System Shock 2’s Surprise Ending — For Ken Levine, Anyway

System Shock 2’s Surprise Ending — For Ken Levine, Anyway
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Widely acclaimed when it released in 1999, System Shock 2’s cinematic conclusion nonetheless disappointed Irrational Games creative chief Ken Levine. The reason: The video that was shot wasn’t anything like what he had scripted.

“Due to miscommunications or differing ideas, a different cinematic video was created from the one that I originally scripted,” Levine says in a behind-the-scenes story Irrational published on its Web site yesterday. “We didn’t have much to work with. It was like when you look in the cupboard and you’re trying to make soup, and you have a bag of salt and couple of pinto beans.”

Levine says they bulled ahead anyway, having to rewrite parts of the game’s story to fit with the video they’d been given. “We completely ran out of time and that cut scene wasn’t the right ending for the game,” he says.

System Shock 2 was developed by Irrational and Looking Glass Studios, which led to some tension during the project’s creation. I’m wondering if this wasn’t also a manifestation of that. The anecdote is one of several about the shooter’s development, what could have been in the game, why it was left out, and how they arrived at the finished product. Like, for example, they considered a zero-gravity level, but the technology they had in 1998 would have made its development prohibitively time-consuming, especially for something that wasn’t a core feature of the game.

Although the game is more than 10 years old, it is a classic that some may wish to play, so, consider yourself spoiler alerted.

What Might Have Been [Irrational Games]


    • Perhaps, although if it wound up being heavily streamlined and simplified ala it’s spiritual successor, Bioshock, I’m not sure I’d really want it.
      While Bioshock is rightly applauded for it’s lofty ideas, interesting narrative and nice artwork, I always felt the modern FPS tropes felt quite at odds with it’s setting. System Shock’s slower survival horror style pacing and difficulty would have worked far better.

    • System Shock predated all this RC malarky. Theres nothing in it that’d necessitate refusal of classification anyway, not that that seems to stop the OFLC at the moment.

      • No it was never banned here. I used to work in a games store, Games R Us, and we sold it there, I remember on our closing down sale, picking it up for 2 dollars on the very very last day 5 minutes before closing time… *sniffle* best job I ever had.

  • Ahh if there’s ever a game I want to get its this one. I only ever got a bit of a go at the first and never really got the hang of it but the sheer quantity of nerdjizz spilled over this game makes it worth a look (I’ll be sure to wear rubber gloves though)

  • Completely missed the System Shocks the first time around, but tried to get SS2 running a couple of years back with no luck. Not sure if it was the OS or the video card from the future that it didn’t like.

    If GOG or Steam or someone spruced it up with full XP support, I’d be all over it.

      • System Shock 2 is pretty difficult to get running under modern Windows. You’ll need to download at least 3 different patches (all of which were on different sites, the last time I tried) and go through a complicated install process after which there’s a fair chance it still won’t work very well.

        A GoG version has to pop up at some stage with all the demand. You may well be best waiting for it,

        • Yes and no. I had a case where the game would play for a while and then freeze.

          This was because the Dark Engine (which powers the game) does not support multi-core or hyper-threaded systems.

          To address the problem, I had to start the game, minimise and then use task manager to change the processor affinity so the game only used a single core.

  • Man, if they’re talking about the cutscene at the very end in the shuttle, I freaking HATED that scene. I felt like I’d played through one of the most scary and ‘mature’ titles ever (at the time) only to be rewarded with an adolescently chauvanistic slap.

    • From reading the article I think they’re referring to the “Nah… *BOOM*” scene rather than the epilogue – look at what KL discusses as his original vision.

      For me, that was the scene (and that level! such wasted potential…) that really needed punching up a notch. The epilogue I could live with.

  • please put this game on steam already – I cant get any copy i have to work, and im too lazy to find a real copy – especially if there is no guarantee i can get it working anyway.

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