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    Tuesday - 2.17.1999
    Design Q & A - Shadows - 1:15pm EST - Dan
So the question was raised; what about shadows in System Shock 2? Will they conceal you like in Thief? Will all objects have shadows, like in Unreal? Ken Levine delivers a reply.
It depends what you mean by shadows. There are plenty of shadows in the game. Even our objects cast shadows! However, moving objects do not (they could, but the game would be really, really slow)...

However, as far as I know, the Dark engine (and our super-duper version of it) are the only engines in the world that the monsters are sensitive how much shadow the player is in...therefore the gameplay is affected by shadows, and they are not simply eye candy.

Therefore, in terms of gameplay, we are the engines where shadows actually matter...

Oh drat! No shadows for moving objects! If it slows the game down too much, then why not just implement them, and give all us taffers with no ninja PCs an option to shut 'em off?
It's probably a little late for dynamic shadows...they're cool, but have little or no impact on gameplay...as Shock2 is a gameplay first design, we are trying to focus on the most game-centric technologies...
Hmm... maybe for Thief 2 then! This Q/A session was taken from the System Shock 2 Discussion forum. The entire thread is viewable here.

The lack of news has been pretty rough. The SS2 team is entering crunch time, (i.e.. the last few months until Beta) so they don't have as much time for Q/A these days. But there will be a big preview coming soon, so we have that too look forward to!

    Saturday - 2.13.1999
    Correction Regarding Weapons Skills - 11:40pm EST - Dan
When in the IGN preview, by Talmadge Blevins, it spoke of the weapons expert being skilled at weapon modification & repair, I said it was wrong. Well, it now looks like we were both half right, both half wrong. Here is the response I received from Ken regarding the subject.
Weapon skill affects things like the ability to use certain types of weapons at all and how much damage you do with it. Repair skill affects how well you can repair things like weapons and computers and maintenance skill affects how well you can keep your weapons from breaking down in the first place.
Thanks for clearing this up!

    Friday - 2.12.1999
    Skarz on Clipping Problems, and Screenshot Darkness - 2:30pm EST - Dan
People complain that the screenshots are too bright. Then they complain that that are too dark. Skarz discusses the problem.
The screenshots have been coming out very dark. The actual game is not as dark as most of the screenshots. The last three shots that I released (it had the new shot of the Rumbler), people actually complained that they were to bright- can't win. I think the difference was that I started using HyperSnap-DX (this program rocks by the way), which takes much better Screenshots. I have fine tuned the gamma level (brightness) of the screenshots HyperSnap-DX takes and get some great output now.
Another question raised (by me, in fact) was about the clipping problems that we see in the Dark Engine.
System Shock 2 is a hardware only game. This means we use the cards themselves to handle all the z buffering/clipping- Thief did not. Hope this helps!

P.S. - Sorry if we fail to respond quickly as of late to any questions/concerns, but we're kind of in "crunch mode" at the moment. Keep the faith...

Crunch mode indeed! Only 3 months until scheduled release!

    Wednesday - 2.10.1999
    Fan Fiction Added to Archive - 11:50pm EST - Dan
It's good too see so many people (10 so far!) writing and submitting fan fiction. Today we have a new one from Philip Tan. Again we see the story told about just how SHODAN managed to survive Citadel, but this time with an unexpected twist! You'll see what I mean when you read it. I certainly blinked a few times when I read it. Enjoy!

Would anyone like to try their hand at writing a story that doesn't have to do with explaining SHODAN's return? How about some artwork too!

    IGN With SS2 Screenshots, Preview, and Interview. - 11:50pm EST - Dan
The Imagine Games Network has a heap-o System Shock 2 goodies online. First and foremost, are the new screenshots they have in store for us.

All Clear on GreenDeck This screenshot reminds me of System Shock 1, Star Trek, and Babylon 5, all at the same time. The caption up top is explained below.
Command Station Cluster It's hard to make out the architecture in this shot, due to the dim green light, but it looks like a rather complex command cluster to me.
Sketch: Our Character Another sketch of what our character could look like. Isn't that a Skorpion on his shoulder?

There is also a much much larger version of Crystals.

