System Shock 2 gets reborn after 14 years

System Shock 2 gets reborn after 14 years

The classic System Shock 2 is finally being re-released through Good Old Games, thanks to a fan who wouldn't take no for an answer.

System Shock 2, one of the most fondly-remembered role-playing shooters of the past few decades, is being reborn courtesy of Good Old Games and a fan who refused to take no for an answer.

Developed by Irrational Games and Looking Glass Studios as a standalone sci-fi shooter, the game would be repurposed and given a new story as a direct sequel to the 1994 classic System Shock - without which classics including Deus Ex and the BioShock series would never have happened. Mixing the action of a first-person shooter with role-playing elements including unlockable skills and psionic talents, an inventory with multiple customisable weapons and equipment options and research trees, the game was a hit - but not one that would save the company. Just one year after the launch, Looking Glass Studios would be dissolved.

It's this dissolution of the company that has led to the absence of any follow-up titles. Excluding the BioShock series, which is merely a spiritual successor with a very different setting, there has been no System Shock title since 1999 - strange for a game that has an active and vocal fan base, even if some of those fans are arguably deluded. The reason, as always, can be traced to lawyers.

When Looking Glass Studios shut down, the rights to the System Shock series went to two insurance companies, Meadowbrook Insurance and Star Insurance. Theoretically, the two insurance companies could have jointly sold the rights on except for one little detail: while they held the rights to the games, publisher Electronic Arts held the rights to the System Shock trademark. Without EA on-side, the series was going nowhere.

As a result, System Shock has been in limbo for the last fourteen years. With EA and the insurance companies refusing to get together and discuss some form of deal, it would be impossible for anyone to develop a direct sequel or even close spin-off of the series, and neither could anyone sell a repackaged version of the original two games. It's the latter fact that truly rankles fans: a great deal of work has been put into patching and updating the game, and while nobody would mistake it for a new release there's no denying the high-resolution patches released by the community put a sheen on the title that would attract new players - if only they could get their hands on a copy of the game without resorting to an eBay crap-shoot or piracy.

Enter Stephen Kick, the man behind indie development house Night Dive. With little business experience but a hell of a lot of patience, Kick somehow managed to get both parties to agree to a re-release of the classic game, complete with custom high-resolution patch and updates that make it play nicely with current versions of Windows.

'Before negotiations began I had very little experience in the realm of business so the idea of starting a development studio and potentially working with the System Shock licence was incredibly daunting,' Kick told RockPaperShotgun in an interview earlier this week. 'It’s been a dream of mine for a long time, but to be honest I never imagined I’d see the day.

'The rights are still held in a very complicated tangle and going into all of it makes for very dry reading. The short version is that negotiations began in October of last year. I pitched the rights-holder with the focus being on the digital distribution of System Shock 2 and – as much to my surprise as anyone’s, possibly – here we are today.

Partnering with Good Old Games, the game is exclusive to the site where it can be purchased now for $9.99. Whether this brings the world any closer to a true System Shock sequel, however, remains to be seen - but, if nothing else, it gives those who missed it the first time around a chance to experience the thrills aboard the Von Braun.


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johnnyboy700 14th February 2013, 13:13 Quote
Beware the screaming monkeys!!
Griffter 14th February 2013, 14:19 Quote
Beware the EA!!
sniperdude 14th February 2013, 14:21 Quote
This is a proper scary game lol

hope they don't change that
SlowMotionSuicide 14th February 2013, 14:55 Quote
**** yeah.

Missed this the first time around. Not gonna happen twice.
Kastagir 14th February 2013, 15:02 Quote
I just peed a little.
bagman 14th February 2013, 15:19 Quote
I have always wanted play system shock 2. Will definitely buy it now.
SuicideNeil 14th February 2013, 15:39 Quote
Can someone get that guy to convince *insert company/companies here* to release G-Police 3?
Fizzban 14th February 2013, 16:57 Quote
The guy that sorted all this out deserves a medal.
azrael- 14th February 2013, 17:48 Quote
If memory serves me correctly I've actually got two copies of SS2. One opened and one shrink-wrapped. But then again I also have at least 3 copies of Blade Runner (the game).

