Nightdive's System Shock remake is unf*cked


#1

Stephen Kick posted an update on Kickstarter announcing the end of the hiatus and explaining the reasons behind it as well as the future direction the game will be taking.

[QUOTE]https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1598858095/system-shock/posts/2135868

We had a brief respite, and took the time necessary to make some tough decisions which included saying goodbye to some of the developers that you’ve come to know through past updates. What we’re left with is a concentrated team that consists of the original developers who worked on the Unity demo. With that said, let’s take a look at the work we’re doing.

[…]

So what does this mean?

It means we’ve gone back to the original vision we shared with you at the start of our Kickstarter campaign - this time with more reliable performance and higher fidelity visuals thanks to the Unreal Engine.

Are we starting over, is this all that’s done?

No, we’re not starting over. We have been able to re-use the majority of work we’ve done over the past year and we’re making significant progress in a very short amount of time. With that said we’ll be inviting our highest tier backers to privately test the game beginning in September at which point we estimate that the game will be fully playable, from start to finish. The majority of the art won’t be finished, but we’ll be ready to start high-level testing.[/QUOTE]

He also answered some backer questions posted on Discord.

[QUOTE]At this current moment in time, how many things are you planning to change within the game in regards to story, gameplay, and level design?

The story is going to remain unchanged but with the additional logs/emails added in from the backers of the CITADEL CREW MEMBER pledge. Gameplay will be very similar to what you experienced in the original game with the largest difference being the UI which is a hybrid of Shock and Shock 2.

What changes do you think NDS will be making with the remake’s direction in terms of its style and feel?

We’re going to be re-visiting the style and feel of the original game. I personally feel as though we hit the mark the first time and by applying what we’ve learned while working in Unreal we can achieve a similar look and feel but with enhanced performance. Our intent with the art direction so far is to bring more of the vibrant colors of the original game while keeping the oppressive atmosphere of a rundown Citadel Station. We’re even incorporating some old school techniques like using sprite sheets for the animated computer screens.

While the remake is certainly getting made, I had the sense that it will be somewhat pared back compared to the original expanded-upon-the-original vision we heard about in earlier updates. Will this mean a game more akin to the original - closer to a 1:1 remake, or will there still be some expansion on the original System Shock’s story and concept?

This will be closer to a 1:1 remake with updates to the weapon/character designs but without altering the core gameplay of the original. Expect to see something resembling the direction of the Unity demo.

Has the KS funding pool been toasted, if it has, can you sustain the investment required to get to the end 2019 timeline from your residual revenues (or will this potentially mean the project takes longer as funds have to trickle in)?

We still have the funds necessary to complete the game, but the timeline will inevitably move back with our shift in direction.

Is there prospectively more risk of slippage past 2019 (if so, best brace for it nice and early)? What is the exit plan if the project becomes non-viable?

Yes, at this stage the game could slip past 2019. Our only plan is to finish the game and deliver on the promise we made to our Kickstarter backers.

Which people still work on the SS1 reboot, as of now?

I’ve personally taken over as game director and I am now leading a team of developers, some of who worked on the original System Shock and the Unity demo.

Are you willing to share some details on why/how no successful publishing deal has been achieved yet, and how do you guys think you will still be able to get a publishing deal going in the future?

I am, but those details will be part of an exhaustive Post Mortem I’ll share once the game has shipped.

At what point in time, roughly, had NDS realized scope creep had hit the project?

It was soon after the Kickstarter when the team offered many suggestions that seemed great on their own, but in aggregate represented too much of a departure. However, I approved the proposed changes in scope after receiving positive feedback and a verbal commitment from a publisher to fund the game and the new design we submitted. We promised a bigger, better game and we were told that the game was going to be funded beyond the amount we raised on Kickstarter. Unfortunately, that deal fell through 7 months later for reasons we are still not clear on. To put it bluntly, we were left high and dry after making crucial, consequential changes in staff and scope.

My question is whether you have considered or looked into doing physical releases of any of your re-released PC games? If you have considered it, is there anything that made it not worth doing or prohibitively difficult to do? My understanding is it’s a real pain to get physical games published on Xbox, but are physical console releases something you have considered or would consider for future console game releases? I’m guessing most of this is stuff you probably don’t want to discuss publicly until it happens, but it would be very cool to see some physical Nightdive releases one day.

We’ve considered it! We have to find the right partner to help us achieve that goal, but for some of our PC-Only releases I’d love to have classic “Big-Box” copies re-issued. We’re currently looking into releasing physical editions of Turok & Turok 2 for Xbox One.[/QUOTE]


#2

A few comparison screens posted on Discord of the new direction versus the old Unity demo, courtesy of Learonys:


#3

After some talking to the devs on Discord, here’s what the current plan looks like in more detail:

  • the game overall will aim to be very close to the original
  • there will be loading between floors
  • gameplay space will correlate close to 1 to 1 with the original, but there will be some new areas and the shape of some of the rooms will be changed slightly (similarly to the Unity demo)
  • they are currently planning to implement the customisable difficulty, though the options are not nailed down yet (needs testing and balancing)
  • new features like freezing and dismemberment haven’t been taken off the table yet, but they have been put on the backburner/low priority list

#4

I have to say I am very pleased to hear that this is the direction they are now taking - it’s all I wanted in the first place.

Very pleased with the look of those new screenshots as well, if they can keep this level of quality up across the whole game then I will be a very happy bunny. It’s building on the look they had in the Unity demo whilst still retaining enough of the original games visual identity.


#5

Sigh.

So “We respect what the fans of the original game told us” is still irrelevant compared to “We’ll add whatever we think fans will tolerate.”

I really don’t understand what’s in Stephen Kick’s brain.


#6

Well, as my wife says- that was fast. ::slight_smile:

I’m looking forward to see more of this remake in September but all in all it seems both a wise move and a logical one.
A good monday, for me.


#7

[i][b]At what point in time, roughly, had NDS realized scope creep had hit the project?

It was soon after the Kickstarter when the team offered many suggestions that seemed great on their own, but in aggregate represented too much of a departure. However, I approved the proposed changes in scope after receiving positive feedback and a verbal commitment from a publisher to fund the game and the new design we submitted. We promised a bigger, better game and we were told that the game was going to be funded beyond the amount we raised on Kickstarter. Unfortunately, that deal fell through 7 months later for reasons we are still not clear on. To put it bluntly, we were left high and dry after making crucial, consequential changes in staff and scope.[/b][/i]

This particular section in the Q&A pissed off A LOT of people, as it confirmed that they had taken the KS money and then gone off to do something completely different to what they pitched in the campaign. All after a potential publisher came along. With the only reason that they returned back to the 1 to 1 remake (rather than reboot) after that deal fell through.

So if they’d received that money from the publisher than they’d have made that game, rather than the game that we the kickstarter backers, backed. For that, shame on Night Dive. That’s not what Kickstarter is all about, and we deserve better.


#8

Well, it’s not like they were going to do a completely different game. It would still have been a System Shock remake, but with AAA quality and more closer to what they pitched on KS (vending machines and crafting systems and RPG elements and a bigger station and whatnot). So they are actually going back on their KS promises/pitch in favour of the more old school fans (not that they have much choice in the matter, apparently).


#9

As mentioned in the other thread, it was essentially going to be System Shock 2, but in System Shock 1.

So everything you got in the second game (game mechanics wise) placed into the first game, which the first game is not like at all. We already have that in the sequel and that’s not what they pitched, nor is it what the backers wanted when they backed the Kickstarter.

We backed a 1 to 1 remake, not a reboot done in the style of SS2.


#10

They never said it’s going to be a 1 to 1 remake. And you can see that in the Unity demo that substantially changes and adds to the game. They were going to add orchestral music, for example, something that they now have gone back on.


#11

I asked about how the UI will look and today one of the devs had this to say:

[QUOTE]The UI design is more minimalist than the original system shock but still built in the style of an ocular implant with all the old features.

We are calling it a hybrid because we are bringing some features across and letting some of the quality of life improvements from SS2 influence how we update things. We are using a grid based inventory system for instance.

The demo UI is very similar to what we are working with right now.

The minimap is currently in mid development and Matt is trying to make it as flexible as possible!

We’re not making any changes to how things work unless we’re positive it’s an improvement rather than a preference[/QUOTE]

Also, this about dismemberment:

I'm doing R&D in to a good way to do visual dismemberment that won't eat up a ton of development time, so it will depend on where that leads

We will definitely have visual damage and gore on the enemies even if not complete dismemberment

SS1 had a lot of body parts littered around!

And about cyberspace:

Cyberspace is getting an overhaul, but we're still working out how to do it justice.

#12

Firstly:

This was too harsh, and I’m sorry I posted it.

Next, thanks again to Starker for letting us in on some of the dev conversations. (I sure wish they’d write this stuff down; my days of being active on real-time chat systems are behind me.)

Oh? What are the criteria for deciding whether an idea falls clearly into the “improvement” category?

I'm doing R&D in to a good way to do visual dismemberment that won't eat up a ton of development time, so it will depend on where that leads

We will definitely have visual damage and gore on the enemies even if not complete dismemberment

SS1 had a lot of body parts littered around!

I really wish they’d let go of this dismemberment thing.

