OTHERSIDE ASSEMBLES DREAM DEVELOPMENT TEAM FOR SYSTEM SHOCK 3
[This unedited press release is made available courtesy of Gamasutra and its partnership with notable game PR-related resource GamesPress.]
Austin, TX, August 30, 2016 – OtherSide Entertainment is proud to announce the formation of its Austin development studio and that studio’s first project, System Shock 3, the latest in the series of classic, award-winning System Shock games.
Since its official inception in July, the studio has assembled its core team, made up of industry veterans under the guidance of Creative Director and Studio Manager, Warren Spector.
Warren Spector (Creative Director, Studio Manager)
The System Shock 3 team is being led by 33-year industry legend, Warren Spector, winner of several game of the year awards and honored with four lifetime achievement awards for his contributions to gaming. Warren played a key role in bringing the original Underworld and System Shock games to life and was also behind the seminal Deus Ex series, as well as Disney Epic Mickey and Disney Epic Mickey: The Power of Two.
Sheldon Pacotti - Design Director
In his 22-year career in the game industry, Sheldon has proven himself to be a multidisciplinary developer whose past experience includes stints as lead writer on Deus Ex and Deus Ex: Invisible War, on which he played a critical role. He also has credits as lead programmer and lead designer on many other projects. Among the games he has worked on are Auto Assault and America’s Army. He comes to OtherSide with an unparalleled academic background, with degrees in mathematics and literature from MIT and Harvard.
Arturo Pulecio - Art Director
Arturo brings to the project more than 14 years of hands-on experience in every aspect of video game art. Among the titles he has worked on are Lord of the Rings Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Dark Age of Camelot, Warhammer Online, Wizard 101, and both Disney Epic Mickey games.
Jason Hughes - Tech Director
Jason Hughes is a 21-year veteran industry technologist and generalist with deep knowledge of game systems. In a career that includes Wing Commander, Star Wars, and Disney Epic Mickey, Jason has everything from AI to graphics under his belt and has built multiple indie studios from scratch, operating both as founder and core technical leader.
All of these team leaders have worked with Spector before on games including Deus Ex, Deus Ex: Invisible War, Disney Epic Mickey, and Disney Epic Mickey: The Power of Two.
In addition, the team is consulting with members of the original System Shock teams within OtherSide Entertainment, including creative director Paul Neurath ( System Shock, System Shock 2), lead designer Tim Stellmach ( System Shock, Thief: The Dark Project) and art director Nate Wells ( System Shock 2, BioShock).
Finally, OtherSide Austin will engage the talents of Terri Brosius, the voice behind the System Shock series’ malevolent AI, SHODAN, and concept artist Robb Waters ( System Shock, BioShock). Outside creative consultants include Doug Church, game director on the original System Shock game.
To receive future updates on System Shock 3 as they become available, please register for our newsletter here. And stay tuned for an upcoming announcement regarding the game engine that Otherside Entertainment will be using to create the world of System Shock 3 and other titles.
SEE THE FIRST CONCEPT IMAGES FROM SYSTEM SHOCK 3 Designer Warren Spector talks about Shodan and other returning characters.
When I chatted with Warren Spector back in February, he’d just announced plans to join development house OtherSide Entertainment to make System Shock 3, the next game in one of the most influential role-playing series of the past two decades. His first job, he said at the time, would be to start hiring his team.
Six months on, he’s announced the first few hires, all of whom have a long pedigree in development. They include Arturo Pulecio (Dark Age of Camelot, Warhammer Online) who started work last month and got straight down to creating concept artwork for the game.
OtherSide released two pieces of art to Polygon, including this image for the game’s artificial intelligence super-villain Shodan, as well as an image (further below) of Citadel Station, which was the setting for the original game.
THE RETURN OF SHODAN
Last week, I spoke to Spector again to find out what I could about the game, which is likely a few years away from release. He gave up some basic information about the story, including details of returning characters that will probably be welcomed by fans of the sci-fi action series.
First things first, Spector talked about how Shodan will definitely be a big part of System Shock 3.
“Shodan is the heart and soul of System Shock games,” he said. "That’s the beauty of System Shock 3; nobody else has Shodan. She’ll be at the center of the game, but I also want to put her through some changes.
“Arturo has been working on our version of Shodan, which is going to be interesting and different from what people expect. I expect it will infuriate some people but definitely get people talking.”
“SHODAN IS THE HEART AND SOUL OF SYSTEM SHOCK GAMES.”
Shodan — her name is an acronym of Sentient Hyper-Optimized Data Access Network — was the central antagonist in the first two System Shock games. Originally created to service a space station, she is tasked with deleting incriminating files. The player in the original game is a hacker who removes her ethics constraints. This turns out to be a bad move.
Over the course of the two games, Shodan reveals herself to be skilled in manipulating systems and people. Her goal is to annihilate the human race. She taunts and mocks the player. Even in defeat, she finds a way to survive.
“In System Shock 3 I want to explore Shodan’s motivations,” said Spector. “In the first two games her plan was to destroy humanity because, with the removal of her ethical constraints by the hacker in the first game, she’s going insane. But we never explained why she wants to destroy humanity. So we’re going to be exploring the idea of a super intelligence and what would motivate a super intelligent AI.”
THE SURVIVORS ARE BACK
At the end of the second game, Shodan downloads herself into a human woman called Rebecca Sutton, leaving a cliffhanger. This will be the starting point of System Shock 3.
“We are going to be picking up all of the loose threads of System Shock 2. Rebecca Sutton is going to appear in this game, for sure,” he said.
Spector pointed out that there are six survivors from the previous games. Their stories will all be addressed in System Shock 3 as well. Among the NPCs, there’s Shodan and Sutton as well as her colleague, Tommy Suarez. The story will also include Rebecca Lansing, who was the player’s human guide in the first game.