The preview is much like the others. Long introduction, a few brief well knows facts, a few errors, and leaves you with the feeling that System Shock to will be somethin' else! Anything noteworthy? Isn't there always!

The skills will fall under three headings: psionics (mind-controlled special powers), cyber-tech (lets you hack computer systems, repair hi-tech equipment, and research alien tech), and weapons (allows you to modify and repair weapons).
BEEP, wrong! Two out of three ain't bad, I guess. Modifying weapons is part of the cyber-tech skills. Weapon skills are skills directly related to the use & normal operation of weaponry.
"We kinda looked back at Ultima Underworld at the different RPG elements and took it from there. We wanted players to have the ability to grow with their character," Irrational Games' President Ken Levine told us. And while you won't actually gain experience in System Shock 2, you will find various upgrade stations scattered around the game world where you can enhance your cyber-abilities.
That's news to me! Sounds remarkably like praying at a shrine in Underworld 1.

Last but not least, IGN scored an interview with the RobotKid himself, producer of Thief and System Shock 2, and frequent TTLG reader, Josh Randall. Here are some noteworthy points.

IGN-PC: We've also heard that the character generation system is going to be similar to the classic pen and paper sc-fi RPG Traveller. Can you describe the character generation in a little more detail?

JR: Shock 2's character generation system is accomplished through a methodology similar the paper game Traveller where the character chooses from 3 branchs of the military: The Marines (which focuses on weapons skills), The spaceborne Navy (which focuses on technical skills) and the secret black ops division, the OSA (which focuses on psi powers). The character goes through 4 years of military service, choosing a single "mission" each year. Each mission is resolved through a simple debriefing where the player is informed of their characters growth during the course of the year. All of these decisions take place IN THE 3D. System Shock 2 keeps you in the game engine at all times.

I'm curious as to why the interviewer didn't pursue this question further. I'm anxious to see how it will really work.

    Tuesday - 2.9.1999
    Localized Versions of System Shock 2 - 11:50pm EST - Dan
Info bit from the Discussion Forum .
Shock 2 will be localized into German at the very least. If you want other languages, let EA know!
You can read the entire thread, started by Axel Haake, here .

    System Shock 2 Preview at Next Generation Online - 11:20pm EST - Dan
Time for me to take a break from working on Unpaid Game Players Online (UGPO) to do a bit more System Shock 2 reporting. This time it's a flattering preview from Next Generation Online. I really didn't see anything new, but one thing did catch my eye.
"From the early bit we've seen, you find yourself on a wrecked space station where something has gone terribly wrong and there are zombies - oh, god! the zombies - in every corner. You must unravel the mystery of what has gone wrong here in the furthest corners of space."
First off, it's a Star Ship. It's a simple and trivial mistake, and I wouldn't have mentioned it if not for the other disturbing thing about this text. Zombies? Umm.. no. Sure, I can see how you could call cyborgs and humanoid mutants "zombies"... but seeing as Thief has inspired a rather strong hate affair with anything by that name, I think 'twould be wise for me to point out that they were indeed using this metaphorically.

Oh yes, and UGPO should be going up any day now. Looks like it's going to be one hot site! I hope everyone takes a look!

    Friday - 2.5.1999
    System Shock 2 Preview at PC Fan - 2:50pm EST - Dan
One of the problems of being the be-all-end-all source of public (and not so public) information on System Shock 2, is that whenever a preview comes along, you spend more time correcting their errors then getting excited about what new things they have to say. This preview at PC Fan is no exception. Well let's get on with it.
"One interesting aspect of how the plot is parlayed is the use of flashbacks. Instead of vid-logs in the previous title, "ghost apparitions" form in front of you, acting out scenes to establish the setting and background."
We've been told in the past that this is an incorrect description. These apparitions are "apparitions" in the sense that they "appear" to you. It has nothing to do with undead NPCs. They are "psionic imprints". Bad things have happened in this place in the near past, so your psionic powers, boosted by cybernetic implants, picks it up in the form of ESP. There is another error that I'd like to make very clear. There will still be e-mails, and logs, and no, they will not be full motion video.

    New System Shock Fan Story - 2:20pm EST - Dan
Fan Story # 9 has arrived, written by Fongyee Long. As always, it's quite superb. I won't give too much away about it, other then to tell you that it is unlike any of the other stories in the collection. I enjoyed reading it, and I hope you do too.

