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    Friday - 4.30.1999
    Things I Missed - The Last 2 Shot Batches - 08:55pm EST - Dan
I missed a few things in the last two screenshots batches that need to be pointed out.

Dagger of the Mind
Check out that tall bluish item in the inventory. The one narrow thing with the handle at one end. YES! Thanks for the tip, Ishy!

My, You're Looking Pale Today
Actually the screen says "Attention". The first letters are blocked by the said of the wall. I feel silly. Thanks for the tip, Claws!

    Wednesday - 4.28.1999
    Ken Levine on Difficulty Levels - 11:15am EST - Dan
This is from a post in the forum which went up a while ago, actually, and I just now saw it. It's in response to a question regarding difficulty levels in the game- Will they be like SS1? Thief? or a new system?
Difficulty levels will be handled in a slightly different way in Shock 2.

System Shock 1 gave you more of an RPG experience by allowing you to turn down aspects of the game you didn't like, i.e. turning down puzzles let you bypass the hacker aspect of the game and let you focus on fighting.

Our true hardcore RPGness lets you develop a character organically along different paths, thereby letting the player approach the problems thrown at you as the player sees fit. That is to say, a weapons oriented guy will solve many problems by blasting his way thorugh, a hacker type guy will do a lot of hacking into security systems, modifying his tech, etc. and the psionic oriented guy will use his psi powers to carry the day.

As to specific difficulty levels, we are currently finalizing the spec, but we will have actual difficulty settings that make the game harder or easier to play.

So in brief, System Shock 2 supports BOTH actual difficulty levels and a deeper, more organic "play the game as you want to play" it method.

Ken Levine
Lead Designer, System Shock 2

I suppose that means that the actual difficulty setting which you choose at the start of the game simply break down to [easy] [medium] and [hard]. Read this entire thread here.

    New Screenshots from Next-Generation Online - 10:50am EST - Dan
NextGen has contributed to the SS2 press with a short, well written, preview. Though no information was gained from the text, (aside from a comment about the music) the screenshots are a treasure trove of goodies!

Born to Kill
Could this be the final draft of the evil Cyborg Assassin, whom we all love to hate? If it is, then it has come a long way since the first time we've seen him.

Dagger of the Mind
Between our character's Psionic & Hacking skills, we have one powerful mind at work here! In this shot we see, for the first time, both MFDs open at once. To the left is the hacking MFD. Never seen that stuff before! This leads me to belive that the hacking process is much more complex then I thought so before (see the post earlier today). ICE nodes must be overcome before hacking can take place. To the right, we see our psi power selection screen. It looks like there are five "circles" of psi powers, and you can assign hot-keys to them. And look at the keypad! Tetracorp!

"He's Dead, Jim"
Not much to say here, except that hand-gun looks awesome. Our first 800x600 shot too! Alright! I love this shot, just becasue everything looks so good!

One other note: I really like how most all previews have emphasized SS2 as a RPG, not as a shooter. Bravo!

    Original CGW Screenshots Released - 10:00am EST - Dan
Thierry Nguyen, of CGW fame, was kind enough to send me the original versions of the screenshots that appeared in his System Shock 2 preview several months ago. Now I have uncompressed versions at the original size, and we can actually see the fine text!

My, You're Looking Pale Today
Really nothing new to see here. That monitor says "TENSION", but I am not sure if that is of any significance.

What is this Ugly Spud?
That little spud is a pulpy, and most likely has to do with "The Many". Apparently you his the [research] button, and the little progress bar underneath goes at it. Your research skill determines how fast it goes. I'm not sure what [suspend] means though... maybe just a fancy way of saying "put it away"..?

Power in the Palm of Your Hand
This gives us a little bit more information on how hacking works. Nanites are used, (for those of you who don't know, a nanite is a microscopic robot, used in sci-fi for medical & computer tasks). Apparently you have a limited number of nanites, eliminating the "I'll just do it over and over till it works" method.

Say Hello to my Large Friend
Ah, an incoming email.

In less then an hour, I'll have three totally new shots up, via the preview at Next-Generation. Stick around.

    Tuesday - 4.20.1999
    Dorian Hart, Conserning a System Shock 2 Preview - 08:15pm EST - Dan
Recently there was a rather large discussion of System Shock 2 on one of the action or role playing newsgroups (I don't know which one). This debate can pretty much be summed up by one post by Dorian Hart, one of the key SS2 developers. This post answered quite a few questions people have been having concerning c-space, hacking, and monster re-spawning. Here it is, in it's entirety:
Hey there. My name is Dorian Hart, and I'm a designer currently working on System Shock 2. I also worked on the original System Shock. It's good to see lots of people interested enough in our games to talk about them so passionately in this forum.

I wanted to address some of the points being raised on the Newsgroups, regarding the respawning of monsters, and the "dumbing down" of the game.

