TTLG Presents: Interview With System Shock 2 Developers

Through the LookingGlass "TTLG": What aspect(s) are you working on now? (i.e., level design, art, code, etc)
Scott "Skarz" Blinn: At the moment I am a full-time Level Designer on System Shock 2. As most of you know I am currently working on a level code named "Flight Deck". The new and final name is now called "Command". I am in charge of all design aspects of my levels. After I finish Command, I have one more level to do (the final level of the game). After that is done, I hope to be able to do some other stuff that may need to be done like fooling around with some advanced scripting or maybe some hi-end graphic work.

Michael "MSG" Swiderek: I'm primarily a 2D artist, which means my responsibilty lies mostly on texturing the game, creating the visual interface, and other such tasks, though I ocassionaly create foul 3D objects, if I have time.

Michael "Solus" Ryan: I've been doing level design for the game, which is a lot of fun. It's my job to use all of the objects and textures that the artists create, and to effectively bring it all together.

Robert "Rob" Caminos: I am editing our motion captured data to plug into the 3D character models in the game. Because this is a new technology, I am spending most of my creative energy trying to improve our methods of getting the animations into the game. Since the animation is done for me by an actor, a great deal of time must be placed into planning. We need to know ahead of time what animations are missing from the game, which ones need to be re-done, schedule the studio time and cast, and set up a schedule for editing time.

Ian "Ian" Vogel: I am designing and building levels for Shock 2. That includes conception, architecture, objecting, gameplay, texturing, and lighting. We all wear many hats, and I've been working pretty closely with Ken on writing cutscenes, logs, and plot . I also annoy Jon and Xemu because I'm always fookin' up the editor and making them fix it.

TTLG: What is your vision for what System Shock 2 will be like?
Skarz: I'm excited about SS2. The game is backed by a ton of innovation and talent. I see SS2 as being an all time favorite- just like Classic Shock became. I'm glad to be a part of it!

MSG: I think System Shock Two should fulfill the vision of the original, but I think it's going to be much, much darker and more horrific.

Solus: It'll be an interesting blend of horrific science fiction, action, and role-playing. I really hope game critics label it as "Blade Runner meets Aliens'.

Rob: The Shock team adheres to a strict policy against mind altering drugs during the development cycle, so I have had no visions.

Ian: What is your vision for what System Shock 2 will be like? A best seller..interviews on CNN...Record deals for Shock 2 soundtracks.. critical accolades..Pay raises..cameos on NewsRadio..paparazzi photographs with supermodels like Catwoman in the original Batman series and Linda Lavin at celebrity fundraisers. Fun, horror, and incredible immersion await you!

TTLG: Where do you draw your inspirations from?
Skarz: A ton of places- got to have variety! Neil Gaiman, Clive Barker, my friends, movies, SS2 team, music, other games, and occasionally the bottle. ;-)

MSG: I have a lot of different inspirations, but when I'm doing stuff for Shock, I look to the works of artists like Masamune Shirow, Jim Lee, and Hans Ruedi Giger and a lot of video games (too many to mention). I also try to look at the real world and apply elements of it to the futuristic environment of Shock. . .

Solus: There are far too many sources to name. Film, novels, people, places. I've driven past buildings before and then later written RPG modules based on what I saw briefly. I have a pretty good imagination, and all it takes is a little spark to set it off. I love hard science fiction, anything Egyptian, and the color black.

Rob: Observation is key. Now that I am doing animation I pay a lot more attention to how people move. Differences in body types and genders can make a dramatic impact on how a person moves. Another excellent source for observation is other games. Though most games use conventional animation as opposed to motion capture, it is still useful information.

Ian: I dream in 16 bit color, I drink a lot of coffee, and I talk to spirits. I also read a lot, from the Boston Globe to science fiction. The Aliens series has been a great influence as well.

TTLG: How long have you been into computers?
Skarz: Since the age of 12 (about 13 years). I first learned to program- mostly because there were no cool games at the time. Then I got my first Amiga. I soon had a Video Toaster and started using LightWave 3D and Deluxe Paint. That's were it all beganů

MSG: I've been using computers since I was 4 or 5, but I hadn't really considered a career focused around them until I was in college.

