System Shock 2 - All News
Monday - December 21, 2015
System Shock 2 - Still Irrational's Best Work
Bioshock was alright, says Eurogamer, but System Shock 2 still remains the studio's finest achievement.
2007's BioShock blew everyone away with its momentous second-act twist. The scene in which you finally encounter Andrew Ryan, your body buzzing with adrenaline after the rigmarole you've gone through to find this megalomaniac, only to be delivered the debilitating narrative gut-punch that you've been guided like a puppet the entire time, is often considered one of gaming's greatest feats of storytelling. In fact, so successful is this scene that it ends up hurting the remainder of the game. The flurry of half-baked ideas that follow - your plasmids don't work, you're sort of a Big Daddy - fail to rebuild the momentum which leads up to that clarifying moment.
It's also surprising that, at the time, more people didn't see it coming, as the setup and delivery echo an equivalent reveal penned by Ken Levine in System Shock 2, the game to which BioShock was marketed as a spiritual successor. On deck four of the ill-fated spaceship Von Braun, the character you've been working with for the first half of the game turns out to be the dead puppet of SHODAN, the malevolent AI introduced in the original System Shock.
It's only when you examine the two side by see that it becomes clear why this is. Both are games dedicated to the exploration of player agency, or more specifically the lack of it. BioShock saves all of its narrative impact for a single moment, a spectacular power-fantasy that pulls the rug from beneath the player's feet two-thirds of the way through. By comparison, System Shock 2's revelation is basically SHODAN's way of saying hello.
Tuesday - August 11, 2015
System Shock 2 - Retrospective Review @ US Gamer
Jeremy Parish (US Gamer) takes a look back at System Shock 2:
System Shock 2 Proved the FPS Could be More Than Doom Clones
It was Ultima Underworld that served as the inflection point for System Shock and its sequel, System Shock 2. Developed by Blue Sky Productions, Underworld had debuted nearly a full two years before DOOM, and it simplified the rules and mechanics of Ultima in order to make them work in the context of first-person action. While not really a shooter in the modern sense — melee weapons were far more common than missile attacks, and the computer tallied attack damage with virtual dice rolls — it nevertheless feels like a proto-FPS in many ways. Yet, at the same time, the window on the action is surrounded by a classic RPG frame that depicts icons for various actions, a text window, inventory items, and a breakdown of the protagonist's gear and stats. Compared to what DOOM would bring, Ultima Underworld felt glacial and cumbersome... but it was also deep and substantial, succeeding in a completely different respect from id's hit.
Sunday - November 02, 2014
System Shock 2 - Community Patch Update
Forum member dark savant notified me that a new update is available for the System Shock 2 Community Patch. Read the the link above for more information.
SCP is intended to serve as an unofficial patch for System Shock 2 that delivers an authentic but also highly polished SS2 gameplay experience—hopefully approximating the form SS2 would have taken if Irrational had had a few more months to work on it before release. All changes have been made with the intent of respecting Irrational’s original vision. The other goal of SCP is to upgrade SS2 to take advantage of the enhanced graphical features of the NewDark engine in those ways that are beyond the means of standalone mods.
The guiding principle for SCP has been that SS2’s gameplay is fine as-is, and that its greatest strength is immersion—its ability to make players feel like they’re really trapped on board the Von Braun with all its horrors. So while we’ve tweaked game systems and made adjustments to the level geometry, the goal hasn’t been balancing gameplay, but rather eliminating those things that don’t make sense to the point that they take you out of the game. Anything illogical, gamey, or otherwise immersion-breaking, we’ve tried to correct.
Tuesday - August 12, 2014
System Shock 2 - Post-Mortem @ Gamasutra
Game Developer Jonathan Chey has a new article hosted on Gamasutra with a new three page Post-Mortem for System Shock 2 to celebrate the games 15th anniversary.
