The Story Behind System Shock 2’s Iconic Level
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The Story Behind System Shock 2's Iconic Level
4 September, 2017

Med/Sci, the opening area of System Shock 2, is one of the most iconic levels in the history of game design. It can also be considered as one of gaming’s most terrifying introductions. You awake with illegal cybernetics implanted into your brain and your memory wiped like a hard-drive, trying to to get out of cryobay, because soon there’ll be an explosion, and then everything in the area (yeah, you too) will be sucked into space.

What is the story behind this level? Eurogamer has published a story from Ian Vogel, a former level designer at Irrational, and the man who authored Med/Sci. You don’t want to miss this article.

Here is a small glimpse to get you interested:

We had to do a lot In System Shock 2 with the first level. We’re giving you all the world-building, we’re giving you all these new notions of who you are, what’s going on with the ship, all these new mechanics, new weapons. And on top of that you want that feeling of emergence, of autonomy as a player.”

When I met with Ken [Levine] and John Chey, the guys at Irrational, I got this scrappy, hungry feeling that I wanted to be part of. I got this feeling that these guys wanted to make their mark. I loved the game design and I loved the theme, and I loved the original System Shock. So I was like, ‘I want to make this my own, and I want to leave my imprint on this title.’

There wasn’t a really great plan for Med/Sci at the time because we’re all scrabbling to make the entire game at once, right?. It was basically a flat basement space, and it just didn’t feel like a spaceship. It didn’t feel interesting. There weren’t any nooks and crannies that were either architecturally true to what a ship could be. It just felt flat and kinda lifeless.

Ian Vogel, a former level designer at Irrational 

And here’s how the iconic levels from System Shock could look like now:

Art by Cody Williams


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