Last year, Night Dive Studios announced plans to give gamers another chance to return to the original System Shock. The developer is working on a faithfully reimagined version of the original game.
Spector said that he’s glad the old game will find a new audience. “We talk to [Night Dive] a lot. I’m not particularly worried about there being any confusion. I’m kind of psyched because they’re doing a lot of the hard work of reminding people about the games and building an expectation of what comes next.”
Also, the game will feature the two previous protagonists: the hacker from the original game, and the soldier from System Shock 2.
“We’re going to tell their story,” said Spector. “There are a lot of questions that went unanswered in those first two games and we have an obligation to fans to fill in the blanks. For new players I think that will pull them into a compelling narrative.”
The story will also delve into the history of Edward Diego, a key character in the first game who persuades the player to hack into Shodan.
The original System Shock takes place in the year 2072, while System Shock 2 takes place 42 years later in 2114, also the year in which the new game picks up the story.
Spector said he wants to create a game that addresses today’s concerns and that draws upon modern technological advances to make predictions about the future: “I like to base everything in reality and extrapolate from there. We want to be able to look at where we are today and ask where we might be a hundred years from now.”
Like the original, the game will feature virtual spaces as well as real world locations, as the player tackles Shodan on her own cyber turf.
“There’s been a lot more research into UI and super intelligence in recent years. That will find itself in System Shock 3,” he said. "We understand hacking a lot better than we used to and it will be presented in a completely different way than it was presented in the earlier games.
“Back when we made System Shock, cyberpunk was still at its height in terms of popularity and cultural significance and it was a big inspiration. Nowadays, cyberpunk is a little less current. I’ve learned over the years that it’s foolish to try to convince people to become interested in something they don’t care about, so we’re finding things that people are interested in today.”
PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
The original games are still going to serve as a central inspiration. Spector played them both recently.
“As I was playing them, I emailed people who worked on the original games,” he said. "I would say, ‘oh my god, this game is so hard’ and the response I would get back would be ‘1994.’ Then I’d say, ‘this thing is so big’ and the response was ‘1994.’ And then I’d say, the UI in this game is terrible, what were we thinking?’ and the response would be ‘1994.’ So it was an eye-opening experience just in terms of how far games have come since then.
“Even so, Shodan was still a compelling character. And we were empowering players in the way we asked them to construct the story themselves. There were some wonderful aspects that we want to keep in System Shock 3, but not the UI!”
SYSTEM SHOCK 3 DICE 2016 INTERVIEW
While finishing off his tenure at the University of Texas in Austin, Warren Spector met with Polygon at DICE in Las Vegas to talk about the new game. “It’s just me in a room, typing a lot,” he said. “This is my second day on the job so it’s a little early to be saying what I’m going to be doing, but I have a concept doc that I wrote up over the last couple of weeks. That’s all that exists right now.”
I asked Spector if, given that he worked on the first game but not the second, he feels a closer affinity to one than the other?
“I like and respect the second one but it was significantly different from the first,” he replied. “I’m constantly struggling with how much we adhere to the tenets of the first one and how much do we adhere to the tenets of the second one. The second game was a much more traditional role-playing game than the first one. It’s a mental struggle for me about which direction I want to go in. I will admit that.”
In the meantime, he’s pulling together the rest of his Austin, Texas-based team. As well as Pulecio, his new hires include tech director Jason Hughes (Wing Commander, Epic Mickey) and design director Sheldon Pacotti (Deus Ex, America’s Army).
He wants the team to bring back the spirit of System Shock and the aspects that made it so influential to later game developers:
"20 years ago we were building open-ended, solve-it-yourself kind of games. We used to look at each other and say ‘why isn’t everyone making games like this?’ Now, many more people are making games like that, so of course it’s harder to stand out. You have to innovate and I’m confident that we will. We’re following in the footsteps of the people who followed in our footsteps. We’ve got some surprises for people.”
Above you. I guess you’re excited too!
I didn’t think they would be able to get Doug Church to join them, even if just as an outside consultant. The guy was one of the masterminds behind the first System Shock and is regarded as an incredible programmer. After knowing he had been hired by Valve I thought it would be impossible to see him tackling some Looking Glass titles again. That’s just too perfect, the dream team is really back.
I wonder what the heck Doug Church even does at Valve. It’s not like they’re pushing the game design envelope over there anymore.
Anyway, the SS3 is looking amazing. Never thought I’d see the day.
I think he worked on something related to CS:GO. There must have been some other titles he worked on before, and that he must be working at right now, maybe even a Half-Life 3. hahahahaha
That’s Rebecca Siddons btw. Polygon gonna Polygon
I wonder what the heck anybody does at Valve any more.
I assume they all spend their days frittering away the truckloads of cash dumped through the Steam transom.
Very nice to hear that Doug Church is joining the team, though!
Doug has been behind the scenes with advice well, forever. Just because we are not in the same building or company doesn’t mean we don’t all still talk to each other.
Doug was one of those ‘OMG’ guys when I started at Looking Glass. So chill, so smart, and the very rare gift to explain complex things in non-complex terms. That continues to this day. His insight into…um…everything is worth listening to.
Cool. I got to talk to Deus Ex’s AI programmer a couple of times this summer, he was wondering what Sheldon Pacotti was up to.
[font=mercury ssm a][size=medium][url=http://www.polygon.com/users/JohnDeHope3]JohnDeHope3 [/url][/size][/font][size=15px][font=mercury ssm a]Don’t make it like the first one, or the second one, make it like the third one.[/font][/size]
yeah we love that quote.
Good to know things aren’t as static as I tend to believe. I’m really eager to see what will come out of System Shock 3, going deeper into Shodan’s mind is awesome already.