The Soundtrack Thread


I realize opinions are polarized on the SS2 soundtrack. I, for one, loved it. Other people complained, and had to turn off the music. If you could design the System Shock 3 soundtrack, what music would you use, and why?



I’m one of those heretics who wasn’t a fan of the music in SS2. I found it distracting – it didn’t engage my emotions; it engaged my irritation because it pulled me out of the gameworld in a way that an orchestral soundtrack doesn’t. I appreciate that this may miss the “punk” part of cyberpunk, but so be it.

I do think a game with a cyberpunk setting needs an electronic edge, though. I’d point to the Daft Punk soundtrack for Tron 2.0 as a useful example of a blend of orchestral and electronic that can work.


Orchestral is a bit overdone IMO. I’ve noticed you seem to not like rhythm-heavy music, Flatfingers. For my own nomination, I’d suggest industrial music - I really like how in SS2 it sounded like people beating on sheet metal. Perhaps there is a middle-ground.


Well, yes, people wailing away on sheet metal does seem to my ears pretty much the opposite of music. :smiley: This is why people talk about forcing others to listen to Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music as punishment, not pleasure.

It’s sort of tough here to distinguish between “what I like” and “what I think would be most satisfying to most players of System Shock 3.” I think orchestral/electronic would work for a new game, but I know that plenty of folks who played the originals enjoyed the more cacophonous industrial pieces and would object strongly if SS3 strayed from that.

Still, the question was what I’d do if I were designing the SS3 soundtrack. So there you go. The line for effigy-burning forms on the right… :wink:


Dub reggae, ambient hip-hop, etc.


I second the request for a somewhat industrial-ish score. Cyberpunk/Horror pretty much necessitates something creepy and synthetic. At the same time, one problem with industrial music is if you’re using lots of samples and the like it can become harder to separate the soundtrack from environmental sound effects. So perhaps a more futuristic dark-ambient style makes better sense, with some more EBM-ish tracks for the faster/panicky moments.

Orchestral/Choral may have a role in some tracks, given the association with religion and SHODAN’s well-documented deity-complex.

One thing I do hope is that attempting to sound dubstep-ish is avoided.


Nothing like that throbbing industrial bass tho.

Another band you might look into for psychedelic influence is Shpongle. I think they have a fairly unique voicing in electronic music, and a fairly elaborate approach to composition. If I had to describe System Shock 2’s music, I would say it sounds like Shpongle given an industrial facelift by Skinny Puppy.


I just heard a track that gave off more than just a hint of a System Shock vibe.

“Morphologies” by Aes Dana is very close to being the kind of thing I’d like to hear in SS3.


I like the beginning of this. Think they could’ve done more with the bassline. It’s very generic. Also, could’ve used a few more background samples. You’re right, does give me the System Shock vibe. I’m gonna have to up the ante on my next post. :wink:


I guess another divisive point in the music would be whether to include drums or not? Personally, I’m a fan of rhythmic music - particularly in key moments of gameplay. Thoughts?


Drums are good! Just don’t, like any instrument, make them too obtrusive. It’s one of those instruments which can be used alone, or together to set the mood.


Hey guys,

not sure if this thread is still alive, but let me have your opinions on this track, which in my opinion would suit for the credits of the game.
Would it match the atmosphere of System Shock 3?


I’d give it a 9/10. Music is a bit too repetitive to be of SS2 caliber, but the tone is about right. The percussion is a tad unvarying for my tastes, I’d give it a more industrial flavor–as I said earlier. It’s heart is definitely in the right place. The intro is really sound, and sets the right tone for an exploration, cyberpunk-driven game, with dark untones. Like SS2. It definitely gets a thumbs up from me, despite nitpick criticism. Try varying up the percussion.


That’s not bad at all in itself. Good instrumentation, a punchy beat, and a nicely balanced mix.

Also, it definitely has a System Shock feel to it (without the voice audio near the end, of course). The upward glide notes were particularly effective.