This is the story of a young and inexperienced company that was given the chance to develop the sequel to one of the top ten games of all time. The sequel was allotted roughly one year of development with its full team. To make up for the short development cycle and correspondingly small budget, the project was supposed to reuse technology. Not technology in the sense of a stand-alone engine from another game, but individual components that were spun off from yet another game, Thief: The Dark Project. The Thief technology was still under development and months away from completion when our team started working with it. To cap everything off, the project was a collaborative effort between two companies based on a contract that only loosely defined the responsibilities of each organization.
Sunday - October 27, 2013
System Shock 2 - 66% Off on Steam
Steam is now offering System Shock 2 for 66% for the next two days.
The cult classic sci-fi horror FPS-RPG has returned.
You awake from the cold chill of your cryo-tube to discover cybernetic implants grafted to your flesh and the crew of the starship Von Braun slaughtered. The infected roam the halls, their screams and moans beckoning you to join them as the rogue artificial intelligence known as SHODAN taunts and ridicules your feeble attempt to unravel the horrifying mystery of the derelict starship Von Braun.
Your Training Has Prepared You For This.
- Choose from 3 specialized branches of the military to utilize unique skills, weaponry, and paranormal psionic powers.
- Upgrade and enhance your skills to improve hacking, weapon proficiency, and psionic abilities.
- Discover cryptic audio logs, encounter ghostly apparitions and conduct research to give you the advantage in combat and unlock exotic weapons and items.
System Shock™ 2 is a genre defining experience that established innovative game-play mechanics that are a staple of the FPS and RPG genre today. It has gone on to inspire some of the greatest titles of our generation with games including Deus Ex® and Bioshock® Discover how a haunting story, innovative game-play and a terrifying atmosphere has made System Shock™ 2 one of the greatest games of all time.
Tuesday - October 01, 2013
System Shock 2 - Retrospective @ PC Gamer
Almost 15 years on from its release, and with two separate spiritual successors, System Shock 2 still feels fresh. The newest release through GOG.com and Steam allows for higher resolutions, as well as support for the mods created by the game’s community. The interaction is far more complex than BioShock’s run-and-gun approach, and certainly more terrifying. BioShock’s story may be deeper and more refined, but the RPG elements of System Shock 2 still feel ahead of their time today.
Saturday - August 24, 2013
System Shock 2 - Roundtable Interview @ Incgamers
Incgamers interviews two of the original developers of System Shock 2 Jon Chey, and Dorian Hart.
IncGamers invited two of the original developers on System Shock 2, Jon Chey (Project Manager / Creature Behaviour and AI) and Dorian Hart (Numbers Balancing / Level Design,) to replay and discuss the game. Almost fifteen years on from release, how do the developers think the game holds up?
We discuss the legacy and influence of the System Shock series, System Shock 2‘s link to the lost Looking Glass title Junction Point, why Ken Levine is obsessed with mo-capping monkeys and EA’s terrible suggestions for cover art.
This is a slightly edited (for brevity) transcript of the System Shock 2 Podcast Special, which you can listen to in full over here. What follows is a wide-ranging discussion of the game, so that means huge potential spoilers for anybody out there who just bought the re-issued version or something. Just so you know.
Monday - August 19, 2013
System Shock 2 - Interview @ Incgamers
Incgamers has an interview with System Shock 2 Project Manager Jon Chey who comments on Arkane’s ‘spiritual successor’ plans.
Peter : I was wondering … there’s actually some System Shock 2 related news that has emerged today. Arkane, who made Dishonored, are now taking over the development of Prey 2 and they’ve said they’re aiming to make that the ‘spiritual successor’ to System Shock 2.
Jon: Oh really? Wow. Interesting.
Peter: I don’t know how you feel about that?
Jon: It’s, um … Prey 2 by my understanding was … I don’t know a lot about that project but it seemed like it was pretty far advanced. I haven’t been following exactly what’s been going on with it, but yeah that’s interesting because obviously BioShock games are spiritual successors to System Shock 2 in many senses. But then I think there are other aspects of System Shock that, because it is such a multi-faceted game, the BioShock games have mostly run with the narrative side of it. The gameplay side of it they’ve sort of veered off into a different direction, a more classic action direction. So it’d be interesting to see if somebody would pick up the … I don’t know what they mean by that, if they’re intending to spiritually succeed it in terms of its atmosphere or its narrative or gameplay.
