In an open letter posted on Irrational Games' web site, founder and studio head Ken Levine said he wants to "refocus my energy on a smaller team with a flatter structure and a more direct relationship with gamers. In many ways, it will be a return to how we started: a small team making games for the core gaming audience."
Irrational started in 1999 but is best known for the Bioshock series, the first of which was released in 2007. The series began in Rapture, an under-water city built on Ayn Rand-ian philosophy that's suffering the consequences of those values. Most recently it took players to Columbia, a floating cloud-city that is one part Tea Party and one part Mormon in a setting out of The Music Man. Irrational's final contribution to the series will be part two of "Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea," downloadable content available next month.
2K, the studio that published all three Bioshock releases and developed Bioshock 2, will be taking over the franchise. We are curious to see what happens, as Bioshock 2, the only one with which Irrational was not involved, is generally considered the weakest of the three by rabid fans.
In a postscript Levine put the word out to recruiters and other studios suggesting they interview those employees who were laid off. Hearsay has it that the gaming community is also rallying around them, providing them with job leads and other moral support.
The Stranger Testing Department is Rob Lightner, Paul Hughes, and Mary Traverse.