at Bioshock 2. But it’s not just this. Seems like Jordan’s name pops up every time you mention good ‘level design’. So, what makes this guy so special?
Jordan Thomas started out as a journalist until he got a contract at Psygnosis to work as a game writer. He did an internship at Surreal Software, helped to produce Drakan: Order of the Flame and moved to work on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone with KnowWonder Studio. At least that’s what the Wikipedia tells us.
While working at KnowWonder, he finally mastered the tool, which had a profound effect on his career – Unreal Engine. Thanks to his skills with world building he soon got a position at Ion Storm, where he contributed to the creation of Thief: Deadly Shadows. And what a contribution it was! While building the game, Jordan helped to create one of the creepiest game levels in history ‘Shalebridge Cradle’. If you’ve played the original game, you know it’s amazing. If you haven’t, go and read this solid article from PC Gamer and learn what you have missed.
Anyway, after shipping Thief: Deadly Shadows as the Lead Designer it was time to move on and work on Deus Ex 3, which never actually happened. Thankfully a new project was right around the corner and he was transferred to 2K Marin to work on Bioshock.
Jordan’s biggest contribution to this game was an iconic one – a level called ‘Fort Frolic’, which was analyzed by Mark Brown in the latest Game Maker’s Toolkit episode. Frolic was a collective project (as it often is in games) with contributions from the director Ken Levine, artist Scott Sinclair, designers Nate Wells and Stephen Alexander. Yet, Jordan managed to bring in his own vision, working on a project until 3 AM every night.
Funny thing, his dedication was noticed by Alyssa Finley, who became the producer at 2K Marin. She eventually invited Jordan Thomas to work as a director of BioShock 2. The article at VICE has a lot of neat pieces of info about that period of his life. Here at 80.lv we personally believe that Bioshock 2 is actually a better game than the original, so Jordan obviously did a phenomenal job here. But it wasn’t the end.
After Bioshock 2 the creative mind was moved to work on ‘The Bureau: XCOM Declassified’, which at the time looked very interesting. However, things changed and he became part of another team, working on Bioshock Infinite – ‘the Citizen Cane of games’.
Anyway, today Jordan Thomas is the co-owner of an indie studio in San Francisco Bay Area. It’s called Question. He’s not working there alone, getting help from Dishonored’s Kain Shin, Stephen Alexander and Michael Kelly (the latter two worked on Bioshock). So far this team of talented game designers has managed to publish only one game – an experimental project ‘The Magic Circle’. You can read more about it on Polygon.
Right now Question is working on its second game, of which we know nothing. If there is a person in this world, who actually knows environment storytelling, it’s probably Jordan, so no wonder we’re super excited to learn about his next project. Let’s hope it happens soon.