Peter: I’m not sure. It’s a lone email that says their pitch for Prey 2 was “spiritual successor to System Shock 2.” I mean obviously … I don’t know if either of you guys played Dishonored, but they pretty heavily influenced by aspects of the Thief series.
Jon: Well I mean, Harvey Smith worked on Deus Ex, so that came out at a very similar time and has a lot of similar ideas to System Shock and so that’s … I’m not surprised that they’re working in that area.
And I think System Shock 2’s one of those games where it probably didn’t spawn a whole host of similar games. There wasn’t an obviously gold mine to be dug there. But on the other hand I think it certain has influenced a lot of other … like Portal games, for example. They’re different games but they have the rogue AI which is taunting you, interacting with you and guiding you through.
Monday - June 17, 2013
System Shock 2 - Source Fan-Made Remake Cancelled
The fan made source remake for System Shock 2 has been cancelled. Mark Valentine the man behind the project has released his assets for the Source Engine remake. Valentine said that people are welcome to continue working on it, and that he’ll help with this project’s development if that ever happens.
“I’m releasing all my assets because I hate it when people make something cool and they just sit on their assets and all that work is lost forever. I refuse to do that. So here’s all the map files, all the models and textures I had converted, some basic instructions for the pipeline I was using.”
Those interested can download System Shock 2′s Source assets from here. There is also a video showcasing what the project looked like.
Friday - May 17, 2013
System Shock 2 - On Difficulty: A Few Hours With System Shock 2
Rock, Paper, Shotgun has a new editorial of the first few hours of System Shock 2 from the perspective of a new player.
Shock 2 reveals just how potent and atmospheric it is to be pathetically weak. It creates a bleakness that’s unachievable by just painting your backgrounds grey-brown and having the gruff post-apocalyptic super-soldiers shout curse words as they trot ever forward. It’s a bleakness that’s not superficially aesthetic, but intrinsic, and overwhelming. I really am overwhelmed by it. My heart is heavy when I think about carrying on playing this obviously excellent game, knowing what an ordeal I’ll be putting myself through.
Where I’m left is divided on how I feel about that. Perhaps it’s my frame of mind at the moment, perhaps I’m getting old, perhaps I’m growing weak. But that just doesn’t strike me as the most appealing notion.
Yes, so jeer at me, condemn me, cancel your subscription and petition in the streets that I have the temerity to write about videogames. I deserve it. But I do want to stress that I’m not settling for the status quo.
System Shock 2, as incredibly difficult, incredibly intense, and incredibly unnerving as it is, has strongly reminded me of what I’m missing from games. Explained to me why I bounced off BioShock: Infinite like it was made of space-rubber. I don’t want everything reduced down to a left or right mouse button, binary choices along predictable skill trees. I loved Dishonored, but Dishonored was a piece of piss. I was a GOD in that game, a GOD amongst puny underlings, crushed beneath my might. And that was probably the major thing wrong with it. Games just aren’t difficult enough, are they? Sure, you can turn the “difficulty” up, but that just makes it harder to get stuff done – not actually harder. A difficulty level doesn’t change the philosophy of a game. So no, I confess, SS2 is over a line for me that I once never had. But it’s revealed a pathway I long to be walking down in more games. Just, maybe, not this one?
Except that I just went back and played a bunch more.
Thursday - February 14, 2013
System Shock 2 - Available from GOG and an Interview
System Shock 2 can now be purchased from Good Old Games for only $10.
Rock Paper Shotgun has an interview with Stephen Kick of Night Dive, who secured the rights and worked on the release, and Guillaume Rambourg at GOG.com.
RPS: The story of the System Shock rights and trademark has frustrated people for years. As I understand it – and I may well be wrong – Looking Glass retained the rights while EA held the trademark. When Looking Glass ceased to be, the rights passed to Meadowbrook Insurance Group and without both, the series cannot be revived. What negotiations, with any parties involved, have taken place in order to secure digital distribution rights?