First, some points about the original Shock:
1) The security systems, security levels, and cameras generally had nothing to do with monsters respawning.
2) Infinite monster respawning happened, to some degree, on almost every level of the game.
I know some of you might remember it differently, but trust me, I was there. This is what was happening. If you killed enough of certain kinds of monsters on a level, it made more.

In System Shock II, the monster spawning is more sophisticated than it was in the original Shock. Most monster spawnage is linked to security cameras. If a camera spots you, it will spawn "reenforcements" in your general area. Once you take out a camera, it's no longer a threat in this way.

Yes, there still is general "infinite spawning" on our levels, but it's there just to keep minimum population levels, and not to turn all our game spaces into neverending slugfests. The opinion has been raised numerous times that "Infinite Monster Spawns = Terrible Badness," but I don't see it as being that simple. Monster Respawning is just a tool that game designers have, and like any tool, it can be (and often is) misused. We think that completely cleaning out a level, in a game like System Shock, hurts the overall experience. We always want the player to be on his/her toes, never being sure that an area is completely safe. I think we'd all agree that spawning dozens of monsters all the time, with some right in the PC's face, is a bad thing. But making sure that 5-10 minutes (a long time in a 1st-person game) are not likely to go by without a single monster encounter -- call me crazy, but I think that's a good thing. We did that in the original Shock, and we're doing it in Shock 2.

Now, about the alleged "dumbing down" of the game: As near as we can tell, this rumor started when our lead designer, Ken Levine, made a public comment about how the interface was going to be easier for people to learn. And that's true. The biggest single complaint made about the original Shock was that the inteface was too complex and had too steep a learning curve. We believe that we have designed an interface that is easier to learn, but even more powerful and expressive than that of the original. System Shock 2 is a more complex *game* than its predecessor; there are more different possible playing styles, a more sophisticated combat system, and many more RPG elements.

Now, two things that are NOT in System Shock 2 are:

1) Cyberspace, in the same way as you experienced in Shock 1. (There's something similar, but I don't want to give too much away.)
2) Those wire puzzles where you clicked on wire ends until they all matched up.

I know some of you will miss these things, but frankly, the majority of feedback we got about them was that they didn't work very well, were annoying, etc. The new hacking system is actually more than just rolling a die, though it's very simple. We made it simpler and faster because there are *many* more places in the game where it's applicable. But the player will have often have the choice to make when hacking, where he can go ahead and risk breaking the thing he's trying to hack (or modify, or repair), or back out and start over (and by starting over, have to expend more resources in the process).

A last point I'd like to make: Remember that you can do actual harm to a game project by loudly proclaiming (and I paraphrase) "I heard a rumor that this game is going to suck because of X and Y, and I believe it, so watch out!" I've worked on a lot of games, and I've seen a lot of previews and commentary in gaming magazines, web sites, and newsgroups, about our products. I intend no disrespect to the hard-working and well-meaning Gaming Journalism Community, but the correlation of printed material to actual fact, at least in games I've worked on, is sometimes astoundingly small. Much of that inaccuracy, to be fair, happens because a previewer will see an advanced pre-Alpha or Alpha version, which changes drastically by the time a game hits the shelves.

And in some cases, like Ken Levine's quote about Monster Respawns, people will add their own spins to what they read. What Ken said was, essentially, "there will be monster respawns." People seem to have taken that to mean: "dozens of monsters will appear in every area just as you leave it, and you'll be wading hip-deep through combat everytime you want to back-track." The truth, as I've already said, is: "you'll never be able to rest perfectly easily, knowing that a whole level has been cleared out. There will always be at least a monster or two prowling about here and there."

I guess what I'm really saying, is to recognize the difference between hypothesizing and doom-saying. I urge you to wait and see for yourself whether features (or their absence) make for a better (or worse) game. If the game comes out, and you play it, and you think monster spawning (or anything else) ruins the experience, then I'll stand here and let the flames wash over me, and I won't even put on an asbestos jacket.

Anyway, I've probably said too much already. ;-) I'll warn you now that I won't have time to be involved in further threads on these topics -- I have to go back and keep working to finish System Shock 2! Again, I (and the whole team) appreciate all the interest and discussion going on, and want you, the hard-core fan base, to be happy and satisfied with our games.

-Dorian Hart
not speaking for his employers, or anyone else, for that matter.

If you would like to voice your opinion about anything you've read here, the System Shock 2 forum is open to all.

    Thursday - 4.15.1999
    Two New SS2 Screenshots, via VoodooExtreme - 08:15pm EST - Dan
The sultan of extreme, Wicked Wilson, managed to get our pals at Irrational Games to send him a few new System Shock 2 Screenshots. Well, these are actually never-before-seen old shots (note the alpha logo), and according to Skarz, the guy who made the level they showcase...
They are both from my Command level. The two of the least objected areas in that level. They just show off some subtle use of colored lighting and open spaces. They also have the interface in "minimized" mode for a more Quake/Unreal look. Also, they are from the old Alpha version and look even better now.
Here are the goods!