Solus: About 14 years. My dad used to take me into his work on the weekend, and I'd play text games or draw pictures with ASCII characters before printing them out on this HUGE printer that made a ton of noise. Games like Zork, Planetfall, and Rogue are some of the first that I remember playing. I eventually got a Commodore 64, which was great, even without a floppy drive. I probably had the system for almost a year before I got a Datacassette drive, during which time I taught myself how to program using BASIC. I eventually ended up with a dual-floppy drive system, with 300-baud modem access, an Epyx FastLoad cartridge, and a busted joystick port.

Rob: I got a late start compared to most people around here. Since 1993 when I bought a Macintosh LC430. I later got a Power Mac and learned the joys of Adobe Photoshop and digital illustration. Once I started working for Looking Glass and used a real computer, I built myself a PC quickly became a gamer. Getting a job in the business can change you in odd ways. I'd hang out with my friends and they'd be showing me some new game they got and I'd already know, who made, read all the reviews, and offer my opinion on how much the AI sucks and the FPS is about as low as the IQ of the person that would enjoy this game. So I had to get new friends but that's life.

Ian: Since the days of Atari's Pong.

TTLG: What previous games have you worked on?
Skarz: While my friends and I always tried to make a game (and we got several prototypes up and running), I havn't done anything on the "Pro" side until now- game wise.

MSG: I'm a newbie, fresh out of college. ^_^

Solus: I've been designing games every since I can remember (read: age 12), but until recently nothing has come of it. I was a QA tester for LGS during the development of Flight Unlimited for DOS, and after working for a while in Tech Support, I became a designer for the recently released Thief: The Dark Project. I worked on the game for about a year, building various missions in the game. If any of you have played the game yet, you can see my handy work in "The Prison", "Assassins", "The Lost City", and "Maw of Chaos". Many of the missions had multiple people working on them, but the architecture for the last two is pretty much solely mine.

Rob: None, this is my first project, and I couldn't have asked for a better team to break me in.

Ian: I built levels and worked on design for Thief:The Dark Project. I've also been a lifelong gamer through Intellivsion, Colecovision, arcades, and Sega. I've written a bunch of treatments and dialogue for games on my own.. and even programmed a couple on my father's old Osbourne computer (which still works).

TTLG: What's your background as it pertains to what you're working on?
Skarz: I'll try to make this brief: Way back in the day I started doing 3D with LightWave on my Amiga. I then started my own company called ATR Solutions, Inc. Where a friend of mine and myself designed software for LightWave 3D called WaveNet Pro (a network rendering system dispatcher). This software was used by many of the Hollywood studios and larger game development houses. We even made a custom version for use on "Titanic". We then made a similar product for Lightscape Technologies called LSnet. Mi main jobs included: programing, GUI (interface design) layout and programing, Magazine Ads, writing all documentation (the manuals), Tradeshow management, and other stuff.

After the closing of ATR (long story). I did a lot of freelance work. I worked on a cool all-3D movie trailer for Sun Microsystems and then was hired as a consultant and conceptual designer for deals involving both Brett Favre and Scottie Pippen. After I finished that work, I decided to make video games for a living (it beat getting a real job). I applied as a texture/3D artist at Looking Glass and they must have thought I was System Shock 2 material because they introduced me to Irrational Games. I.G. performed the proper rituals and sacrifices- and here I am!

MSG: I've always been kind of into art, and I got to a point in high school when I decided that it was something that I really wanted to do and to be good at, so I would draw almost exclusively, leaving little time for such frivolous things as sleeping. I got my BA in Fine Arts, and, shortly after graduation, a friend told me "you should go to work on System Shock 2." So I did. :)

Solus: I've had relatively no difficulty in learning new things as long as it interests me, and 3D architecture is just one of those things I just fell into. Maybe it's the way my mind works, who knows. I was crazy about Legos as a kid, and that has probably helped me quite a bit. If I can visualize something, I can usually build it.

