(A Rant from Tim and Mahk)
We're role-playing gamers, fantasy/sci-fi fans, and computer game developers. We play all the same games you do, and we know as well as you do that "Computer Role-Playing Game" is a contradiction in terms.
Sitting around the table at a gaming "run" is a social activity and an exercise in imagination. Players express their imaginations through their social interactions and their creative approach to the problems of an adventure. The problem with the whole notion of the "computer role-playing game" is that this cannot happen the same way in a computer game. The social interaction which can be offered by a computer is pretty hollow, and most games don't provide a whole lot to replace it. The tedious mazes of pre-scripted menu options that some games (including our own!) have tried to pass off as "conversations" certainly don't cut it.
This probably sounds like we don't think role-playing can work on computers, but we do. It's a hard technical and design problem, but we like hard problems or we wouldn't be in this business. What many games have done, which isn't hard, is to copy the forms of a paper role-playing game, which keeps all the sheets of paper from the gaming table at the expense of all the people around it. A computer game can have all the trappings of a paper role-playing game (the Tolkienesque dwarves and elves, the "character classes," "to-hit rolls," and "experience levels"), but without role-playing it's not an RPG. It's computer strategy game about paper RPG's. Some of them are okay.
The point of all this talk about computer role-playing games is not to claim that this project of ours is or isn't an RPG. The point is that great games don't happen by shoe-horning your design into a rigid category made up by some magazine. We've spent years in pursuit of a truly immersive experience, and we see a continuous line of development from Underworld through System Shock to the Dark Project. We touched off a lot of discussion on the 'net (and yes, we were reading it all) about whether System Shock was an RPG, or a Doom clone, or whatever. Like as not the same people who thought System Shock was a Doom clone will think that this game is a Quake clone. And they'll be just as wrong.
What it will be is one thing that Shock was, which is a damned fine game, the like of which nobody else could (or would) do.