Story #9- By: Fongyee Long

    Tuesday - 2.2.1999
    Forum is Reborn - Sorta - 8:50pm EST - Dan
The bad news is, it looks as if we've lost all the old posts. *sigh* Oh yes, and they are all WHITE too.

Okay, I got that over with. Good news is that they are much faster. Let me put emphasis on the word MUCH here. Yes, it's true. For another thing, the primary complaint about the old forums, being that it was hard to tell at a glance what was new & old, has been fixed. Now folders with unread messages appear red, while unchanged ones are yellow. I hope this helps, Ken!

    Monday - 2.1.1999
    Want More? How About Six New Screenshots! - 3:35pm EST - Dan
If the interview didn't satisfy your crave for more System Shock 2 stuff, and these new shots don't either, then nothing will. These are from SharkyExtreme.

That's Close Enough! Our character gets very up close and personal with a maintenance droid. This environment looks to be one of those big open space we've heard about.
One More Humaniod Mutant We step away and get a better look at the Humanoid Mutant from the previous shot. He looks like he's floating!
The Hunt is Afoot The player bears down upon the same Bot as before, this time packing a nastly looking rifle. We get to see some really nice shading effects in this one.
Medical Area The medlab here looks so much like it did on Citadel, it's eerie. Also looks like they've found a new home for the paper doll artwork seen in the 1st screenshot.
None Shall Pass! Looks like the only way to get through that door is through that bot. Hmmm... what to do?
Something Wicked This Way ComesIs that the cyborg assassin, seen before, or a new type of enemy? Too dark to really see.

There are also higher res-versions of Battle that Mutant, Wield yea a Cannon , and Remember ....

    Report on the SS2 Chat Sunday Night - 2:45pm EST - Dan
In a nutshell, the chat session with Ken Levine & members of the SS2 Development team was a huge success. Aside from getting lots of great new information, we all had absolutely way too much fun. The room was packed. Just about everyone who frequently used the System Shock 2 forum was there. The Systemshock2.com SHODAN look-alike even dropped by to say hi! First things first, he's a lowdown on the new information we got out of Ken Levine. (Everything below is a direct quote. Nothing is paraphrased. Grammar and spelling has been corrected where needed.)
Q: How long do we have to wait to get shocked? - Ducky

A: Shock 2 will be appearing in the spring of this year. I'm guessing some time around E3.

Q: Can you give us a guestimate percentage on how far you are in the game? - Ashrim

A: Let me say this. The game now has meaningful gameplay and there are levels that are now playing like the real game will. That's not to say that all the art and final balancing is done for those levels, however.

Q: Will SS2 have a time limit(s) as an option, as SS1 did? It made for replayability - a means of adding tension once you knew the game well. - JSterrett

A: Right now there is no plan for time limits. However, it's not something we've ruled out, simply something we've never discussed. Shock 2 will inherently have more replayability due to both the multiplayer and the different types of characters you can develop.

Q: Will there be plenty of secret areas to discover, like in SS1? (with a secret% per level?) - Exxos

A: There will be secret areas. I don't think we have a secret % per level meter in mind. And no BFG. Look for much nastier, gritty weapons.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about that cannon in the screenshot? - Digital Nightfall

A: That is the grenade launcher. Many types of grenades, many ways to modify. They bounce! They time! They emit!

Q: Will we be able to choose individual models/skins for our characters ? Or will they be based on the 'profession' we choose ? - Kensai

A: Currently we have no plans for radically different skins, though we will have some modifications to tell people apart.

Q: What kind of connections will we need for coop? - JSterrett

A: Minimum modem is unclear right now. Remember, this is LG/Irrational's first multiplayer game...so we are building the tech specifically for Shock 2. So right now we have no numbers. I would assume a 28/56. The fact that we are cooperative eases the latency issues somewhat, but its unclear exactly how much impact that will have on performance.

Q: Will there be a special webside by LG/IG for multiplayer? - JOS

A: We are discussing that now.

Q: What impact have the reactions to Thief had on the SS design? - JSterrett

A: Clearly, the only really negative reaction to Thief (in my perspective, but I may be biased because I worked on it) was on the graphics front. It's a tribute to the design of the engine that we've been able to (with LG) modify it so radically in the time we've had since Thief shipped and before.