Rob: "Ah, well... I attended Juliard. I have a degree from the Harvard Business School. I lived through the black plague and I had a pretty good time during that. I've seen the exorcist about 167 times, and it keeps gettin funnier, every single time I see it. Not to mention you're talkin to a dead guy. What do ya think? You think I'm qualified."

Ian: I have a film and English b.a., I worked in Hollywood on music videos(including Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit) and for the past 6 years I was a news reporter, photographer, and editor. I've also produced and written corporate video and film pieces. I lit Kevin Kline for an interview and I did Steve Forbes's makeup once before I interviewed him when he ran for president. So I can communicate verbally, visually.. and I play a ton of games.

TTLG: Any details you can reveal at this time?
Skarz: Without getting burned at the stake? I guess telling you the "Flight Deck" is now called "Command" will have to do for now!

MSG: Yes, but my mutilated body will be discovered in a cess pool in a small third world country, where they will label me "John Doe" and bury me in a potter's field. Ask me again when the game comes out, and I'll tell you _all_ about it. ^_^

Solus: Other than the fact that it's very late and I've been answering these questions from the bottom up, no.

Rob: Absolutely, I got all kinds of dirt to reveal. Gladyce my neighbor has an 18 yr. old daughter that is to die for and is dating one of the most prominent Gynecologists at Mass General. One night she comes home with the gyno, a 5 gallon drum of petroleum jelly, and a goat; and for the next 8 hours they... Wait. What was the question again?

Ian: Yes. I see that you have a long life ahead of you. You are...a sagittarius, and something in your childhood left you scarred for life. Your Uncle Milty will leave you lots of money someday, which you should then send to me. You're getting verrry sleepy....

TTLG: Where do you see the Shock universe going after Shock 2?
Skarz: It could go anywhere really. System Shock 3, RTS System Shock or even an Online System Shock would be cool.

MSG: I think a lot of that depends on the response and concerns of the fans, although I've heard ideas, and they're all very cool. . . I'd like to see the universe develop some more depth so that different types of plots and villains become possible. I'd also really like to see a Shock universe game that takes place in a more real world environment with office buildings, supermarkets -- imagine the world as it is now, but it's the future, and you're maybe a member of an AI policing unit, and you have to investigate something, revealing something bigger. That's really vague, but that's the sort of thing I'd like to do/see.

Solus: To the movies! Yes that's right! We just have to get James Cameron to sign these papers here... Aside from that, I'd like to see some earth (or colony) based storylines with the depth of the original (and the upcoming) System Shock. I was thinking of writing a novel based in the Shock universe, but I ain't no good at that stuff.

Rob: On vacation for a couple of weeks to some tropical get away. That last month before shipping a game is murder on the nerves ya know.

Ian: On vacation, to scuba dive in the Cayman Islands and drink Corona .

TTLG: What are the possibilities for an open-ended RPG (like Privateer or Daggerfall) in the Shock universe?
Skarz: Very good. Only a very small portion of the world has been revealed. System Shock Online anyone?

MSG: I'd like to see something like that -- it's a big design task, though. . . I thought that Privateer lacked some player direction, though I didn't play much of it. . . And I've only watched someone play Daggerfall. I think it's a tough balance between freedom and focus. It's really hard to gauge the players ability to pick up on what you intend for them to notice. Total freedom is no fun if you're wandering around a world with no idea what to do.

Solus: That's a good question. It could be cool, but would require a LOT of work. I'm up for it as long as the design is solid and it wouldn't just be a huge empty universe. I'm a sucker for detail, and games like Daggerfall don't do it for me. I'd usually prefer a highly detailed and concentrated play space.

Rob: What ya say sunny, an open faced BLT. Why I'd love one.

Ian: Open ended...

TTLG: What do you enjoy most about working with your team? What is the most annoying?
Skarz: The SS2 team rocks! A great variety of talent. We all get along great and have a good time while we work. Couldn't ask for more in a team. Annoying? I would have to say No Pants Friday. Explanation NOT forthcoming!

