We’ve sung praises for System Shock 2 time and again and well, we’re not going to stop any time soon. SS2‘s brilliance is especially blinding when you get a chance to peek behind the development curtain, as Eurogamer’s Rick Lane did recently when he spoke to level designer Ian Vogel about the ever-unsettling MedSci deck.
Lane’s put together a great retrospective, where Vogel goes into a lot of detail about MedSci’s creation. For example, Vogel’s inspiration was a fusion of Star Trek, hospitals and submarines:
“I would spend hours with Star Trek blueprints and I would just think about how a game level might be constructed, and I would look at where they put the toilets and I would look at where they put the research and I would look at how they built the decks relative to each other.” Submarines and battleships were also useful references. Vogel wanted to imbue Med/Sci with a “dark and functional” feel and these naval vessels, both real and imagined, provided that cold and logical pragmatism Vogel sought.
Of course, a factor that had to be catered for at every step was the player. System Shock 2 allowed you to build your character as a solider, psionicist or engineer, so the level had to be satisfying to all three, without compromising on theme and atmosphere:
…Vogel didn’t want the options to be so broad that the feeling of isolation and claustrophobia were lost. His approach to this problem was what is known as hub and spoke design. “You have a framework for how to gate aspects of the story, or the narrative, or the levelling. We don’t want you to get too far ahead of yourself, but we don’t want you to feel like you’re on a linear rail either,” he says. “That’s where that hub and spoke comes in line. How you treat each threat. Do you choose to go down that hall or that hall first or second? … But at the end of the day you still gotta get the passcode to get out of the level.”
These snippets honestly don’t do Lane’s piece justice, so if you find yourself intrigued, hit up the full article below.
The making of System Shock 2’s best level [Eurogamer]