Nightdive's System Shock remake is unf*cked


Let me try putting this a different way.

What should NightDive’s System Shock remake look like if that team were more interested in the original game’s exploratory fun than in its shoot-the-monsters fun?


They would probably try to make the combat more varied and tactical to expand the possibility space. Less about the shooting itself and more about the combat mechanics. Also, add more areas and audio logs. Oh, and character development in some way.

Purely hypothetically, of course.


There was a dev stream the other day, showing one of the artists creating an asset for the game and talking about the development of the game.

Here’s a good place to start, perhaps, to skip most of the actual work and hear about how the game is being made:


Bunch of stuff gathered from Discord discussions:

On body awareness:

[QUOTE]It’s something that we’ve considered, but it’s not a priority as it adds a lot of extra work and difficulty in more areas than you’d expect.

Having full body awareness that actually adds to the experience requires having no part of it distract you, which is very difficult.

We decided that it works best for the game to remove as many layers of separation between the player and the hacker as possible.[/QUOTE]

On the HUD:

How the UI is being built:

[QUOTE]UMG* with some custom mesh widgets I’ve implemented that support some nifty procedural effects.

The EKG code that I wrote for Unity is coming back. I prefer writing code in C/C++, and as such the mesh widgets are written in C++. There are other things we are doing with the HUD that I’ll leave as a surprise - especially since things might change.[/QUOTE]

  • Unreal Motion Graphics UI Designer


There was a stream last week where Stephen Kick modeled a mutant and answered questions. I took some notes from the Q&A:

[QUOTE]100% of original level geometry will be in the game.

Aware of fan projects, happy about it, want more System Shock.

They don’t know what to do with cyberspace yet. Stephen Kick likes the idea of a Tron-ish world where you’re in the inside of a computer or the code of a computer, wants it to be reminiscent of the original, but more like Descent of Forsaken. Nightdive will be consulting with Otherside about it.

Chris Avellone is still involved, going to add in more details, such as role of the characters and backstory. Story will be the same as in SS1 with all the main details.

They want to have text and audio match up in the logs. Maybe there’s an opportunity to do something similar to the original, but this time with intent.

The release of dev tools not planned, but they’ll consider doing something after release.

KS money is not all spent and company is doing fine, financially. The main focus of the company is still releasing old games.

Eric and Terry Brosius will be working together to bring SHODAN to life.

Morale is good after the change and people are enthusiastic to work on the refocused project.

Not hiring right now, but certainly will in the future. Definitely an animator, maybe someone to do effects.

Backer alpha will be very limited (5 people or so) and everyone will have to sign an NDA.

For intro, they’ll probably just recreate the original cinematic. One very risky idea is to make it playable, Half-Life style.

For localisation, want to do voice, but may have to do subtitles only. EFIGS and some other languages based on polling.

Want to create lots of variations of mutants. Possibly female mutants. Will have to see how expensive it will be.

One idea for DLC / expansion is to show the story from the eyes of a different character, someone converted by SHODAN to be a mutant or a cyborg.[/QUOTE]

The whole stream can be seen here:

If you don’t want to watch the whole stream, though, you might want to start at the 2 hour 8 minute mark to see Stephen Kick showing off the unfinished medical and blocked out flight deck levels, some modeled untextured objects, and puzzle tests:


Much appreciated as always, Starker.

The level look was nice, and seeing the modeled objects was fun… but I found the two puzzle examples most interesting. While I definitely prefer that most of the level geometry and mechanics and dynamics and story beats of the original game are preserved in the new version, I always thought the puzzles in the original didn’t quite measure up to all the other content in the game. (That’s not a knock on the developer who created the puzzles; I just assume there was a lack of time for this part of the game.)

One of the new puzzles looks like this:

That seems like an improvement to me. I’m looking forward to seeing if this is retained, and if the difficulty is variable (as in the original), and whether the puzzles are more integrated with the rest of the game’s story and aesthetics.

Chris, Karlee, Stephen, and Mickey Wilson of NightDive did another stream on Twitch a couple of days ago, showing the building of the initial MedSci level. I was surprised to see that every single tile is being placed manually, forming the geometry of the level, rather than extracting that data from the original game to build the levels automatically. I’m guessing this isn’t being done because it would require a 1:1 mapping between the original tiles and Unreal’s new pretty tiles, and all the new tiles haven’t been created yet – but that’s just a guess.

Fascinatingly, Chris’s primary reference for figuring out how to place the level tiles was the original game on a second monitor! At 00:21:00, he mentions he’d look at the original game, then manually duplicate it with the Unreal editor. This might sound very prone to error – and a couple of times, Chris does mention how crazy complex (like, insanity-inducing, R’lyeh complex) the original System Shock’s geometry is in some places. But it’s remarkable how quickly he was able to replicate it in the Unreal editor. He’s clearly an experienced level developer.

There’s not a lot of new information revealed by the NightDive folks in this stream. It’s mostly interesting to watch the new level, which we’ll play later, come into existence in real time. One thing they did mention was that some of the geometry will be a little different from the original. Toward the end of the stream, Chris realized his layout of the MedSci level would intersect the surgery bay where The Hacker wakes up. So he tweaked the layout slightly – it’s very similar to the original game’s geometry, but built to fit level creation in the Unreal editor.

Finally, Mickey mentioned that he’s remastered a couple of the tracks from the original System Shock. There’s the Medical track (which also shows off that part of the level in the new game), and the Intro music (which plays with the intro cutscene from the original game). It’s definitely a matter of personal taste, but I found both of these tracks punched up the percussion way too much for my enjoyment. The remastered tracks sound great as isolated music; I’m just not sure how well they’d work in the game itself. Although the new Intro track is probably fine, the Medical track was super-obtrusive for me… but maybe my sneaky playstyle is not the way of playing System Shock that Mickey is writing the music to support.

Overall, it’s great to see the reconstituted NightDive dev team showing off their work in progress.


I don’t mind dismemberment. Though, after some pondering, I think damage mapping to show wounds on enemies would probably be better, and should not be off the table, as it would probably add a nice flourish to gameplay.

Also, I agree with the cyberspace overhaul. Keep in mind I’ve only played SS2, not SS1, so that is my opinion based on experience in the second game.


Even though it was on rails to an extent, SS1 had far superior cyberspace to that of SS2.

I love games that offer completely different gameplay styles via different things you can do. The Shadowrun games are the same in this regard.


SS2 didn’t even have cyberspace, except in the tutorial levels, and one final level, as far as I’m aware. I had to double check, as I didn’t remember it having cyberspace at all, it’s been so long. I haven’t played System Shock 1, but I would definitely like to see cyberspace fleshed out for the upcoming SS3. And Shadowrun games are definitely awesome. I’ll also add they have excellent writing.


Another stream with Stephen Kick. There’s a bit of a Q&A and show and tell at the end, starting at about 1:53

[QUOTE]Hunting for SS2 source code in order to do a source port and fix linux and multiplayer.

Won’t go the path of Bethesda or Disney with DMCAs. Unless infringing on rights and selling a commercial project without permission, green light for all mods, fan projects.

Want to do a demo for the final game. Probably going to put up the build that got scrapped for backers when the game comes out. Also, will make the original Unity demo available.

Shuttle bays will have shuttles. Design based on the intro.

Want to release all the art produced after launch.

Thinking about a SS2 remake. Not necessarily by Nightdive.

Want to do a limited re-release of System Shock 1. Will contain the source port, the source code, a re-release of the original manual (I.C.E Breaker), a newly arranged soundtrack, plus a few other things that are secret for now. The box art cover will be redone by the original artist (Robb Waters).