MSG: It's a really fun, positive, and supportive environment -- there's always lots of ideas being bounced back and forth. And I'm the most annoying thing about my team. ^_^

Solus: They're a great bunch of guys with a lot of vision. I feel real good about working on Shock 2 because I feel very confident that we can whip together a kick ass game. The most annoying thing about working with the team is that we're all squished into a single room, and I'm off in the corner. (Just kidding Ken! It's really not bad... I just couldn't think of anything else. They MADE me say it!)

Rob: We all love games and that is really the most important thing with any team; everyone needs to love what they do. Multiplayer races, and deathmatches are a highly therapeutic ritual that takes the edge off the long hours. The most annoying thing is easily the lack of elbow room. We're packed like sardines in our office, but we are looking into bunk cubicles. Of course we'll be fair about who gets the top bunk... we'll roshambo for it. row.sham.bow see South Park episode Mecha-Striesand.

Ian: Cool guys with great ideas. We need more creative women in the industry.

TTLG: How would you rate your co-workers?
Skarz: On a scale of 1 to 10? 9. I'll bump that up to ten when the game ships!

MSG: I think the team is top notch, and really tight -- there's not really any slack. I'm not just saying that because I work with them; I'm always impressed with the stuff that people come up with. There will be situations where I think nobody could possibly come up with a good solution, but someone always manages to come up with something that blows me away.

Solus: Top-notch. I'm grateful enough to have been part of two of the best teams in the industry (from what they tell me). They're a bunch of talented guys and gals. There's not much more to say.

Rob: I'd give them about 9.8 They have a great sound but I can't dance to it. Seriously though... As a team we get along remarkably well. We all have a warped sense of humor, and have a great respect for one another. We all critique one another's work openly and nobody is foolish enough to think that they are better than the rest of the team. Often our disagreements prove to be more productive than when we all like something.

Ian: Excellent.. a great team. Sometimes they even talk to me too. The average I.Q. is 140 (and that's individual, not collective...)

TTLG: Can you tell us a little about your office environment?
Skarz: We work in what is called the "Shock Pit" It's a big open area with everyone's desk in there- even the "Big Three" Ken, Jon, and Xemu. It's a great way to work and we have a lot of fun- maybe TO much fun!

MSG: Cluttered! (Is that little enough?!)

Solus: Zany at times, and lots of fun. I can throw things at my co-workers and will not get fired. Flexible hours are good. I have incredible difficult waking up before 11am, so it helps. Hell, it 5:12am at this very moment in time.

Rob: Think a cross-town bus during rush hour, filled with the cast of Animal House and headed to a Kiss concert. It's kind of like a dorm room. People are always frolicking around at all hours of the day, I am currently answering this interview at 4:30am because I was up all night getting animations ready for a cutscene. Our only dress code seems to be to stay anyway from the 3 piece suits. One of the most memorable Looking Glass moments happened before I was even hired. I just got off the phone with my, will be, boss to schedule my first interview and as soon as I hung up the phone, he called me right back to tell me not to dress up.

Ian: Goths, former punk rockers, Hollywood players, and doctoral degrees all mingle in a good sized, but slightly cramped room. Computers and Shock 2 art are the main decorations. Nate has a big Fallout 2 promo box that he wears every day. The smell of Ramen noodles and Beef-a-Roni waft gently from Solus Ryan's desk, and Jon and I alternate playing Portishead, the Deftones, and Catherine Wheel. The murmur of designers talking to themselves quietly underscores the hum of air conditioners and the tapping of the keyboards... in short, a poignant, insane Elysium of creativity.

TTLG: What did you like most about Classic Shock?
Skarz: You had to use your brain. That's so rare these days.

MSG: It was so classic. :) I have to admit that I didn't pick up on System Shock when it first came out -- I was Doom obsessed; I played Doom daily and still have almost every level burned into my memory. But when I did finally stop playing Doom (you have _no_ idea how much I played Doom! ^_^) and played Shock, I was most impressed with the immersiveness of the environment. . . There's no one thing I can point to -- I just really started to feel a part of the world.

Solus: The feeling of dread of not knowing what was around the corner. This was probably one of the first games that actually scared me. Even now a days, so few even try. Horror is a seriously overlooked genre in the computer games industry.

Rob: Well originally I just loved it cause it was a game for the Mac. But it's greatest asset was immersion. In Shock you could do things, that no other game did at the time, that made you feel like you were really there, like look around corners and such. It was the first RPG that I actually found fun to play.

Ian: Everything but the interface.

TTLG: What do you do when you aren't working?
Skarz: I could lie and say I always work, but I do manage to go to goth clubs and hang with friends every now and then. Mostly I spend my time with an inspirational goddess who graces me with her presence every so often.

MSG: My lawyers have recommended that I refrain from answering this question. ^_^ I have a band called Field that I play with (when the other members are in the country! ^_^), and I play ping pong (though not well), and many, many other things, too many to name!

Solus: I sleep (under my desk, no really). When I'm not sleeping, I go to the movies, concerts or clubs, hang out with friends, that sort of stuff. Boston is a pretty cool place to live and there are tons to do as long as it's before midnight. Damn Puritan Laws.

Rob: Things that would either get me arrested or elected to the Presidency. Often I get to together with other members of the team for a little R & R at a club, or go to see a concert or a movie. I am a firm believer in working hard and playing harder.

Ian: I run an 80 acre farm with my girlfriend, Anne-Marie. We take care of 22 cows, 5 horses, 16 chickens, 2 dogs and three cats. I also love going to see bands play here in Boston, and I am a huge hockey fan, so I geek out with hockey games. In fact, news, cartoons (Simpsons!), and hockey is almost all I watch on tv, when I even watch it.

TTLG: What is your favorite pen and paper RPG? computer RPG?
Skarz: Vampire: The Masquerade. I have been playing it for years and love it. I love all of White Wolf 's games. The newest one called "Trinity" is fun also. If you love the world of Shock- you should check out Trinity.

MSG: I haven't played to many pen and paper RPGs. . . As far as computer RPGs, I am currently playing Final Fantasy 7 and XenoGears -- I think both are stunning games.

Solus: My favorite pen and paper RPG is a toss-up between Shadowrun and AD&D. My favorite CRPG would have to be Bard's Tale or Ultima IV. I like a lot of the new titles, but none of them have had as much of an impact on me as the earlier games.

Rob: Unfortunately my favorite computer RPG is Diablo which isn't much of an RPG. I love it because it's got a lot of action but I yearn for the sequel because it will include all the features it needed the first time around to really make it an RPG. I usually don't enjoy most RPG's because they tend to be electronic versions of the paper version. Diablo and System Shock were entertaining because they were PC games with RPG elements, not the other way around.

Ian: When I was a kid, I had the best time playing a D&D module "The Queen of the Spider Pits" or something like that. Where computer games are concerned, I like games like Ultima Underworld, but I am more at home in the Privateer universe, although that isn't an RPG per se'... I do feel like you can carve out a distinct character even though you don't have stats. Diablo was a blast too...love that fire wall spell.

TTLG: Who in your field do you admire and why?
Skarz: I admire Chris Taylor. He's come a long way and done a lot of cool stuff. Total Annihilation is a great game and I can't wait to see what his new company, Gas Powered Games, will be doing with their new RPG!

MSG: There are a lot of really talented people in the video game industry -- unfortunately, because I'm new to it, I haven't really paid too much attention to who has done what. In addition, I have a lot of admiration for everyone on the team and I've learned a lot from them all.

Solus: Just about every game developer since 1980. From the moment I began playing computer games, I've wanted to make them. Guys like Brian Fargo and Michael Cranford (Bard's Tale), Richard Garriott (Ultima), and Phillip Price (Alternate Reality) really inspired me. I admire Warren Spector quite a bit. He's been in the industry for long time and has been involved in some of the best game ever made including the original System Shock. He started gaming when he worked at Steve Jackson Game and later TSR, and he's a pretty cool guy. Oh, and Ken Arnold. I can't even guess at the number of hours I've spent playing the classic Rogue.

Rob: Hideo Kojima, creator of Metal Gear Solid. He created the perfect balance between action and strategy, fun and realism.

