Psi ops & navy tech


#1

Do we know if ss3 will contain psi abilities and tech/research similar to those found in ss3?
I was a big fan of the class structure in 2. I’m looking forward to 3 either way - huge fan of the first 2 games


#2

No confirmations yet! What you see in the two teasers we’ve shown, that’s all we can talk about for now :slight_smile:


#3

Cheers, looking awesome so far


#4

Actually, I’ve been wanting to talk about research as a gameplay feature in System Shock 3.

I enjoyed it somewhat in System Shock 2, but I always felt it was surprisingly passive – basically a lootbox (kill enemies, random chance of a researchable object dropping) plus a reason to push the player into backtracking (for needed chemicals). I suppose it might be more accurate to say I liked the idea of chemical-based research more than the actual implementation.

On the other hand, BioShock’s “use a camera to take photos” research system was certainly not passive! It was actually pretty clever: it got you to change up from just insta-murdering everything, it delivered an adrenaline hit when taking photos while dodging damage; and the tradeoff between getting a high quality photo versus diminishing returns for additional photos of the same enemy was a really clever feature. Overall, though, while I thought this was probably a good design for most of BioShock’s likely players, it could sometimes be more frustrating for me than fun because I’m not wired to get much pleasure from adrenaline (skydiving and bungee jumping are not on my bucket list :smiley: ).

What I think I’d enjoy in System Shock 3 is something in between these two systems – a research feature that encourages and rewards both actively (and maybe dangerously) scavenging for research objects, and rationally figuring out multi-chemical solutions that optimize the benefits of research. Chemicals would in this design be easy to obtain (with maybe a few exceptions as side quest motivators) – the challenges would be 1) collecting high-quality specimens from enemies (what if some of them must still be alive?), and 2) organizing several chemicals at an appropriate laboratory station into a compound that yields a research benefit based on the accuracy of the compound versus the specimen.

One more option might be that gaining the benefit of research requires 1) manufacturing darts containing the researched compound, and 2) shooting an opponent with an appropriate dart before targeting it with conventional weapons. But I think this might wind up being too cumbersome if there are a lot of enemies. A better option might be if most weapons had a port to which you could connect a research compound – that way you could have the research benefit as long as you use that weapon and the target is susceptible to the current research compound, so there’s an active gameplay decision to make.

There’d be a lot more work needed to actually implement his concept for research to see if it’s fun, but those are the broad strokes.

Improvements?

Better alternatives?

Not interested in a “research” feature at all?


#5

TANGENT:

In 1989, I had an Atari 130XE computer system, and I had subscriptions to Atari magazines like Antic and A.N.A.L.O.G., which had type-in programs and floppy disks (when they were actually floppy) if you didn’t wanna learn or bother with the BASIC. Anyway, a reader-submitted game was a text adventure, where you wake up on a starship, in the Infirmary, amnesiac, and a virus has taken everyone else out. You win by changing the atmosphere on the ship by choosing the right gas of 5 to flood the atmosphere with. You have Fluorine, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Sulphur [sic]. You also have the canister that the virus came from, and it still has material in it. Members of the dead crew figured out how to kill the virus, outside the body (with the right gases), but figured out too late how to treat infection successfully, but in you, the Captain.

Okay, I’m done.


#6

Damn, that tangent.

I don’t want to spoil too much about the research aspect for SS3, but I’ve seen some of your thoughts about the natural progression of research and manufacturing reflected in what I’ve played so far. :smiley:


#7

Hey, just hearing that some form of a research feature is being considered makes my day. :slight_smile:

A few additional thoughts, then. (And I really hope others will chime in.)

  1. That is indeed some tangent… but not really completely tangential. Look at that opening: you awaken on a ship, alone, and need to figure out how to save the day. Sound familiar?

I do also like that notion of gameplay that asks the player to combine elements in a rational way to produce an optimal solution. That’s basically what Star Wars Galaxies did: hundreds of randomly-generated different materials would spawn on different planets, at varying concentrations, for a limited time; each material had multiple properties; you could mine and store these materials; craftable objects had blueprints calling for certain categories of materials; and the final characteristics of the crafted object depended on the quality level of the source material’s properties versus the blueprint’s requirements. Making the “best” possible version of an item type (to sell to other players as an integrated part of both the economic and social games!) was a fantastically absorbing challenge – it really was an astonishingly satisfying piece of game design.

Again, I don’t suggest that research, to whatever extent it’s implemented in SS3, needs to be so detailed. I mention SWG’s system because it’s a lovely example of using optimization as gameplay, as opposed to “combining objects X and Y perfectly solves Sub-quest #31.” It might be interesting to wrap a research minigame around optimization fun, rather than checkbox fun.

  1. There is another game I’ve been thinking about that also begins with you awakening from a coma, discovering a disaster in progress, and needing to figure out how to avert it. In fact, it’s another text adventure: 1983’s Suspended from Infocom. The Digital Antiquarian has an excellent write-up about this game. Short version: You’re in suspended (hence the title) animation, so you can’t personally move around; you have to direct six robots, each with different abilities. Auda can hear; Iris can see; Waldo can manipulate, and so on… and then there’s Poet, who can feel, and who reports his feelings in metaphorical language whose meaning isn’t always obvious.

The trick of the game is to switch control among each of these robots to understand what’s broken in your environment, and to direct them to work together to correct the problems, ultimately solving the crisis. One other thing: every turn you take directing a robot, millions of people die, because the disasters are literally destroying the entire planet. It’s not a terribly cheerful game.

But it is a very clever game – hard, but fair, and frequently calling for perception and imagination. And the reason I mention Suspended’s gameplay in talking about research in System Shock 3 is because I imagine perception and imagination being the key behaviors that a research feature ought to encourage and reward in players. In a similar way to how solving puzzles in Suspended requires understanding the capabilities of each robot, applied research in SS3 might ask the player to perceive relationships among chemicals (should I make an organic compound with carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen, or should I use aluminum, silicon, and oxygen to make a crystalline compound?) and imagine novel connections between the characteristics of input chemicals and targeted output compounds.

  1. All that’s pretty speculative. One thing that’s maybe not so speculative is Warren’s well-known interest in consequences. (“Well-known” because he’s actually said it.) Not in choices, alone, but in the consequences of making a choice – in the meaning we assign to what happens to us when we choose.

So while it’s fun to knock around different ideas about the mechanics and dynamics (and aesthetics) of a research feature in SS3, I’ll suggest that research really becomes a feature worth implementing when it hooks into the story of the game and, vitally, into how the person playing System Shock 3 internalizes the events and ideas of the game.

That’s kind of a lot to load onto a minor sub-feature of a computer game! But why look at that as a challenge? It’s an interesting game design opportunity! How might one design a research minigame such that the consequences of the player’s research choices communicate something meaningful about the game to the player, and that encourage the player (or at least some players) to consider a larger human point about the research process and its results?

I don’t have an Answer to that off the top of my head. I suspect part of one possible answer might have something to do with cost – not economic cost, but human cost. What if chemicals could only be scavenged from living opponents who were once human beings? I mean, you’re going to shoot them… but is it less ethical to harvest them first? (There’s a darker connection here to WWII human research I won’t go into, but that might resonate with some history-minded gamers.) Can a game make such a choice feel consequential?

Something like this, I think, is what the Little Sisters choice in BioShock was meant to be. It would be very interesting to see whether a sequel to the System Shock games that inspired BioShock could implement a research feature that gives moral weight to doing what it takes to survive a horrific situation.