Stephen Kick (Night Dive): The rights are still held in a very complicated tangle and going into all of it makes for very dry reading. The short version is that negotiations began in October of last year. I pitched the rights-holder with the focus being on the digital distribution of System Shock 2 and–as much to my surprise as anyone’s, possibly–here we are today.
Guillaume Rambourg (GOG.com): We, of course, have been working on getting System Shock 2 on GOG.com more or less since we started operations, and we were absolutely thrilled when Stephen contacted us from Night Dive indicating that he was able to secure these rights.
Tuesday - February 12, 2013
System Shock 2 - Rumour: to be Released on GOG & later Steam
Gamebanshee have news that System Shock 2 maybe getting a new digital re-release.
According to a recent report from Flesh Eating Zipper, citing unnamed sources, Irrational Games/Looking Glass Studios classic System Shock 2 has finally managed to escape license limbo, and will be released on GOG and Steam thanks to the efforts of Night Dive Studios.
Wednesday - September 26, 2012
System Shock 2 - Thief 2, Unofficial Patches
I've bundled these together rather than writing two, essentially identical, newsbits. Vurt writes in to point out Unofficial Patches that have been released for System Shock 2 and Thief 2. The fixes enable the games to work well on modern hardware - including widescreen support - as well as a slew of other fixes. The patches originate from "Le Corbeau" on the French forum Ariane4ever but we'll pick it up from the TTLG forums, in this thread. Kotaku also has a newsbit, with some brief impressions. A snip from the lengthy patch notes:
- Added windowed mode
- Added single display mode option - no resolution change between menus and game
- Added ingame support for all common resolutions, including widescreen
- Added support for 32-bit color
- Textures can now be automatically promoted to 32-bit, improving quality and effectively eliminating the palette limit
- Added UI framerate cap option to avoid GPU fan spinning up in UI
- Added DDS/PNG image support
- Added full 24/32-bit TGA/BMP image support
- Increased the maximum number of frames allowed in animated textures from 20 to 99, and increased the allowable filename length for animated textures (before the underscore) to support more than 7
- Animated texture rate can now be specified via a material file for that texture
- Fixed a bug where Transparency property didn't (correctly) apply on objects that contain transparent polys
Saturday - August 27, 2011
System Shock 2 - Subsite @ GameBanshee
GameBanshee writes they have set up a subsite for System Shock 2, including a walkthrough and database:
Within this small section of the Internet, we've prepared an annotated walkthrough, a character creation guide, tech skills, weapon skills, psi powers, O/S upgrades, audio log summaries, enemy profiles, an extensive equipment section, and a whole lot of other content for you to pore over when you find yourself returning to the classic. And if you haven't yet scheduled a replay, you should.
Wednesday - July 14, 2010
System Shock 2 - Sketchbook @ Irrational
Irrational has kicked up some concept art from an original sketchbook back from the early development of System Shock 2.
Wednesday - March 24, 2010
System Shock 2 - Analysis: Structure And Spoilers
GameSetWatch have an article on System Shock 2 written by Gamasutra editor Chris Remo. The article's topics include Design, The Power Struggle, The Relief, the second half deals heavily in story details.
Looking back, it's astonishing that an action game would ask so much of its player. That System Shock would be released the year after Doom, and System Shock 2 the year after Half-Life, illustrates a level of genre exploration now effectively extinct.
There are systems related to stats and skills and inventory management and research and voice logs and more. (The player must even input access codes manually. Remember when game manuals had "notes" section -- and they were actually useful?)
It is utterly understandable why many of these intricate, sometimes unwieldy, mechanics have fallen out of favor in modern action game design since their late-1990s/early-2000s heydey (Deus Ex being another important example), and it's arguable if they are necessarily better than the streamlined form they take in successors like BioShock, but there is something truly rewarding about mastering such a complex piece of design.
It's possible such a phenomenon could only have existed in that particular time and on that particular platform, when the audience for developers like Looking Glass and Irrational was a concentrated solution of PC gaming devotees, willing to deal with so many control inputs simultaneously because their platform of choice itself was such a cutting-edge but demanding piece of machinery.