Ian: During "Thief, the Dark Project", I worked a bit with Doug Church, one of the creators of the original Shock, and he has to be the smartest, game-intuitive guy I've ever met. He's one of the main brains behind Shock, Underworld, and many other Looking Glass Studio games. Warren Spector also seems really great, whom I've spoken with, but not yet met.

TTLG: In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of 1st person and 3rd person?
Skarz: I am usually a big fan of 1st person games, but one big drawback is when dealing with cinematics (if you don't switch to 3rd person). You also don't get as much visual feedback as you do with 3rd person games. Each has it's uses I guess.

MSG: As a texture artist, I think you are afforded more freedom in 3rd person, as you can make bigger area texture maps at lower resolutions. As far as gameplay goes, I choose not to really compare the two -- I love Metal Gear Solid, and I love Doom. In my eyes, there are 1st person games and 3rd person games, and they're simply different -- both can be really good and both can suck.

Solus: It really depends on the game and the mood you're trying to set. First person tends to be more immersive (we like that word) making it easier to generate a desired atmosphere. Unfortunately, limited field of vision causes some player to feel restricted because they cannot easily see the environment around them, and most first person engines don't render the character's body. The primary advantages of third person is that you see more of the surrounding environment, and you are able to see the character you control perform the various actions, like moving, fighting, and manipulating objects. A hybrid of the two could be interesting.

Rob: 1st person's advantages are clearly immersion. Since you are looking through your players perspective you feel as though you are actually there. One con is that I tend to feel like am just a camera moving around in a 3D world. If I look down, to cross a narrow bulk head or something I don't see my legs, the camera just shifts downward with my hands in front of me. In truth though I prefer third person, not that I think it's better, just that I prefer it. I just like to know what I look like... call me vain. It sort of like dressing up for Halloween, when I see my player character in skimpy shorts and a sports bra it makes me feel like... I wasn't just writing out loud just then was I.

Ian: I hate the clothing they pick out for me in third person games.

TTLG: What is your favorite sci-fi film? book?
Skarz: Aliens. As far as books go I loved the series by David Eddings- "The Belgariad" and "The Malloreon"

MSG: 2001 is my favorite sci-fi film, though in my eyes it's an art film. I also love the Star Wars movies, and I love Ghost in the Shell. . . As far as books go, I used to read a lot of sci-fi, but I don't remember it much and I prefer reading books that aren't novels now. But I read a lot of comic books (which I think count ^_^). . . Anything Shirow does constitutes my favorite sci-fi book. :)

Solus: I love films in general, and it would be far too difficult to pick a favorite. Of those that I look to for inspiration, I could name the Alien series, Terminator, the Star Wars saga (especially Empire Strikes Back), Gattaca, 2001, Total Recall, and of course Blade Runner. The same goes for books. I'm re-reading Neuromancer at the moment.

Rob: I realize this is grossly unoriginal but my favorite film would have to be Empire Strikes Back. My favorite book is no contest, Frank Herbert's Dune was one of the most influential books I have ever read, sci-fi or otherwise, second only to Ayn Rand's, Atlas Shrugged. Dune merged philosophy, economics, politics, military conflict, and technology into one of the most brilliant books ever written.

Ian: Star Wars hands down. I used to read a lot of Robert Silverberg, lately I've been reading a ton of William Gibson.. I think my favorite book is Gibson's "Burning Chrome". All those political autobiographies are good science fiction too.

TTLG: What do you want people to be able to do in a game, 5 years from now?
Skarz: Everything. What I want to see the most is hi-poly 3D in real time with volumetric lighting, reflections, etc.

MSG: It's hard to say; the tendency is to answer a question expecting too much (do you remember the stuff John Romero used to say was going to be in Quake? ^_^). As long as people are still making games that are fun in five years I'll be happy; they don't have to have a ton of features or be really fancy. If technology stayed where it is right now I could still be happy with it.