The one suggestion I’d make is that I didn’t hear a clear theme – a short motif that would be recognizable instantly as “This Is System Shock 3.” I thought Michael McCann did a very good job with this for the two recent Deus Ex sequels; you hear any part of that music and you immediately feel transported back to Detroit or Prague (and your fingers itch to play the game again). That’s an excellent target to shoot for in an intro track for a game.

All that said, really nice work here.


The Shadowrun games also did an excellent job of varying up their tracks to give each game a unique flavor.


Thanks for the positiv feedback guys. The vocal samples wouldn’t fit in a game of course :wink:
I don’t want to spam you with my songs but here is a theme I wrote inspired by the Deus Ex series. At that time I sent it Alexander Brandon who was responsible for the great soundtrack of part 1+2 and he liked it.

or would you rather see an orchestral version inspired from the same series:

I tried to capture the sinister atmosphere in both songs. What type would fit System Shock 3?


Your music went down. I was going to try to give it a few more spins this morning, just to get a second opinion.


Re-up again! Sorry, don’t know happened…


Second listen impressions:

On the SHODAN Credits piece, I really enjoy what you have composed. However, you might want to vary up the percussion. Part of what made System Shock so intense was how chaotic the percussion was when metaphorical sh*t hit the fan. A little too consistent in the drum n’ bass department for my taste. Outro is wholly phenomenal, where everything ties together. Nice brushstrokes toward the end.

The second one starts off strong. It definitely gives me more than Deus Ex vibes, this is inspired. I find the beginning chords particularly well-presented, and strong. Still, I would level the same criticism toward it. Be wary of your rhythm becoming too consistent. Start working on unpredictability. I’ll give it a second listen at some point in the future, see if I have any further thoughts.

Third track gave me a very “video gamey” feel, which is both a like and dislike. The darker untones that come in after a few seconds add the appropriate level of tension to the track, but it is the track I dig least of the three, as far as intros. After about a minute, the creepy choirs come in, and I found the music very well-presented. The drum marching beat is a little too common, but it is promising. I’ve heard it before, but not enough to call it cliche. And it lasts a tasteful period of time. The strange keyboard (I assume?) synthesized effects in the background after about two minutes start to open the piece up and tie it around, and I think as I am listening to it now, it may be my favorite of the three arrangements, for the way it alternates feel and textures–moreso than the other two pieces. It, also, coincidentally has the most weak points. I don’t think raising the volume toward the end constitutes a climax, and the abrupt cut-off at about 3:45, then it phases into something more interesting–once again. The piece is composed of some marvelous arrangements, but nothing resolves, and we are left with a fade-out… Would maybe work on tying more elements of this song together for a climax, it has the most potential of the three.

If I had to give a numerical rating, I’d give it a nine out of ten… By comparison, the SS2 soundtrack has a permanent home on my hard drive, and is what I’d define as “perfect video game music.” Beware of too much consistency in electronic music. I give you props for tying your compositions together, rather than leaving them as loose movements, but the rhythm backing most electronic genre stuff I’ve listened too sounds too consistently predictible to be genre-defining. What made SS2’s sound so special to my heart is there was an element of percussive chaos to everything that was as unpredictible as it was uncommon-sounding. I still don’t know if I’d give SS2 a genre, but I dig the darker industrial vibes to the percussion, which arrange drums for texture, not just keeping a beat.


Thanks a lot for dedicating time to write this detailed review and your suggestions for improvement, much appreciated! You’d make a good producer!
I admit that beat programming was never my strongest point but at the same time I feel that 90% of all songs have very little (less) variations but maybe that is not as much realized with vocals than in instrumental music. I absolutely agree that SS2 has an outstanding soundtrack especially in its time. It lives mainly (similar to bands like Prodigy) from the beat along with the great synth sounds Eric Brosius used. If you listen closely though, the beat variation in mosts songs consists however rather from putting the beat in or leaving it out and some FX. Obviously this is more effective. Listening anew to my songs I noticed that a lot of them lack some major beat variations indeed.

I’ll consider your critics and will continue working on the “Best System Shock” tribute :wink:

PS: If you’re still not fed up, here is a link to another song which does have some beat changes and is full of movie samples. Although I doesn’t have any particular relation to any game, the dark atmosphere still prevails: