The immersive sim genre, from its prototypical days in Ultima Underworld to the modern revivals of Deus Ex and System Shock, has always skirted close to the RPG side of the gaming equation, with stats and skill trees to build your character. For legendary designer Warren Spector – who’s now heading up System Shock 3 – character classes are a relic of the past. At least when it comes to immersive sims.
“I don’t understand why video game developers use character classes,” Spector tells Gamespot. “I guess it’s simple for people to understand ‘I’m a fighter, I’m a healer, I’m a mage.’ It’s probably sensible and there’s a reason why I’m kind of the ‘King of the Cult Classics,’ and haven’t sold 100 million copies of a game ever.”
Spector acknowledges that there are still games where traditional skill trees make sense, but “one of the hallmarks of the immersive sim is it’s about you in the world. You the player, not your little 64-pixel-tall avatar or whatever. It’s about you making the decisions that you feel are appropriate to the situation. So the most important thing to me is each player’s individual playstyle driving the experience.”
Your abilities will progress in System Shock 3, but “you develop a character through your inventory.” You’ll collect physical augments and similar tools, but you’ll have limits on how many you can install. “The tools you create will allow you to interact with our world simulation and our enemies in unique ways that, again, serve your playstyle.”
System Shock 3 has been a long time coming, and we’re still getting a slow drip feed of teaser trailers and gameplay footage. But hey – it’s already been 20 years since System Shock 2, so what’s another little bit?