Well, seems I'm about to get myself another copy of SS2... :)
GravitySmacked 14th February 2013, 19:02 Quote
I tried to revisit it a couple of years ago but it hasn't aged well.
javaman 14th February 2013, 20:38 Quote
I remember playing the demo as a kid and nearly shitting myself. After watching nanosuitninja's play through it really shows how big a classic this was. Deus ex and dead space love child would come close to a perfect sequel.
azrael- 14th February 2013, 21:36 Quote
The original System Shock was actually even scarier. What I wouldn't give for that game with updated graphics (and no other kind of tampering)...
dolphie 15th February 2013, 07:43 Quote
^ You can have that, I played it last year. There are HD textures etc, and also the all important "Mouse Look" patch because the original game was just prior to mouse look becoming standard. There is also a widescreen tweak. Takes some faffing but once it's running it's such a great game. I played through to the end last year, and then went straight through SS2 as well.
johnnyboy700 15th February 2013, 08:35 Quote
Dolphie, where can I find this miracle that you speak of?
dolphie 16th February 2013, 00:58 Quote
I really wish I could give you an easy answer :(

Usually I leave myself notes when I do something like this, so I can do it again a year or two later (like now...). But I think in this case it was taking so long and too much effort and I was losing hope, and then I think I ended up stumbling across a solution and then playing the game and not writing any notes because I wasn't even sure how I got it working... Or something.

I own the original game on floppies, but with no floppy drive, everything I got was downloaded from bit torrent and web pages, so you guys should be able to get it working too. But finding how to do it will really test your technical skills, patience, and determination to play this old classic :p

Anyway, I still have the folder on my PC and it contains the following stuff:

System_Shock_Enhanced.mdf (375mb)
System Shock WINDOWS project (folder)
System Shock Portable (folder)

XCDSHOCK is just the mouse look patch and some higher resolution tweaks. The .mdf file is the full game, and it's a CD version too so I think it contains some extra music or movies or something. You can mount this and it all seems fine, although it wont run from windows and has issues with 64bit I think.

The Windows Project is some user made conversion/hack/mod thingy. That folder only seems to contain several files though, so presumably you need to copy that over something. There is no doubt documentation on the web that explains this though.

System Shock Portable, is something I can actually play right now. I think it was made by fans to let you just run the game from windows and without needing to be installed or something. In that, is an .exe and I can run the game and it works (from windows 7 64bit). Although it uses lots of batch files and stuff and takes some setting up.

But, there is a sub folder in there called RES, and I think what I might have done is copy the CD version of the game and various mods in to that folder to make it work more to my liking. It contains the mouse look mod, and some higher resolution patches. It goes up to 1024x768 but I think there might be ways to make it higher, can't remember. I'm not sure if this stuff was originally part of SS Portable or if I copied it in there.

Also in that folder is a DosBox executable, and if I run that, it runs the CD version of the game with music and sound, but the mouse look patch doesn't seem to be active. But I think this is where I was when I started getting fed up. I think what I ended up doing was making my own separate folder using this stuff, and then applying the mouse look and higher resolution tweaks myself.

The only note I have is that I set up my own dosbox line, which mounts the folder, and then mounts the CD too.

TL-DR, I think all of those things 'sort of' work to some extent. But I think in the end, I ended up hacking them all to pieces and making my own folder and throwing trial and error stuff at it until it eventually worked. I may well have played with none widescreen actually, but the game still looks pretty good with those higher resolution textures, and the important thing was getting mouse look to work properly. I couldn't have brought myself to play it at all without that.

Hope this helps?

p.s. System Shock 2 was far easier to make work, even before GoG. All that needed was the widescreen patch and a modern OS patch which I think stopped crashes on multi cores or something. It was all pretty easy though, unlike the first game :/
Supersnake 16th February 2013, 06:59 Quote
It took me less than 3 to register on the site then find the BUY button. I have dreamed of this game on a modern operating system over and over again. And there is a bonus pack of awesome in game music tracks included in the purchase package.
johnnyboy700 18th February 2013, 10:46 Quote
Doplhie - Thank you for your reply, I did find an old copy of SS1 on Home of the Underdogs a long time ago but couldn't get it to work with XP. Admitedly I didn't spend too much time on it and now I can't find the cd I saved it to, it was only after I read your message that I remembred that I had it - somewhere.

With a bit of luck now that SS2 is out in the open againg SS1 might make an appearance at some point in the future. My other big wish (apart from MW2) is Terra Nova which is another old Looking Glass game.
dolphie 18th February 2013, 20:04 Quote
Yeah I really hope they do SS1, it needs a GoG overhaul even more than SS2. But both would be sweeeet. And yeah, Terra Nova was one of my favourite games ever at the time.
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