Thursday, March 22, 2007


I have whined before about liking older style games over the newer, and in my opinion, spazier, ones. I ran across a link the other day at the Gnomes Lair about how to update your old System Shock 2 with new user created patches and goodness. It made me long for that experience again so I dug around in the boxes in my closet until I found the disks. SS2 is available on home of the underdogs as well. Then I downloaded as many of the recommended patches as I could. (Two of them are on a site that has exceeded its monthly bandwidth allowance and is now shut down till the end of the month). I installed everything and managed, after a little frustration to get it running.

FYI ASIDE: The trick to making it run smoothly is that this engine does not like hyper threaded and multi-core systems. After launching the initial program open up the task manager, find the sshock2.exe in the process list, right click it, choose set affinity and unclick things until only one (1) CPU is enabled for that process. Until I did that it would crash every few minutes.

The first time I ever played this game I was at a game company that was closing its office. There were basically two people left at this point me and the money guy. My job was to turn all the computers off when corporate HQ gave the money guy the high sign. His job was to fire me and then himself and turn out the lights.

Since there wasn’t anything to do until the word came down I had a lot of time to kill so I played System Shock 2. It was an amazing game and still one of my favorites. One of things that I really liked about it was the style of game play verses the other popular games (Quake of some version or other). There was no rocket jumping, no hyper spazing out – but rather careful, methodical game play.

Resources on the Vaun Braun were very limited requiring the player to use careful tactics to succeed. The basics of the game are: you are in your fourth year of service with one of the three branches of the UNN (the futuristic space military). You wake up aboard the Vaun Braun with no memory of why you are in the medical section and a brand new cybernetic implant. You suddenly start getting e-mail from a mysterious helper and begin to explore the ship.

The story is an absolute hoot so I’ll leave it there at that. It unfolds slowly as you collect data records from the missing crewmembers and e-mails from your helper and loudspeaker announcements from the ships AI, Xerxes, and the psychic emanations from dead crewmembers (ie ghosts).

I had forgotten about the ghosts and as I was exploring the beginning levels of the game I was startled by the appearance of the first ghost complaining about one of the systems on the ship. It was a blast – it’s very rare that a game is well written enough and atmospheric enough to evoke that type of response. The list of games that have actually startled me is low. (Lets see, X-COM, Thief, System Shock 1, Thief 2, System Shock 2 and that might be it. At least off the top of my head that is it. Pattern there? Anyone notice that?)

I would very much like to find more games like SS2. I have hopes that BioShock which is made my many of the same people who worked on System Shock and the Thief projects plays the same way. Some of the descriptions leave me hopeful that it will fulfill this role. And I have to say I love some of the artwork I’ve seen. It has an older, stylistic feel to it that reminds me of the Fallout games. It doesn’t come out until later on in the year and it has already slipped a ship date – hopefully they will be able to ship a completed and well done game. But for now I think I’ll play a little more of this SS2 and enjoy some gamer nostalgia.

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