Elements to avoid when making System Shock 3


Modern whatevers. Don’t make the mistake the System Shock remake seems to be making. Keep the intent behind the art, music and level design true to the series roots. No orchestral music (we want synth!), no art divorced of its inspirations, no level design simplified for ‘engagement’. I want a world to engage with not a theme park and nothing like Bioshock.


Have you even read Nightdive’s Kickstarter update on the art? The Unreal trailer didn’t emphasize on the art direction, as they simply had simply thrown it together as quickly as possible. Jason Fader, game director of System Shock, even says that “things would pretty much look the same in either engine”: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1598858095/system-shock/posts/1825794

As for the level design, what are you talking about? I’ve heard that they want to modernize it, but why should that necessarily be bad?
As read from this article, “we’re not going to dumb things down, but we also don’t want to ignore the last 20 years of progress level design has made.” Would you really like to go back to those maze-like, blocky pixel-dungeons as seen in the original?


I think the original level design should be retained, yes.

I get what you mean by saying the levels of System Shock were “blocky pixel-dungeons.” There’s just enough truth in that to make it sound plausible – the 320x200 original was certainly pixelly! But that’s basically just a texture size, which (relatively speaking) is easily corrected in a modern remake without changing level layouts.

As to being “blocky,” I rate that as only partially accurate. There were plenty of curves and turns, verticality (in Security), and a remarkable variation in area layouts – do you consider the Groves “blocky?” I also think this criticism ignores that the levels of System Shock 2 were, with a few exceptions, very similar to those of the original game. Yet for some reason, SS2 isn’t included in this criticism.

Finally, as to being “maze-like,” I happily grant that one because I don’t consider it to be a flaw. The generally cramped spaces of Citadel Station delivered a couple of great benefits. One was the pressure of claustrophobia; the other was the mechanical gameplay result of rewarding (by taking less damage) carefully peeking around the many corners instead just racing around everywhere, guns blazing, like a lunatic. Both of these contributed to the intense immersiveness of System Shock.

These are game design benefits. Change the levels to be more open, and you lose those benefits. If NightDive wants to change the original game’s level layouts, I’d like to know what game design benefits they expect to achieve by doing so.

So I’ve politely asked NightDive several times what, exactly, they mean by the “modern level design principles” they cited as a reason for altering the original layout of Citadel Station. So far they’ve given no direct explanation.

I guess I may have to wait and play SS3 to see what they think consititutes “better.” :smiley:


By updating, I hope they don’t mean turn every corridor into a linear corridor crawl. That is the only “innovation” I’ve seen in modern level design.


Up to a point, I’m OK with using level design to control movement through the “main mission” narrative.

Gating the story through locked doors is common because that’s an aesthetically acceptable way to achieve the storytelling requirement of an ordered plot. A locked door is a guaranteed trigger; it insures that the next part of the story gets told in the intended order. You can’t ride the elevator to the Engineering level (and its story content) until you’ve experienced the story moment of jettisoning the Grove.

Oddball movies like Memento aside (and even it is watched linearly, even if its story isn’t linear), choosing to tell a predefined story in a game implies that the world of the game will be structured to impose some linearity. It might be done with an actual locked door, or it might be done via a more generalized trigger event such as selecting a particular dialogue option with a key NPC, as in BethSoft’s open-world games. (Although in Skyrim, the Throat of the World is basically behind the equivalent of a locked door, so even BethSoft use that technique.) Regardless, “story” implies “linear.”

So it won’t bother me too much to see the level design in NightDive’s reboot of System Shock continuing to use “locked doors” to gate the core story. (I misspoke in my previous comment in mentioning SS3; I meant NightDive’s SS reboot.)

My impression is that they’re changing the level geometry on a per-level basis to add new locations, and perhaps to open up some existing locations. What I’m curious about are the specific game design reasons for any such change.


As for tutorials, I think it’s easy to accommodate new players and veterans by just offering options. Playing through the opening bit of System Shock 2 didn’t bother me at the time, but I can see how it would be off-putting for latecomers.

Modern gamers are more aware of when they’re being lead through a maze of filler space. SS2 did a nice job of disguising the labyrinthine quality of the game, aside from the damn coolant tunnels. It was a big step up from SS1, which had plenty of blind corners that serve no purpose, made more glaringly obvious by being set on a space station where every cubic inch counts. I’d like to see SS3 avoid the filler areas by adding more appropriate variety to the zones. We all know by now there’s no place for a spacious shopping mall on the Von Braun…or Earth, for that matter, but I could see sports or VR game spaces taking up the slack.

Boss fights are fine with me when they don’t seem contrived. The Shodan showdown felt like that, it could have been handled in a more creative way that accented the skills we’d been honing all those hours. I thought the boss “battle” in Thief 1 and the endgame of Thief 2 were handled well; 1 used thievery and misdirection; 2 was all about sabotage.


Maybe a way to skip the tutorial - perhaps walking past the area it’s located, or being offered an option - is in order.


Yeah but you’re playing a cyborg over a century in the future. Augmented reality is already a thing now in the real world, and what you’re describing has been part of the SS series gameplay since the first game. Don’t see what sense it would make to remove that element from SS3.

As I said before. Alternatively, perhaps as a cyborg one could have the game feature an implant for purchase that automatically sees into rooms and desks scanning for relevant objects. That would in effect make this an optional feature.