Q: Can you give us some specific examples of how the engine has been improved from Thief to SS2? - Fleet

A: 16 bit color made a huge impact, colored lights make a world of difference and there's a new dithering technique that gets rid of all of the banding you might have seen in Thief, plus, multiplayer.

Q: Ken, why did you not include me in the game? - Moose

A: You ARE in the game.

Q: I assume differentiation of characters will be important enough. But are plans for a (very simple) signing language considered (see: Quake2 taunts) ? - Kensai

A: No plans right now for a signing language, but if somebody has some thoughts send me some email.

Q: Off topic, but how is Thief selling? - Snowlock

A: Thief is selling quite well and I would say is the best reviewed game this year along with Half Life.

Q: Will we be able to hide from enemies in shadows (sort of like Thief) to a limited degree? - Ashrim

A: Yes, the game naturally and organically uses that feature. Also sound propogation.

Q: How much is stealth a factor in ss2? Can you get the drop on enemies? Evade them totally? Do different enemies have different senses? Different sharpnesses of different senses? - Kicker

A: Can't talk about that too much right now except to say we are using hte same engine as Thief, so we have CAN use everything they can.

Q: Can we modify weapons to emit less noise? - JOS

A: Nice idea, actually never thought of that one.

Q: Will there be more of those cool subgame "entertainment packs" you could pick up in Cyberspace in SS1? :) - Exxos

A: You'll have to wait and see.

Q: How difficult can we make the game? Seeing there will be up to 4 people in coop, and all :> - Ducky

A: we will balance the game over the number of players, of course. Difficulty levels are still up in the air...stay tuned.

Q: What graphical improvements are being made to cyberspace? - Grizzly

A: Ah hah...Cyberspace, cyberspace, cyberspace...Solus, should we tell em? Ah, nah... (Ahhh... not yet. - solus ) Let's keep em in suspense.

But after Ken left, the night was far from over. In fact, the party was just getting started! I'm happy to say that the chaos and insanity we degraded into turned out to be one of the best IRC parties I've been to in a very long time. 8 D
* King`Digi grins evily
* Queen`Kiki jumps down from the throne and crouches low, choosing a victim
* solus snickers
* King`Digi flips the conversion switch
[Moose] Cyborg conversion enabled. Standard restoration procedures modified to produce cybernetic assistants for SHODAN.
[Skarz] CHOOSE ME!!!!!
[Skarz] ;)
[solus] there are a few advantages to being undead.
* Queen`Kiki 's tail twitches
[King`Digi] Moose, produce me an army of cyborgs!!!
* Skarz snaps his neck again- just to make sure he is undead...
[solus] resistance to sub-zero temperatures.... broken necks...
[Skarz] yep - he is undead...
[la0s] well i'm the necromancer here so you're under my control Solus
* Queen`Kiki 's claws extract and she bears her fangs and growls
[King`Digi] Kiki, my queen... destroy Skarz now
* solus salutes la0s
[King`Digi] please
[solus] aye aye
[King`Digi] *s*
* Kensai exchanges Moose with a fake and returns to the shadows....err...wait...
* Skarz busts out some silver- he wears a lot....
[la0s] Solus whipe them all of the face of this planet
* Queen`Kiki perks her ears and leaps at Skarz
* Skarz dives to the side and pulls out his Desert Eagle .45
* Grizzly lunges at Skarz and slashes him with his claws.
[solus] errr.. I may be undead, but I'm not Superman.
* Ashram tries to rally forces against the EEEVIL forces of Digi
* Skarz shoots of two rounds with silver tipped bullets...
* Grizzly runs behind a pillar.
[King`Digi] La0s, my Knight, have solus Kill Skarz!!
* solus jumps on the nearest person
[solus] DIE!
Are we Shock fans total Nuts or what? That's not even the worst of it. Hehehe...

After reading all of these, I'm sure that all of you are just dying to read the entire chatlog! You have two options. Impatient people with fast connections can view that chatlog here. Be warned, it is huge, over 400K in fact.

For everyone else's convenience, you can download the log html file, zipped to just 50K, and view it offline. Enjoy!