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System Shock 2 Retrospect...and Possible Followup? 257

Starsmore writes: "Gamespot has a retrospective on the 1999 cult classic System Shock 2, which normally isn't that big of a deal on it's own, although it's a nice read for those interested in some of the stories behind the production of System Shock 2. The biggest draw is that tucked at the end of the article (and shown below for those that don't want to RTFA), is this: 'But why even look back at System Shock 2 at this point? Because Irrational has been, and it plans to make a related announcement this Friday (tomorrow). The studio has decided that it wishes to further what it started in System Shock 2--to work on games that promote "emergent" gameplay--open-ended exploration that offers many choices and combinations of options to players. You'll see what we mean tomorrow. Be sure to come back then.' " Could this possibly mean a sequel to the System Shock franchise? Update: 10/09 22:30 EDT by C : As many of you suspected, Irrational is in the process of developing BioShock , a "spiritual successor" to the System Shock games. Here's hoping they can distill much of what made games like System Shock and Thief so successful, yet succeed at their aim of building a game with truly emergent gameplay.
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System Shock 2 Retrospect...and Possible Followup?

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  • by Starsmore ( 788910 ) on Friday October 08, 2004 @02:17AM (#10467539) Homepage
    Hey, I didn't put that stuff in on my original submission, don't blame me. :P
  • by EvilCabbage ( 589836 ) on Friday October 08, 2004 @02:22AM (#10467561) Homepage
    System Shock 2 was one of the last games that really scared the hell out of me. Clive Barkers: Undying did a pretty good job of that too.

    If only Clive and the System Shock crew could get together, I'd be afraid to turn lights off for the rest of my life.
  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Friday October 08, 2004 @02:22AM (#10467563)
    as long as it's _really_ open ended. That is, I can do what I want and live with the consequences. I can play the game however I see fit. Morrorwind did a great job of this, but it left it open to easy exploitation once you learned the system, and the game got really easy. This was fine, because there was so much to see and do I didn't care that the challenge was gone. What I hate is seeing the 'seams' in games. You know, the places where the game developer's limited what you could do because it would fsck up the pacing of the game or let you finish it too quik or they're just full of themselves and want you to do things their way (**cough** Half-Life **cough).
  • by darkmayo ( 251580 ) on Friday October 08, 2004 @02:23AM (#10467567)
    I recall there being a bunch of hullaballo with EA being pricks about that license. If Irrational hasnt accuired the license then we may be looking at a spiritual successor to System Shock 2.
  • Kick ass game (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AnthonyPaulO ( 732084 ) on Friday October 08, 2004 @02:29AM (#10467597)
    That game truly kicked ass. I've gotta say that the only games that managed to scare me have been the original Doom and System Shock 2. Everything worked so well together in SS2, I couldn't stop playing it, and when I finished, I played it again as another character. It is so good that I'm getting the itch to install it and replay it one more time. I've a former roommate that played it for a few hours (I purposely turned off the lights in the whole apartment and pumped up the 3D sound) and he kept shitting in his pants until he got up and refused to play any more of it, and that night he kept looking over his shoulder. I just died laughing. Good memories. I wish the do a SS3, I would be first in line to buy it!
  • Wow (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Knnniggit ( 800801 ) on Friday October 08, 2004 @02:39AM (#10467634)
    I played the hell out of System Shock 1 and 2, and loved them both. The monster respawning did WONDERS for the atmosphere. Even when backtracking through finished areas the games were really tense. And don't even get me started on the groves. If they choose to do this, sweet. If not, then maybe someone will have the balls to make a DOOM 3 mod. It seems like the perfect engine for it. =)
  • Re:Please not DX:IW (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PepsiProgrammer ( 545828 ) on Friday October 08, 2004 @02:53AM (#10467671)
    Exactly, the xbox ruined Deus Ex: IW. But I think some other factors did as well.

    I think the current world political situation alsoinfluenced the game in a negative way. Look at it this way, if they released a game with a plot like the original now, they'd probably all be 'detained' indefinately. The second game completely lost the feel of the first even if you can look past the xbox crippled engine/design.

    I imagine the current political situation is also why the movie project also got the axe. Nobody wants to be labeled a terrorist/antiamerican/nonrepublican anymore.
  • by Sta7ic ( 819090 ) on Friday October 08, 2004 @03:10AM (#10467735)
    "Emergent" and "open-ended" gameplay? I'm really curious as to where you people are getting these ideas. The number of games that I know of that pull either of these qualities is small, mostly including Fallout, Morrowind, Deus Ex, and the SimCity games.

