Remember Citadel: Dev Livestreams And A Fan Remake

Around me is a burgeoning empire of steel.

Happy birthday, SHODAN! The puckish AI with delusions of godhood turned 20 on Monday (as did System Shock, I guess), and would be flattered by what some are doing to celebrate and glorify her. Firstly, a group of System Shock’s creators got together to stream the Looking Glass classic and gas about the dear old gal and their game. If watching isn’t enough, (another) project aiming to remake System Shock has appeared, and it’s looking pretty good so far.

Unlike many fan remakes, Citadel is trying to emulate the original System Shock look down to the pixellated textures it’s borrowing from the game. It’s swapping out sprites for 3D models and bringing fancier lighting through the Quake-based DarkPlaces engine but avoiding modern shine-o-vision. It’ll add co-op and competitive multiplayer modes too.

Project founder Josiah Jack has worked alone on Citadel since July and yesterday announced it to recruit more help. He plans to release it on December 23rd (the 20th anniversary of the System Shock CD release that added voiced dialogue), which seems a mite optimistic to me.

But right here, right now, is the stream with System Shock folks including programmer Marc LeBlanc and designers Tim Stellmach and Austin Grossman playing and chatting. They played for seven hours (split into four parts) and didn’t manage to finish the game (they might return) but hey, it’s about the journey, not the destination. And don’t worry, they do sort out the audio levels eventually.


  1. GallonOfAlan says:

    Ah, Shodan. I still secretly fancy you.

    • N'Al says:

      Uh, posting about it on tinternet means THE SECRET IS OUT!!!

      Also, Happy Birthday Nintendo.

  2. Kefren says:

    I have completed this twice. I recommend SS Portable link to
    This game (once you get past the first ten minutes of getting used to the controls) is so immersive – a real survival horror, where you can roam levels and areas in a different order every time you play, and the experience is different.

  3. Spacewalk says:

    Cool, but I’d prefer to see it modded into SS 2 since it’d be a better fit.

  4. SIDD says:

    “Unlike many fan remakes, Citadel is trying to emulate the original System Shock look down to the pixellated textures it’s borrowing from the game.”…

    But…what’s the point in that?
    It’s like a musical artist making a cover version of a famous track by imitating it so closely you hardly can tell the difference…pointless!
    I would LOVE to play System Shock again as it really is one of my most memorable game experiences ever, but if I wanted to play System Shock anno 1994 then why would I bother with this remake rather than just booting up the original?

    • phlebas says:

      Keep reading:
      “It’s swapping out sprites for 3D models and bringing fancier lighting through the Quake-based DarkPlaces engine but avoiding modern shine-o-vision. It’ll add co-op and competitive multiplayer modes too.”
      Probably also more stable on a modern machine.

      • SIDD says:

        “Keep reading:” … I did…but to me that just read as “using a newer technology to produce the same old look” .. like digitally adding noise to a recording to make it sound “like old vinyl”.

        I think my point is if you’re doing the work, why not go all the way and go for a complete update rather than spend a lot of effort trying to make it look as much as the original. At least let’s hope the engine will allow for others to add on so high res 3D models and textures could become a reality.

        • Muzman says:

          I think you underestimate the work needed for a complete update.
          That said this does seem more like a port than a remake. Or that fancy version of Duke3d fans made.

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          Joshua says:

          It depends, actually. George Lucas added a lot to his later films with new tech and was blasted for it (and with good reason!) Meanwhile, the latest version of Blade Runner, whose changes are a lot more subtle, is defenitely awesome.

          And there is a lot to be said about making a “Defenitive” version with the latest tech. System Shock the first did not have mouse look (or atleast, I couldn’t get it to work :P), for example.
          Or, alternativley, consider it like a re-mastered version of a band’s original songs – everybody loves the old songs, so the sound is now crisper and fuller due to the better recording equipment, and the voices are better since the band actually now had the money to do proper singing lessons – without resorting to this “wall of sound” thing and adding lots and lots of synthesizers to everything, ruining the simplicity of the earlier things.

      • Sandepande says:

        Going all the way would probably mean going nowhere at all.

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      The non eye raping resolution?

    • KiwiRed says:

      It’s probably more accurate to think of it as an attempt to convert the wonderful music, which is now only available on old scratched vinyl, into a digital format. (Let’s hope they don’t get tired of holding the microphone up to the speakers before it’s finished)

      • felisc says:

        Excuse me, is this some metaphor, or does the system shock ost actually exist on vynil ?

