Nightdive's System Shock remake is here, and according to our own Joe Parlock, it's a faithful recreation of the 1994 classic that updates the controls and UI for modern audiences. He gave it four out of five in his review, calling it "easily the best way for people today to experience one of the most genre-defining games of all time."
And to think, we almost got Sonic in space rather than System Shock.
In an interview with Rock Paper Shotgun, System Shock's original developers sat down to talk about what it was like working at Looking Glass so long ago. Executive producer Warren Spector called it "like a graduate school for game developers" as many of them arrived straight out of MIT.
"And were those folks smart? Holy cow. I remember walking into team meetings thinking, ‘I’m the stupidest person in this room,’ and loving the hell out of that. Working with those folks was one of the high points of my life, let alone my career."
Designer Austin Grossman then dove into System Shock and its surprising origin.
"The first reference I heard to the System Shock project was somebody saying, 'Oh yeah, we’re gonna do Sonic The Hedgehog, but it's in space,'" he said. Spector didn't remember, but Grossman assured him that's where it all started. "That was the original concept. I don’t know whose concept that was, or why that sounded like a super good idea to them. That went away at some point, and somebody said, 'OK, now we’re doing cyberpunk.'"
"Everybody had seen the Ridley Scott films, and I was a huge fan of William Gibson. After all of the pretension and forced whimsy of the Ultima franchise, we just wanted things to be dirty and messy and futuristic for a while, which is what drove the aesthetic."
With most of Looking Glass into the cyberpunk genre, programmer Marc LeBlanc explained that Looking Glass publisher Origin wanted "Underworld in space," which led to System Shock being set on a space station. Then came the idea for physical augmentation and cyberspace hacking, which also looked very different in the beginning.
"In the original pitch, there was going to be terminal hacking, where you would sit down and start typing. That got cut because it was too real at the time," LeBlanc explained. "That was like most people’s experience of a computer before Windows was really a thing - sitting down and typing in a text prompt.
As for the title, that actually came from a D&D reference. It was originally called BIOSfear, but programmer Rob Fermier remembered driving back from the mall while talking about Dungeons & Dragons and the rules surrounding system shock.
"And we were like, 'That’s a cool term, we should use that as the name,'" Fermier said. And so they did.
System Shock is available now on Steam.
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