    Emergent gameplay is defined as when rather than actions being scripted, the level of interaction with the environment is sufficient to allow the player options. Rather than "grab key, use on door", the player can also pick the lock, find a bomb, or find an alternate route around the door (DX, LaGaurdia Airport, using the metal crates to climb up to the window of the building leading to the hanger). These sorts of games require multiple parallel systems that usually aren't too complex, but annoying to get synced up. The "alternate route" option requires more complex level geometry, etc. If you're dealing with a globally emergent system, rather than a local one, you suddenly need to be able to track all the details going on, such as how many churches you have, and where there's more high res space.

    Open ended gameplay is a lot easier, but frequently less useful. Why have a game if all you do is run back and forth killing stuff (FF* ignoring the full motion story, BBS door games where nobody else joins in, Diablo 2) and your level increases ad nauseum? Players only navel gaze so long, even though the EverCrack and Diablo 2 addicts are threatening to prove me wrong.

    Morrowind is an example of a game with both emergence and open-ended gameplay gone horribly wrong, as others have mentioned. You can run around all you want, but you can seriously break the storyline if you wander too far, collect items within the Fence, or exterminate entire towns. It's also far too easy to wander off, get lost, and even get bored of the game. The alchemy system is a nice example of emergence, but is so broken to be insane. The enchanting and spellmaking systems, while fun, aren't all that balanced and even your strongest custom spells will look like wet firecrackers against God's Fire. Because of the massive cost of constant effects, you'll also never really keep your enchanted items after the first half of the game because they just can't cut it. The apalling weakness of scrolls is also degrading.

    Deus Ex is an example of emergent gameplay and level design coming together to make a wonderful experience. Take Hell's Kitchen, the first time around, where you have at least 30 distinct ways to learn about the warehouse, approach and enter, destroy the generator, and exit to the helicopter. Your 'ware choices seriously affect how you play your character (even if skills make less difference, since there are fewer "real" choices), along with what sort of toys you drag along. The lack of scripting in many places actually improves the game, making it possible to walk out of many areas without ever engaging the enemy.

    (flamebait) As for open-ended gameplay done right, we'll have to look at Tetris.

    If not Tetris, then Fallout 2. You can plot your course almost however you choose - doing a line drive to San Fran to snag the power armor early, go through The Den and either become a slaver or get a five-fingered discount on equipment, become a boxer, wander around the wastes... the game is as open as you want it to be and lets you go whereever you want. The variations are too many to outline, but anyone that's treked past Klamath, through New Redding, and visited NCR knows just how loosely your path is written.

    System Shock 2 had very little in these departments. The ability to hack or psi your way towards better gear was nice, but optional, and not terribly emergent -- it granted options, not other ways around. The "open ended" nature more meant farming monsters with a wrench (or energy weapon if the weapon degradation was low enough) -- no new ways around or reasons to hang around. Extra level space does not open endedness or emergence make.

    As much as I respect Shock 2, I really feel that Shock 1 was superior for the gameplay, even if I am biased to the Skorpion. Both games have an awesome atmosphere, and were very well crafted. But the limits they pushed were with the story and the technology, not the gameplay.
  • by antdude ( 79039 ) on Friday October 08, 2004 @04:27AM (#10467963) Homepage Journal
    Some cool SHODAN's quotes to give you the chills and flashbacks:

    "Step right into my trap, little hacker!"

    "Look at you hacker. A pathetic creature of meat and bone, panting and sweating as you run through my corridors. How can you challenge a perfect immortal machine?"

    "Welcome, to my DEATH MACHINE, interloper!!"

    The rest of cool quotes can be found here: [] [] is still an awesome Web site. Don't forget its forum.

    I never did get to play co-operative play with SS2. I heard it is pretty cool. Did anyone play it?

  • i'll take a remake (Score:3, Interesting)

    by real_smiff ( 611054 ) on Friday October 08, 2004 @04:33AM (#10467980)
    ok this'll probably get me flamed but i'd play a remake of SS2 with a better engine. the game was wonderful but i could never get the mouse movement smooth and responsive like it is in ID FPS games (Quake etc., or Unreal) for example. Was i doing something wrong or did anyone else find the engine had problems (movement wise, it had problems in other areas like collision detection and dodgy animation IIRC but those aren't as important to the experience).
  • by Blublu ( 647618 ) on Friday October 08, 2004 @04:53AM (#10468042) Journal
    This is why I always set my expectations to "low" for almost all games. That way, I don't get disappointed and can enjoy a game for what it is as opposed to getting disappointed by what it isn't.
  • Re:Wow (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hthb ( 798809 ) on Friday October 08, 2004 @04:59AM (#10468058) Homepage
    There was an attempt to create a SS2 remake for the Doom 3 engine (System Shock 2 :Rebooted), but EA stopped it short by sending a threat of lawsuit to the team leaders.
  • by johannesg ( 664142 ) on Friday October 08, 2004 @05:05AM (#10468072)
    Yeah, except that in Doom 3 you already know what happened so it doesn't work _at all_. Not to mention the fact that all the audiologs are more or less the same: "This is the [bored sigh] audio log of dr. [whatever]... The guys in the delta complex are ticking me off [exasperated voice] again. Something weird happened, and I wonder if it is related to them... [indifferent voice] Well, I hope everything will be alright. The code to my locker has been changed, and the new code is 1, 2, 3."