You’re a cyborg from the future. X-Ray vision should be a thing, don’t you think?

Can sort of agree with this, although again rather than simply say ‘avoid this element’, be more creative in implementing it. Again, the third-person mode could be activated via some kind of device or implant that needs to be purchased or crafted.

No GPS on a futuristic spaceship?

Not to be rude, and I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic or not, but I don’t think you’re understanding this is System Shock. It’s supposed to be science-fiction.


Untouchable walls.
I mean, there’s bound to be weapons able to punch through walls.
There are now and there will be in the future.

Imagine a section where this weapon is, you could totally use it BUT you’re so close to the Outer Hull that it could result in a deadly loss of atmosphere.

But here’s the kicker- you’ll find that one of the possible way to solve a puzzle IS to punture a bulkhead and cause a loss of pressure.

Can anyone hire me please?! I got lotsa these!


Actually, that brings up one of my issues with System Shock: having weapons aboard spaceships. A shotgun would likely pierce the outer hull, opening the ship to the vacuum of space. A better solution would be like the crafting system in Prey, where you would have to find components and craft your own weapons; or replace all weapons with tools - a blowtorch becomes a flamethrower if crafted into and used for such.


I just completed SS2 for the first time last week, and there were a few acute issues that definitely prevented me from enjoying the experience as much as SS1. Here are some bullet points of what I think should/shouldn’t appear from previous entries in SS3:

  • No tedious research run-around from SS2. I hated trying to “research” something, only to find out that I don’t have the necessary chemical(s), and need to traverse all over the station to another storeroom in order to complete the research, only to find out that I can’t use the weapon anyways (more on that later)

  • No restrictive “faux-player authorship” RPG systems. I foud SS2’s skill system to be very poorly implemented, in that instead of empowering the player and providing an oppertunity for individual self expression (i.e roleplaying), it artificially (and illogically) hobbled the avatar at the outset.What I’m referring to is the inability of my OSA soldier to fire a pistol, let alone hold it in his hands unless I invest the requisite cyber modules, despite 4 years of military training before arriving on the Vaun Braun. Deus Ex and Vampire The Masquerade:Bloodlines implemented their skill system a little better in the sense that even though I may not have invested the points in the requisite skills, I can still hold and fire a shotgun, sword, whatever, so that I can “try before I buy”; that is to say get a feeling for how the weapon operates beore deciding if I would like to pursue that path. I found some interesting-looking weapons in SS2 (EMP rifle, grenade launcher, a bunch of those aneleid weapons), but I haven’t the slightest idea about how they look and function in action, because I was forced to make heavy resource investments to even hold them in my hands

  • SS2 had a seemingly never-ending chain of banal fetch-questing that kept getting artificially stretched out to annoyance, lacking the focus of SS1. What do I mean? : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrGAnTwxJVw

-I doubt this will be the case in SS3, but the lockpicking, or “hacking” in SS2 was a joke compared to SS1. Please no braindead, zero skill connect the dot minigames- BRING BACK CYBERSPACE!

-I’d prefer a toned down enemy respawn rate. Simple enemies in SS2 became annoying bulletsponges when, coupled with the far more scarce resources to that of SS1, just increased frustration when having to re-traverse an area for the umpteenth time

  • More SS1 OST than SS2. SS2’s OST to me it’s lacked the edge of the original. Compare the original’s grinding, post-industrial sound (particularly the fat bass drum, and that analog synth sample): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fz1wlcZnhv8

The instrumentation choices/arrangements of SS2 strayed a little too far from the analog warmth of the original, to that of a more generic techno/ dance sound for my tastes. I suppose what I’m getting at is that the OG OST intro really captured that atmosphere of a dystopic, cyberpunk reality (circa 1994, of course), with all of it’s oppressive corporatism, and it’s dreary technological dehumanization. I’d like more of that in SS3


See a recent post of mine:

-Restrictive freedom. An oxymoron. How can shock 2 offer so much choice and potential power, yet still maintain its tension, immersion, difficulty and atmosphere? Skill requirements for weapons and mostly everything else is stupid, one might say? No, it is for precisely this reason that Shock 2 can offer so much choice, control and replayability, without the experience falling apart. The weapons restrictions in particular are of note as you simply are barred from using a weapon and its ammo type, so you can't just pick up random weapons like the grenade launcher and go to town.

Shock 2 is a survival horror. Being starved for reasources is vital. If the game had a Deus Ex-style accuracy system it would be worse off because:

  1. It’s a corridor shooter. Vast majority of shooting is close to medium range. Accuracy system would not have much relevance as a result.
  2. you’ll be able to pick up any gun and spray away. Even with the accuracy system you’d still be able to grab the grenade launcher, set it to contact detonation, and blast the hell out of everything with relative ease. Think, is firing the gep gun in deus ex affected by the accuracy system much? Only a medium-long range. Close range you just point it at the feet of the enemy and boom.

Shock 2’s RPG systems are ingenious. Very well implemented, balancing issues aside.
Lastly, not everything need be 100% realistic. That’s not what the Immersive Sim is. If a feature is really, really beneficial for gameplay and doesn’t ask too much suspension of disbelief from the player, it should always be up for consideration.
…OK OK, not being able to hold guns because you don’t have the right skill level is asking quite a bit, but the gameplay benefit is far too great to ignore.