System Shock 2: What Might Have Been

Over on the Irrational Games website, designer Ken Levine takes us through "what might have been" if some of the team's original plans for System Shock 2 had come to fruition.
(Originally, the level that would become The Many had the player traverse from the Von Braun to The Rickenbacker on the outside of the hull,) says Levine. (We thought it would be a really cool mission because it would change everything the player was used to by introducing a zero gravity environment as well as changing the behavior of all the monsters.) The technology in 1998, when System Shock 2 was in development, really didn't allow for such grandiose ideas unless it was a major feature in the game. Levine remembers chatting with Lead Programmer Robert Fermier to discuss the level and being told, (Dude that is going to be a huge amount of work for it to work properly.) A feature specific to only a single mission of the game didn't fit into the schedule. Levine adds, (It was good that it got cut. If you don't have the resources for it, you can't make it that good.)


(System Shock 2 was made in single room, which was around 900 square feet,) Levine recalls of the original office space that Irrational Games called home. (We didn't have any money and didn't have a lot of experience shipping games at that point. We lucked out by hiring some newcomers like Nate Wells, Ian Vogel, Michael Swiderek, and Mauricio Tejerina, as well as being loaned some guys from Looking Glass, including Dorian Hart, Alexx Kay, and Randy Smith.) Working in such conditions on a project that lasted 11 months lead to many sleepless nights and likely some foul body odor. (If we knew then what we know now, we probably would have just stopped in our tracks petrified, and not have been successful because we wouldn't have thought we could pull it off,) remembers Levine. While conditions were cramped, there was a great deal of optimism while working on System Shock 2. (I remember getting that first milestone check for around $75,000 from Looking Glass and thinking, '╦ťOH MY GOD! WE CAN DO ANYTHING!' We made it happen.)