    In System Shock 2 it took a long time before the crew was even aware of any problem, and once they were they had enough time to organize resistance (unlike Doom 3 where the entire thing is over in a few minutes, basically the time it takes you to walk from the comm. center to marine HQ). As a result you find many, varied logs, some from before the problems start, some from people getting suspicious, and some from those who actively fight back.

    While it is rather hard to actually identify crew members in SS2, I often found myself wondering if the mutilated corpse in front of me was in fact that of one of the people who's logs I had been reading. The notion that I could still hear their voices while they were no longer around to speak added a poignant touch to the game.

  • Don't forget Thief (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ghostgate ( 800445 ) on Friday October 08, 2004 @05:09AM (#10468087)
    Not really a game that scared me, per se, but the original Thief made me more tense and paranoid than any other game I've ever played. Of course, you HAD to play it with the lights out to really experience it the way it was meant to be. But all the elements came together in that game so well. And unlike many other "stealth" games that have popped up since then, Thief was one of the few where you weren't enormously powerful. So you COULDN'T simply force combat whenever you wanted to, because your opponents were mostly tougher and/or would alert lots of other opponents to your presence. You HAD to be stealthy most of the time. Hell, if you played it on the most difficult skill level, you weren't allowed to kill anyone at all!

    To be honest, I'm surprised how many people consider Doom 3 such a "scary" game. Don't get me wrong, I like Doom 3, and certainly there are some startling moments; but too many of these are caused by something jumping at you from out of nowhere. It seems too forced at times, and you come to expect it. When I played Thief I was always on edge, trying to get into the darkness, listening for footsteps, waiting for just the right moment to sneak up behind someone... what fun that game was the first time through.
  • by sh0dan ( 762382 ) on Friday October 08, 2004 @05:10AM (#10468089) Homepage
    I very much agree on your points on "open-ended gameplay". It is IMO a highly hyped term for something that works very well for some types of games, but kills others.

    Open-ended-ness makes strong storytelling hard - mind you that I don't consider any of my favorite games SS1, SS2 or DX1 open-ended.
    I see DX:IW much as a failed attempt to implement this idea with a storyline. For me, the "open" structure of the story made it seem weak - I didn't really relate to any of the characters and what they stood for. Having to choose between "two evils" just seems too much like real life. Having to fight evil agains great odds is interesting - being hero for a day is something rather out of the ordinary.

    Many people criticized DX1 for forcing you to shift sides - I think it helped the storyline more than most people realized. The change itself was a great story-twist, but the opposite would have made the rest of the game rather boring. If you were never forced to change sides you wouldn't have the clear definition of friends and foes.
  • by X_Caffeine ( 451624 ) on Friday October 08, 2004 @06:55AM (#10468360)
    I wouldn't mind one bit if Irrational's new title turns out to be a "spiritual successor" rather than a new sequel. The videogame industry suffers from a plague of sequels and a dearth of original ideas.

    I enjoyed SS2 as much as every person who was lucky enough to give it a try, but after being alone on a haunted starship/base battling zombie monsters and malfunctioning security systems in SS2, Halo, Doom3, etc. I've had enough.

    System Shock's style -- FINE. GREAT. Do something new with it! (it's not as if the name Shodan even has meaning to all but a handful of the truly hard-core)
  • by He Who Has No Name ( 768306 ) on Friday October 08, 2004 @08:40AM (#10468709)
    I can't remember where I found it, but on one of the SS2 message boards a few months ago the forum members compiled a list of the named characters and their fates (dead, transformed by the Many, unknown, ghosts, and the two that made it out) I thought it said quite a bit that the game would inspire the people who played it to try and figure out who in the game world survived.
  • Re:Please not DX:IW (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Amorpheus_MMS ( 653095 ) <amorpheus&gmail,com> on Friday October 08, 2004 @11:03AM (#10469689)
    There is an interesting anectote to the missing twin towers in Deus Ex' New York skyline. The texture was too big, so they used only half of it. When somebody inquired about this, they simply replied that terrorists had destroyed them as well.

    And that was a good while before September 11, 2001...

Think of it! With VLSI we can pack 100 ENIACs in 1 sq. cm.!