Remaster Citadel: System Shock Reboot Is Funded

This one was never in doubt, but it’s nonetheless a relief to see that, yes, the world still cares about System Shock and, yes, Kickstarter can still drum up a ton of cash for videogames. Just so long as those videogames are related to videogames we loved when we were kids, I guess. With $970,000 of its requested $900,000 in the bag and 16 days left on the Kickclock, we can expect Nightdive’s System Shock Reboot to handily pass the $1m mark.

Sadly most of the stretch goals are pretty dull unless you’re a Macker, a Linuteer or prefer non-English dialogue, but if it makes it all the way to $1.3m they intend to add new locations and dialogue. Heresy! Delightfully intriguing heresy!

System Shock Reboot sits somewhere between remaster and remake. Levels, enemies and story remain more or less as-was, but there’s a complete graphical and UI overhaul, and dialogue is being rewritten, as well as all manner of edges being smoothed here and there. If Reboot drums up $1.3m though, then we get brand new stuff, including new crew members and audio logs. At $1.4m, the changes become even more ambitious – a promise of “true RPG character levelling”, as well as weapon crafting and upgrading, vending machines and – let’s not judge too soon – ‘minigames’. I.e. System Shock will move closer to its more revered sequel, System Shock 2. I have little doubt that this stuff will be an option rather mandated, mind you.

From $1.5m – $1.9m we get a full orchestral score and new death animations, and then there’s a bunch of currently-hidden stuff over the $2m mark. I’m not convinced it’ll make it that far, if I’m honest, but if the last month in British politics has taught me anything, it’s that everyone should work on the assumption that nothing is predictable anymore.

I like the idea of an expanded System Shock, as for all its landmark status the original is not a hugely complex game – more about mood and detail than mechanics, as such. It’s a huge chance to take though, isn’t it? Origin and Looking Glass fans are devout, and unlikely to take well to expansive change unless it’s done expertly.

Anyway: Reboot is definitely happening now, which is good news. Here’s Nightdive’s thank you note to the 14,000+ backers so far. If you’re not one of them, don’t forget that the Kickstarter put out an alpha demo to demonstrate their intentions for Shock. Here’s my own compare and contrast with the original.

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  1. Premium User Badge

    basilisk says:

    I still remain convinced that adding “RPG elements” to the game is a terrible idea that shows a profound misunderstanding of what made it so good in the first place. Why remake something unique if you intend to remove the unique aspects of it?

    This stretch goal basically motivates me not to back the project, even though I want the game so badly.

    • Muzman says:

      Completely agree. I also can’t really conceive of an RPG system being something you just ‘add on’ to an existing design. You want to build that into the very foundation of the gameplay for it to work properly, don’t you?

    • wcq says:

      I also agree.

      System Shock is one of the original Immersive Sims, and I’d very much like it to remain that way. Nothing takes me out of a game’s world like character skills and levels and whatnot.

      I hope they’ll at least add an option to play it the original way.

      • Emeraude says:

        System Shock is one of the original Immersive Sims, and I’d very much like it to remain that way. Nothing takes me out of a game’s world like character skills and levels and whatnot.

        You mean like in original Deus EX?

        Not that I don’t agree with the general sentiment, but some things need to be kept in perspective.

        • Premium User Badge

          basilisk says:

          I always maintained that Deus Ex misunderstood the whole immersive sim thing and ruined the whole idea by adding skills. And so did SShock2. Instead of “do anything”, the games became “do anything that you have the skills for”, pointlessly locking you into a specific playing style in each playthrough.

          It’s a minority view, sure, but I feel the last game to get this right was Thief 2. And I can’t fathom why anyone would do this to SShock, the poster child of this kind of design.

          • Emeraude says:

            My point was more that it’s not really a new development by any stretch, and that even other games that are considered to be formative of the whole immersive sim genre used the thing.

            I like both approaches really. I like systems being in place keeping the main character firmly a third person, and a skill system can pretty decent at that (the progression is another matter). I also enjoy being expected to have to do everything in the game myself.

    • Unsheep says:

      It’s sad to see the game modernized by the insertion of current game-design trends, such as the mandatory RPG system that all games need to have these days.

      Q: how on Earth did gamers cope in the past when there was nothing to level up in a game ?
      A: maybe by enjoying the game for it is ?!

    • Waltorious says:

      I also agree that RPG systems are a bad idea for this; they would harm the immersion that’s such a huge part of System Shock. But I decided to back the project anyway. If I want the original experience I can play System Shock Enhanced, and I like the work that the team has done in making other older classics available to play again. Also the demo is pretty good. I decided it was worth giving the team the chance to do the remake, and see how it turns out.

      But I am a bit troubled that they, and most others, seem to revere System Shock 2 more than the original. Irrational’s work felt less immersive and less well plotted (full of cliches that were thematic and symbolic but didn’t make much actual sense) than Looking Glass’ original design, and the RPG systems felt artificial and unrelated to the actual situation. In the original System Shock I felt like I was actually there, doing my best to survive and making use of whatever I found to its fullest extent without worrying about whether I had enough skill with rifles or whatever. You know, like someone would actually do.

      The team has said that if there’s enough demand, they will add a “classic mode” that disables the RPG stuff, and given the number of comments I’ve seen arguing against RPG elements, that sounds likely (as Alec mentioned in the post).

      Everyone should make their own decision, but I wouldn’t hold off on donating just because of the RPG element stuff. As an actual backer you’d have a greater voice in discouraging that design as well.

  2. Muzman says:

    Re-Writing the game makes me a little nervous I have to admit. Since Shock 1 even Looking Glass games have taken a steady trajectory of simplifying in-game dialogue and content for clarity, I guess because the average consumer has a low level of commitment and generally not into hard parsing and reading comprehension. Over the years we’ve one from tracking down a piece of information from picking apart unrelated conversations between different characters, to “THIS IS THE DOOR CODE. DON’T FORGET THE DOOR CODE. DON’T ASK ME WHY I LEFT IT RIGHT HERE. I’VE WRITTEN IT TEN OTHER PLACES AND NOW THE DOOR JUST OPENS BECAUSE THE SYSTEM ASSUMES YOU’VE “READ” IT ANYWAY”
    (and the tester from the focus group still couldn’t get past the first section and declared the game “shit” and threw his controller across the room)

    I’d concede that maybe the original game’s logs and so on are a bit too obscure overall. Still, they were as interested in being naturalistically ‘in-world’ as they were in giving important information to the player. This gave more atmosphere than most games would even dare attempt to try these days outside of the indie space. I would very much like to see that maintained. It’ll be interesting to see if they can manage it.

    • MajorLag says:

      Let that be a lesson kids, never let Arin Hanson playtest your game.

    • USER47 says:

      Since Chris Avellone is doing the rewriting, I wouldn’t worry about him oversimplifying it, quite the opposite.:-D

    • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

      Your memories might be a bit fuzzier than the real thing. I just played SS1 for the first time in the last month and finished just a few days after the kickstarter was announced, coincidentally. There are a lot of places where it feels less like well thought out world design and more like the developers were just so used to their own puzzles and game they didn’t signpost things very well.

      Best example of this I have is the bit of the game where, spoilers, you’ve just blown up the four transmitters and then you get a message telling you that you should go destroy the reactor. Okay, so what’s the plan, game? It tells me I should go find some guy’s room, maybe he had a plan for blowing up the reactor. But it doesn’t give you a hint of which deck he might have been on, so you have to backtrack through nearly every single level of the station you have been through so far, painstakingly search from room to room just for it to tell you “Oh yeah, I left a number of each of the codes in each of the six computer hubs you’ve already blown up.” Which, incidentally, is also a pretty good example of the thing you were complaining about in all caps, where people just leave door codes lying about. They do the same thing a few times in the game, in fact, there are a few audio logs where they do it and on the executive deck they have them just sitting on the screens as well.

      I mean, it’s a good game now and I’m sure it was phenomenal 20 years ago, but it’s far from perfect. I’m all for games not being hand-holdy, exploration is quite possibly my favourite thing about gaming. But SS1 definitely has quite a few moments like the above where that goes away and is replaced by tedium, where the audio logs don’t give you much of a hint and you’re spending 30-60 minutes just sort of crossing and recrossing parts of the station you’ve already been over exhaustively, hoping you find the one little button or log or whatever it was you missed to let you progress past doors that are arbitrarily locked.