There's a nice parallel there: The unabashedly wonky cyberpunk worlds of Shock 2 and Deus Ex could never quite achieve the same resonance in today's more accessible multiplatform world.
Monday - February 01, 2010
System Shock 2 - Secrets @ Irrational
The return of the Irrational site and regular updates brings a nifty background feature on System Shock 2. Titled What Might Have Been, the piece describes some of the ideas they had that were dropped:
Zero-G vs. Technology
“Originally, the level that would become The Many had the player traverse from the Von Braun to The Rickenbacker on the outside of the hull,” says Levine. “We thought it would be a really cool mission because it would change everything the player was used to by introducing a zero gravity environment as well as changing the behavior of all the monsters.” The technology in 1998, when System Shock 2 was in development, really didn’t allow for such grandiose ideas unless it was a major feature in the game. Levine remembers chatting with Lead Programmer Robert Fermier to discuss the level and being told, “Dude that is going to be a huge amount of work for it to work properly.” A feature specific to only a single mission of the game didn’t fit into the schedule. Levine adds, “It was good that it got cut. If you don’t have the resources for it, you can’t make it that good.”
Source: Blues News
Saturday - October 13, 2007
System Shock 2 - The Making Of @ Next Gen
The Making of System Shock 2 talks to Ken Levine about those early days with Looking Glass and how System Shock 2 came about:
Neurath’s offer was incredibly open. Looking Glass had, in making Thief: The Dark Project, developed its own in-house engine. All of Irrational were experienced with it, having all worked on Thief. Why not make a game with it with us? Any game you fancy, really. “We immediately started designing,” Levine recalls.
“The three partners sat down, and we ended up with a game design which was basically our design for Shock 2, but in a totally different world. It was a kind of Heart Of Darkness story, with a military commander gone crazy and your mission was to go to this crazy spaceship and assassinate him.”
Saturday - April 28, 2007
System Shock 2 - Soundtrack "Released"
A few forums are discussing the System Shock 2 soundtrack, which has apparently been liberated by a former SS2 developer. I wouldn't normally trust something uploaded to megaupload but quite a few people have already tried it and reported the file safe and authentic. Here's the original post at the TTLG forums:
After seeing so many fan interpretations of the SS2 soundtrack I figured I would upload the real soundtrack ... real as in "ripped from a CD that Eric Brosius burned."
What differences are there from the existing SS2 Soundtrack versions out there?
1) These are the real arrangements created by Eric himself, authored as full soundtrack songs and burned as an album. It's not a fan interpretation or anything else short of the real songs from the real composer.
2) This was personally crafted by Eric Brosius from the original audio, meaning that unlike the 22khz audio files from the shipping game this release is CD quality.
3) The audio quality is much higher than what's out there; I've ripped this from the original CD and have encoded it at 320 q0 mp3.
Basically, this is not only the best quality version of the soundtrack, it's the version of the soundtrack that Eric Brosius himself created. It's not a fan compilation; this is the real deal.
And in case you have any doubt, remember that I'm the one who also posted the real Thief: Deadly Shadows soundtrack here.
Thursday - March 15, 2007
System Shock 2 - 2007 Upgrade @ Gnomes Lair
A lot of people will be familiar with the System Shock 2 Rebirth project but this article at The Random Gnomes' Random Lair (nice name) has a guide to several mods to bring SS2 up to "2K7" standards. Here's the intro, which aptly describes why SS2 is so good:
System Shock 2 is better than Deus EX, more elaborate than any of the Thief games, scarier then Resident Evil and quite frankly more engrossing than the whole porn DVD collection of planet Earth. In short, it's a fantastic game. A brilliant one too. I mean, it's even got itself a Gamespot retrospective. Unfortunately though, what with being almost retro, its graphics have started to age and their late nineties 3D engine simply doesn't look that scary anymore. Oh, and WinXP, minor gameplay and sound problems have also managed to creep up.