It’s not just an aesthetic change; this is a mechanic. And when they start tinkering with mechanics, they once again risk altering the balance of fun of the original game – that’s always been my biggest concern.

System Shock was a thinking person’s action game. Yes, it had lots of weapons and ammo. Yes, it had its moments of dopamine-flooding excitement, from individual fights to the big set-pieces. It was, in large part, a game about shooting monsters.

But I’m not convinced that was the largest part. My impression has always been that the fighting in SS was mostly just something to do in what was really a game designed to deliver exploratory fun.

The large, complex geometry encouraged careful movement for mechanical reasons (not getting killed), for aesthetic reasons (finding audio logs to understand the story of the people who’d lived there), and exploratory reasons (solving puzzles and finding ways to unlock access to new areas, and understanding the patterns of Citadel Station, its current inhabitants, and SHODAN). All of these are types of fun, but they’re different kinds of fun than a DOOM-like mowing down of waves of enemies, or even a Dead Space-like fun (if that is the word) of slicing off body parts.

That NightDive’s reduced team is still talking about adding new combat mechanics, and keeps talking about altering/adding weapons, when these changes have to alter the balance of the kinds of fun that System Shock delivers, forces me to wonder if this team see the fun of System Shock the way I do. I’m not saying my view is perfectly correct; obviously I defer to the Looking Glass folks as to what System Shock was “about.”

But I have a very hard time, in the absence of such official statements, believing that the main fun of System Shock was just being a first-person shooter. I’d like to hear an updated statement from NightDive about that. Why is combat stuff what they keep talking about?

Cyberspace is getting an overhaul, but we're still working out how to do it justice.

This, I agree with.

I don’t think cyberspace needs a lot of changes; ultimately it’s mostly for unlocking doors and collecting mini-games. And if the remake lets me, then just like the original I’m probably going to turn the difficulty of cyberspace down to zero. I was never a monster of twitch gaming, and I haven’t gotten any better at it. :smiley:

But this is an area where I think I’d like to see the team go a little wild artistically. Why not reimagine SS’s cyberspace to have more of a cyberpunk look? Or, more accurately, what we imagined back in the 1990s what “cyberspace” might look like (but LG couldn’t afford to implement at the time)?

Mostly, though, I hope someone over at NightDive is saying, every single day, “September will be here before you know it.”


#13

By visual dismemberment they mean a death animation, essentially.

Personally, I would like the combat to be less bland. I don’t think it will detract from exploration. In fact, wouldn’t more combat mechanics give you more to explore? Especially if the amount of shooting that you do stays the same. Also, they would have to rework the combat in any case just to account for mouselook.

Yeah, they are also doing that.

Er… because I asked a dev about it specifically?


#14

Completely disagree with you there. I found the combat quite good. Exciting often, especially once you get to engineering and beyond. Only tricky part was getting the view right when you had to look up to see the flying enemies.

SS1 for it’s time had leaning and crouching, which no other FPS had until much later.

The combat + interface was all built around the concept you essentially being a cyborg (due to the neural interace). That’s why everything looked the way it did, and was why movement worked the way it did.

[QUOTE]
We are calling it a hybrid because we are bringing some features across and letting some of the quality of life improvements from SS2 influence how we update things. We are using a grid based inventory system for instance.

We’re not making any changes to how things work unless we’re positive it’s an improvement rather than a preference[/QUOTE]

This all reads like Night Dive has not learned it’s lesson one bit. We don’t want SS2. We have Prey for that. And who decides when something is an improvement rather than a preference? Ask us the backers.

I’d really prefer it if Otherside were doing this remake, as Night Dive just can’t get it right.

They gave us the source code for the Mac version of SS1 though, so I give them props for that.


#15

And since the board wont let me edit my post. I meant to say the Reactor level and onward.


#16

Well, they are doing what they promised, part of which was modern inventory management.


#17

I don’t personally think a grid inventory is that much of a change, especially if items are still stackable. I’d consider that more of a usability update unless your carrying capacity changes significantly.

The talk of vending machines and stat systems were what worried me. And significantly re-worked levels (I’m fine with some polish or small embellishments).


#18

That was part of the increased scope (1,7M stretch goal on KS), which probably won’t happen now. As of now, PC modding support was the last goal they failed to get money for: http://systemshock.com/


#19

Modding + level editor were the one’s I hoped would happen.


#20

Stephen Kick on RPG elements:

[QUOTE]We’re definitely borrowing some aspects from SS2, most notably the UI and inventory system - but as far as the RPG elements, I don’t believe those will be making it in.

The core game will be very similar to the original System Shock[/QUOTE]

Also, a dev had this to say on how ammo will be handled: