It’s been a long way to remake the shock of the system. The project started as a Kickstarter in 2016 from Nightdive Studios, a company that has made a name for itself by working on several classic games that have been remastered and remastered. While the campaign has been a huge success – raising over $1.3 million with an original goal of $900,000 – the game is far from over.
The team has not been silent about the process involved in bringing this ancient game to newer platforms and audiences, thanks to monthly updates on Kickstarter. The new version has gone through an engine change and a few different teams, but it’s finally on its way to the release. Larry Cooperman, Director of Business Development at Nightdive, was present at GDC to provide updates on System Shock, and said it was “pretty complete.” He referred to it as being in a “pre-beta” stage; The PC version has all the weapons, enemies, and other items, but the team is still working on the console versions. Cooperman noted that the developers want the game to be released simultaneously across all platforms.
While we didn’t get hands-on time with System Shock at GDC, a number of taped snippets from the game were shown, including a journey through maintenance at level 3 and one from later. Based on my short time with the shots, it looks like he’s on track to meet the studio’s goal later this year. It also seems to strike a great balance between old and new, between classic and modern, which has been at the heart of so many great remakes and remanufactures over the past few years.
Why focus on remaking the game?
Source: Bethesda SoftworksNightdive’s DOOM 64 remake.
Nightdive is known in business for its revamp of classic, high-profile titles that aren’t usually available on newer platforms. It started with the version of System Shock 2 released on GOG, but has worked on a number of games since then, including Turok, DOOM 64, Blood: Fresh Supply, and Quake remaster released after QuakeCon 2021 while getting off to a rough start once a copy was taken. From System Shock 2 and putting it up for purchase, the company quickly realized it wasn’t good enough. They could not put the ports directly. They had to do more.
Cooperman talks about one of these early comments, which stated that this port doesn’t include a lot of work done by the game’s working community moderators. Then, the company, which was founded by Stephen and Alex Kik after the former found out that he could not play System Shock 2 without an emulator, hired this broker full time.
“The more we worked on the game, the more we wanted to do, and the more original concepts we got that made System Shock so great.”
Nightdive is now even more experienced with reworks and remanufactures. Not only does it keep the original content of the game a priority, it also needs to offer something to the more modern players who might not have played the game the first time. For example, in the N64 remaster’s Turok, the studio made finding a previously unsearchable rifle much easier and gave users the option to keep the fog on or off. The system shock would be similar. The studio has already upgraded the game for more modern PC players with System Shock: Enhanced Edition, but the new version will contain a copy of the original game. And A new experience built from the ground up.
“Our goal has always been to remake games so they look like what you remember, not the way they actually looked when you played them on a 14-inch CRT monitor,” Cooperman said.
All this is a balancing act. You must offer new players at least part of the original experience. This was the case with much larger remake projects, such as Resident Evil 2, where the basic story was mostly the same, but Capcom updated the engine and gameplay to move away from the old tank controls.
“Since the original game already exists, some decisions were made for you, right?” Cooperman, who has a background in theater, put on. “There are a million different differences in Hamlet, right? But Hamlet doesn’t end up winning any of them. You have certain data that you can’t disagree with.”
Journey to the new system shock
Source: Nightdive Studios
This new version has been rebuilt from the ground up, according to the project’s Kickstarter website. Initially, the game was built in Unity, but the studio decided to switch to Unreal Engine 4 after two years.
“Unity is not a great engine to use if you want to create an FPS game on console,” game director Jason Vader told Polygon in 2017, citing loyalty and cross-platform support as some of the reasons the team made the switch.
In February 2018, a Kickstarter update from Stephen Kick made it clear that while the game first launched as a live replay, the team had to shift focus, causing further delays.
“As our concept grew and our team changed, so did the scope of what we were doing and with that budget for the game,” he wrote. “The more we worked on the game, the more we wanted to do, and the more original concepts we got that made System Shock so great.”