    • Edward_Shodan says:

      A perfect example of this is the Game Informer “Test Chamber” video where they play the System Shock demo.

      The guy spends nearly 3 minutes looking for the door code before they jump cut to him entering the code. So he likely spent more than 3 minutes looking for the door code that was written beside the keypad in large red letters.

      The same guy then fails to open the hatch because he runs around looking for the fuse for the circuit puzzle. The video ends with him never finding the laser gun and never finishing the rather short demo. People like this is why games are so dumbed down.

  3. kud13 says:

    As much as I’d love to support this, the devs’ official response was that the game is designed for Win 10, and they offer no guarantees it will run on 7, as it won’t be a supported platform.

    As such, no pledge from me. Might pick it up cheap on GOG later on to try.

    • Jay Load says:

      I appreciate there are slight differences in graphical capability/set-up between the two OSes but “Not officially supported” is not the same things as “Will not work on”.

      There’s a very good chance it’ll work fine.

      • Unsheep says:

        Yes, but it’s still safer to wait and see. You don’t want to invest in a game that may or may not work on your system.

    • Unsheep says:

      The demo on GOG’s site works on Windows 7 and 8.1, so I would be surprised if the finished game didn’t work on them. However, there’s no guarantee of-course.

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      link to
      They’re listing OS: Windows 7/8.1/10 (64-bit versions) and DirectX 11 for both recommended and minimum on the store page so it would be surprising if they do something to shut that door. (although Windows 7 Home Basic x64 is limited to 8GB RAM so that particular version can’t use the 16GB for recommended but Home Premium and up can).
      Of course they might change the requirements at any time until they start actually selling it.

      At “Holiday 2017” Windows 7 will still have support for 2 more years so plenty of people will still be on it.

  4. fabronaut says:

    I find their structuring of stretch goals a bit daft, as others have pointed out. I’m not sure why they’re even offering the RPG progression elements as a stretch goal since it’s a remake of SS1 and not SS2?

    the thing that really irks me is the stretch goal I’d really like to see fulfilled is the most expensive one — a proper remix of the original soundtrack (which is friggin’ excellent). can’t remember if that tier includes the orchestral recording as well, but that one’s a ways below it.

    the prize tiers are also a bit screwed up. for $100, you can get the $75 tier with an additional (limited edition?) art book, whereas the $150 tier is “just” the deluxe collector’s edition. without an art book.

    I’ve never backed a Kickstarter before, but I’m likely to throw some money at this one, as Night Dive Studios has an excellent track record, far as I’m concerned, and they seem to have the right people involved with the project, including a few key original members.

    it’s a bit worrisome to see them polling the community for stuff like “we’ll consider changing the engine if we see fit” — I know it’s an alpha build, but frankly I don’t think backers should be giving much feedback on technical matters like that. perhaps that’s just what’s expected nowadays.

    • Unsheep says:

      If this was a new Dark Souls game or a rebooted System Shock game (or third sequel) I would not be surprised at these prize schemes, but this is just an elaborate remake to be brutally honest. If people are willing to buy it, who cares though…

  5. Jay Load says:

    I, for one, welcome the return of my once and always AI Overlord.

    • dr.denton says:

      Are you quite sure you’ve got the right title there? Since SHODAN is widely percieved as “female”, shouldn’t it be Over- ….lady?

  6. Unsheep says:

    I played the demo through GOG, and the game is nice for what it is. However the previous remake of System Shock had everything I wanted from a remake of the game, so I don’t really feel the need to buy this new one; it’s too different from the connection I have with the other games.

  7. mercyRPG says:

    The higher goals just mean they didn’t want to commit to do something really new and bear responsibility without getting paid for it good, that’s why “most of the stretch goals are pretty dull “

  8. frymaster says:

    weren’t minigames a feature of the original? An RPG minigame, even…

    • frymaster says:

      (damn lack of edit button)

      I really liked the pointlessness that was the “rear vision” mod/software/whatever in the original, because it sucked down power so quickly no one ever used it. I always thought they should introduce that feature on one of those fancy keyboards with a display built in…. because then I’d have peripheral vision

      * skips away merrily cackling to himself