Solus: I'd be happy with environments that are more realistic and immersive. Visually, I'm hoping to see perfect reflections, curves, and water effects. Wading through water should cause ripples and waves. Audibly, there should be more natural sound systems. LGS has made major efforts toward creating a versatile sound propagation system, but like all new technologies, it has a way to go. World-wide internet play without latency would be nice, as well as full speech communication between team members. Obviously we all want better AI capabilities. I'm not talking about giving them the ability to dodge rockets or roll around; I'm talking about interactive capabilities, communication and understanding. AIs with personalities, moods, and memories. In a massive online persistent world, it would be unbelievably cool if an NPC had the ability to treat me differently based on situations in the game. If the NPC has dealt with another player who has annoyed him, the NPC may treat me better if I take his side against the player. Although, if I've been travelling with that player for a while, and he NPC knows this, he could act more aggressive or distant right from the start.

Rob: Play in unlimited 3D worlds. A game with a 3D solar system, so that you have dynamic weather changes in the game. More dynamic Artificial Intelligence with NPC that serve no purpose other than as extras. In 5 years I hope that every household can enjoy the wonders of multiplayer with the quality of direct LAN connections.

Ian: Everything..Blow up the Eiffel tower... land a spacecraft in a dock and get out and fight 1st person battles. I also hope the physics get even better so the environment is much more interactive...you know, throw a torch, set the wall or carpet on fire...that kind of thing.

TTLG: How has your life changed since you started working on shock2?
Skarz: I'm finally were I wanted to be- making video games. I feel very lucky that my first game is System Shock 2. I don't know were fate will guide me in this industry, but I started with a great foundation!

MSG: Private limos, high rolling, the romance, the mystery, and the groupies, oh, the groupies. . .

Solus: I'm older and wiser and stuff. I started smoking and drinking. Drugs are forthcoming.

Rob: I am all grown up now, with a respectable job and a great career path.

Ian: I now have no life...gone are the days of champagne, fox hunts, and Hampton getaways. BUT now I can walk proudly through the mall with newly bought Star Trek Blueprints and books on Aliens...it drives the ladies wild!! Just wait till I parade through the mall with the releases of Jagged Alliance2 and Heroes III, baby.

TTLG: What is the stupidest question you've ever been asked in an interview?
Skarz: The next question! :-)

MSG: I don't remember the question, but the answer involved rubber sheets and Crisco.

Solus: I can't even remember what I had for breakfast today. Er... There are no stupid questions, only answers?

Rob: This is my first interview so I don't think you wanna ask me that one.

Ian: "How much do you think my head weighs?"

TTLG: Button first then zip or zip then button?
Skarz: Well, when I'm not wearing my skirt (Dennis Rodman eat your heart out!), I guess the correct order for me would be: unlock handcuffs, button, and zip is optional.

MSG: Velcro, baby!

Solus: Definetly zip first, button later

Rob: Yeah right, like I wear pants.

Ian: 'no comment'

TTLG: Realism verses enjoyability.. your opinion?
Skarz: It's been quite the juggling act for System Shock 2. I guess my main rule will apply here- If your not having fun, I didn't do my job!

MSG: They're not mutually exclusive, so it's kind of an unbalanced question. . .

Solus: I'm an advocate of realism when it comes to game design. Nothing annoys me more than a game filled with gigantic corridors and winding staircases that serve no purpose other than creating interesting scenery. That's not to say I'm all for realistically boring areas, because there should always be a careful balance between the two. Generally it depends on the environment and atmosphere you are trying to generate. While working on Thief, I made a prototype level that was supposed to take place in a Keep still inhabited by a ruling noble family. Unlike most games that portray castles that are HUGE, sprawling structures, this level felt REAL cool. In the towers, the ceilings were high and made of wood. When an AI walked in the room above, you'd hear the footsteps above you echoing in the chamber. It wasn't tuned, but it could have been an interesting play space, especially for the stealthy gameplay that we were going for.

Rob: Enjoyability should never be set aside for anything. If it ain't fun, it ain't worth it. Realism should serve to make a game fun because when a game completely ignores realism, it makes the game, pardon the tech jargon, "suck".

Ian: Enjoyability, hands down. Games should have enough realism that you feel immersed, but that feeling varies game to game, it's a relative thang. It's got to be fun and cool though, otherwise, what's the point? So go buy "Thief: The Dark Project" and "System Shock 2"(when it ships) .c'mon.. what are you waiting for?!? Go have fun, dammit. Now git!



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