Command, Grey Room
This one rather reminds me of the Flight Deck. I swear some of these textures look like super high-res versions of ss1 textures.

Command, Brown Room
This one rather reminds me of Engineering. Doesn't seeing those deck icons on the wall give you a warm fuzzy feeling?

    Friday - 4.09.1999
    Glowing SS2 Preview at PCGamePro.com - 11:40pm EST - Dan
Last night I noticed that PCGamePro.com has had a System Shock 2 preview up for quite some time now, and no one bothered to tell me! This preview just glows, not so much in the inforamtion it presents, but by how in awe the previewer seems to be!
System Shock II just is, and, on the early evidence, it just works. Like its predecessor, it uses an indirect form of storytelling that shows us the outline of a plot instead of telling it to us—allowing us to put the story together in our own minds from found emails, logs, and notes. It offers up an intimidating twilight densely populated with doorways leading every which way, threatening creatures, and machines and items exotic, familiar, and just gross. (It's amazingly full, this one.) It has the visceral feel of a place, not a game.
There are also new screenshots- sorta. I say sorta becasue they are thunbnails, without any larger version. I'm trying to get in touch with them to send me full sized versions of the shots!

    Make Up Yer Minds Ya Bloody Taffers! - 12:25am EST - Dan
Well this issues has been ping ponged back and forth for the past few days, and I think that it's finally come to rest. And it's resting exactly where it started! According to a post at AVault:
First Electronic Arts announced the 3D action-adventure System Shock 2 had been delayed until fall. When the Adrenaline Vault contacted them to obtain a comment regarding the reasons, we were directed to TSI, the game's public relations agency, which today told us, "The game will be shipping this summer." Now that is a release date confirmation we can smile about.
Hopefully it will stay that way now!

    Tuesday - 4.06.1999
    Gamespot UK Posts System Shock 2 Preview - 2:40pm EST - Dan
The Gamespot Brits have whipped up a jolly good preview of System Shock 2, which features, among other things, 4 very nice new screenshots, and one new concept sketch. The text of the preview presents absolutely nothing we haven't already heard before, and is quite similar to the preview in the May issue of Computer Gaming World.

My, You're Looking Pale Today
Psionic Apparitions are one of SS2's new story elements. Using psionic energy, you'll be able too see these apparitions reenact events which have happened recently in the area.

What is this Ugly Spud?
One of the skills, research, was inspired by X-com. When you pick up an unknown artifact, be it one of SHODAN's mechanical creations or some bazaar biological construct of The Many, you can use your research skill to examine it. The amount of skill you have determines how long it takes.

Power in the Palm of Your Hand
This is a Psi Amp. Your Psionic skills will require you to equip it to channel your psionic energy. On the side we see the hacking menu. Hacking computers is treated like a die roll, rather then a quaint little puzzle. Hacking is risky, where not only is it possible to fail, and risk setting off an alarm, but breaking the item or system you're attempting to hack!

Say Hello to my Large Friend
System Shock 2 will feature the return of some of the weapons and enemies from System Shock 1. One notable return is the ever popular EMP rifle, a weapon that wrecks havoc on mechanical entities, like this Beaver Bot, and is totally harmless to organic creatures.

So the spiders in THIEF gave you the creeps? Guess what. They're back, and this time, they are mutated to be even meaner and creeper then the Trickster's critters. This is an Arachnimare, a spider mutated to have a diameter of about 4 or 5 feet!

The above info was gained from the screenshot captions in the Computer Gaming World Preview, in which all five of these images appeared.

    System Shock 2 Release Date Pushed Back - 2:40pm EST - Saam
Yes, that's what it appears to be. Jonric over at VaultNetwork fired an email my way with the following tidbit of news they posted:

System Shock 2 Release Drops To Fall
I have been informed by a representative of Electronic Arts that the projected release date for System Shock 2 is now this autumn. Previously, information from various non-EA sources had pointed to a spring/summer date.

I just emailed Ken regarding this, so let's see what they (Irrational) say about this. I'm not worried about delay though, it just means they're putting more features into the game we've all been wanting for years. :)

On a side note, we've popped up the ad banners for FGN- They are still under 'construction', so if anyone finds any problems with them, please let us know.

    A Word from Xemu on the Latest Screenshots - 2:40pm EST - Saam
I got an email from Rob "Xemu" Fermier (lead programmer of SS2) several days ago regarding the recent screenshots that were shown in PlayNOW!'s preview. Check it:

The once-grunt (that's just our internal name, I'm not sure how they are actually referred to in-game) moves along with a sort of shambling lope, which makes a lot more sense when you see it in motion than seeing one frame of it in a screenshot.

Also the "fish" is an (out of proportion) alpha symbol, for the version of the game that the screenshot was taken from. No particular religious message going on there, sorry...

In case you missed those screenshots, they are located here:

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