Cooperman explained that Nightdive also switched teams at this time. They’ve been getting feedback from Discord and Kickstarter backers that the previous build wasn’t just what they expected. It echoes what Kick wrote in a Kickstarter update, noting that people had great ideas, but they weren’t right for the project. The team has now been working on this version of System Shock for the past four years, bringing back some concepts shared with the 2016 campaign, and bringing it closer to the original game.
“It wasn’t the vision we had,” Cooperman said of the first build, adding, “We went through a painful process—expensive, in terms of time and money. After refocusing, we put together a new team. You’re going to see that he’s going to be very true to the system shock ethos.”
Ok but how is the game?
Source: Nightdive Studios
I saw what he meant when I looked at the new system shock footage. The original System Shock was a mixture of one-click adventure and first-person shooter (FPS). While the control system uses WASD on the PC, it required the use of a mouse to pick up loot, for example. Also, it was released in 1994, so it has all the trappings of games from that era. However, it was created in a completely new 3D graphic engine, and its range of motion was still innovative at the time. It had light RPG elements where you can upgrade your weapons and skills, and it had hacker puzzles that have practically become the norm in other games. It may look like Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM, but it’s much closer to Deus Ex or other Cyberpunk immersive sims that came after it. It has become one of the best shooting games ever although it is horribly outdated by 2022 standards.
The new version of System Shock is now a full-fledged FPS, with what I suppose is a more streamlined control scheme to go along with it. You no longer have to drag the screen with your mouse or hold A or D to turn, and you can pick up objects without having to click and drag with your mouse. You have to click on the items to pick them up, but it’s a simple right click of the mouse, and then you can organize your attached inventory later. You can also assign items to quick slots.
The game also features more powerful animations for picking up weapons, for example, or throwing grenades. All of this is fairly typical by modern shooter standards, but to see it applied here shows that Nightdive has recognized that there is a lot of need to change to account for its nearly 30 years of game development.
However, what surprised me most was the way it looked. The original System Shock has a familiar level design and user interface, but is also colorful. There are plenty of bright shades of blue, green, and red, which contrast nicely with the darker colors used in the design of the Citadel Station. It’s quite stunning, and provides a great way to differentiate sections across levels. The new version retains much of the same panel and has incorporated a bunch of very crowded UI into the environment. It’s still a game where you play as a hacker with a gun, but it’s a lot cleaner, there’s way less clutter to get in your field of view, and it’s nice to look at.
You can tell in many ways that this is a remake of a classic game. It’s not down to photo-realistic ideas like many AAA titles these days and has a nearly full-on caricature look. However, the point of reproduction is not to recreate the shockwave of the system, but rather to find a balance between the old and the new.
“I think the modern player is going to start playing a game and they will look and feel what the game should look like. And we’re going to bring them in and I think the System Shock core audience will say ‘Yes! Cooperman said.
Source: Nightdive Studios
Since we haven’t been able to continue using this version of System Shock, we can’t fully talk about how it works or how the nitty-gritty details of the game appear (or not). You can still try the demo available on Steam, GOG, and the Epic Games Store, but it’s an alpha version from 2020. There have been other demos at the moment, and you can check them out on YouTube.
However, whether you want to play the original game or the remake, both will be available. Nightdive wants to allow you to enjoy classic titles that you may have missed or those you remember from your childhood, and that includes providing experiences to as many people as possible. This was a studio that started because one person couldn’t play System Shock 2 easily, and continuing that mission with other games while making sure to keep their heart became foundational.
“Our industry is less than 60 years old,” Cooperman said. “And … it’s important. At the same time, we’re at a point where the future is so uncertain. We don’t want to see not just the games, but the people who lost games in history.”
The new version of System Shock is expected to be released later this year on PC, Epic Games, and GOG. The console versions of the game Xbox and PlayStation are also in the works.
System shock reissue (pre-order)
Try the game that practically launched the immersive sim genre. Nightdive Studios says it’s due out later this year, but you can pre-order on PC now. Console versions are also expected to be released.
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