    • blind_boy_grunt says:

      maybe this time i’ll get further than the elevator

    • fish99 says:

      Modern controls would make a big difference to the original System Shock. As a huge SS2 fan I’ve gone back to try SS1 several times but never got beyond the first deck due to how clunky it is.

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        Go past the first deck.

        Funnily enough, it is that simple. Just keep playing. Keeping using those controls and they get way less clunky as you go. It’s just a matter of getting used to them. They’re actually not bad, just not what we’re all used to. And don’t forget that System Shock Portable adds mouselook, which even I can admit helps a lot.

        • fish99 says:

          I did just try it again (the portable version someone linked above), and remembered the other reason I’ve never played the whole thing – as soon as you raise the resolution the framerate dies to single digits, which kills the gameplay.

        • dethtoll says:

          Amusingly enough once you get used to them, when you’re done you have to get UN-used to them.

      • Muzman says:

        I don’t really understand this. I agree it’s clunky and daunting to look at but when you get down to it you can play it like Doom with the keyboard. People talk like you have to use the weird mouse steering system and you don’t. You can just use that for shooting things and accessing the menus.

        (if people are nascent juvies with no experience of such things at all, well fair enough then).

    • Shadowcat says:

      I would argue that (in general, for any moderately-complex game) keeping the audio/visual aspects identical to the original is the best possible decision when embarking upon a remake of a game for which you have no source code. If you have the source code, you have the game logic, which means that the biggest challenge of all has been taken care of before you begin (and so making it all pretty becomes a realistic option). Without the code, the chances of ever having a working remake are dramatically reduced, so expending any of the effort on upgrading the graphics is likely to be a waste of time.

      However… if you somehow were to achieve the goal of a working remake… well that puts you in the position of having a working game with source code…

  5. frymaster says:

    “Remember Citadel”

    Those two words are so evocative :D

    • Gothnak says:

      Worryingly it made me remember the old BBC game Citadel, the first time i heard a computer talk to me.

      • Shadowcat says:

        “Ci-ta-del, Ci-ta-del, Ci-ta-del, Ci-ta-del, Ci-ta-del! Superior Software presents… Ci-ta-del.”

        Dum de dum de dum de Doo DOO do do do Dum de dum de doodily Dum de dum de doodily Dum de doodily doodily Doodily dum de do de Doodily dum de do de Doodily doodily doodily doodily doodily doodily do, DOO! DOO! DOO! Dum de dum de doodily …

        • Shadowcat says:

          Oooh… actually, that wasn’t the Citadel theme at all! Thoroughly mixing my arcade adventures there.

  6. Bravado says:

    Is there any way to play the original SS1 on Windows 8? Is there any way at all to play that game?

    I hate that you can watch movies from the 1920s/30s with BluRay quality, yet with the old PC tech it’s a completely different beast. You can almost never play some games that are 15-20 years old due to tech incompatibility.

    • basilisk says:

      There is. Look for “System Shock Portable”. Acquiring a legit copy of the game might be a bit tricky, though.

    • danixdefcon5 says:

      Even if you only have the original System Shock, well that’s what DOSBox was made for. You only need to mount the CD as D: or whatever and play away. System Shock Portable is basically this, only neatly packaged to run on its own. I took apart System Shock Portable and made it to run in OSX, as the only thing needed is to run DOSBox using the config file provided by the package. Easy!

  7. JiminyJickers says:

    Ah good memories, so difficult to control with the weird mouse interface, haha.

  8. Bart Stewart says:

    Excellent. I’ve been wishing for years for a native-mode port (as opposed to DOSBox, for performance) and for modern mouselook controls.

    My hope is that the more people who get to play the original SS — to see for themselves what it looks like when a game is designed to respect and reward multiple playstyles — the more developers today who will work on new games in that mold.

  9. Shadowcat says:

    Reverse-engineering and re-creating all of a game’s logic is a monster task, and the area which most of the attempted remakes never really get anywhere close to achieving. I wish Josiah Jack well, but I’ll certainly be gobsmacked if the project ever attains the status of “remake” (let alone in the proposed time frame).

    (Still, if you really believe you can do it, then go for gold! Nothing ventured, nothing gained…)