System Shock 2’s project manager comments on Arkane’s ‘spiritual successor’ plans

17 Aug 2013  by   Peter Parrish
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Can you wrench yourself away?

You may have seen in Thursday’s news that Arkane does, in fact, appear to have taken over development of the Prey 2 project for Bethesda. In addition, the plan is now a full reboot with the inspiration being “the spiritual successor to System Shock 2.”

As luck would have it, IncGamers was speaking to two former developers from the original System Shock 2 on that very day; so we asked for their early reactions.

Jon Chey held a number of roles, but was primarily System Shock 2’s overall project manager and the man responsible for AI behaviour (as well as the day-to-day running of the fledgling Irrational Games.) Dorian Hart, meanwhile, was “the numbers guy,” in charge of gameplay and economy balancing, damage stats and the like. He also built some of the game’s levels.

Here’s Jon Chey’s response to the news.

Peter [Parrish]: I was wondering … there’s actually some System Shock 2 related news that has emerged today. Arkane, who made Dishonored, are now taking over the development of Prey 2 and they’ve said they’re aiming to make that the ‘spiritual successor’ to System Shock 2.

Jon [Chey]: Oh really? Wow. Interesting.

Peter: I don’t know how you feel about that?

Jon: It’s, um … Prey 2 by my understanding was … I don’t know a lot about that project but it seemed like it was pretty far advanced. I haven’t been following exactly what’s been going on with it, but yeah that’s interesting because obviously BioShock games are spiritual successors to System Shock 2 in many senses. But then I think there are other aspects of System Shock that, because it is such a multi-faceted game, the BioShock games have mostly run with the narrative side of it. The gameplay side of it they’ve sort of veered off into a different direction, a more classic action direction. So it’d be interesting to see if somebody would pick up the … I don’t know what they mean by that, if they’re intending to spiritually succeed it in terms of its atmosphere or its narrative or gameplay, or …

Peter: I’m not sure. It’s a lone email that says their pitch for Prey 2 was “spiritual successor to System Shock 2.” I mean obviously … I don’t know if either of you guys played Dishonored, but they pretty heavily influenced by aspects of the Thief series.

Jon: Well I mean, Harvey Smith worked on Deus Ex, so that came out at a very similar time and has a lot of similar ideas to System Shock and so that’s … I’m not surprised that they’re working in that area.

And I think System Shock 2’s one of those games where it probably didn’t spawn a whole host of similar games. There wasn’t an obviously gold mine to be dug there. But on the other hand I think it certain has influenced a lot of other … like Portal games, for example. They’re different games but they have the rogue AI which is taunting you, interacting with you and guiding you through …

Dorian [Hart]: … a strange, science fiction environment.

Jon: So a lot of different games have picked up a lot of different bits and pieces, which of course is true of the games industry in general. It always feeds off itself. But yeah, I’d love to see more people try to pick up the legacy and do things with it.

I’m very tempted to try to do something like that myself. There are a lot of interesting things that could be explored, perhaps focusing more on the sort of stuff we were talking about earlier, the angst-driven resource scarcity and fear aspects of the game.

The full audio and transcript will be up later in the week on IncGamers.

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